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August 27, 2014 / 1 Elul, 5774
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Ignoring The Hurtful Comments Of Others

Respler-072712

Dear Dr. Yael:

I am, Baruch Hashem a happily married woman of 10 years with two children. As I am trying to expand my family, it seems that Hashem has other plans for me (my husband and I have not been able to conceive another child). Of course we want more children, but we can only do our hishtadlus and leave the rest up to Hashem.

Many painful questions and comments are often said to me about my situation. Well-meaning family members say, “Nu, what are you waiting for? You’re not getting any younger.” Do people seriously think that we are choosing to wait? Even if that were the case, why is it anyone’s business what we do with our life?

I try to put on a brave smile and say something like,” B’ezras Hashem, we will have more children soon” – but inside I am falling apart. Why don’t people understand that just because a couple has two children does not mean that they are not experiencing fertility issues? Baruch Hashem, my husband and I are lucky to have two children without any outside interventions, but now even with outside interventions, we are having a hard time conceiving. I know that I should be grateful for the children we have and that I should focus on life’s positive aspects, but these comments by family and strangers are really starting to get to me.

What am I supposed to say to nosy people who make inappropriate comments? My parents and in-laws know what is going on, but we do not feel comfortable sharing our intimate details with extended family, friends and neighbors. Our siblings and close friends understand that we are going through a difficult time, but other “well-meaning” individuals do not seem to be as quick to catch on. How do I politely tell these people that my private life is none of their business? I cannot take the stares at my belly or the not-so-subtle comments any longer!

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

It is very difficult for couples struggling with infertility; especially frum couples who are expected to have many children within a short amount of time. Unfortunately, well-meaning people often say very inappropriate things. Some simply do not know the right thing to say, while others are nosy and tactless.

It may be helpful to be upfront and say, “I appreciate your concern, but I would rather not talk about it.” If someone continues to press you for information, you can say something like, “I will be sure to let you know when the time is appropriate.” Then you can smile and walk away as quickly as possible. It is unfair that you have to bear these questions and remain polite, but maintaining your composure will generally be more productive for you in the long run. If the inquiring person is someone you see often or is someone with whom you are close, you may want to be more direct in order to avoid having to deal with constant questions and comments. Perhaps you can say something like, “I know that you are trying to be helpful, but it is very painful for me to talk about this subject. Please just continue to daven for me and do not ask me any questions. I will be sure to let you know if I have any good news.” If that person continues to ask questions and make comments, it may be better to lessen your contact with him or her so that you do not have to experience continuous anguish.

To those asking these questions and staring at women’s stomachs, please be more sensitive and think before you talk. I have many clients who struggle with infertility, and describe in therapy how hurtful it is for them to endure these inappropriate stares and comments. Try your hardest to not look anywhere near a woman’s stomach and to just treat infertile couples like you would everyone else. You should not be forcing anyone to deal with the elephant in the room; they know its there and your bringing it up is only hurtful. There are so many other topics to talk about, and most couples struggling with infertility would appreciate not being singled out and victimized with thoughtless comments and questions.

Here’s some advice: Even if you mean well, think of how would you feel if other people start talking about something that hurts you or makes you feel bad? It is not helpful to ask infertile couples about their courses of treatment, or to give them suggestions. If you really care about a couple and want to help them through a specific suggestion, consider asking one of their siblings, parents or a very close friend if they think that making a suggestion would be helpful or harmful. If the suggestion comes from a family member or close friend, the couple may feel more comfortable and might be open to hearing it.

One underlying comment I often hear from infertile couples is: “I am trying everything I can and all of these ‘helpful’ suggestions are so painful for me. Why do people think that we are not trying everything and anything that is out there?” With this in mind, people should please consider all options before presenting a couple with a “helpful” suggestion.

The close family member or friend who is truly caring about your status should say something like this: “I just want you to know that I really care about you and that if you ever want to talk, I am here for you.” The person expressing this sentiment should then honor the wishes of the other without continuing to raise the issue. Please remember that if the person facing difficulty getting pregnant does not wish to talk about her status, constant questioning is unwarranted and often painful. And if you know that a couple is about to go for or has just gone for a procedure, call them to wish them well or to inquire about how they are doing. But while doing this, please do not ask them prying questions. It is very insensitive to do so, and always remember that your sole role is to support the couple in question. After all, it’s all about them! So by being insightful and understanding toward the couple, you will hopefully be successful in completing your mission of being supportive.

Thank you for your letter and for raising this issue. I hope it helps people to realize that seemingly innocuous comments are sometimes actually very harmful and painful, and that those making them ought to cease from doing so.

Being careful with what we say and not causing others pain through our speech will hopefully speed the arrival of Mashiach! This is a time when we need to take a good look at ourselves and make needed positive changes. Doing this will undoubtedly make us better. Since we can unfortunately cause much pain through our speech, please, dear readers, think long and hard before saying something that may hurt others.

Hatzlachah in dealing with your challenging situation, and please continue to try as best you can to stay positive and ignore others’ hurtful comments.

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2 Responses to “Ignoring The Hurtful Comments Of Others”

  1. This is so close to my heart. It is time to teach all the well-meaning, loving frum women out there that 'Do you have children?" and "Soon, b'ezrat hashem' are not the most helpful or appropriate things to say to a married woman you just met. SERIOUSLY. Wait until you know her better before plunging into conversations about sexual reproduction. Maybe she has problems. If you really want to daven for her, do so in private.

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