Your simple HOW TO Guide for supporting someone through infertility.Oct 02, 2023
Infertility is a completely unique experience. It’s complicated and complex, and half the time, we can’t even make sense of it ourselves. We’re dealing with big emotions, enormous fears, so much uncertainty, and it really does throw everything we had previously thought about life out the window.
Before infertility, I believed that everything happens for a reason. I don’t anymore. I believed the harder you worked, the more likely you were to get what you wanted. This was disproved when I worked my ass off to get pregnant for 5 years, only to get pregnant when I wasn’t trying anymore. I thought that if you were a good person, and ticked all the boxes, you would get what you wanted. In reality, I learned that there is not an even distribution of good and bad – that sometimes life isn’t fair. I naively assumed that bad things happened to other people, not me. But when you find yourself on the other side of the statistic enough times, you are faced with the hard reality that bad shit happens to you too.
Anyway, I digress. But my point is that when our whole belief system is thrown on its ass, it’s hard to explain this to other people. And if we can’t explain it to others, how can we even begin to get the support we need?
Well, I’m glad you asked, because I’ve done up a little instruction manual for those who continually ask you what they can do for you. Because support and understanding on this journey is crucial.
HOW DO YOU SUPPORT SOMEONE GOING THROUGH INFERTILITY?
- Firstly, I’m not going to try to explain to you how infertility feels, because it is a unique experience. But what I will say is that infertility is grief on repeat. It’s filled with fear, guilt, sadness, anger, resentment, jealousy, despair, hopelessness and everything in between. And sometimes these emotions hit at the same time. It’s confusing for us to hold it all, so please don’t make us explain HOW it feels. Just know that it’s hard.
- Please do not tell us how we SHOULD feel. There is no right or wrong way to do this, just as there is no right or wrong way to feel. You telling us how we should feel is placing judgement on us, and we don’t need the extra pressure right now. Instead, tell us that our feelings are valid and understandable given all we are going through.
- The best way for us to process the hard emotions that come up on this journey is to actually feel them. So as weird as this sounds, please try not to cheer us up, or change our emotions. I know it’s hard to sit with someone in their pain – it may even make you feel a little uncomfortable. But if you truly want to support us, you may have to get uncomfortable. Do not tell us to be positive, or think of something different, or be grateful. You could say something like – I wish there was something that could do to take away your pain, but I can’t. Just know that I’m here for you no matter what. Or, you don’t even have to speak – just make us feel seen.
- Please do not hand out advice, unless you’re asked for it. It’s annoying when you’re spending all your hours researching, consulting doctors, scrolling fertility forums, changing your diet, taking supplements, doing acupuncture, tracking your cycle and all the other 4,562 things you’re doing – only to have someone suggest that you do something else. Of course, if we ask you for advice, dish it out. But unsolicited advice may get you shut down pretty quick.
- Sometimes we want to talk about it, and sometimes we don’t. So how do you know what kind of mood we’re in? Start your conversation by asking – would you like to talk about what’s happening with your fertility journey, or would you like this to be a fertility free zone?
- One of the basic human needs is connection. So, you may find yourself wanting to share stories about someone you know who is going through their own fertility struggles, or you may even want to compare your experiences with ours. But there is no comparing, and telling us about a random stranger and what they’re going through, doesn’t help. In fact, it takes the focus off us and creates more distance. If you really want to connect with us, ask us how we’re feeling. And here’s the important part…….just listen.
- Pregnancy announcements are a huge source of grief for us – not because we’re sad that the other person is pregnant, but we’re sad that we aren’t. Refer to 2. above for this – please don’t tell us we should be happy for them. Also, if you or a close friend gets pregnant, please don’t keep it a secret because you’re scared to upset us. You trying to protect us, makes us feel betrayed, weak, and even more alone. Instead, send us a text before you put it on social media, giving us time to process it in our own way.
- Be prepared that our emotional state may be a little erratic or unstable. Depending on the hormones or supplements we’re taking, and the pressure we’re under, we may not be able to control our reactions. And you may wear the brunt of it. While that’s not acceptable, please try not to judge us for it, or even place more guilt upon us. Give us a little le-way and a whole lot of grace and compassion for what we’re going through right now.
I’d like to acknowledge how hard it is to support someone going through infertility. Sometimes it's awkward, and you won’t know what to say. It’s often uncomfortable, because it’s hard to witness someone in pain, without being able to solve this for them.
But if you lead with compassion, love and empathy (as opposed to sympathy or pity), that’s a great start.
And if you’d like the 2-minute version -
Listen to us without trying to fix us or make us feel better.
Show us compassion, without pity or judgement.
Forgive us when we lose our shit.
Hug us and tell us that you love us no matter what.
Let us cry, or scream, or whatever we need to do to process our emotions.
Be there when we need it most – let us know you’re thinking of us.
Would you like to know more about how you can work with me, so you can get back control of your life and start moving forward? My 1:1 coaching program is packed with information, tools and support. Find out how you can get on the wait list now.
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