10 Things NOT To Say To the Parent of an A.R.T. Child

A.R.T.  Assisted Reproductive Technology.  I’m a Mom of an IVF/ICSI baby but there are many other types of A.R.T. parents: ZIFT, GIFT, Microsort, IUI, DI, DE, DI/DE, etc.  Like what NOT to say to an Infertile friend, here is what NOT to say to parents of A.R.T. Children.

1. Oh, so is she like other babies?

Well, besides the fact that she turns into an ogre under the full moon?  First, is there an appropriate way to ask this of anyone?  Second, when all other factors are equal, IVF babies are no more at risk than any other baby.

2. She’s a Test Tube Baby?

Seriously?  If you say this to me I’m going to hit you in the face.  And I’m a pacifist.  If she’s a “test tube baby” then is your baby a “microscopic crack in the condom baby” or a “forgot to take my pill today baby” or a “too drunk to remember the diaphragm baby”?  For your information IVF doesn’t even happen in a test tube.

This is a test tube

This is a petri dish

Oh and if you call her a Petri Dish Baby there will be blood.

3. Did you get to pick the eye color?

Why, yes, yes I did.  We didn’t do this because we suffer from soul-crushing infertility but because we had $15,000 to blow and really only like people with blue eyes.  And designer baby is the new black.  Natch.

4. Weren’t you worried about having like 8 babies?

NO I WAS NOT.  THAT WAS NEVER A POSSIBILITY.  The media focuses stories about IVF on the few, horrible, irresponsible people who abuse fertility treatment (and their unethical doctors that allow them to).  Did you know that in the US 2% of all births are IVF babies?  That doesn’t even include other methods of A.R.T.  World wide over 200,000 IVF babies are born every year.  Since the first IVF birth in 1978 there have been approximately 3.5 million children born through IVF.  There are guidelines for responsible IVF transfer published by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.  They aren’t law of course, and shouldn’t be because every case is different.  There are hundreds of conditions underlying infertility and a single set of guidelines couldn’t cover them all.

Also, I just want to point out that people often assume that some women of high-order multiples have made their choice out of a sanctity for life – e.g. choosing not to “selectively reduce” embryos to save others.  For the record, I am not in favor of  selective reduction but I am in favor of avoiding the need to make that decision!  Yes, Kate Gosselin didn’t “reduce” her babies and kudos for her but she should have never went against medical advice and went forward with conception knowing she had that many eggs maturing.  When I did inseminations or super-ovulation cycles I was monitored almost daily for follicle growth.  If you have too many developing they cancel the cycle and warn you NOT to have sex.  The more responsible choice is to only attempt conception with the number of babies you are willing to carry and thus avoid the reduction dilemma.

Oh, one more also – women also are led to take risks related to high-order multiples because of the exorbitant cost of treatment and the fact that it is not covered by (most) insurance.  Read more here and here.

5. Are they “real”?

In reference to twins or triplets.  What the hell is a real twin?  What is the opposite of a real twin – a “fake” twin?

6. Why didn’t you just adopt?

Adoption is beautiful.  It is also difficult, expensive, and not for everyone.  It is a personal choice.  The desire to be pregnant and give birth is a real and valid desire.  Don’t insult someone for striving to fulfill their biological drive.

7. Is she biologically yours?

This gem usually comes from someone with just enough information to be dangerous.  They know enough to realize that A.R.T. can include donor sperm and/or donor eggs.  It really just isn’t any of your business and the question implies that biology would somehow change their view of your child.

8. Was it you or your partner?

This question, regarding whose “fault” the infertility is, crosses that none-of-your-business line too.  Additionally, many infertile couples I know do not make that differentiation.  I think of myself as infertile even though our medical diagnosis is “male factor – anti-sperm antibodies.”  Pete is my husband he’s the father of my children regardless of how they come to us.  When people say “well you are fertile” I get very angry and defensive for my husband.

9. How many embryos do you have/what are you doing with your left over embryos?

This question is usually loaded with a religious judgment behind it.  The real question is “are you going to discard your embryos?”  Really, none of your business.

10. Are you going to have more?

This question is rude for the same reason that it is rude to constantly ask a young couple “when are you going to have kids?”  You don’t know the pain that might linger behind the question.  The desire for a second child is as painful as for the first for many.  Others are happy with one child and feel insulted that they should want more to complete their family.  Really?  None of your business.

All snark aside, I usually try to see the intention behind the question.  Often people are just ignorant and are trying to show sympathy and not meaning to be rude.  Some things people have said to me that feel “right” :

  • “Oh that’s amazing!”
  • “What a blessing!”
  • “You must be so thrilled!”
  • “She’s just perfect.”
  • “Interesting, I’d love to hear more about that, if you are willing.”

Stop. Think. Then speak. Thank you.


19 thoughts on “10 Things NOT To Say To the Parent of an A.R.T. Child

  1. I just shot vegan muffin across the room when I came to “microscopic crack in the condom baby”. I support you retuning that as a respond to anyone who is ignorant/silly/living on another planet enough to ask you any of these questions.


  2. Wow, people have really asked you all those questions? Talk about nosy and insensitive!

    Question: Do you see a difference between people asking if you are “going” to have more and if you “want” to have more? Would you be offended if someone asked you if you “wanted” to have more? To me there is a difference. I’m pretty sure every parent gets asked that, and I certainly don’t mind answering that question, even though it’s more complex than a yes or a no.
    .-= Lisa C´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: First Trike =-.


    • If someone just asked me if I wanted more and they DIDN’T know I had an IVF baby it wouldn’t bother me. But, when they know the difficulty we had in having one it bothers me. The “want” is very loaded.

      I will say though, I liked writing this snarky post but in all honesty I’m not a snarky person. When someone says something stupid (I get #3 and #4 the most) I just take the opportunity to educate them. Very few people intentionally mean to hurt anyone’s feelings (at least I choose to believe that) and I don’t think snark serves any purpose – that’s why I blog! 🙂
      .-= Paige´s last blog ..A Number of Things =-.


    • I can understand that. We are all sensitive about different things, especially if we had to fight so hard for something or didn’t get something we really wanted. I want more children but don’t know if I can, but that question wouldn’t bother me, which is why I asked. Although my issue isn’t with fertility. Perhaps fertility is just a more sensitive issue because it can affect how we feel about ourselves.

      Thanks for talking about this. It’s always good to be made aware of what we need to be sensitive about.
      .-= Lisa C´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: First Trike =-.


    • Hm. It’s pretty much public knowledge that I miscarry a LOT. I have had 10 m/c’s and 1 child, I got asked today “Oh, are you having a second one?”, so I let her off the hook once, saying “no, we’re taking a break for now”, and then she still replies “Oh, because I see a little bit of roundness there”. I really bit back the desire to just be sarcastic and say “Yes – after being pregnant TEN TIMES, my body is kind of just keeping the shape”. :(. It’s really annoying that people still ask me if I’m pregnant – the odds are that if I haven’t told you I’m pregnant, I’ve m/c’d within the last couple of months. 🙂 Thanks for the vent site. I’m linking to your blog – I’ve written a few things on what not to say to people who’ve miscarried, and some are similar to yours, and I LOVE your sense of humour about it. 🙂


  3. to true. I know a lady from a forum i’m in and she was in a chemist one day asking about medication for her child and for some reason happened to mention the child was an ivf baby. The woman behind the counter stopped smiling and cooing at the baby and looked at her with all seriousness and said ‘oh, she doesn’t LOOK like an IVF baby’.

    WTF! what is an IVF baby supposed to look like?! Do they expect to see a barcode on the back of it’s head or something!!!
    Some people are so flippen ignorant.

    I’m gonna make sure my biy knows how special he is and that he never lets anyone make him feel different or out of place just because his parents wanted him so much that they did what they had to do with needles and expensive dr’s etc instead of just getting drunk and forgetting a condom or something.

    there’s pretty much an IVF kid in every class in schools and even more ART kids. the world should really catch up!!


    • Oh my goodness. that lady needed slapped. What does she think an IVF baby is going to look like? They aren’t robots or some kind of spliced, engineered thing. I agree with you that I want Aellyn to know how much we loved her years before she came to us and we had to fight very hard for her!

      Also, to your last point this is why I’m so vocal about IVF. Most people know and IVF baby but don’t know it. I don’t want it ever to be something shameful so I shout it from the highest mountain!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m shocked! I’ve never had any of those comments, I can’t even imagine how I’d answer. Although I have occasionally pointed out that in some senses my two girls, 2 and 4, are actually twins.

    As for biologically yours, that sort of thing really bugs me. DNA is just a few chemicals, people, get over it. In what possible sense in growing a child inside you, connected to them by a placenta which contains tissue from both of you, sharing their blood, your hormones, your nutrition, your oxygen, not biological? As a human biologist I find it ridiculous, and I could say a few rude things about the patriarchy and economics it’s based on.


  5. Pingback: What not to say | Janet Chadwick, Fertility Coach

  6. Your “right” to fulfill or attempt to fulfill a biological need…(isn’t that sorta’ how you put it?)

    Regardless, that’s what it is. It’s that, and only that. It couldYou aren’t selfish and narcissistic and selfish and overachieving and selfish and ego driven and selfish….bb in the slightest…

    And no, you’d NEVER be naturally snarky. Why would anyone think that?

    If you spent even just 25% of the research time and $$$$ on relieving the brokenness of the U.S. foster system and pain inside if the children who comprise it…….

    Maybe you can finish the sentence.


    • I had to read this several times to see if it was a joke. It is so disorganized and stream-of-consciousness I felt like I'd been drunk dialed! Anyways here are a few more things not to say! I love how infertile women are personally supposed to fix the foster system. Or, do you treat anyone who procreates this way? Either way I don't see how anyone as hateful as this commenter could be part of a solution to anything. I'm pretty sure the solution to the foster system starts with love not self-righteous hate.


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