I started writing this follow up to my last post The Ten Things You Shouldn’t Say (Or Do) to Your Infertile Friends, way back in February once I posted the last blog. When I started writing it, I thought I would have a quicker follow up, with only Five things you SHOULD say or do. As it turns out to nobody’s surprise, I just had a lot more to say. Also, this post was more emotional than I thought it would be, but I finally soldiered through it today.
National Infertility Awareness Week started yesterday, and I thought it was really important that I get this post published.
So, without further ado….I present: The Ten Things You Should Say (or Do) to Your Infertile Friends.
1. Ask us how we are doing and let us know you are there if we need you. You don’t need to go into specifics here. Certainly, don’t ask us if we are pregnant yet. I promise, when we have something to tell you, we will. But asking us how we are doing let’s us know that you are receptive to having a real conversation about our lives. It’s a small way of reminding your infertile friends that someone cares, and it reminds us that we are not alone.
2. Tell us about your pregnancy (before you announce it on the internet). If you have a friend that is struggling with infertility, it may be hard for you to share your own happy news with them. DO IT ANYWAY. We know that you don’t want to hurt us, but letting us find out on social media, or even from another friend will hurt way more than you telling us yourself. We want to be happy for you, and we want to celebrate with you, so please understand that if we are sad to hear your news, we are only sad for ourselves. How you tell your infertile friend about your pregnancy is up to you, and since you know your infertile friend best, you’ll know the best way. For me, I prefer emails and or messages. This is just because I want some time to process and I don’t like the stress of needing to respond in real time. I know other women prefer to be told face to face, so…to each their own on this one. Don’t expect your infertile friends to jump for joy right away. We might need time to process everything.
3. Share your own struggles. This is to say, if you faced infertility and needed treatment to get pregnant, don’t be afraid to let us know. I know a lot of women who have undergone IVF, but still pretend to the entire world that they got pregnant naturally. I’m sure this is because they feel some kind of (unwarranted) shame, and I certainly can understand those feelings. I’m not suggesting that you tell the whole world your private business, but if you have a close friend who is struggling, maybe consider letting her in on your own journey. Infertility is so lonely…so it’s important to know we are not alone.
4. Do your research. It may be trite, but I strongly believe the adage, Knowledge is Power. Take to the internet, or read a book about the infertility treatments your friends are undergoing. Understanding the process will make it easier to talk with us about things, and it will probably even help you empathize. Also, learning more about infertility in general will help you avoid common myths, misconceptions, and triggers for your infertile friends.
5. Remember us on sensitive dates and holidays. I’m going to be real here. Some days just really suck for your infertile friends. Two big ones probably come to mind here: Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Man, those days just super suck. But it’s nice to know we are not forgotten on these hard days. Other sensitive days might be our birthdays, believe it or not. For me, it’s just a yearly reminder that I am still childless. The Holidays season in general can also be really tricky, while we spend time with close family, friends, and potential tiny relations. There may be even more sensitive dates for your friends who have suffered a miscarriage. The due date will be the big one here, but also probably the date of the miscarriage. I am fairly certain that I will never enjoy New Years Eve and New Year’s Day the way I once did….because now it is the anniversary of our very profound loss.
6. Become an infertility advocate. Advocate for your infertile friends at local, state, and federal level. If laws are going to be passed that will negatively effect your infertile friends or that will make adoption more difficult or expensive, call your representatives and talk to other voters in your area. You can also help by speaking out when things that may make infertility easier come up on the ballot. IVF infertility coverage is only mandated in a few states, and infertility coverage is only mandated in a few more. Help educate other voters in your area, especially if these issues come up in your region. You can also speak up when you hear people spouting untrue fertility myths such as, “you should just relax.” Correct these people, and help to educate them. When you see or hear any of these things being said or done about infertility, speak up. It will mean a lot to your infertile friends. You can also participate in National Infertility Awareness Week. This usually happens the last week in April and it is GOING ON RIGHT NOW. 🙂 Take to your social media accounts and various platforms to advocate like hell for your infertile friends. Start a conversation, dispel myths, You can also honor someone with a tribute or donation to Resolve: The National Infertility Association.
7. Ask us what we need. This sounds so simple, but very often, these little things get missed because people just don’t know how to act around their infertile friends. They may need so many different things, so I don’t want to offer too many suggestions. Instead, I will tell you some things that we have found helpful during our struggle. After my endometriosis laparoscopy a good friend brought us a tray of food and she brought me an amazing BB-8 mug for soup. I’ve had a friend offer to take me to an appointment before we had a second car, or another friend who brought my husband to work so I could have the car for an appointment. Sometimes I just needed to cry with someone or go have a few drinks. Oftentimes, a simple hug was all I needed at that moment. Don’t undervalue asking us how you can help. You may be surprised by what your infertile friends need. Infertility takes a lot from us, so we may be afraid to reach out to you without your encouragement.
8. Don’t forget your male infertile friends. Too often, people think of infertility as a strictly female issue, but male factor infertility makes up for roughly half of all infertility. Men can tend to be more private, so don’t be surprised if they are not as forthcoming as your female infertile friends, but don’t forget to check in with them and see how they are. Even when the infertility is not male factor, the men will still likely appreciate your support and well-wishes. Infertility is hard on both people in the relationship.
9. Support our decision to stop treatment. I’ve heard it so many times. I have even heard it from a friend after she had a successful IVF round. “Don’t give up.” Though it may seem helpful, telling your infertile friends not to give up when they decide to stop treatment might not be received well. We don’t think of our decision as giving up. In fact, if we have made this decision, we probably have already fought like hell for our baby. Stopping treatment does not mean that we chose to give up. It just means that we couldn’t do it anymore. Either the physical, mental, emotional, or financial cost of infertility became too high. Maybe it’s a combination of all those factors that led to our decision, and I promise you that your infertile friends are not giving up. They just finally reached a place where they had to move on…and that’s okay.
10. Don’t be afraid to apologize, and don’t be too hard on yourself. We get it. Nobody in this word is perfect and so it goes to reason that eventually you may say or do something that upsets your infertile friends. There are people in our life who have given us endless support, love, and even money or assistance of some kind, that have eventually said or done the wrong thing. Don’t beat yourself up when this happens. Your infertile friends will forgive you, but you absolutely should apologize as soon as you realize your mistake. Everyone has different triggers. In fact, I have even said the wrong thing to someone struggling with infertility because her triggers were not the same as mine. I apologized when I realized it had hurt her feelings, and we moved on. Your infertile friends know that navigating the turbulent waters of infertility can be tricky and we know that you are doing your best. We thank you so much for all you do. It means the world to us.
Thanks for reading.
Signed with love from,
Your Infertile Friends