Supporting loved ones through life's more challenging experiences -- such as the struggle with infertility -- requires being especially mindful of the words and actions that are meant to show care and empathy. Saying "the wrong thing," as well intended as it can be, often causes additional pain and suffering to those couples trying so hard to conceive. Here are some tips on how to shift your support from a state of helplessness to a space of helpfulness.
Be Respectful of their Privacy
Know that the subject of baby-making is a very personal one and refrain from asking questions like "Are you pregnant yet?" Unfortunately, fertility treatments and protocols are emotionally and physically taxing and don't always reap the success that we hope they do immediately, if at all. This question puts a great deal of pressure on your loved ones, in a process that they ultimately have no control over.
Become Conscious of Your Words
Please do not tell your friends that if they relax, they will conceive. Babies are conceived in times of war, among starving populations and under other immensely stressful situations. This theory implies that they are somehow at fault for not having been able to conceive a child, causing them to feel like they are somehow to blame for their misfortune. Advising them to adopt is another piece of advice you should steer clear of. Adoption is a beautiful way to grow a family but clearly not the chosen path for your family member or friend who is struggling with infertility. Furthermore, it is a very challenging and emotional process in and of itself, and is NOT a comforting option for a couple who hopes to conceive biologically.
Give Them Space
Try to be understanding of your loved one's situation by excusing them from participating in your celebratory events. Although they are happy and excited for you, they are simply not in an emotional space for celebrating much of anything. Extend your invitation to them so they feel included and give them the space to decide if joining in on your festivities will be their best option at this moment.
Offer Your Support
Do let them know that you are there for them to support them in anyway they may need you to. Ask them to take the lead in communicating what that looks like for them. This is very individual and can greatly very from person to person. For some, support means not asking them to get together for an extended period of time. For others, it is a check in text or phone call every week to let them know you are thinking of them and sending your love. Let them set the tone.
Although being there for your friends who are struggling with fertility won't cure them of their struggles, using a mindful and thoughtful approach to supporting them can give them a great deal of peace in an otherwise heartbreaking and isolating journey.