“You just need to relax” or Why I was almost arrested for battery

Infertility sucks. I just felt the need to get that out there, since this is National Infertility Awareness Week. In honor of this week, I’m joining the national infertility organization RESOLVE in its goal to bust myths about infertility. So without further ado…

I don’t have the energy to retell the long saga that got my husband and I where we are today, but it took several years of effort and a lot of very miserable and expensive medical intervention to create our two lovely children.

That’s several years of great strain on our marriage and emotions, a hell of a lot of money paid by our insurance companies (lucky us!), and a horrible strain on my body.

(For example: ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Read the bit about “remove fluids that have collected in your body” and reflect on the fact that over two weeks, GIVF removed about 13 liters out of me in seven separate procedures. I cannot begin to tell you how awful OHSS is when it’s severe. Heck, it’s no fun even when it’s minor, I’m told.)

However, despite all of those stressors, one of the most aggravating aspects of infertility turned out not to be the inability to get pregnant, but the inability of people to stop giving me advice, even when they had no idea what I was going through!

And of the annoying and useless bits of advice I received over the course of years of infertility treatments, the absolute worst was “You just need to relax.” (Closely followed by a Certain Person informing my husband that we just needed to “fuck a lot.” Don’t ask.)

Look…I know people meant well. Really, I do. But as RESOLVE points out, “the vast majority of individuals who have infertility have a medical reason, not a stress-related one.” And by telling a person struggling with infertility that they “just need to relax,” you’re saying “it’s your fault you’re not getting pregnant.”

This is less helpful than you might think. Not to mention, it’s not conducive to helping a woman trying to get pregnant to actually RELAX! Because after being told to relax, either you feel that you’re a bad person for not being able to relax and have a baby…or else your blood pressure goes up as you try to convince yourself not to strangle the person who just said it.

But it’s not just the “you need to relax” kind of advice thatย  aggravates the heck out of people struggling with infertility. I’m going to be a little offensive here and say that if you personally have not been through infertility and its associated treatments, the best thing you can do is to shut the hell up and listen.

Don’t tell the story of your cousin’s sister-in-law’s secretary who adopted and then got pregnant. Don’t describe the article you vaguely remember reading about some herb that helped somebody get pregnant. Don’t talk about how they should have had children sooner.

Just. Be. Quiet. Say “I’m very sorry to hear that” and shut up. I can guarantee from personal experience that whoever you’re talking with will be a lot happier as a result and you won’t develop a nasty case of foot-in-mouth disease.

Infertility is stressful. Infertility treatments are doubly so. Don’t tell women to relax, okay? If you want to help, then do something to help her relax. Give her a massage. Take her out to dinner. Buy her some bubble bath. I can guarantee that those will be much better received than “helpful” advice. And the life you save might be your own ๐Ÿ˜‰

Thus closeth my lecture for National Infertility Awareness Week. If you’re a fellow sufferer, then you have my heartfelt sympathy. If you’re just starting down the road, RESOLVE is a good place to learn more about infertility. If you are looking for answers to specific questions, feel free to comment here and I can help you find what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a sympathetic ear, you can comment here for that too. I know how helpful that can be.


About mamamara

I'm a 40-something, work-at-home mother of two. I'm pro-vaccine, pro-medicine, pro-science, and an avid reader of information about all of the above, and I want to combine my love for my children with my love for science. So here we are!
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24 Responses to “You just need to relax” or Why I was almost arrested for battery

  1. gwen says:

    good article mara! i guess the same could be said for a lot of issues in life: “Just. Be. Quiet. Say ‘Iโ€™m very sorry to hear that’ and shut up.” amen.

  2. Thanks for this! Happy NIAW!

  3. alysonmiers says:

    If someone tells you that you “should have had children sooner,” I’d totally be your alibi in the murder trial. Just sayin’.

  4. Thank you. I never realized that “You just need to relax” is another way of saying “it’s your fault,” but you’re so right! And that’s why it’s bugged me whenever I hear it. My sister says it (and the “have sex every night for a month” bit too) and I just want to smack her. Someone who has had 3 accidental pregnancies and 2 on-purpose ones needs to just STFU.

    • mamamara says:

      Just this evening my SIL (who gets pregnant at the drop of a hat) said “Oh, you’re just being hypersensitive, that’s not what people mean when they say ‘just relax.'” Oookay, so what *does* it mean? Of course she didn’t have an answer.

      If I’d thought of it, I would have also talked about the “oh, don’t be so sensitive” thing. Because that also makes my blood boil.

  5. kateanon says:

    You know that people mean well when they say that (for the most part) but it makes me wish they wouldn’t help so much.

    Great post.

  6. Gracelyn says:

    “Just. Be. Quiet. Say โ€œIโ€™m very sorry to hear thatโ€ and shut up. I can guarantee from personal experience that whoever youโ€™re talking with will be a lot happier as a result and you wonโ€™t develop a nasty case of foot-in-mouth disease.”

    YES. Enough said. Just be quiet. That is always best. Definitely do not tell me how you got pregnant so easily. And definitely don’t tell me, “You can have one of mine!” UGH! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • mamamara says:

      OMG, people always think they’re being so hilarious with “take one of mine”. I usually said “Okay” and pretended to walk off with one. Sometimes that helped them understand and sometimes it didn’t ๐Ÿ˜‰

      It’s just generally a good lesson for life, I think, and one I’m trying to practice. Let’s all stop with reflexively giving people advice and cracking a joke; let’s all shut up and let people tell us what’s bothering them!

  7. Spike says:

    I know we just met but I think I love you! This sums it up perfectly. And the one big lesson I got from our harrowing experience was to just listen and not prescribe. Whatever the cause of the angst.

  8. toneygirl says:

    Hoping I wasn’t one of the annoying people at the time . . . I don’t *think* I was, but I’ve been known to stick my foot in it plenty, so if I did – I’m so sorry! A sensitive spot is a sensitive spot, and we don’t all keep them in the same place!

    • mamamara says:

      I certainly don’t remember you giving me any advice, so that’s a good start ๐Ÿ˜€ And I certainly stick my foot in it plenty, which is why I’m trying to take my own advice to shut up and listen to other people!

  9. Great post! I also wrote about the same myth. It was the most annoying one and unfortunately most replies came from smug people.

    NIAW Blog list #30

    • mamamara says:

      ::sigh:: Oh yes, there were a great many smug people. “You’re so sensitive about this.” “Just relax and don’t worry so much.” Etc and so on. KILLMAIMDESTROY.

  10. Krissi says:

    Nicely done! Sorry to hear about the severe OHSS! I had a very minor case at best with my 3rd IVF (I did 6 total). And I now write my blog to help others. Each week, I try to post a success story to inspire others and I would love to share yours! If you’re interested, here’s the link for the info: http://stressfreeinfertilityblog.com/2010/01/17/calling-all-success-stories/
    Thanks so much in advance! Happy NIAW!

    • mamamara says:

      Happy NIAW ๐Ÿ™‚ I would definitely be interested in writing about my success. I think it would be good for me too, to write it all out afterward. I’ll see what I can do!

  11. Jennifer says:

    Hey there;

    After 8 rounds of IVF and a completed adoption process I feel like I have all of the wisdom in the world about the ‘helpful’ comments that people make. Several years past that now I try to tune all of that out and focus on my amazingly good luck; one gorgeous bio child and one gorgeous adopted child. You build your family however you can, and f*** everyone else and their advice and their opinions. And yes, OHSS is a BUGGER! Nice article.

  12. Sara says:

    Great post…the well-intentioned “just relax” comment is one of my least favorites! Thanks for sharing with us!


  13. Tami says:

    How can people say these things and really think they’re being helpful?? For me it has been 20 years and I still cringe when I think of the things people said to me. Thanks for sharing your story and advice.

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