Supporting Your Loved One Through Infertility

Working in the world of adoption, I’ve seen so many couples that have the weight of infertility on their shoulders. It is heavy, and it is hard. Although I have had the joy of seeing happy endings for these families, what has been really growing for me is learning to walk with them on their journey through infertility. This month during National Infertility Awareness Week, I want to share some ways to help support those in your life who may be struggling with infertility.

 Skip the Platitudes

“God has a plan.”

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“You just need to relax and it will happen.”

And my personal favorite….

“Just start the adoption process and then you will get pregnant.”

 For someone experiencing the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with infertility, these fall so flat. They don’t need your advice, or your canned words of comfort. What do they need? Empathy. A simple “I am so sorry, this %*&#ing sucks” can go a long way. {Expletive optional of course.}

Sit With Them in Their Grief

Infertility typically comes with a free side of grief, and our society does not handle grief very well. It makes us uncomfortable. Your loved one’s struggle may bring up all sorts of things for you. Sadness for them, guilt that you are able to have a biological child and they can’t. Discomfort with their anger, grief, hopelessness, etc. Our instinct in these situations is to pull back and “give them time or room to process”. While this may be helpful for some people, it can feel very isolating to others, especially when they may feel like the only ones who are having this particular experience. Ask your friend what they need. If they need space, give it. If they need to talk, be there. Validate their emotions. Don’t make it about you. Offer support, whether that is a bottle of wine and a good cry, helping to pack up a baby room if they can’t bring themselves to do it, or sharing in the things you have always shared in your relationship and trying your best to not make it weird. Be there. It helps.

Resist the Urge to Fix

When someone we love is hurting, our natural inclination is to want to take away their pain and to try and fix it. This is especially hard when it comes to grief, and it is important to note that grief cannot be “fixed”, it can only be tended or or managed. What counts as trying to fix it? Giving unsolicited suggestions about what they should try next regarding treatment is trying to fix it. Telling them they should just adopt is trying to fix it. Listing all of the things they should be thankful for in their lives is trying to fix it. What counts as helping? Telling your friend they are strong and that they will make it through this season is helping. Dropping dinner on their doorstep when you know they are so down they may not be able to get out of bed is helping. Sending them a gift with a note telling them you love them is helping. A good rule to check yourself in this situation is asking “am I doing this just to make myself feel better?”. If so, you might be fixing instead of helping.

Give them Grace

Your best friend may decide she just can’t attend your baby shower, because it is too hard for her. Your sister may drop off of social media for a while. Your brother may take his time coming to see your new baby. There are times where those who are experiencing the pain of infertility just need to take a step back from baby related events in the name of self preservation, and that is ok. Don’t take it personally. Your loved one’s needs may also change from day to day. One day he may want space, and then a few days later want a lot of communication. Try to follow their lead in supporting them.

Respect their Boundaries

Each situation is so personal and different, and what feels right for one person may feel invasive to another. If someone does not want to talk about their infertility journey, then don’t press it. For that matter, can we all just quit being so nosey about everyone’s baby-making plans? For those of you experiencing probing questions, practice this phrase with me “When we have good news, we will share it.”

On the other hand, if your friend/sister/cousin/work wife wants to talk about their experience, let them. Ask about all the acronyms if you don’t know what they mean. Let them educate you. Sometimes it helps just to lend a listening ear.

Check Out Resources

Resolve.org is the National Infertility Association’s website which can help connect couples to support groups, mental health practitioners, or medical resources in their area. There are also some good educational articles on their site that can be useful to share with family or friends who want to learn more about infertility.

Have you supported a loved one through the difficult journey of infertility? What advice would you give? 

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