Before being blessed with my first child, I suffered from three miscarriages. I suffered alone and in silence. I was too scared to talk openly about my struggles with infertility. Who would listen? Who would understand my most personal thoughts? My friends were all celebrating easy pregnancies, births and the joys of babies and small children. And why shouldn’t they be celebrating? I was happy for them, yet sad for my own struggles. I felt ashamed, broken and alone. For years I kept my feelings bottled up inside. But when I finally found the courage to open up about my struggles with infertility something magical happened. I learned that countless numbers of my friends, family members and their friends suffered silently with infertility as well. When we opened up to one another we found tremendous support in our common struggles.
Infertility is common. Did you know that about 1 in 8 couples have trouble conceiving? That adds up to about 6.7 million people each year. And once a couple learns that they are pregnant it is estimated that as many as 15% of known pregnancies end in a miscarriage. Losing a pregnancy can be heartbreaking. What is even more heartbreaking is that many women find it so difficult to talk about. If infertility is so common, why is it such a taboo subject. If you fell ill with appendicitis, no doubt you would share your diagnosis, surgery, recovery and all the gory details with anyone who would listen, including friends and colleagues. You would welcome their support and you would not be critical if it fell short of your desired needs. But when it comes to infertility we keep our emotions and thoughts tightly locked under key and close to our heart.
Friends and family mean well. But often we find that those who have not experienced infertility don’t know what to say, how to help or how to react to our pain, despair and disappointment. It is true failure to conceive a baby is painful and personal. And it is a struggle which we all too often go through alone
If you do have a friend or a loved one who is struggling to conceive or if you yourself is walking the winding and uncertain path of infertility here are some tips that may help you create a more supportive interaction with others during this very challenging time. If you yourself are struggling with infertility we know that it can be difficult to ask for help. Sharing these tips with friends and family can be an excellent place to start.
- Check in often with your friends and loved ones who are experiencing infertility. Let them know in little ways that you care. Be an active listener and respond without giving “expert” or unsolicited advice. Take the time to understand what they are going through. Couples going through infertility live by the calendar. Be mindful that certain times of the month may be more stressful, difficult or disappointing for them.
- Be Mindful of Trigger Events. Events such as Mother’s Day, baby showers or the arrival of birth announcements may be difficult. If you or a friend suffered a miscarriage or still birth the babies given due date may be cause for anxiety or sadness. Give support or lend an ear. Although your friend or loved one may not be comfortable talking about it let them know that you are there for them by doing something simple and special for them to let them know that you are there for them and do care.
- Remember every experience and story is unique. Don’t compare stories. If you have another friend who finally got pregnant when she quit her job and relaxed. Please, don’t share this with your friend struggling with infertility. It is not likely to be helpful. Believe me, your friend or loved one is doing everything possible to relax and hopefully conceive and enjoy a healthy, uneventful pregnancy.
- Although you might be able to clearly see the bright side of the road. Be mindful of being overly positive. Be realistic. Let your friend or love one initiate the conversation on their time, when they are ready. Give them space and permission to feel and express the wide range of emotions that they are felling.
- When and if appropriate encourage therapy. Group therapy can be especially helpful for those suffering from infertility. In fact, recent research from Harvard Medical School suggests that group counselling may dramatically improve the chances of a women getting pregnant for women going though fertility treatment.
We all hope to be the friend to others as we would hope them to be to us. The best thing that you can do is you’re your friend or loved one thoughtfulness, kindness and support during what is one of the most difficult times they may be facing alone and as a couple.