In recognition of National Infertility Awareness Week, we are seeking to raise awareness about this struggle by sharing stories from local moms and a dad who have been in this difficult place, as well as additional local resources to help parents along this journey. Through this series, we hope to provide encouragement for women and men who are facing infertility and perspective for those supporting them in the battle. Thank you to our sponsors, UAB Women & Infants Services, and to each of the contributors to this series — especially the courageous parents who have shared a painful piece of your journeys.
When people found out that I was undergoing fertility treatments, they were full of advice such as, “The minute you stop worrying about getting pregnant, that’s when you’ll get pregnant!” and “You know that if you adopt, you’ll definitely get pregnant, right?” or “You just need to go on vacation and drink a lot of wine. You’ll be pregnant in no time!” They were trying to be supportive, but it really bothered me that they were just repeating popular infertility myths, mostly because the myths made it sound simple; and looking back, nothing about infertility is simple.
If you know someone who is struggling to get pregnant, that person is already going through a very emotional time. While you don’t need to know everything about what they’re going through, there are definitely some dos and don’ts when it comes to being a good listener and supporting loved ones through infertility.
Do make sure that you’re not repeating something that’s not true. “Relaxing” won’t help the many women who just can’t get pregnant, and adoption doesn’t cause pregnancy.
Do realize that infertility makes a very private thing into a very public thing, so respect the person’s boundaries. Nobody wants to answer personal questions or hear advice about their sex life.
Do realize that if you haven’t been through infertility, you really don’t understand what it’s like. Avoid questions like, “Why don’t you just adopt?” and “Are you sure you want to go through this?” You don’t need to know those things to be supportive.
Do remember that listening to someone is sometimes the best thing you can do to be supportive. Just let them talk and let them know that you’re there. Stick with them, especially when things aren’t going well for them. That’s when they need you the most.
Don’t make moral or value judgements about their decisions. Seeking fertility treatment is not “playing God”. It’s getting help with a medical condition. Nobody should have to justify why they’re going through infertility treatments, anyway.
Don’t force your belief system on them by saying, “Maybe it’s God’s will” or “Have you tried prayer?” Supporting someone means respecting who they are and not trying to change them.
Don’t hide when things aren’t going well. This is very important. People often think, “Oh, well, I don’t want to bother them,” or “I don’t want to make it worse,” but infertility is already a very lonely process, especially when you’re watching everyone else have babies and you can’t. If they want to be alone, they’ll let you know.
Don’t assume that they don’t want your help or your company. Not only do infertility treatments take a huge emotional toll on women, they take a huge physical toll on them as well. It’s hard to come up with things when people ask, “What do you need?” so try to come up with some specific things you can do and then ask, “Can I bring you a pizza?” or “Can I come with you to that doctor’s visit?” or even, “Can I get anything at the store while I’m there?” Even if they say no (and they probably will), it’s always wonderful to know that someone is willing to go the extra mile for you.
It’s hard to know what to do when a family member or friend is going through a tough time. Infertility is such a private matter for so many people that it can be uncomfortable for those who want to support them. Hopefully the above suggestions can help you support those you know struggling to get pregnant. The most important piece of advice I can give is this: just be there and communicate that you are there. You can’t solve their infertility any more than you can cure diabetes, but you can be there for them and that is priceless.
Guest Blogger ::
Brandy grew up in Birmingham and attended the University of Alabama where she studied International Finance and German. She continued her education in Tuscaloosa and graduated with an MBA and MA in German. She and her husband Eric have been married for 13 years. When trying to have a baby the old-fashioned way didn’t work, they sought fertility treatments. Two rounds of IVF later, they decided to turn to adoption. While waiting to adopt an infant, they were presented with the opportunity to adopt an older child. Two days later, they were signing paperwork to adopt their daughter. Savannah was five years old when she joined the family in 2012, and life has been an adventure ever since! Brandy is a former infertility support group leader through RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association.