Supporting Your Friend Through Fertility Challenges
My friends and family are the best, but when I was going through fertility challenges I often felt alone and unsupported. I had people say things to me like “I know what you’re going through” (when they didn’t), “you just need to relax and you will get pregnant” (easy to say, not to do), and “why didn’t you tell me sooner? (because I wasn’t ready). I know that these people were trying to say the right things in a difficult situation, but our conversations always left me feeling unheard and somehow more upset than before.
As a fertility coach, I work with women who are experiencing various forms of fertility issues. One thing clients frequently express is a sense of isolation -- the feeling that they have to carry this “baggage” all by themselves.
Unfortunately, there is still a social stigma when it comes to infertility. Experiencing this particular challenge is a very personal journey, and it can be hard to talk about. As a result, many women try to hide this part of their lives.
So, if someone close to you decides to share their fertility challenge with you – what do you do, and how do you respond?
Whether it’s trouble conceiving or keeping a pregnancy, knowing how to help a friend is often something we are not prepared for. Especially if you haven’t gone through it yourself, not knowing what to say can leave you feeling uncomfortable, or even worse, may leave your friend feeling more upset.
While everyone's experience is different, here are some thoughts that may be helpful when talking with a friend who is sharing her fertility difficulty with you.
1. Be a good listener.
Your friend probably doesn’t want advice – they just want to be heard. Be present, really listen to what they are saying and let them lead the conversation.
2. Acknowledge that your friend is sharing something very personal and upsetting with you.
Try statements like: “I’m sorry you are going through this.” “That sucks.” “Thank you for sharing this with me.” “I’m here for you.”
3. Keep in mind that this is about them, not you.
It’s not about the fact that you feel bad for them, or that you are uncomfortable or unsure of what to say. Try asking questions like: How can I support you? What do you need? How can I help you feel better? A hug and a supportive note every so often to let your friend know you are thinking about them can go a long way.
4. Be aware that certain events are more difficult for your friend to attend.
Mother’s day, baby showers, even parties where there are other moms or pregnant women present can feel really hard for someone who is having fertility issues. Be sensitive to your friend, and if you are throwing one of these parties, let them know if they don’t attend that's totally fine with you.
Whenever I hear of someone going through a hard time, I try not to add to their fear or sadness by feeling bad for them. If your friend felt comfortable enough to share their struggle with you, it is clear that they want your support.
What they need from you is light and love, positivity and prayer. These energies will help uplift your friend, and that is an amazing gift you can give.
Your friend is lucky to have you.