Most people want to say the right thing in a difficult situation. However, often, what one thinks is the right thing, can cause unintended pain to the person to whom it is said. So, knowing in advance what can hurt someone, is the best way to avoid it. And it’s best to learn from those with the most knowledge in. I Was Supposed to have a Baby (IWSTHAB) is an online forum supporting people undergoing fertility challenges.
Based on the comments and private messages that I Was Supposed to have a Baby has gotten on our active Instagram feed, we created this list of Do’s and Don’ts around issues of fertility for mikveh attendants. It reflects a range of feelings from different women in our network, who are actively using mikveh while they go through fertility challenges.
A repeated theme in our recent mikveh series was the pain and frustration that women often experience around their visit to the mikveh, which is an unwanted – though regular – part of their monthly routine. Aside from the internal negative feelings and disappointment of having to go to the mikveh, it’s often the unsolicited comments of outsiders, particularly well-meaning mikveh attendants, that leave women feeling the most hurt and upset.
This list is offered as a way of helping mikveh attendants understand the impact of their words, and the types of messages that are painful or more helpful. Obviously different women will want different things, but these themes repeated often enough in our “conversation” that we felt it important to share.
8 things to be careful not to say to women coming into the mikveh:
- “See you soon” or “See you next month!” For anyone trying to get pregnant, this is a very hurtful thing to say. The mikveh is the last place they want to be.
- “I haven’t seen you in a while!” This comment insinuates that you’re keeping track of a woman’s cycles, which is never appropriate. Just smile and say hello to everyone. Nothing more needs to be said.
- “I’m sorry you’re back.” Even if you know someone is struggling, it’s not appropriate to mention it. Your role is to get people in and out, verify that their dip is good, and that’s it.
- If someone is visibly crying, don’t press her for details, or ask her to open up. Instead, ask if she needs more time, wants to take a few minutes to collect yourself, or if there is anything you can do for her. Be supportive, but not intrusive.
- “I just know you’ll be pregnant soon.” How do you know? No one knows the future. It’s better not to say anything.
- “I heard all about your loss/stillbirth. That must have been devastating. What happened?” Coming to the mikveh after a loss is very difficult for most women. Instead say, “I heard you lost the baby. I’m so sorry. If you need some extra time or support while you’re here, please let me know.”
- Don’t make assumptions about anyone based on their appearance. If someone has lost or gained a lot of weight, seems bloated or has bruises all over her abdomen or legs, it could be because of fertility treatments, not abuse. Don’t jump to conclusions.
- It’s better to say nothing than to say something which might be hurtful. Mikveh night is hard for many people in the fertility community and emotions often run high during a visit. Many innocent things that are said can be sources of pain.
Overall, It’s best to just smile and say “Hello”. “Your dip is kosher”. “Goodnight”