How to Support Loved Ones Facing Infertility

If you read my previous two posts, you are probably noticing that, for me, the goal of my writing is to create a community and place for conversation about infertility. Whether it affects you directly, a friend, a family member, a co-worker, or even an acquaintance, many people don’t know what to say or do when someone they care about has been diagnosed with infertility. These are some ideas we shared with our friends and family a few years ago after we were diagnosed with infertility but before we had started any treatments. It’s amazing to me how accurate I still feel this advice is as my husband and I determine how and when to continue to grow our family.

  • Sometimes, we may just want to throw a pity party. Other times, we may want to make inappropriate jokes about it because it makes it hurt less. This may not seem like the biggest problem in the world to you, but to us, it’s the hardest thing we’ve ever dealt with as a couple.
  • Remember we’re still the same people. We haven’t changed; we’re just dealing with something new. We still want to hang out, celebrate your joys and accomplishments, and hear what’s going on with you. But, we hope that you remember that this is a major part of what’s going on with us.
  • Trust us. We have a doctor that we trust immensely to give us advice and expertise. If you’ve read about a fertility superfood, a special acupuncture therapy, natural supplements, times of day, or any other remedy – chances are – we’ve tried it. Or we’ve at least talked about it with our doctor. Don’t tell us to relax.  Also, don’t tell us to stand on our head, try more, try less, try different…you get the idea.
  • Understand that sometimes it makes us crazy. It could be a random baby in a restaurant, a sweet commercial, a line from a song, a post on Facebook, or for no reason at all, but sometimes, we just have bad days. It’s okay. The next day will (probably) be better but for right now, we need to vent or cry or walk away. We hope it doesn’t make you uncomfortable, but we need to take care of ourselves.
  • Be respectful. Fertility treatments are, sometimes, a hot topic. I know there are many people in the world who don’t support some or any fertility options. But, we have talked and thought and prayed extensively about it, and for us, this is the right decision. We are on this path together and hope you will join us in it. If you choose not to, that’s okay, but please don’t be rude.
  • Don’t hide your happiness from us. If you’re pregnant, we’re excited for you. If your baby said his first word, we think that’s awesome. Please don’t leave us out because you don’t think we can handle it. But, also remember, that even though we are thrilled for you, we are sad for us. We know what we can handle – let us decide.
  • Don’t take your pregnancy/baby for granted. It may seem crazy, but we may actually be jealous of your morning sickness, swollen ankles, gross diapers, and sleep deprivation. We’re not asking you to hide what you’re going through; we just want you to realize that there are people who would give anything to have their baby puke on them at 3 a.m.
  • Don’t push adoption or other approaches to growing our family. We have researched the options, talked about them, thought about them, and we know we are making the right decisions for us. We know many wonderful adoption stories. We know people who got pregnant on their own after years of thinking it wouldn’t happen. We’ve heard it all. I respect and appreciate all of it, too. But everyone has a different story.
  • Don’t say we aren’t meant to be parents. Really, just don’t.
  • Realize that not all infertility cases are the same. What works for one may not work for another. While the stories you have to offer are meant to be encouraging, sometimes they may actually be frustrating or come off like you are trying to minimize our pain.
  • No matter who the person, wait for them to talk to you about their plans of growing their family. I didn’t realize I was guilty of asking this question until I was on the receiving end, but when a couple is newlywed, married for a couple years, or their child seems “of age” for a sibling, don’t constantly ask them when they are going to start or grow a family. Maybe they’re trying. Maybe they have tried and lost a baby. Maybe they’re in the same spot as we are right now. Remember, just because someone has successfully had one baby, doesn’t mean following kids will come as easily. Be sensitive to their privacy, too. It’s a hard question to answer.
  • It’s okay to not know what to say or how to act. Be honest. Offer to listen. Ask what you can do. Don’t be afraid to talk just because you don’t know what to say. Sometimes, just being there is enough.

My husband and I (and now our daughter) are lucky to have a great support system. Our friends and family cried and celebrated with us and shared in the struggles and joy as we went through IVF to have Hope. It was an unknown path for all of us at the time, and we were so lucky to have our very own cheering section.

Are you experiencing infertility? If so, what would you add to this list?Is someone you know experiencing infertility? How can we help you understand? Let us know in the comments section below.

Melissa KimballMelissa Kimball is an account executive at Hart, an ad agency in Maumee. She received her marketing and communications degree from Defiance College. She and her husband, Bob, recently moved to Whitehouse, Ohio, with their toddler, Hope, and boxer, Blue. In junior high, Melissa learned that her thoughts were always best expressed in writing. So as an adult, she turned to writing to cope with the couple’s infertility journey. Now Melissa’s wish is that her words offer comfort and company to others touched by infertility.