One of the many hard things about struggling with infertility is feeling lonely. It’s already hard to deal with the fact that having a baby will be difficult or even impossible, but when you put loneliness on top of it all, it’s downright maddening.
It is not a surprise that those struggling with infertility also suffer from depression. How do you make someone understand just exactly what you are going through? You can’t. Not unless that someone has also experienced it.
I was asked “What can I do to help you feel supported during this time?” I teared up when my dear friend asked me this question. Honestly, just the act of asking meant the world to me. It made me feel validated and not alone. This had me thinking long and hard about what I needed to feel supported during this trial. I asked some of my fellow “cysters” for their opinions as well and this is what we came up with.
- Don’t Give Advice
We know you mean well. Really we do. We understand that you want to help because you feel helpless when a friend drops the infertility bomb on you. Don’t. Don’t try to help or give advice. We are given so much information and advice from our doctors and specialists on a regular basis. We are also given unwanted advice ALWAYS from family and friends. If you really really want to help, offer a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear. The thing we all hate hearing the most is
“It will happen” <— Or it won’t. You’re not a doctor or God.
“My friend did x and y happened. It will happen for you!” <– Seriously. No. NO.
” Maybe if you did this…this would happen.” <— Stop.
2. Ask How We Are Doing
We understand that you may feel awkward asking. We understand that you don’t know how to ask. Just ask. Some examples could be:
“How are you feeling today?”
“How are treatments going?”
“Is there anything I can do to make you feel supported?”
“Would you like to talk about how you’re feeling?”
These are perfect questions to ask your friend or family member without coming off as awkward or offensive. DON’T ask:
“Are you pregnant yet?”
” Do you think you’re not pregnant because…”
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. We are carrying so much burden on our shoulders, it hurts when we feel like we are carrying it alone. One of the best feelings in the world is when a friend asks “how are your treatments going?” Knowing that a friend or family member is concerned about the physical and mental pain you are going through is better than any gift. (other than the gift of pregnancy.)
3. Be Respectful of Our Grieving
For those that are struggling with infertility, infant loss, miscarriage, etc…please understand that it is hard when someone announces a pregnancy. Please understand that it’s physically painful to go to a baby shower and pretend everything is ok. I know what you’re thinking “wow that sounds selfish.” Guess what? It’s not called being selfish, it’s called grief. We are grieving the loss of what we had, don’t have, or will never have. I repeat It’s not selfish, it’s grief. Yes, there are those that take their grief and turn it into anger and let it effect their lives for the worst. But remember to be respectful. Please don’t announce your pregnancy to us in a public place where we are put on the spot to look happy. Please don’t be offended if we opt out of the baby shower. It’s not you. It’s us and we don’t want to upset you with our sadness. We will most likely send you a gift in the mail or give you one in private. And please..don’t take it personally. Again, it’s not you.
4. Don’t Complain About Motherhood/Pregnancy to Us
I know that parenting is hard. Really I do. I’ve seen the struggle on my friend’s faces or the tiny taste of struggle I had working as a nanny. I get it. But also please understand that there are women out there that would give anything to be up all night with a screaming baby. As weird and sick as that sounds. Know that someone would give anything to be in your place holding a crying baby in their arms. They would give anything to stand in silence as their child throws a tantrum. Honestly, they would. Some of us don’t know if we will ever have the opportunity to hear a child cry out to us in the middle of the night, or hate us for keeping them in line. Most of all, some of us don’t know if we will ever have the feeling of tiny arms wrapped around our necks, or hear the words ” I love you momma.” Some of us will never have the morning sickness or the feel the tiny kicks in our belly. Understand that most of us are sick from our fertility treatments that end in negative pregnancy tests. Understand that some of us give ourselves daily shots of hormones to make our bodies do something it should do on it’s on. Don’t complain to us about how hard it is or how much you hate it because some of us may never get the opportunity to experience it.
5. Remember We Are Still The Same
We are still the friend or family member you have always had, we have just had unfortunate circumstances. We will still have good days. We will still be bubbly and fun and laugh. Please remember that the good days will be more often than the bad. But remember that we need you on the bad days too. Infertility has changed us, yes, but we are still the same person you came to know and love before infertility. Infertility does not define us. Please do not walk on eggshells around us or avoid us. Treat us normally. Continue to invite us to our regular activities. If we decline, it’s not you. It may be a treatment week and we may be too tired, sick, or sad. But keep asking, keep loving, and keep being there. Your support will mean the world to us.