Experiencing infertility is an immersive process that you can easily get wrapped up in. After all, there are doctor appointments to schedule, phone calls to make to the insurance company, and medications to be brave enough to inject yourself with. But what if you are the one on the sidelines? The friend, or sister, or coworker that finds yourself thrust into the complicated world of scientific baby-making, where emotions are high and medical jargon is confusing. It’s hard to know what to say and do to show you care, especially if you have no personal experience with infertility. But the fact is, one in eight couples deal with infertility, and chances are you know someone who needs your support. Here are our tips to help you support someone experiencing infertility.
1. Take Their Concerns Seriously
Don’t try to minimize their pain. Don’t tell them to relax, or go on a vacation or that they are still young. Maybe you know someone who wanted a baby and went to Cancun for some frisky time and came back pregnant. Now is not the time to tell your friend about that. Same goes for false reassurances. Don’t tell them they’re overreacting, or that there’s probably nothing wrong. If they’re bringing it up to you, it means they’ve already been thinking about it, and to them, there’s a very real concern.
2. Ask Them How They’re Doing
It can be hard to find the words to comfort someone dealing with the grief of infertility. The thing is, simply acknowledging them and their situation speaks volumes to your friend or family member. Most likely your friend or family member has heard all the advice before. But asking them how they’re doing opens up the conversation for them to tell you as much as they feel comfortable with at that moment.
3. Play The Matchmaker
Experiencing infertility can be the loneliest thing in the world. By putting them in touch with a family member or friend you know that has experienced or is experiencing infertility, you are showing them they are not alone. Infertility is tricky, in that sometimes it’s easier to talk about it with someone who has been there. It doesn’t mean they don’t need you too, but being able to share experiences with someone in similar situations can help with the isolation.
4. Do Some Research
This doesn’t mean you need to be on the up and up of all things infertility. But familiarize yourself with the general acronyms—know the basics of what an IUI and IVF are and what your friend means when they talk about doing a retrieval or transfer (Read more: An Into to the IVF Process). Not only does it show you are an active participant in their life, but it saves your friend from having to explain something about her treatment plan to you over and over. They likely won’t mind if you ask questions or need clarification, though. It shows you are invested and people going through the rigors of infertility need people invested in them.
5. Be Considerate
It can be difficult and isolating for someone experiencing infertility to hear about other people's kids or pregnancy updates. That’s not to say you can’t talk about these things around them ever, but you know your friend or family member best. If talking about your children’s bedtime routine causes their eyes to glaze over, it may be best to save those conversations with your mom friends. Likewise, it may be really hard for your friend to hear about how uncomfortable your pregnancy is when she’d give anything to be in your situation.
6. Don’t Forget About Them
Invite them to baby showers, but don’t push it if they don’t want to come. Don’t stop sending invitations to children’s birthday parties. People going through infertility don’t want to be forgotten; they just need to decide on their own what their heart can handle in the moment.
7. Support Their Decisions. Always.
Infertility is intensely personal and treatment choices are theirs alone to make. They have already thought long and hard about their decisions and the best thing you can do is be on their side. Especially when they make the decision to stop all treatments.
8. Remember Them on Important Holidays
One of the hardest parts of infertility is enduring the holidays centered around children: Christmas, Mother’s and Father’s Day, or Halloween. These are the days where others are celebrating the one thing your friend wants most in the world. A text message, a phone call, or card in the mail letting them know you are thinking about them can help them get through a difficult day.
9. Ask How You Can Best Support Them
When in doubt, go right to the source and ask your friend how they would be best supported. Do they need you to be a listening ear? Do they want to bounce treatment ideas off you? Or perhaps they need you to be a distraction by taking you out and discussing non-fertility related topics, which is the best way for them to take their mind off things.
You don’t have to experience infertility yourself in order to be an understanding and supportive friend or family member. Don’t be afraid to show support because you don’t know what to say, or you’ve said the wrong things in the past that perhaps drew your friend away. By asking them what they need, learning from your own mistakes, and standing by their treatment decisions, odds are you will be the best support they have.