Unfortunately, many women and men struggling with infertility can become overwhelmed from time to time as they try to achieve pregnancy. They can be upset by other people’s insensitivity, hurt by criticism from their families, tired of treatment, frustrated by limited options and resentful of their “fishbowl” existence. These couples realize that there are no simple remedies to ease the pain and loss they may feel. However, it is important to note that support from family and friends can help. When couples facing infertility are supported by loved ones who make them feel better about themselves, relate to them and respond better to them, they sometimes find dealing with their infertility a little easier to manage. Supporting loved ones will be easier if those who want to help know how to respond appropriately. Below are a few guidelines to remember:
- Admit There is a Problem – Pretending the problem does not exist or avoiding it is not helpful. Acknowledge the infertility by asking how things are going with treatment or how they are feeling. This shows your interest and offers them a chance to confide in you if they choose. At least they will know someone recognizes the significance of this experience in their lives.
- Get Informed – Some of the most well-intentioned advice from a friend can often be hurtful to someone struggling with their infertility. To avoid these comments, it’s important to know what your loved one is really going through. Ask them to share any literature or information they have about their own infertility. This is often the icebreaker that leads to discussion and growth.
- Listen – This seems obvious, but it’s really important! Don’t be afraid of your loved one’s feelings. If they will talk about their infertility, allow them to freely and fully express their emotions. By venting negative feelings and releasing tension, they can often move on to a more positive, optimistic perspective. Bear in mind that people experiencing infertility want a sounding board more often than an opinion.
- Respond to the Need for Dignity and Respect – Let your loved one know that you see them as multifaceted people and that infertility is only one part of their lives. Remind yourself that infertility does not make them helpless or their lives less meaningful. Respect the desire for a child, even if you do not agree with the method of attaining that goal. By the same token, respect the decision to stop treatment or rule out adoption. Most importantly, reaffirm their importance to you personally, letting them know that you love and accept them.
It can be hard to broach the subject of infertility with a friend or relative, but it’s also important to note that talking about it can help. For someone struggling with infertility, the most important things they probably need from you are love and acceptance. Utilizing the guidelines above will help you create a safe space for your loved one to talk about their experience, and it may bring the two of you even closer!
The ART Fertility Program of Alabama is located in Birmingham, Alabama with additional locations in Huntsville, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa. The program is led by Dr. Kathryn Honea, Dr. Virginia Houserman, Dr. Cecil Long and Dr. Chris Allemand who are Board Certified specialists in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. All are skilled in comprehensive infertility care and offer a complete range of infertility services.