When Chris and I were going through IVF no one really knew what to say to us about it. We got a lot of the typical responses such as “be positive” and “everything will work out”. Even though I know those comments came from a good place, they weren’t necessarily helpful. So today, I am sharing some ideas for how you can support a loved one going through infertility. Whether you have experienced it personally or not, it’s not something to take lightly. It’s a total roller coaster. I can promise you your friends and family members will appreciate your support.
First, in order to know how to support your loved one, you need to try to understand how they are feeling. A friend I follow on Instagram posted something several months ago I immediately related to. She put into words exactly what I was feeling in a way I hadn’t been able to vocalize.
“So here’s what you can expect of me until the day finally comes when I no longer battle infertility:
- You can expect me to be an unreliable mess sometimes.
- I may say yes to something one day, and no the next, I just don’t know how I will feel day to day.
- I might be absent from things at times.
- I will never intentionally mean to complicate your life.
- I want to be involved, I just sometimes don’t feel able to.
- I still want to stay connected, but I may withdraw when needed.”
This is exactly how I felt and acted. I know I was withdrawn from my friends and family as I tried to figure out how to navigate everything. Some days I wanted to be social and make plans and some days I didn’t want to leave the house. Some days I was open to talking about infertility and IVF and some days it was the last thing I wanted to think about. I didn’t know how I would feel day-to-day and it was definitely a roller coaster ride. I know it was confusing to the people who were trying to support me, but that is the point of today’s post. To hopefully give insight and share some advice on how to support your loved one through their infertility journey.
Allow Them To Be Sad
As I mentioned above, I was usually met with “Be positive” or “Everything will work out” and even though those comments come from a good place, they almost made me feel worse. Like it wasn’t ok for me to be sad that we had to do IVF and couldn’t have children the old fashioned way. I know it’s hard to see your loved one hurting and sad, but what they probably need is for you to say “That sucks” and allow them to feel upset. The most helpful conversations I had were with people who just let me cry and be sad. I would eventually pick myself up and continue on, but there were times I just needed people to allow me to be upset.
Now, as I mentioned above, sometimes infertility and IVF were the last things I wanted to talk about. But you can show your loved one support by checking in once in awhile and asking about the process or asking how things are going. If they aren’t in a mood to talk about it, you will probably be able to sense that right away and can move onto another topic. But whenever people asked me questions and were genuinely interested in the IVF process, I always felt better. Like I was being heard instead of blown off. I think IVF is so “common” these days that people don’t necessarily stop and ask about it. They just assume it will work and you’ll get pregnant and that will be that. Asking questions is a good way to show support and understanding.
Give Them A Heads Up If You Are Trying For A Baby Or Are Pregnant
I’m sure it goes without saying that pregnancy announcements can be brutal when you are struggling with infertility. If you have a close friend or family member struggling with infertility, my advice is to have that conversation with them one-on-one. You don’t necessarily have to tell them you’re trying for a baby, although if you are really close, I’m sure that would be appreciated. But if you are pregnant, I would definitely consider not blindsiding them with that news, even though it can be a difficult conversation to have. I promise they are happy for you! Pregnancy and babies are a true miracle and your loved one knows this. But I can also tell you that they will be heart broken for themselves and may shed some tears. Sharing the news with an honest conversation is what I would recommend. I can speak from experience that I never wanted to take away from my friend or family member’s happiness but sometimes it was hard to put my happy face on. If I was mentally prepared that I may be hearing some big news, it was easier for me to show my happiness for my family member or friend.
Give Them An Out With Baby Showers/Birthday Parties/Etc
Your loved one wants to support you and your new bundle of joy and/or your baby that just had a birthday, but these events can be hard to attend. It’s a reminder of what they wish they had. Consider giving them an “out”. Tell them they are invited and you hope they are able to come celebrate, but you understand if they are unable to attend for personal reasons. The only caveat to this is that if you’re going to give your loved one an “out”, you can’t be upset if they take it and decide not to come. Only offer it if you truly mean it. I am fortunate that my friends and family almost always gave me an “out” but I usually attended baby related celebrations. They really are exciting events and I was happy to celebrate, but not everyone feels this way. Depending on how your loved one is processing their infertility journey, they may feel unable to attend these kind of events.
Looking back on how I handled our infertility journey, I was far from perfect. There were times I isolated myself and alienated my family and friends. I’m sure I’m not the only one. If your friend or family member is in the same position, I hope you found this post helpful. I hope it gave you some ideas for how to support your loved one even if they are keeping their distance. Your support helps more than you know!