“When are you planning to have children?” you ask innocently. A woman stares back at you as she fights the tears welling up in her eyes. She shifts her weight uncomfortably and looks down at the floor. After a few moments of awkward silence, she answers quietly: “I don’t know.” Unsure of what else to say, you quickly change the subject. Although you suspect this woman is dealing with infertility, you have no idea what you can do to help. But the truth is you can do more than you realize. Here’s how you can help those dealing with infertility.
Don’t Disappear. Often during tough times, people don’t know what to say or do, so they avoid the affected person. This is one of the worst things you can do. Make sure you stay in touch with a simple phone call or note to let her know you care. You may not be able to take away her pain or solve her problems, but shutting her out of your life will only make her feel more alone and could even damage the relationship.
Be Supportive. Sometimes a simple hug or a few words to let someone know you’re there if they need to talk can go a long way. After suffering two miscarriages and waiting more than six years to become a parent, I was devastated, heartbroken, and lost. I didn’t want to burden others with my problems, but just knowing that friends and family were there for me helped to ease my pain.
Share Your Own Story. Did you have problems conceiving or did you suffer a miscarriage? Don’t be afraid to share your own story. Dealing with infertility can be a lonely road, and those affected often feel like others don’t understand. Talking a little about your own struggles may help someone facing infertility feel a little less alone. And, if your story had a positive outcome, that could give the person hope as well.
Don’t Pressure. Family events — especially holidays and baby showers —can be very difficult for someone struggling with infertility. Surrounded by family, happy smiling children, and cute little babies is pure torture if you’re yearning for a family of your own. Try not to pressure the person to attend every event and certainly don’t suggest they should just try to be happy. There is no set way to grieve. They are allowed to feel however they need to feel to get through the tough times. If an event is too upsetting, it’s okay for them to skip it or leave early. Don’t take it personally. Remember, this is their struggle, not yours.
Recommend Services. Do you know a fertility specialist, a good therapist or a professional that could help? By all means, share these recommendations. Your suggestion could make difference for someone. However, it’s important to note that sharing recommended services is different from giving unsolicited advice such as “just relax, you’ll get pregnant.” Comments such as these aren’t helpful and could even make the person feel worse. Infertility is never someone’s fault, and there is often no easy solution.
Consider a Kind Gesture. Another way you can help is to do something special for the person to let them know you care. Write a kind note or send a card, have a bouquet of flowers delivered to their house, bring over a casserole, or treat them to lunch. They will appreciate that someone thought of them and took the time to do something nice. And, long after the pain has subsided, they will remember these thoughtful gestures with a smile.