Whether you know it or not, someone you love is battling infertility. Although 1 in 8 couples are infertile, it is rarely talked about and often misunderstood.
With Mother’s Day around the corner, it reminds me of a time that this holiday brought a mixture of pain and dying hope to me. Would I ever be able to celebrate Mother’s Day like all my friends? Would I be given looks or pity or just ignored all together this year? What were the chances that I would be pregnant by next Mother’s Day? Any chance at all? Would I ever be a Mother?
After writing my book, “Full Heart Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility… Twice,” I have been asked many times about how to best support someone dealing with Infertility. As with most people hurting, I think it is good to offer specific help instead of “Let me know if I can do anything” because let me tell you – – she won’t.
Here are 9 ways you can help your Infertile Friend:
- Acknowledge that her pain is REAL. Studies have shown that the level of anxiety and stress that an infertile woman goes through is equivalent to someone dealing with cancer. Her infertility is never far from her mind. It is ever-present.
- Listen to her. There are no magical answers. Sometimes she may just need to cry and get her frustrations out. A shoulder to cry on is a tremendous blessing.
- Although well intended, most advice offered to Infertile women is actually more harmful than helpful. Erase these things from your vocabulary:
- “How are you?” unless a) you are really ready to listen and b) you aren’t in a big group and putting her on the spot.
- Anything that starts with “at least”. That just belittles her feelings.
- “Just relax! It is because you are stressing yourself out!” Have you ever stressed about trying not to be stressed? She has and it doesn’t help to be lectured about it.
- “You should just adopt and then you will get pregnant!” No one “just” adopts. That is a huge personal decision.
- “You just need to lose weight!” or “You are just exercising too much!” They are getting the medical advice they need from their doctors.
- Or the worst that I have heard countless times… “I wish I had that problem! My husband just has to look at me and I get pregnant!” Does that really need an explanation??
- Be thoughtful about pregnancy announcements. Although it is wonderful news, it is a reminder to her about what she doesn’t have. Don’t tell her in a big group where she will have to process it in the midst of a crowd while trying to keep control of her emotions. But make sure you tell her. My feelings were hurt terribly when I found out once that everyone knew about a friend’s pregnancy and no one wanted to tell me.
- Give her a free pass to miss baby showers or children’s birthday parties. They simply are just too painful. Offer to give a gift together and take care of the shopping and wrapping.
- Shower her with mementos that let her know that you are thinking of her and love her. Cards, flowers with encouraging scriptures are always appreciated. One of my favorite gifts I got when going through IVF was a nightgown from Soma that was in their Cool Night collections. Many drugs that infertile women take cause hot flashes making sleep elusive. The nightgown was such a thoughtful yet practical gift. If she travels for treatments, a gas card or restaurant card would be helpful. Fertility treatments are extremely expensive.
- Take her out for a night on the town. Go to a concert. Go to a Karaoke bar. Go dancing. Just enjoy a night with lots of silliness and giggles. Remind her that there is a lot more to her than not being a mother.
- If she is dealing with Secondary Infertility (someone who has had a child and is now dealing with Infertility), she could use help with childcare. There are gazillion doctor appointments for ultrasounds, blood work, and various other things. Most of these doctor offices will not even allow children to come.
- Pray for her. This is the single most important thing you can do for her. She needs to be bathed in prayer. Aside from the obvious prayer for her to get pregnant, you can also pray for:
- Clarity as she faces so many decisions on her Infertility journey
- Her husband and their marriage because Infertility is a huge strain on a marriage
- Other friends and family members to be sensitive to her needs
Infertility can be a wedge driven between friends, and over time, it pushes them further and further apart. My prayer for you is that instead it is an opportunity to show love and draws you into a more deep and true friendship.
Stephanie Greer is the author of “Full Heart Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility … Twice.” To get your copy of her book, go to: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1503370879