Infertility – Helping Family and Friends Know What to Do
Someone asked me last month how they can help their family and friends who are going through infertility. As I thought about what to write, I was drawn to asking some of you in our community that I know either have or are dealing with infertility. There can be great insight from a variety of responses.
To be honest, I felt blank when asked. It’s something I often put to the side. I don’t like to think about what I need from others, especially in this area. It’s like when I get sick and someone asks me how they can help. My usual response is that I’m good. But am I? A nice meal or two could go a long way. Helping around the house a bit or bringing me to an appointment is so helpful.
The truth of that is the same when it comes to infertility. For someone who is going through it, it can feel like they’ve lost a dear loved one. Their dreams and hopes for the future they had planned are gone. Every expectation is out the window. Now they have to grieve, figure out a future without their own children, and spend a great deal of time and prayer seeking the Lord’s healing, comfort, and direction. It’s something that’s in their face everywhere they go.
It’s awkward for everyone else that has a family, because they don’t know if they can talk about their kids or not. Do they act normal? Do they keep quiet about their own life? What do they do?
I decided to ask some of you to share your ideas with us. I think they are all great and will bring insight and help to everyone that reads them.
So, to all of you in our community that have family and friends struggling with infertility, may these tips below bring greater connection with you and them. May it draw you closer together and help mend that hard and awkward area of your relationship.
Thank you to those who responded. All quotes are anonymous, so that they could feel free to share.
Our first Response:
“1. Invite us into your living room. Infertility can be a lonely road. We may not want to talk right away, simply because we don’t have the words. But every text, every surprise e-gift card, every listening ear counts. Community is invaluable.
2. Ask us what we’re hoping for. If we aren’t sure what we’re hoping for, pray for us. When we’re ready, we’ll share what we feel our next steps should be. If we’re believing for a miracle, stretch your faith and believe with us. Support our choices to explore every option. If you can’t do that, it’s ok. Allow someone else who can to walk alongside us.
3. While we grieve, pray for us. Hearing the news of infertility can be shocking. No one believes that this will be their story. We need time to grieve the loss of hopes and dreams. We need prayer to strengthen our spirits. Even if we don’t know your prayer, it still helps.
4. Share testimonies of who God is. There is no better way of building hope, than sharing testimonies of how faithful God has been and will be. Infertility can walk hand-in-hand with hopelessness and discouragement. But it doesn’t have to. Share stories of others who have experienced our living God. Help us build up our faith.”
Our second response:
-Offer to come for a drive to an appointment – “One friend came to an infertility treatment appointment with me when [my husband] couldn’t. He/she came for the long drive and waited for my IUI (Intrauterine Insemination).”
–Call/Check in with notes or thoughtful things – “I might be feeling low some days. ‘Don’t give up on me’ type message should be heard”.
–Pray for us
–Baby Announcements – “Tell me personally and in private if you are expecting (pregnant). Understand that while I am glad for you, it is hard for me. Don’t avoid it … don’t let me hear from someone else. I really appreciated the friend who did this so sensitively for me”
–Baby Showers – “Understand that I may or may not feel up to baby showers”
–Listen – “Listen, listen, listen, if I need to chat.”
Don’t Back Away – “Even if I seem to for a time from the friendship. It is not you. It is my emotional state …Keep reminding me you are there even if I don’t answer or say much.
Anything to give their mind a break – Ex. “gift card for dinner out, a home cooked meal, coffee date.”
Find people in similar situations – “this was key, even if it was just online. Ex. Hannah’s Prayer Ministries Forum”
Get a Pet – “Get a dog.”
Our Third Response:
“For us it was challenging to be thankful and find joy in God, and understand why we couldn’t have a baby … I believe now, in time, God’s plan comes together and everything makes sense. Even when in the time/moment, it does not.
It was a complete fluke that we had a baby. We don’t know if we will be able to have more but we just pray and give it to God now. It’s very hard to do so still, even in the smallest things. But He always seems to answer in time.”
Our Fourth Response:
“I think one of the things I wished for was not to be asked, “so, when are you two going to have a baby??” Questions like, “have you thought of adoption?” were always very uncomfortable. Times sitting in church on Mother’s Day were always hard when mothers were asked to stand up and were given roses… I never knew if I should stand because of having had a miscarriage…was I a mother or not? [My husband] and I instituted “[D.] Day”….a day set aside to honor me for who I am….it always made me feel special. [My husband] never really struggled much with it all.”
As you can see, every person deals with it differently, just like those who grieve a loss. But I think some things are similar among them all:
-Pray and comfort us
-Connect with us
-Acknowledge our pain
-Give us space and time to grieve and process
-Avoid awkward questions about the subject. We’ll share when we’re ready.
-A thoughtful gift, card, visit, etc. can go a long way
– Please be understanding if we are ‘missing in action’ on certain occasions like baby showers and Mother’s Day
I hope these tips are helpful. Some of us may want to hear about your children and have an opportunity to love and interact with them. Others may need some time away from kids or hearing anything about them. Bringing a variety of topics to your conversations can be very helpful. And, it gives you a chance to think about other things as well. It’s a good practice to learn in any stage of life. We can get in the habit of focusing on one topic, but it’s good to keep interest in an assortment so that you can converse with a variety of people.
Don’t be afraid to ask the person going through infertility if it’s okay to talk about your children or not. Let them give an honest answer and respect those boundaries. If they say no, hopefully that will change in the future.
Comment below if you have any other great tips and tricks for family and friends of those going through infertility. We’d love to hear it!