Friday, August 26, 2011

on infertlity

A friend of mine recently asked how she could help her friend who is struggling with infertility, so rather than respond in email, I thought I'd respond in blog post because chances are someone you know is struggling with infertility. 

Here's the thing. Infertility is something that unless you've been through it you can't completely understand. It's a feeling of being broken. It's a feeling of being not good enough. It's a month after month disappointment cycle -and it completely sucks.

Over the three year span of trying to conceive people had all kinds of advice and wisdom for me.

"You're just too stressed. You need to just relax."

"What does the doctor say?"

"Have you tried those ovulation sticks?"

"Why don't you just adopt?"

"Do you know how to track your cycle?"

"You should just plan a vacation."

"You're not relaxing enough."

"I heard if you drink a chocolate milk shake right after, it'll help."

"Have you tried standing on your head right after? I heard that works."

Seriously, it seems like everyone wants to "help" by throwing in their two cents on how their sister's best friend's cousin managed to get pregnant -or get a baby. These comments, while usually well meaning, are hurtful and rude. And yet, those comments are so much easier to handle than:

"How many kids do you have?" followed immediately by
"Don't you want children?"


It was like constantly be slapped across the face.

Anyhow: Here's my best advice to my friend who is wondering what she can do to "help."

1. Do not whine about pregnancy ills in front of her. Period. Chances are she'd donate a kidney if it'd mean getting to have a baby. (I said prayers of gratitude every single time I was gagging & vomiting during pregnancy. I promise.)

2. Realize that every single time she sees a pregnant woman, hears about a pregnancy, or receives a baby shower invitation or announcement, she cries a little on the inside. (Shortly after my miscarriage there were at least two baby showers that I just couldn't emotionally handle attending.)

All that said, every woman is a little different. Some want to talk about it, others don't. Some want to hear what worked for other people, others don't. And for me it always depended on what day I was on in my cycle. A lot of times tears were just under my surface and I'd have to excuse myself from rooms or conversations.

I'll never forget one Mother's Day (I used to skip church on Mother's Day) a friend of mine brought by one of my favorite treats with a note that simply said, "Just thinking of you today. I hope you enjoy these." -And it was perfect.

Finally, the best thing you can do for her is to pray for her.

That's all.


Jenny P. said...

My sister struggled with infertility for seven years. It always bugged me the most when people would say, "You just need to have more faith!"

Really? So, her not have children was God's way of punishing her for not being faithful enough?

It was a trying time for my sister. I, the younger sister, had three children, before she was finally blessed with an amazing set of twins through invitro fertilization. She's since had two more children and has a truly lovely family.

Always and forever, well intentioned people will say stupid stuff. It's an unfortunate part of life. And really, I imagine we're all, at one point or another, guilty of saying something that might not have been the best thing to say. But this is an important subject where I think many could develop a little more sensitivity. I'm glad you've posted your suggestions. :)

Ashy said...

I'm grateful you posted this as well. I have a friend and her husband who struggled A LOT with this and after I got married I always used to wonder what I should do when I have children. I thought for sure she would be happy for me but then go home and cry, and it made me feel so sad. They've since adopted, but your suggestions will definitely help me in the future!

Tracie said...

Thank you! This really has helped. The day we found out we were expecting (not planned) our 4th was the same day she discovered she wasn't. I felt so bad that I couldn't even tell anyone besides my coworkers that I was pregnant until I couldn't hide my belly from family any more (14weeks) I love my Sister in Law and would do anything for her. At the same time though I felt a little sad at not feeling like I could share our joy with other family members, like my parents. I will definately keep these suggestions in mind. Thank You again!

Her Royal Highness said...

I'm one of those guilty ones who have said things unintentionally causing harm. And I don't even think I was trying to "help" them in their quest for parenthood - I was more trying to understand the situation more. Because like you said, those who have never struggled with infertility don't truly know the pains associated with it.
Thanks for the advice - I plan on using it. Now MY question is: are feelings hurt if news isn't shared (like the PP's example of the SIL struggling and she being pregnant but not sharing the news.) Because I know that not sharing is an awful hard thing to do. So - what would you suggest in that sitch?

heather said...

@Tracie and @RoyalHighness, When my brother announced his baby was on the way I was genuinely happy for him. I was also genuinely happy for my SILs when they announced their pregnancies. In the time we were ttc we gained five nieces and nephews and we felt very happy for them, a baby is a miracle and a blessing and although we, or at least I, couldn't stop a little bit of self-pity, I would have been sad to know that because of me my family felt they couldn't celebrate or share the joy of the news... My suggestion is DO share the news. Be happy about it, but comments like "We weren't even trying!" or "This is a total surprise baby!!" Might be held back -at least in her company. Also, don't be offended if she's not expressing joy in the way that everyone else is. You know what I mean? It's a lot of emotion to process at once.

The Pearce Family said...

If I may, I would like to share my friends blog on infertility.....