With input from my online support group, here is a list of things not to say to someone who is Childless Not By Choice (CNBC):
1. “You can always adopt”- OK, I’ve got a confession to make-I’ve actually suggested this aloud or in my head, but didn’t understand the logical fallacy of this suggestion until this year when we realized we’d never have children. Adoption is way more complicated than it may seem on the outside. In the United States, this process could cost upwards of $20,000 or higher. For couples that don’t have the financial resources, this obstacle can seem insurmountable. If you go the route of Foster to Adopt, the cost is cheaper, but you have to consider whether or not you can mentally handle bonding with a child that may not become adoptable.
Even if the financial resources are available, adoptions are tricky because there is always the possibility that the birth parents could change their mind. In the US, this can occur within the first 30 days. I personally know of several families that weren’t able to have children of their own and tried adoption several times. Each time the birth mother changed her mind and the child had to go back. The process can become so mentally exhausting that eventually it ceases to be a solution to childlessness.
2. “You don’t have kids, so you don’t understand”- To a person that is childless, this is a punch in the gut. Especially if that person has worked in child care for many years. Just because we may not have raised a tiny human, it doesn’t mean that we are clueless when it comes to kids. My job is to give parents a break so they can recharge, while I take care of their children. Don’t discount someone because they don’t have tiny humans to care for at home.
3. “It’s been years since you’ve realized you couldn’t have kids. Aren’t you over it by now?”- Grief knows no timeline. My grandma died years ago and some days I still have moments where I need to compose myself. Milestones such as graduations and weddings can be hard for those of us who’ve lost children or had to give up the dream of having children of our own. But this doesn’t mean we don’t want to be invited to these events. Please invite us to events with children, and let us decide if we can handle going.
4. “Your pet is not a baby. Stop calling it your child.”- Oh boy! This one is controversial. And if you say it, it may get you unfriended on FB. Yes, we understand that an animal is not a tiny human. Keep in mind this is one way we are coping with our reality. This keeps us sane and hurts no one. Let it go.
5. “It must have been God’s will”- Even if you are talking to a professing christian, this one is a big no-no. I believe that God grieves with us when we lose a child or are unable to have them. Making it seem like God wanted this pain in our life is counter productive to healing the hurt.
6. “Don’t lose hope”- Going through unsuccessful fertility treatments, failed adoptions, and miscarriages, at some point we’ll throw in the towel. It’s our way of accepting reality and trying to heal. In a way we have to lose hope of ever having what we wanted, so we can move on and find a new normal.
Walking this road with a loved one is difficult and it can be tricky to know what to say. Avoiding the above statements is a step in the right direction. Let your loved one know that you are there to listen. Sometimes the most healing thing we can be given is a friend.
If you are walking this difficult road of childlessness not by choice, you are NOT alone.