Contact Us

Sensitivity

Sensitivity

 Email

I have found that throughout my experience with infertility thus far, I can divide the people I come in contact with into several categories:

1) The Stomach-Greeter: This is the person that you don’t run into very often, but when you do, take note. Her eyes will flit momentarily to your stomach, mentally checking “pregnancy” off her appraisal list. She will then at some point in the conversation check again to make sure her first assumption was indeed correct. As natural as she tries to be about it, there’s no escaping the facts. The best advice I can give for this kind of person is to just make sure to get in a few stares of your own. Nah, just kidding. Just grin and bear it. I know a friend who actually ran into a chronic Stomach-Greeter and icily told her, “My eyes are up here. Yours should be, too.” Effective, but too harsh for me.

My eyes are up here. Yours should be, too

2) The Loud Well-Wisher: Ah, the Loud Well-Wisher. This is the person you want to avoid, or you may very well be publicly mortified. She is the one who will (loudly) enthuse, “G‑d willing, happy tidings by you very soon!” This statement is generally followed by a shoulder pat, rub or roll. In some unbearable situations, a hug may follow. Then Ms. Well-Wisher will walk away with a purr, truly feeling like she has just done her kind deed of the day. And who can blame her? She just bestowed her blessing on you, the poor dear soul that does not (tsk-tsk) have children.

3) The Advice-Giver: I’m practically positive that this is the most hilarious one. The Advice-Giver is always on hand to give you advice, unsolicited, for free! Praise the heavens! She will approach you and tell you either about herself or someone she knows who has tried this or that in a time of need and seen miraculous results. It may be pertaining to infertility, if you’re lucky, but it will usually be about something completely unrelated. She may have a loved one who has just passed, and will tell you how she dealt with it. She may know someone sick who went to a certain rabbi and was worthy of a miracle. She may have waited three months (!) for children, and will tell you what segulahs (amulets) she used. Ms. Advice-Giver’s advice can range from gentle suggestions to forceful admonitions. She truly believes she holds the answer to your personal salvation. Well, as they say, hey, ya never know!

4)           I know there’s no title for this type of person, and that’s because this is the person who says nothing. Nothing at all. She may very well be close to you, but this is a topic that is to be avoided like the plague. Never will she talk about her children in front of you; she may just cease talking to you at all, usually for fear of saying the wrong thing or offending you. But some people make you feel like they are afraid of catching infertility itself! Oh, the horrors. I have experienced this with one of my friends. I wish I could tell her the opposite is true—everyone I become friends with ends up pregnant thereafter. Oh, well.

5) The Yenta: You know them, you gotta love them. The lovable Jewish character known as the Yenta. The Yenta is someone you don’t know. You both establish that you do not know each other. Enthusiastically, she will begin to engage you in her favorite game, Jewish Geography: “Who are you? What’s your mom’s maiden name? Where is she from? What do you do?”—and so on and so forth. All’s fun and games until she reaches the inevitable questions: “How many children do you have? What school do you send them to?” Well, you may think it’s all over at that point, that perhaps said Yenta will feel like an idiot and stop with the questions. I’m sorry to say, ma’am, but you seem to be all out of luck. The questions will most likely continue: “Really? No kids? How long are you married? Is it your problem or his? What kind of treatment are you on?” Nada to do at this point but gently find an excuse and slip away.

Really? No kids? How long are you married?

You may ask, “So, where are the ‘normal’ people? Where have they gone? Do they exist?” Honestly, I’m not quite sure. Maybe they fall somewhere between the cracks of all the other people we run into. Perhaps they are the people who have experienced the pain related to infertility, and know what to do or say. Have faith, though. Believe that good, normal, sensitive people exist. Weirdly enough, I do.

There is something here for us to learn, though. There always is. Going through something like infertility changes you. It changes who you are, and it changes the way you think about the world. If you gain anything from your experience, let it be one thing—sensitivity. The people I have described above are not bad people. They may even be made of the good stuff. They may be warm, friendly and sympathetic. They just looked at the situation you happen to be in and reacted to it in the wrong way.

We can commit the same error. I know I have on many occasions. Who among us can say they have never put their foot in their mouth? It can be a thoughtless comment to a relative of a cancer patient, or even a bad joke to a single friend. We don’t even realize that what we say has such an impact. The words we use truly leave a mark, either for the good or for the bad.

Let us all make a real effort to be thoughtful, sensitive people. Let us think before allowing comments to slip out of our mouths. It may not be easy, and it may even require one to think many times before speaking. But isn’t it worth it?

by Zehava Deer
Zehava Deer is the pen name of a woman living in Brooklyn who is having trouble conceiving. Her column, “Pregnant with Hope—My Journey through Infertility,” describes her journey, and how she strives to remain positive through her pain.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
12 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Anonymous October 13, 2013

So what's a normal reaction What's normal is, to say nothing about the subject of pregnancy until the person herself brings up the topic. Be sensitive. Let one's intellect do the work before one's mouth does. Reply

RW Belgium October 12, 2013

duuuuuhhh Infertility is a horrible test, so is being an older single, so is having chv'sh a child with special needs, and so is being divorced, and so is....., There are so many articles about how not to speak to someone who's going through a nisayon written by people who are suffering . It's extremly painful for any 'normal' person who hears about this.
But the author writes, 'going through infertility changes you'.
I had a very good friend who died suddenly, although it turned out that she was sick quite a while and didn't want anyone to know.
Another woman lost her newborn to cribdeath r'l just before I wished her mazal tov for her new baby.
Should I never say Mazal tov, and stop asking people how they are??
The comment from Rachel from NJ says it all, we care.
It may not be helpful to you, but otherwise we are left with the option of saying nothing, which isn't good either.
I truely understand, anything that touches us where we are raw hurts.
May G-d please heal us all. Reply

Jacob Florida October 9, 2013

what to say It would be very helpful to know what to say in this situation, as well as in many others. Could it be that there is simply no correct response, and therefore everyone is left to react as it comes naturally to them - or preferably, as they think best? Also, responses are taken differently by different people. Reply

Michelle uk October 9, 2013

continued ...

so thankyou again for sharing this day and reminding me that G-d has and all ways will attend to our needs and in His presence, call it normal or pure life or just existence, a place where we exercise our senses, but normal to me is a place of learning and acceptance of all we see and all we exerpence in a state of being that enables us to grow and learn to be and become with a sort of unconditional silence that G-d knows best and even tho we may feel in doing so we fall down the cracks we equally give or hold on to something that keeps everything else from falling fully apart and when healed brings things closer together

using words isn't easy and I may not have got there or maybe I have I just know I ramble.... like a rose. Reply

Michelle uk October 9, 2013

so what is "Normal" this became my last meditation because I said I felt 'normal' having read the article!

and this is what I believe;

what is normal is that we use our eyes to give us understanding and we look to the world for answers but each of us is the world in our own way and time and space and no one world (or person) is the same and so it is that when we are not at the same level of thinking experience or understanding we may not achieve a state of empathy and unconditional giving or love or whatever the time and space for the one who is distressed lonely scared frightened frustrated needs to receive and so it is we internalise what we saw ~ inside somehow ~ and 'fall' down the cracks of our own existence, wondering who we are not to feel complete and then we remember that what we saw and internalised wasn't all material but also contained spiritual and emotional feelings which we find hard to accept and reconcile and if we have been here before then we humbly remember from where we came Reply

Chavah Vian Sweden October 9, 2013

In this case all I can do for you is accepting the situation that right now you cant be pragnent. And after that I would find things to do together as friends, painting, sport, singing, traveling, writing... Reply

Rachel NJ October 9, 2013

so what is "Normal" I am left with one question ... what would be a normal and sensitive response?
One thing is sure. People care no matter what they say. You just need to read between the lines. It is up to you how to take what comes at you. sorry for your hardship. Reply

Michelle UK October 9, 2013

The key word is "impact" reading this article this morning helped me ~ feel normal! and the last comment for me gave the summary for the whole article. thank you all for sharing and G-d bless x Reply

Anonymous australia October 8, 2013

The key word is "impact" - we need to try to imagine what the impact would be on the listener. Quote: If you propose to speak always ask yourself is it true, is it necessary and is it kind. Reply

CMF Eretz Yisroel October 8, 2013

So what should we say? Your points about sensitivity are well-taken, and it is gracious of you to make them humorously, but the reader is left with no guidance about what is acceptable. Maybe there is no 'right' thing to say. Like people with other tzarot, those waiting for children are vulnerable and their reactions will vary with circumstances and moods. Perhaps a little superhuman generosity - even tzidkus - is called for. I have certainly encountered it among friends in your situation. On the other hand, there is the fencer's parrying approach. Someone I know, who was being interrogated about his chemo treatment, offered to give the enquirer his doctor's phone number. End of conversation. If you would like to share your name for us to daven for you, we could at least do that. Reply

Mindy New York October 7, 2013

Lots of yenta's Your article is a true!! I have. come across all of these characters !! Love the way you put this down here, i wish that poeple would realize that if they don't know what to a say then they should just be quite and not add some unwanted or weird suggestions . Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn October 6, 2013

wondering if you consulted with these doctors Hi,
Struggling to stay positive requires a lot of courage, determination, bitachon, and emuna. It's not easy.

I am wondering if you have consulted with these infertility specialists:

Dr. Michael Traub in Staten Island --Island Reproductive Services
Dr. Richard Grasi--Genesis Reproductive in Brooklyn
I know people who had difficulties and were blessed to have children with the help of these shlichim. One of them was in her late 50s when she conceived with a donor egg.
One rabbi and mentor suggested that I consider adoption because even Moshe Rabbeinu was adopted. Adoptive parents have a special zechut because they raise a child who is not their biological child.
I would be happy to send you a book that I read: Getting Pregnant: What Doctors Won't Tell You." You can keep it.
Bhatzlacha! Reply

Infertility is often a silent struggle, making it all the more difficult to connect to others trying to conceive. I am a woman living in Brooklyn, who is having trouble conceiving. Throughout my journey thus far, I have tried to remain positive, and I strive to find some humor amid the pain. (I usually do.) I aim to give readers some hope, laughter, and sympathy.