Supporting a loved one or friend through infertility.
In a society that values appearances, infertility is an issue that often gets swept under the rug and ignored. Unfortunately, most couples don’t find out they’re dealing with fertility issues for anywhere from a few months to a few years into their private journey.
Due to the personal nature of pregnancy related issues, many people rarely speak up about their issues conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term. There's a lot of societal judgement around infertility treatments such as IVF with the result to be guarded, quite understandable.
The emotions around conception and infertility are intense, so if you have a friend or loved one that has let you in on their fertility struggle, you're there to listen. This is one of the occasions where you as a mother, sister, brother, friend or confidante need to listen first, because you really can't do anything yourself.
If it's not something your familiar with or have experienced first hand it can be a really difficult process to navigate. Of course you want to do the right thing, but what that is, is intensely personal. If you have been through it yourself, it's important to understand what happened for you may not be happening for them. Whilst every situation is different, there are a few ways you can support someone facing challenges around conceiving.
Let them know that what they’re going through matters.
If you have never faced infertility personally, your first instinct may be to 'find solutions' or alternatives by suggesting they simply pursue adoption or different methods of fertility treatment. Unfortunately, fertility or conception is not always an issue that can be 'fixed' and adoption is not an option to all couples.
The best thing you can do before you begin discussing a prognosis or possibilities is to give them a hug and let them know that you believe what they are going through is important. You may not be able to understand their struggle first hand but you can still listen with empathy and offer them an ear or shoulder to cry on - we all cope in different ways.
Be interested in what they have to say about their infertility.
If your loved one has begun seeking additional fertility treatments or researching adoption, be interested and supportive of the information they’re learning. Just like building a family in a conventional way requires sacrifices and lifestyle changes, so does fertility treatments and adoption. Depending on the cause of your friend's infertility, they may be pursuing dietary changes, improved exercise habits or even career changes. Being interested in what's happening assures them that you’re along for the ride and supportive of the sacrifices they’re making to build a family.
Make yourself available to attend appointments when possible.
Infertility is a journey that has many stops along the way. Even if your loved one has a supportive partner or spouse in their life, they still may not have someone to accompany them to every appointment. It can be an emotional rollercoaster and can be isolating. Simply offering to be there when they need you is a great way to support someone struggling with the emotions surrounding fertility. Someone to listen to the debrief after the appointment important is really helpful.
Offer helpful alternatives.
Often, weight loss is an essential part of undergoing fertility treatments. If your loved one has made it clear that their weight is getting in the way of conceiving, offering to exercise with them instead of going out for cocktails and dinner every Friday could literally be all that they need to change their prognosis and conceive a child.
It’s important to remember that issues surrounding fertility are intensely emotional and they impact both parties in a relationship and that no matter what you may think, everyone has their own path to follow. Yes, you might do things differently but your loved one needs to do things in they way feel is best and/or right for themselves.
Finally, it’s extremely important to avoid using 'terms' or offering suggestions that may leave them feeling responsible for their inability to conceive a child naturally. It's a complicated and emotional situation so please choose your words carefully, thoughtfully and with love.
The best thing you can do is try to understand the journey and hold their hand, no matter where it takes them.