What Not to Say If Someone Says They Can’t Have Children

I have heard it all. Complete strangers at christenings have told me, “It’ll be your turn next” or “It’s amazing what doctors can do nowadays.” I’ve even had family members ask me, “If you could have children, would you?” And one person actually burst into tears.

Let me get this out there here and now: If a woman or a man say they can’t have children, don’t ask why, or worse, ask what’s wrong. The implication that you’re somehow broken is upsetting. Just accept it and move on. Not everyone’s life goal is to have a baby, and if someone is infertile, people questioning it really doesn’t help. The questions can actually make us feel bad.

At 29, I had a total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, which meant my cervix, womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries had been removed, and I went straight into surgical menopause.  

Therefore, no matter how amazing some of the advances in medicine are, there is absolutely no chance I’ll ever carry or have a child of my own. The hysterectomy was the right decision for me. I had recurring cancer cells in my cervix that were getting progressively worse with each treatment. I had ovarian cysts that would grow to about the size of a tennis ball and then rupture, and I had a lot of issues with extreme blood loss, resulting in anemia, pain and adenomyosis.

Interestingly, after discussing this with my doctor who diagnosed me with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), I now know this was part of the EDS (apart from the cancer). I lived with most of these problems during my teenage years, and believe me when I say the hysterectomy was the last resort. Before that, I had undergone 12 gynecological surgeries, countless treatments to try and resolve the issues and I was hospitalized twice because of blood loss. However, I shouldn’t actually have to explain all of this to people.

Being in my mid-30’s and married, I’m going through that phase in life where a lot of my friends are having babies, and, of course, I’m happy for them. However, there will probably always be a small part of me that feels a little sad that it’s an experience I will never have. But I still consider myself very lucky. I met and married a single dad, so I’m a stepmother to three wonderful children.

So the next time someone tells you they can’t have children, please don’t question it, please don’t force them to explain why and please don’t try and offer helpful advice. Just accept what the person says and move on.

I have very purposefully used non-gender specific wording because infertility isn’t specific to women. I think men get left out a lot in the discussion despite the fact that it affects them as well.

Also — and this might be the biggest point of all — please never say, “You’re so lucky!” because your own children deprive you of sleep. And yes, I’ve heard that one as well.

Follow this journey on From the Heart.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? If you’d like to participate, please check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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