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?