As difficult as infertility is for the couple directly involved, it can be just as heart-wrenching for family and friends to stand by and watch. It is hard to see your loved one hurting and not be able to fix it. In addition, sometimes it's hard to know the "right" things to say or do. Hopefully, with some help from people who have been there, done that, you will be able to get a better perspective on how to address your loved one's infertility.
DO let your loved one know that you care. Make a phone
call, send a card, write an e-mail. Tell your friend that you
are thinking about them, and to let you know if they need anything.
If your friend is religious, offer your prayers. Sometimes people
are embarrassed to talk about infertility, and it's nice to be
reminded that people are thinking about you. If your friend is
open about her treatments, ask how the procedures are going. Be
willing to listen.
DO offer to help with daily tasks if your loved one needs
a hand. Many infertility treatments require periods of bedrest
or limited activity. Offer to provide a meal, help with the housework,
or take care of pets. It's also thoughtful to just lend an ear
and sit with a person who is cooped up in bed.
DO recognize that infertility treatments are time consuming
and difficult. Treatment schedules require frequent monitoring,
which can be draining if the doctor's office is located a long
distance from your loved one's home. If your friend is currently
cycling, offer to drive her to a procedure. Your friend likely
has to give herself shots on a rigid schedule, and she may be
having some uncomfortable side effects from the medication. Understand
that she might not feel up to continuing with her normal activities.
DO consider your friend's feelings when scheduling get-togethers.
Recognize that it might be very painful for your friend to attend
a baby shower or a child's birthday party. Let your loved one
know that she is welcome to attend, but you'll understand if she's
not up to dealing with the event.
DON'T minimize your friend's pain. Infertility is one
of the most stressful things that can happen to a person. Comments
like, "You can have one of my kids" or "It could be worse, you
could have a fatal illness" do not help. While most infertile
people realize they have much to be thankful for, nothing fills
the empty space that is left by the long-term struggle to have
DON'T tell your friend to "Just relax." Infertility is
a medical condition, not a psychological one. While there is something
to be said for a positive attitude, relaxation is not a magical
cure for infertility. Your loved one is likely coping the best
way she knows how, and implying that her tension and stress are
causing her infertility only makes the problem worse.
DON'T tell your friend to "Just adopt." Adoption is an
expensive and time-consuming process, not a magic cure-all for
a childless couple. In addition, it is a myth that all people
who adopt suddenly become pregnant. While adoption is a wonderful
family building option it is not for everyone, and people have
to make the decision to pursue adoption in their own time. Please
do not imply that your friend is selfish for pursuing infertility
treatment since there are "so many children in the world who need
homes." Yes, there are. However, many people desperately want
a biological connection to their child, and they want to experience
pregnancy. It is cruel to belittle these basic desires.
DON'T ignore your friend who is experiencing secondary
infertility (the inability to conceive a second or subsequent
child.) Infertility is difficult no matter how many children you
have. Please do not make your loved one feel guilty by saying
that she should be "thankful for what she has." Rest assured that
your loved one gives many thanks that she has a child or children.
However, that does not end the ache to have another.
DON'T underestimate the devastation of a failed cycle.
Your friend had many hopes and dreams tied up in that cycle, in
addition to a great deal of blood, tears, and money. Remember
that your friend may only have one or two chances to fulfill her
dream of becoming a parent. Understand that your loved one will
need to mourn the lost opportunity to become pregnant.
Everyone who faces infertility comes away changed. However, the
support of friends and family make all the difference.
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