So, your friend or family member has just opened up to you about their infertility struggles. It could be after years of silence or after a new diagnosis, but now you’re thinking “But how can *I* help?” Here are some practical suggestions:
1) Show up. Be it in a card, a text or phone call or in person: Be there. Show them you care. Let them know that you’re there to support them. Some amazing suggestions I’ve either experiences or heard:
a. Send a text/email every so often to say “I love you and am thinking of you” Develop your own code such as a certain phrase or emoji.
b. Give her a small gift to help out with the procedures that are coming up if she’s doing medical treatments. Socks, a small stuffed toy, new PJs, magazines/books/dvds for bedrest, meals or offers to help with chores are AMAZING things
c. Be available for girl’s nights/days when she needs a little pampering, or guys night when he wants to just forget about it all for a few hours.
d. Check in after appointments to see how things went and just listen without offering advice or insight.
e. Support the couple. Men have infertility, too, even if the women are the ones who endure most of the medical treatments.
2) Be honest. Don’t know what they need? Ask! “What can I do to support you in this?” can be an amazing question. Even if there’s nothing at the moment, your heart-felt offer and concern can be powerful salve to a hurting heart.
3) Don’t judge. Your friend may not want to adopt. Your sister may not want to do IVF. Or might want to do IVF for the tenth round. Don’t judge their decisions, they’re THEIRS to make.
4) Don’t complain. Look, we all know parenting is hard and pregnancy can be difficult on your body. And we still want to do it. So don’t complain endlessly about how hard it is. If you have a specific need go ahead and ask for our help/suggestions, but just general complaints should be reserved for your other friends who have kids and can commiserate.
5) DO share the good with us. We want to celebrate with you the good things that come along with being a parent, so keep us in the loop about spelling bees and sport achievements.
6) DO invite us to kid-centered events, but DON’T get hurt if we decline. Infertility is this bizarre thing where we love kids and families and want to be included… and we also hurt so much because we feel like outsiders looking in. Invite us but don’t be surprised if there are times we can’t make it.
7) Don’t try to find the “bright side” of infertility. We aren’t likely in a place to appreciate “at least you won’t have stretch marks” or “at least you can travel!” because we would give up ANYthing to have a baby. And odds are that we can’t travel or enjoy other parts of life because of the emotional and financial toll that infertility takes.
8) DO let us give up. Sometimes the burden of constant hope gets heavy. We have been through months or maybe years of disappointment, and may be facing many more months and years of disappointment. Let us be sad and frustrated. Let us hurt. Let us grieve for the babies we have lost, both in the past and in the future. When hope gets too heavy for us, carry the burden silently for us. But let us lay it down, either for a season or for good if that’s what it takes to resolve our journey. Don’t say “Don’t give up!” instead say “I’m here. How can we get through this together?”
9) DO help us advocate. Be aware of the obstacles that the infertile face, whether it’s the misinformed public or the expense of uncovered medical care. Get involved. Be a voice with and for us. Protect us from less informed people by stepping in to address offensive or thoughtless comments and know the misinformation and myths that exists about infertility so you can help educate others.
10) DO extend us grace. Infertility does crazy things to us. We cry a lot, over big things and small things. We might react to something you think is innocent but that triggers some massive hurt deep inside of us. Recognize that infertility is one big loss made up of a host of small losses. We are grieving lost babies, unfulfilled longing and broken dreams. We want to make pregnancy announcements, take maternity photos and dress up a baby for a first birthday. We want to have a first day of Kindergarten, a driving lesson, a prom. And we live in a limbo where we don’t know how or even if these longings will be filled. All of these are small hurts build up to an enormous one so please, be patient with us, even when you don’t really understand what is going on.
You can’t cure the pain of infertility for us, it’s something we have to carry, but you can help lighten the load a little with some grace, understanding and a huge dose of love and caring.