Infertility can be challenging to understand if you have never experienced it yourself. That is OK. Even amongst women and men with similar diagnoses, their experiences and reactions are unique. This can be challenging for you to understand as a partner, parent, sibling, or friend. We know that you would like to help. We see that you would like to be there, and we understand that you would like to take away the pain. While you cannot take away the burden of infertility, you can be there, and you can help. We would like to offer a few suggestions for supporting your loved one facing the challenges of infertility:
- Let them cry.
- Let them be angry.
- Let them rant.
- Let them change the subject, if they don’t want to talk about it.
- Let them pamper themselves – they need it.
- Ask them how you can support them best. Do they want you to call to check in? Do they want space? Let them know that you will always listen when they are ready.
- Respect their boundaries. Give them space if they need it. They know what is best in the moment.
- Mirror their words. If they are using words like ‘struggle’ ‘challenge’ ‘hard’ ‘painful’, acknowledge their feelings. ‘It does seem to be a struggle, and I am so sorry that you have to go through this, please let me know how I can support you.’
- Try to refrain from offering anecdotal advice, unless they ask you for it. It can sometimes be frustrating to hear suggestions, when they have already tried everything they have come across.
- Be mindful of comments like, ‘At least you have all this time for yourself’ or ‘Be happy that you have this period to enjoy with your partner’. While it is important to enjoy every stage in life, the absence of a child is something that can be painful in the moment, they may not feel like celebrating.
- Be mindful of comments like, ‘Just relax and it will happen’ or ‘Maybe you’re just worrying about it too much’. This places an incredible amount of pressure on someone, suggesting that their stress and anxiety are making them infertile. For many, relaxation isn’t enough to help them conceive. A comment like this will often cause someone to shutdown and close themselves off from support.
- Offer to attend a support group session with them, so that they don’t have to go alone for the first time.
- Offer to go to an appointment with them.
- Offer to go to a yoga class with them, so that they feel more comfortable trying something new.
- Offer to cook a healthy meal or make sensible lifestyle changes with them, espeically if they have been diagnosed with PCOS.
- Offer to go for a walk with them, and support their healthy lifestyle.
- Help them to laugh, cry, and get angry, by creating a safe space for them in your relationship.
- Never break their trust by sharing sacred information with others, unless you have their permission.
- Tell them, honestly, how you feel. Try not to make their conceiving sound like the key to your personal happiness – that is a lot of pressure! But, let them know how their infertility journey is making you feel. Tell them that you are concerned, sad, frustrated, etc. too. It will show them just how much you love them.
- If time has passed and they still have not conceived, but you haven’t explicitly talked about it in a while, just let them know that you are still thinking about them and their fertility. They will appreciate the fact that you haven’t forgotten.
- Some don’t like to talk about their fertility that often. That is OK too. Try not to push the subject, just try to engage them in whatever you normally do together. Sometimes just having a regular fun visit, with zero discussion of fertility, is exactly what they need.
Ultimately, the most important way to support your loved one is to listen to them, and respect that their emotions are their own. We understand that it can be very challenging to support someone experiencing infertility. Try to be patient, loving, and open. You may suggest something to them, or try to support them in a particular way that doesn’t resonate well. That is OK. This is a new experience for everyone. Just keep trying new ways to connect with them. Your loved one will feel great comfort in knowing that you are there for them, even if you never actually discuss their fertility.
Please let us know if you would like any additional resources, or ideas for support. We have many free support events at all of our CNY Fertility and CNY Healing Arts locations. Please visit our websites for more information on meeting times and locations.