What Not to Say to Women Struggling With Secondary Infertility

Please Stop Saying This To Women Who Can’t Have Any More Babies

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I remember a moment three days after my youngest was born. I was lying in bed, cuddling him, and I looked up at my husband. “Promise me he’s not the last,” I begged.

He promised.

Well. That didn’t go as planned.

I can’t have any more kids. Not in a “we’re done” sense, but in a “biologically, this is a really shitty idea and you absolutely cannot fucking get pregnant” sense.

So today, I have three beautiful, exasperating, amazing, adorable sons, stair-stepped two years apart. But like for so many women who already have kids, who can’t have more but who want them so badly, an emptiness looms. We look complete, but we are not. We fear we never will be. We see babies and pregnant bellies, and we turn away in grief.

Our hurt is heavy to bear, heavy too because it’s unacknowledged and often misunderstood. After all, we have kids. What more could we ask for, right? Many women can’t have any children, and admittedly, their grief is harder to bear. Deeper. More searing and brutal.

The kids we do have are a comfort, but the hurt also comes in pangs and at odd moments: the smell of our 4-year-old’s head, the cuddle of an 8-year-old. The things people say to us — both the stupid that pours out of their mouths and the dumbass shit they mean to comfort — only make us hurt more.

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“You’ve got happy, healthy child/children. Be happy with what you’ve got.”

No one said that I wasn’t happy with what I had. I love my kids with something ferocious, something primal, something I didn’t believe in before I became a mother. I will beg, borrow, steal, kill, commit high treason, destroy endangered species, and listen to “Wannabe” on repeat (just because my 6-year-old wants to) for my babies. Yes, I thank God/Buddha/various celestial bodies for my kids’ health and happiness, and I’d still thank them for my kids if they were not happy or not healthy.

None of this fucking replaces the baby I will never have but desperately want.

“It’s all part of God’s plan.”

Look, maybe you’re religious and you can wrap your mind around this one. But I don’t care to hear about God’s plan, thanks. He might have had a plan. So did I. Generally, my body, my choice, amiright?

“Are you going to try for a boy/girl anytime soon?”

Look, assholes. You never know who’s struggling with secondary infertility, or struggling to accept that the baby days are done for whatever reason. When you ask if we’re gonna get knocked up, you bring up All The Feelings. Most of them are sad — I’ll never have a baby again! Many of them are angry — Hey shithead, you just reminded me I’ll never have a baby again! Also, you just confirmed the fact that our family is incomplete. Thanks for that, jerk.

“Did you hear so-and-so is pregnant?”

No, I didn’t. And frankly, I don’t want to. Because I hate to be reminded that all kinds of people are just waltzing all over planet Earth, knocking up and being knocked up, while I stand here in my pathetic corner of No-Baby-For-You-Again-Ever-dom. It’s worse when we know the pregnant person in question, because we’re expected to do the rounds of congratulations and baby showers and lookit-mah-belly pics clogging our Facebook feeds. Fuck it all. Yeah, we can be happy about it in the abstract. I want my friends and loved ones to have the babies they want, and I’m happy for them when they get their wish.  But, a lot of the time, the hurt overwhelms the happy.

“Oh my gosh, when are you due?”

Fuck. You. No really, fuck you and the car you drove here in. You have no right to comment on the state of another woman’s body, first of all — and this comment makes most non-pregnant women feel horrid. But this comment probably also makes us no-more-babies crowd feel even worse, because not only do we feel like our bodies are somehow wrong, but we’re reminded that our bodies never will be pregnant again, thanks. 

“So, are you all thinking about having another?”

You. Have. No. Right. To. Ask. About. My. Reproductive. Plans. End of discussion. But since you asked so rudely, no, we are not thinking about having another. Because we can’t. So kindly grab your nosey questions and take the first train to Mind Your Own Damn Business.  And now a nice day has been ruined by reminding me that I don’t get a baby.

“Maybe it’s for the best.”

No. No, it’s not for the best. The best would be having another baby to cuddle and love. The best would be a younger sibling for my youngest. Not having a baby? This is not for the best. This just fucking sucks, okay?

“There’s a reason for everything.”

This is like God having a plan except for agnostics, atheists, and people who are afraid to talk about Jesus in the public sphere. Guess what? No one will ever know what the reason is, and it’s not like some cosmic entity is going to drop down and inform me, so this is entirely not comforting and simply serves to minimize grief and say, in a few words: Suck it up, buttercup. That is rude, uncaring, and completely unnecessary.

“Time heals all wounds.”

Well, time is in the future. We live in the now. And now, we no-more-baby-mamas who still yearn for another baby are in utter grief and sadness that we cannot have one. So say you’re sorry. Say you wish it wasn’t so. Say you know another baby would be awesome and it must hurt so much. Validate our feelings. Give us hugs. Give us a real space to get sad, to get mad, to get whatever we need to get to process this. Because it will pass. The wound will scab over.

But it will never fully heal. You know it. And so do I.