Don’t ignore the impact that your actions and words have on the people suffering through infertility. Today I wanted to share with you some things that I learned during my hard walk through infertility. These are lessons that I hope will help you offer support and love to someone you know who might be dealing with the pain of infertility. It can be an awkward topic of conversation if you have never personally dealt with the frustration and the heartbreak of desperately wanting to start a family with no success.
Infertility: Diminished or absent ability to conceive and bear offspring.
I am far too familiar with the pain of infertility. We tried unsuccessfully for a little over a year to become pregnant until one glorious day the stick showed 2 pink lines. I was over the moon excited and we quickly told everyone we knew that the day had come, we were expecting a baby. Unfortunately, a few weeks later I had a miscarriage. Over the next 2 years I had 3 more miscarriages. Discouraged and heartbroken, we turned our attention to growing our family through adoption. We became foster parents, providing a home to infants and toddlers who needed a safe place. Our very first placement was a beautiful little one month old boy, Ty, who we later adopted. 2 years later we added our eventual second son, Cam, to the family as a foster child. We were quite content with our family of 4.
Shortly before we finalized our second adoption, the stick showed 2 pink lines once again. I was stunned, we had not been actively trying to get pregnant but nor were we doing anything to prevent it. We kept this new blessing to ourselves long past the customary 12 week mark out of fear. We had been down this road too many times to allow ourselves to feel anything but cautious hope. We were lucky and our surprise pregnancy led to the birth of our daughter, Maia. We went on to have 2 more children, Mase and Zoey, over the next few years but we also lost 4 more babies in that time.
It was evident that we were surrounded by people who wanted to be supportive, who wanted to say or do the right thing but were not sure how. I want to share a few things you can do for someone suffering from the pain of infertility as well as a few things to please never say that come straight from my own experience.
*Listen. It seems so simple but it is the number one thing I wish people had done for me. Don’t try and rationalize or offer suggestions, just listen. If your friend or family member wants to yell, cry or curse her body, just listen and offer a supportive hug.
*Be There. So many people that I thought were my friends disappeared during my struggle with infertility. I know that they thought they were sparing me pain because they were pregnant or had small children but it was hurtful to be excluded. Call your friend, invite them places, do a Girls Night, go to the spa together. It matters more than you know.
*Allow them Space. Infertility is a very personal journey for some. Realize that your friend might not want to talk about it. A simple “I’m here for you if you want to talk and I’m here for you even if you don’t want to talk” lets your friend or family member know that her infertility will not be the topic of every conversation but that you are willing to listen if she needs an ear.
*When in doubt, ask. If you are unsure about how to help or support your friend dealing with infertility, ask. I had a few friends who stepped up and said “I have no idea what to do or say, please tell me.” I would much rather have had someone ask me how to help instead of just ignoring the issue or even worse, cutting off all contact.
*Do not offer platitudes of any kind. I did not want to hear about your second cousin’s best friend’s sister who just had to stop trying and BOOM, she was pregnant. I did not want you to tell me that it was our adoptions that made me get pregnant. I did not want to hear how maybe I should just relax and it would happen.
*Do not complain about your kids or your pregnancy. I absolutely did not find it funny when a mom friend would offer to give me one of her misbehaving children. I did not sympathize with the friend who called me every other day to whine about one of her pregnancy symptoms. Nothing personal, but that is insensitive. I’m sure you have other mom friends or pregnant friends who will commiserate with you on these topics. Have some compassion for your friend who would give anything to be in your position at that moment.
*Do not offer medical advice. If you do not have an MD behind your name, please do not dispense medical advice on an issue that you likely know nothing about. I got advice from everyone and their grandmother about how I should try some new procedure that they heard on TV or saw in a magazine or even worse, read about on the internet. Rest assured, your friend is working with a top notch infertility doctor that she has likely spent hours researching.
*Do not judge their choices. If they choose to pursue adoption, support them. If they choose to try IVF, support them. If they choose to be childless, support them. Your job is not to play judge and jury or to attempt to sway them towards a different decision. Your job is to provide the very best support system that you can. If you honestly feel that you cannot support their choices then perhaps it is time to take a closer look at whether you are being a helpful or a negative influence in their life.
More than seven million people in the United States suffer from Infertility so chances are you know someone who is fighting a war with their bodies. If you would like to understand more about the disease of infertility or learn about National Infertility Awareness Week please check out these links: