Couples are continually surprised to learn how little their friends, family, and co-workers understand about infertility. They ask inappropriate questions, make insensitive comments, and say things that upset you and hurt your feelings. You start not answering their phone calls and think of excuses to avoid seeing them.
You start isolating yourself and staying home more so you don’t have to see pregnant women and babies. You feel alone. You think no one understands how you feel. If any of this sounds familiar, be assured that these are comments made by most couples who are experiencing infertility. You are not alone. There are over seven million men and women in our country who are infertile.
There are many ways to respond to friends and loved ones. They want to help you feel better and don’t know how to do this in a way that pleases you. If they have never been through infertility, they truly don’t know what you are experiencing. Encourage them to learn about infertility by reading this book. More importantly, ask them to listen while you tell them what infertility is like for you. You can help them understand what you go through, what you feel, and what you need from them. Tell them to stop asking you questions about your treatment and whether or not you are pregnant, and assure them you will share information when you are ready. Tell them what you want them to say to you and be patient because they need time to practice new ways of responding.
People who love you do not want you to feel sad. They want your pain to stop, and they may have a hard time sitting with your pain. They want to say the right thing to please you and help you feel better. Although you may think they are being insensitive when they say, “Don’t worry. You will get pregnant,” their intention in saying this is to give you hope, not to upset you.
These are examples of things family and friends can say to you to be supportive:
Infertility seems stressful. Is there anything I can do to help lessen your stress?
I don’t understand the medical treatments you go through. Is there a book or some literature I can read to learn more?
You have lots of doctor appointments each month. Would you like me to go with you to some of your appointments?
I know you have surgery scheduled. Can I bring you dinner that night or help in some way during your recovery?
I will respect your privacy. I’m here to listen whenever you’re ready to talk.
I understand holidays are particularly hard for people during infertility. What can I do to help make your holidays easier and more fun?
I’ve never been through infertility so I don’t know what it’s like. I want to support you, and it will help if you can tell me what you need from me.
I hope you will be successful in building your family. There are many treatments to help you become parents, and adoption is also an option. It’s not important to me how you become parents, and I will support the choices you make.
It’s okay with me if you choose not to parent. A couple is a family, too.
Carefully choose the friends and family you want to include in your life at this time. Surround yourself with people you trust to care about you, love you, and support you. You are asking those around you to be flexible with your mood fluctuations, be patient, and stay connected to you as you move through the ups and downs of your hopes and disappointments.