First of all, we want to extend a warm welcome and a huge thank you to the family and friends of those experiencing infertility. The fact that you have come here and clicked on this link shows just how much you care. We also want to acknowledge the loss and pain you are likely experiencing. Perhaps you’ve been dreaming of becoming a grandparent, aunt/uncle, god-parent. Maybe you’ve been dreaming of having your children grow up along side your best friend’s children… and those dreams are being snatched away from you as you watch your loved one struggle with infertility. We know infertility hurts more than just the couple experiencing it, and we are sorry for your pain.
You are most likely here because you are wondering what you can do for your loved one. We want to help you! As you scroll down you’ll find helpful tips of what to do and what to avoid. The chart below is a great place to start… we’ll explain it more below.
We call these “grief circles” and the idea is really quite simple. The blue dot in the center represents your loved one experiencing infertility. You will find yourself in one of the outside circles… either immediate family, close friend, co-worker/neighbor, ect. The gist of it is this – you only pour in and dump out. A close friend should not vent/grieve to her friend experiencing the infertility, she should only pour into her friend offering love and support and a shoulder to cry on. Make sense?
So how do you pour in / support us / become a safe place?
Less talking, more listening: Often we just need a safe person to talk to and share how we’re feeling with minimal input back. Because infertility can be such a lonely journey we tend to bottle up our fears and feelings. To know we have someone we can call to talk with who will safely listen and offer compassion is invaluable. This is an example of us needing to dump out. When we do this we need a hug, prayers, and to hear, “I’m so sorry. My heart breaks for you.”
Do not offer advice or platitudes: We know that when someone you love is hurting the most tempting thing to want to do is fix the problem. This is normal for our culture but actually causes more pain and isolation. We need to be okay with pain. It’s a part of life and no one can avoid it forever. Pain isn’t to be glossed over or swept under the rug. It has to be experienced and dealt with in healthy ways. So don’t worry – we aren’t looking to you to fix anything. You can ease yourself of that burden now! :) Katie wrote a great post about things not to say to someone going through infertility. You can find it here for specific examples of unhelpful words. We’ll close this section by saying that women going through infertility have already consulted doctors and done plenty of research. There is likely no fertility advice you could give them that they haven’t already heard and/or tried. The same goes for the cliches and platitudes. Yes we already know God is good and his timing is perfect and that he has a reason for everything, but infertility still hurts.
Ask questions: This might seem to contradict the point above, but it doesn’t! We still want you to be an active supporter in this journey and one of the best ways to do that is to ask questions. Ask how we’re doing and really stop and take the time to listen. If you don’t have time when you pass us in the church hallway say something like, “I want to know how things are going but I don’t have time right this second. Can we schedule a coffee date?” Ask how treatments or testing is going and don’t be afraid to ask what certain tests or treatments entail. These seasons in our journey take an enormous physical and emotional toll on us – it’s nice to know that someone out there cares to know what we’re going through. But be sure to take your cues from us. If you ask questions and we’re very vague or short it’s safe to assume we’re not comfortable talking about it or giving details. Then it’s best to just give a hug and move on. But keep checking in! *Note: this is for close friends – if you are a mere acquaintance it’s best to avoid the more personal questions.*
Be sensitive on holidays: Mother’s Day hurts. Christmas finds us wishing we had a little one to watch unwrap gifts. Thanksgiving brings about those feelings of, “I thought for sure we’d have an announcement to make by this year,” birthdays remind us that another year has passed without a baby, and on it goes. Please be extra sensitive and aware on holidays. We desperately want to enjoy family time and have fun celebrating, but sometimes our emotions get the best of us. You can show you care by giving us extra grace. A pat on the back, an extra long hug, or just some kind words go a long way. Holidays aren’t neccessarily the best time to ask if we’re okay because we don’t really want to dissolve into a puddle of tears in front of the whole family. But they are a good time to schedule that coffee date. ;)
Be extra-sensitive in baby related news/events: There’s nothing worse than hearing a surprise pregnancy announcement in the middle of a crowd. We have no where to go to gather our emotions and have the proper response (which of course is joy.) As happy as we are for our friends who are growing their families, pregnancy announcements often hurt and leave us aching/wishing we had our own to give. It’s best to give your friend a heads up if you’re planning a fun public announcement. She can then make the decision on whether or not to be there, and have time to process her emotions alone rather than in front of a crowd. It’s also just a wise idea to let her know in a way that allows her to process alone whether you’re planning a public announcement or not. A letter in the mail is wonderful. It let’s her know you care and allows her to have any emotions she needs to and then call you when she’s ready to share in your joy. Baby showers deserve the same care. Sometimes we’re fine going to or even throwing showers, and other times we just can’t handle it. Please invite us. We don’t want to be left out. Including a personal note that says there’s no pressure to attend but that you would love to have us means a lot. Wynne wrote a beautiful post after attending a triple baby shower and her words are really worth reading – click here!
Never stop caring: Infertility is a long journey. For some it lasts a few years, for others ten or more, and for others it never ends. Please don’t stop checking in on us or having compassion for us. We know it gets old hearing the same prayer requests or heart breaks… but just imagine how old it gets for us to experience heart break month after month, year after year. Infertility is long and hard. We need friends in it with us for the long haul. If you are looking for a little more of a glimpse inside our journey you can read Lauren’s post “Can You Imagine” by clicking here.
Thank you so much for caring about us! We know that we aren’t always the easiest crowd to understand. Please know that we know people aren’t perfect and we all say the wrong thing sometime. Grace and more grace!! Do you have any questions that weren’t answered here? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.