There are a few different kinds of married couples who don’t yet have children. There are the couples who are newly married and want to wait a few years before having babies. There are couples who have been married a while, want kids, but have not been able to have any yet. There are couples who married under the expectation that they would never have children. And some young married couples aren’t sure what life will bring, but they are up for anything – kids or no kids.
Regardless of the reason couples don’t have kids, there are a few phrases you should probably avoid. Even if a couple doesn’t want kids, it’s not your place to jump in and start showering them with Scripture about how much of a blessing kids are or to tell them that they are outside of God’s will because they don’t desire to have kids. The good news is that God can change hearts!!! So, if you are concerned that someone you know is outside of God’s will for their lives by not having kids, pray for them. God is the one who opens and closes the womb and He can handle changing their hearts too.
Then there are the couples who desperately want children. Just as well-meaning people want to encourage those who are still single, the same sweet people want to encourage those who are struggling to conceive. While many couples can recognize the good nature behind some comments, there are some phrases they would just as soon do without. Below are a few examples:
- Better hurry up. You only have a few good years left. Perhaps most people mean this with the best of intentions, but for a couple who’s been trying to get pregnant, such a phrase can feel like a slap in the face. Couples who want children (women especially) are keenly aware of their ages and many of them spend countless hours worrying about their biological clock. Hearing others admonish them to hurry up is insulting because it insinuates that they are not trying hard enough or that they are being selfish and careless with their time.
- Oh, don’t worry. You’ve got plenty of time. Many of us are guilty of this phrase. In an attempt to make those without children feel better about their situation, people will kindly pat them on the back and assure them that they still have plenty of time. When you’re desperate for children and you’ve had no success conceiving, it gets aggravating hearing others who have absolutely no control over your health and fertility assure you that time is on your side. Phrases like, “I’m praying for you often” and “I’m here if you need to talk” are far more comforting. It shows that you care about their situation enough to take time to pray for them and that you’re not making light of their frustration and pain.
- Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll get pregnant soon. Again, phrases like this are difficult because it makes light of a couple’s hurt, frustration, and pain. Most of the time, people say it to be encouraging, but there is no way of knowing if a couple is going to get pregnant soon or not, so it’s not okay to assure or promise them something over which you have no control. Comments that show anxious couples you are praying for them and that they are loved are the best! Scriptures about God’s love and peace can also be encouraging, but do so in a card or in a private place. (And for goodness’ sake, don’t give her the card moments before she has to give a presentation at work or do anything that requires her to concentrate or be in the public eye. Chances are she’ll get emotional! ~smile~)
- God’s in control. It’ll happen when the time is right (stated flippantly). Christian couples who are aching to be parents know that God is in control. They probably tell themselves God is in control repeatedly to calm their anxious hearts. What’s hurtful is when others say it flippantly, it can be taken as, “Stop worrying, you’re getting on my nerves” or “Too bad your faith isn’t as strong as mine.” Sometimes women who desperately want kids can find themselves angry, bitter, feeling sorry for themselves, and pushing people away. In situations like this, a good friend should take her aside, love on her, and let her lovingly know how her attitude is affecting her life and those around her. However, if a woman or couple share that they are struggling with the fact that they aren’t yet parents, remember that they are probably sensitive, vulnerable, and in need of encouragement. Cutting them off and dismissively telling them to have more faith is like slamming a door in their faces and it will probably cause them to lose trust in you.
- Relax! It happens when you’re not expecting it. Think about the most stressful event you’ve encountered in your life. Then think about how it would feel if someone came skating by, who is not under such pressure, eating an ice cream cone, and said, “Dude… relax!” Would you want to punch him or her? It’s easy to tell others to relax when we don’t understand the stress they are feeling; yet, doing so shows that we don’t understand what they’re going through, that we don’t care about their suffering, and that we naively believe that they can just wake up one morning and say “I’m just going to relax and enjoy life from now on. <insert Disney Channel smile here>” Would you tell someone who has a gun pointed at him or her to relax? Probably not; and, while not having children is not the same as being held at gunpoint, these couples do encounter the fear of having a gun pointed at their inner most desires.
- I knew about this woman who had her first baby in her forties!!! Sometimes stories of how God provided for other people is very encouraging. I’ve been encouraged by seeing God work in other peoples’ lives. I am thankful for those faith-strengthening moments. However, showering your childless friends with stories about how your friend’s sister’s mother-in-law’s niece got pregnant after trying for a whole year is not helpful. What is meant to provide hope to others can backfire and deepen the ache. Instead of your friend thinking “It happened for them, maybe now it will happen for me?!” she may instead think, “I don’t understand why everyone else’s prayers are being answered. Will it ever be my turn?” If you do know someone who has gone through similar struggles with infertility, you can suggest that your friend talk to her. Talking to others who have walked a similar path is often comforting and encouraging, if for no other reason than to connect with someone who truly understands what she (or he) is going through.
- You can always adopt. Adoption is amazing. I know so many people who were adopted by loving families and I am so grateful to have been adopted into the family of God. In fact, I think adoption is something all couples should prayerfully consider. It isn’t for all couples, but I think there are a lot of families who have the means, the love, and the room to invite some little blessings into their fold. What an amazing way to paint a picture to the world with an aspect of God’s love. With that being said, simply telling couples who have been trying to conceive that they can always adopt makes adoption seem like something couples do when they fail to get what they really want – their own biological child – and that is a horrible outlook on adoption. Adoption should never be plan B. Ask couples who have adopted if they believe they would love a biological child more than their adopted child and I guarantee the answer will be “No!” Additionally, telling couples to just adopt feels almost like you’re telling them to get over it already.
- Count your blessings. Kids are so hard, anyway. Yes, raising kids is hard. Yes, first they walk on your toes and then later they walk on your heart. Yes, they are expensive. Yes, they cost you sleep and suck your energy. No, none of these arguments will sway a couple who deeply longs for children to reconsider their hopes to conceive. Would you walk up to a person who just buried a child and say, “Count your blessings! Raising that kid would’ve been hard work!”? I certainly hope not. Even though infertile couples aren’t physically burying a child, they are grieving for the babies they believed they would have had by that point, the babies they haven’t had a chance to hold, and the babies over which they’ve prayed, wept, and perhaps already named.
- You know where babies come from, right? This is a question couples with no children get and a question couples with many children get. It’s meant to be funny (or just downright insulting and hurtful), but believe me – it’s not remotely funny. Couples may smile and laugh off such comments, but I doubt most of them are laughing on the inside. This is a phrase that adds insult to injury by playfully questioning a couple’s understanding (i.e., competence) of how to cause or prevent pregnancy. On one occasion, a well-meaning gentleman asked me when I was going to have some babies. When I responded that I was still waiting on God to provide me with children, he told me that it takes more than prayer to have a baby. Oh, the many sarcastic responses I could’ve spewed out at that moment. ~smile~ Those of us who encounter thoughtless and hurtful comments from others on a myriad of topics should memorize James chapter three as a way of keeping our tongues from getting us into trouble! “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire” (James 3:5b)!
- I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but I’m pregnant. It isn’t easy telling someone who is trying to conceive that you, or someone you both know, are pregnant, but infertile couples don’t want to be pitied. It is far more hurtful for a woman to be purposefully left out of baby news because she might not be able to handle it than it is to tell her privately and early. A friend of mine who also struggled with infertility told me very early on that she was pregnant. She told me in private and she told me that it was okay if I was not excited. Believe me, I was incredibly excited for her and I was so appreciative that she told me up front instead of treating me as if I was too fragile to handle it. No matter how hard it is for a woman who is trying to conceive to watch her friends have babies, she still wants to be a part of it. She is still happy for her friends.
What’s hard to grasp sometimes, especially for those of us who live and breathe to nurture others, is that we can’t always make our loved ones’ situations better. When our friends and family are hurting, there are times all we can do is be there and lift them up to the Lord. God is the one who restores, heals, strengthens, and delivers. Faithfully praying for our brothers and sisters is the greatest gift we could ever give. Being there for them is the next best gift we can give. When I have difficult, emotional days, I’m grateful for friends who are willing to pray for and listen to me and a God who is always with me. (And, if you have a moment to offer up a prayer for us, we’d love to have children too.)
As always, we appreciate your comments below.
Do you know someone who would benefit from your prayers and listening ears today?