As I’ve been sharing our story about our struggles with infertility, I’ve been constantly reminded of the many people who helped us along this journey. If someone you love is hurting because she is a mother without a baby, here are a few ways you can support and encourage her.
Sometimes the words that were meant to be kind or encouraging were the most hurtful. Try to avoid statements like these.
So, when are you going to have kids?
No matter how friendly the intent behind this question, it can be incredibly difficult to answer. Initially I’d respond by joking about already having 22 kids in my classroom. Later I felt the need to defend the fact that we were childless, explaining that we were both in grad school or were enjoying traveling so much. It was easier to let others believe it was a choice.
You’re so young, you’ve got plenty of time!
I know we were relatively young when we started out (around 25), but youth doesn’t lessen the desire, disappointment, or desperation of waiting to be parents. Add diagnosed medical problems like endometriosis, and every single failed cycle or treatment feels like months instead of weeks.
Just stop worrying/thinking about it/go on vacation and it will happen.
Yes, stress and worry can hinder conception because of all the crazy hormones going through your body. But telling me to stop worrying is not only pointless; it also makes me feel like I am actively doing something to prevent getting pregnant. A ticket to an all inclusive resort in Mexico does not include a room with a magical baby-maker. It doesn’t help me to know that it worked that way for your co-worker’s best friend’s daughter. Good for her.
So-and-so couldn’t get pregnant for the longest time, but as soon as they adopted they got pregnant!
I have a special place in my heart for adoption, and we’ve been pretty sure before we were even married that adoption will be part of our family’s story at some point. But like a great vacation, adoption isn’t a BOGO deal and it won’t fix our fertility problems.
Here are some better things to do and say to help.
Send a card, text, email, etc. that lets her know you’re thinking of her.
Sometimes I didn’t want to talk about things because it was just too hard. Other times I didn’t want to talk because I was actually in a good place where I could be happy about other things. No matter what high or low I was on, simple, unexpected messages were always wonderful because they reminded me that I wasn’t alone.
If you are a problem-solver, it may be difficult not to offer a solution or explanation when something goes wrong. But the thing about fertility treatments is that we can do everything “right” and it still doesn’t work. Sometimes there is no reason that we can understand and trying to explain it away is incredibly frustrating. Just be there to listen and give a hug without trying to fix it.
Encourage her to enjoy life.
It’s easy to become so absorbed in the many facets of fertility treatments that life just passes by. Invite her to dinner or a movie. Go shopping together. Ask her to meet you at a park to go for a walk or run. Schedule pedicures or a massage. Then don’t ask about heavy stuff unless she brings it up: the goal is to remind her that there is a beautiful world outside of injections and ultrasounds. And don’t give up on her, even if she turns you down several times. She needs to know you value her friendship.
These two books were tremendously helpful resources for me.
The first is Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. I was pumped to get this book because I thought it would give me tools to regain control over this whole getting pregnant thing. (Turns out that control never did or will sit in my hands!) Instead I gained so much knowledge and was able to recognize problems in my own body. This is where I learned to chart and interpret my cycles, and while this didn’t allow me to control any outcomes it did keep me from feeling entirely helpless. My doctors were able to use my charts as a starting point and I felt like I could have more intelligent conversations with them because of what I’d learned.
The second book, Hannah’s Hope by Jennifer Saake, helped me cope with the emotional side of things. The author went through many years of battling infertility which led her to found Hannah’s Prayer Ministries. In her book she parallels her story with the story of Hannah, a biblical woman who was “barren” for many years before finally giving birth to Samuel. Hannah’s Hope offers just that–hope–to women in all stages of fertility struggles. It’s also great for friends to read to better understand the perspective of those in the battle.
I am so grateful for our incredible family and friends who comforted and supported us along the way and continue to encourage us as we begin a new journey called parenthood.