Not everyone has experienced the harsh reality of infertility, so often times the response related to the topic from friends or family members can come off as rude or malicious. The truth of the matter is, that unless infertility directly affects you, you are ignorant on the topic, as well as how to handle it.
I was ignorant before infertility reared its ugly head in my life. I had a colleague who struggled to get pregnant for two years. I felt sorry for her, and would tell her things like, “it will happen”, “I’m sorry”, or look at her with sad eyes. I so wish I had known how she was feeling at the time, and been more educated on how to react appropriately.
Here are some tips for those of us not experiencing infertility, loss, or heartache when it comes to getting pregnant, and how some comments make someone feel when they are hurting.
- Talk about people you know who are experiencing infertility. I don’t know your friend, and I don’t care what they are experiencing. I’m hurting and I just need you to let it be about me for a minute.
- Tell me God is in control, or has a plan. So God wants me to hurt and not experience the love and joy of a child??
- Tell me to pray harder. I talk to God every day. I pray for a child every day. It’s all I think about. It consumes me, and I couldn’t possibly pray harder. And thank you for judging me when it comes to my faith and prayer.
- Pity or patronize me. I don’t think anyone likes to feel pitied. Put yourself in my shoes and ask yourself if pity feels good.
- Avoid me. Avoiding me makes me feel even more alone, than I already do.
- Telling others without my permission. This experience is mine. Don’t take away my right to share this experience with the people I choose to share it with. And don’t make me feel like I’m being gossiped about. I don’t need to be put into situations where I have to defend myself, or explain myself. Imagine if I told everyone you were pregnant or engaged before you had the chance to share. DO NOT DO THIS!
- Offer unsolicited advice or suggestions. You are not experiencing this, I am. You don’t know how I feel, you don’t know what I’m experiencing, and you don’t know the hurt I’m feeling every moment of every day. Please don’t insert your opinions, don’t tell me how I should or shouldn’t feel, don’t tell me how to handle this or manage my emotions. Just let me feel sad when I need to feel sad, cry if I need to cry, distract me if I need distracting, or simply give me a hug.
- Resent how my infertility affects you. It’s not about you. I don’t need any additional stress or hurt, so please don’t be angry with me about my situation, or get frustrated with me because I’m not my usual self. I’m going through something that is REALLY difficult and I need you to let me focus on me for the time being.
- Ask personal questions, or give advice. Unless I’ve asked for your advice, please keep it to yourself. It’s infuriating to receive advice from someone who has no experience to back up the advice they are offering. I’ll also share what I’m comfortable sharing. If you have questions that are personal, ask me first if I feel like talking about my struggles with infertility and if I am comfortable sharing what I’m experiencing.
- Assume it’s a female problem. 20-30% of infertility issues are male related. 50% are female related, and the remaining 20-30% are a combination of male and female. I am already struggling with the absence of the child I desperately want, and don’t need to be “blamed” for my situation. My husband/spouse and I are approaching this as a team, and are not pointing the finger…so neither do you.
The most important takeaway from this, is to think about what you’re going to say before it leaves your mouth, and have empathy. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and how you would feel if someone approached you with questions, advice, assumptions, or avoided you altogether. True friends truly come to the surface in difficult times. I pray that your circle of friends is as wonderful as mine.