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Infertility Cubby

Infertility Etiquette for Family and Friends
by Chelsey Langland

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 a child.

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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