Today, in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, we’re sharing some dos and don’ts regarding how to support friends experiencing infertility. Hopefully these will help empower you to reach out and comfort your friends and loved ones who are battling it.
1. Be understanding.
Try to see things from your friend’s perspective. Offer to listen (really listen) to her about what she is experiencing, and be understanding if she chooses to forgo baby showers or other baby-centric events. Being a sounding board and source of emotional support can go a long way to help your friend feel loved, and to help you gain a better understanding of her experience.
2. Do your research.
Access and study reputable sources about the nuances of infertility. That way, if your friend chooses to speak with you about it, you’ll have background knowledge to work from. (However, it’s important that you don’t use this new knowledge to try to “fix” the problem. See don’t #2 below.)
3. Provide encouragement and service.
Said encouragement and service can range from watching older kids while your friends attend doctor’s appointments, to honoring their decision to stop fertility treatments. Offer to be an exercise or activity buddy, or make them dinner. Since infertility is not solely a female-centric issue, make sure to not forget about your male friends who are experiencing it. Where appropriate, let them know that you are or your partner is supportive and available, if needed.
4. Remember them on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
These two days can be especially tender and difficult, so letting your friends know you’re thinking of them can be an effective way to provide support and love. If you’ve truly listened to your friends and are aware of their needs, you’ll have a good idea of how to do so.
1. Don’t minimize the problem.
Infertility is painful and all-consuming. Comments that minimize this journey like, “at least you can travel,” “at least you can sleep in,” etc. are damaging and dismissive. And don’t tell them that most people will experience at least one miscarriage, or that they’re “still young” or it’s “not meant to be.” I mean, this should be obvious, right?!
2. Don’t try to “fix” things or suggest ideas.
While doing your own research can equip you with knowledge to better understand your friend’s experience, it does not make you an expert of infertility. Suggesting procedures or methods isn’t helpful, as your friend is undoubtedly aware of all of the things you’re suggesting.
3. Don’t complain about your pregnancy.
Oft times, the sight of a burgeoning, pregnant belly can be quite painful for those struggling to conceive. Even though your friend may love you and be happy for you, just being around you is probably painful. So don’t complain about how much your back hurts or how you’re feeling like a beached whale. She’s not the right person to be your sounding board about the difficulties of pregnancy. Remember, she would gladly experience those discomforts in order to be pregnant. Find someone else to validate and support you during this time.
4. Don’t gossip about your friend’s condition and situation.
Again, this should go without saying, but do not share what your friend tells you about her treatments or other difficulties. This can be an intensely private matter, and it’s not up to you to share what’s going on; it’s up to your friend.
5. Don’t be insensitive.
Being dismissive of the pain that comes with secondary infertility, or suggesting that your friends “just adopt” is insensitive. Don’t make light of or joke about your friends’ situation and experience.