We Need to Change How We Talk About Fertility

We Need to Change How We Talk About Fertility

Ask any woman, and she’ll tell you how her ability to have children is discussed way too much and way too freely. It’s ridiculous how easily a uterus becomes the topic of any chat. In the case of endometriosis patients, this conversation stings at a different level. 

The infertility ghost haunts our daily life. The first thing most doctors want to know is whether we can have babies. Others will even encourage us to have them when it is not the right time for us. Some doctors will measure the success of our surgeries by whether we get pregnant, rather than caring about our pain being reduced and our quality of life being improved. The rest of the world will question our ability to procreate at the most inappropriate times: at parties, during family get-togethers, on public transport, while cozily squeezed between distant relatives in the back of a car.

I’ve said it many times, someone’s fertility is nobody’s business, other than whoever is directly affected by it, in this case, the person living with endometriosis. And if you thought most people know what is appropriate to say and what is not, you’d be mistaken. These are just some of the things endometriosis patients hear quite regularly: 

‘Motherhood is the best thing that can happen to anyone.’

Please don’t tell us how wonderful being a parent is. Don’t paint the bond between a mother and a child as “the greatest love of all,” or insist that there is nothing quite like bearing a child. Because for someone with endometriosis, that unique experience can be the one that may never happen to them, through no fault of their own. It’s akin to telling someone who can’t walk how liberating running is. Don’t remind us what we are missing out on.

‘Why aren’t you giving me a niece/nephew/grandchild?’

Apparently, my ovaries are disappointing everyone. And there I was, happily thinking that the only one screwed by the birthing pains, severe blood loss, and no babies was me. This type of remark is not only heartless, it’s also selfish. It is no one’s job to give anyone a child — unless you’re a surrogate who’s been paid to do so. 

‘Have you tried this remedy?’

If someone wants a child and can’t have one, chances are they have tried myriad things that are probably not working. You won’t suddenly come up with the one miraculous remedy they haven’t tried. So, please don’t suggest any magical solutions, unless you’ve been specifically asked to do so.

Definitively a mother of sloths. (Photo by Jessie Madrigal)

On the other hand, just because we have endometriosis doesn’t mean we don’t want to talk babies or pregnancies. There are things we are grateful to hear, such as:

‘There are many ways to be a mother.’

Motherhood is more than just giving birth. There’s adoption, fostering, and developing strong connections with nephews, nieces, and your friends’ children. Oprah Winfrey doesn’t have kids of her own, but she is a mother and a champion to children worldwide.

‘Motherhood really isn’t that brilliant.’

Do tell us about your sleepless nights, chaotic outings, and the painful regrets. There’s a gritty, life-ain’t-that-easy side to having children. I have a dear friend with four kids, and ever since she had the first one, she is always telling me the ways in which my life is more fun than hers. I don’t know if she really means it, but she makes me laugh every time. 

‘It sucks.’

Sometimes we don’t need a solution or for someone to make us see things differently. Infertility and the miscarriages that can come with it, just blow. It’s so very OK to say so.

Fertility is a sticky subject for endometriosis patients and one that can be anxiety-inducing to talk about. But there are ways of doing so. All it takes is a little empathy and, mostly, recognizing how invasive this line of conversation can potentially be for any woman. 


Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.