When You Have An Infertile Friend

 

It was brought to my attention (via my blog friend, Ashley) that this week is National Infertility Awareness week.  Like her, I didn’t want to let the week go by without saying something on the subject.  Check out Ashley’s blog post, because she had a lot of good things to say!

Though I’m not technically medically infertile (it took 11 months for us to get pregnant with Wyatt, not the full 12), I’ve had to deal with a lot of fertility problems.  For me it hasn’t been “oh, we’ll try for 12 months and then see the doctor”, it’s been “there is something clearly wrong with me, and until we get this fixed I won’t be able to get pregnant”.  I didn’t need 12 months to figure out I had fertility problems. I relate so much more to infertile couples than to those who don’t have any problems getting pregnant.

Since sharing my own problems I’ve met so many ladies who have struggled with infertility, both online and in real life.  When a couple is having trouble, they don’t usually talk about it to just anyone, so a lot of times people aren’t aware that they even know anyone who is struggling with infertility.  But 1 in 8 couples do struggle with infertility, so most likely there is someone in your life who is dealing with it.

There are a lot of articles out there about how to be sensitive to someone who is dealing with infertility (Ashley linked to one), but I wanted to give you my take on it.

First I wanted to say that there are two things that are never helpful to an infertile friend, no matter who you are or how you say it.  One is complaining about your pregnancy symptoms and/or your children without showing any of your gratitude for the blessing of being pregnant and having children.  The other is talking about how fertile you are (or how fertile someone you know is).  I don’t really have to explain why, do I?  If you are not sure if someone is struggling, just stay as far away from these two as possible.

However, through talking to other ladies who have dealt with infertility, and through my own experiences, I’ve come to the conclusion that almost anything you say about the subject could come across as hurtful.  Some girls I know have been bothered by comments that didn’t bother me a bit when they were said to me.  I’ve heard some even complain about comments that I would have found comforting.  As far as words go, I really don’t think there is any safe ground.

Wait, before you throw up your hands in despair, hear me out!

I think whether what you say is comforting or not depends a lot on what’s in your heart.  Some people just have no sympathy for people who are struggling, and that comes across in the comment.  If you really can’t understand what the big deal is or think they just need to try such-and-such, it’s probably better for you not to say anything.

However, if you truly do care for your friend, and hate to see them hurting (even if they don’t show it, trust me, it hurts), make it come across in what you say.  There is a big difference in hearing about “so-and-so’s” story from someone who is hurting with you and trying to encourage you than it is to hear it from someone who isn’t really trying to understand (at least in my opinion).

It’s okay if you haven’t dealt with infertility yourself – you can still be a comfort to your friend just by showing them you care.  I still remember the sweet words of encouragement from my friends who had never had any trouble getting pregnant.  They meant the world to me, because I knew they cared about my pain. 

Tell them you are praying for them.  Just listen.  Be optimistic for them, but let them know your heart aches for them too.  Send them a note in the mail to encourage them every now and then.  Let them know you are thinking about them.

As a song I love says, “just love them like Jesus”.  You can’t go wrong when you are doing that.

 

 

Song from Casting Crowns.

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Bech and Marley Evans said...

My sister-in-law found out a few months ago that she won't be able to have children. Having Baby Jack around probably doesn't help. Thanks for this post...I will definitely try not to say the two kinds of comment, and to focus on being an encouragement and friend. Thanks for this post!

Jessica Elyse @ Memoirs of a Mommy said...

Thanks Callie for sharing. This is such a valuable topic and helpful post for people in all stages. I know with our current status, I would tend to fall more into the same category as you and Derek were. It is so hard to hear people talk about those very items you listed out. I wanted to add one more to the list of DO NOT say, "Be patient", "God's timing is the best," or "Don't worry it took us 5 years." These statements (or variations of them) truly hurt because they cut to the core of your personality. Yes, I know it takes time and I am practicing as much patience as I can. I know God's timing is the best. I know LOTS of people experience infertility. But... it still hurts; there is still a legitimate longing and no amount of patience or trust will make that go away.

Jessica said...

I feel like you really hit the nail on the head with this post. Thanks for sharing it! The thing I've found really helpful is my cousin, who struggled with infertility too, would every once in awhile send me a facebook message with a link to a song that had helped her when she was going through it. Just to know that someone was praying for me, and sharing these songs that were such an encouragement was wonderful. Do you mind if put a link to this post on my blog later this week?

Amanda said...

Thank you for being such an encouragement to me during my difficulties trying to conceive. Your prayers and the scriptures that you shared really did make a difference! My prayers are with you my friend!

Brittney Galloway said...

Great post Callie. I think what you said is right- it really matters what your intentions and your heart is!

Going from the "infertile" side (taking 13 months to get pregnant,) to this pregnancy, taking only one month, has been especially hard on me. My best friend here has been trying for TWO YEARS and has had no success. I feel like I am walking this pregnancy alone and that I can't ever talk about my joy for this baby because my friend is hurting so badly and my heart is soft to her pain. It's really hard, for both of us. Just another side of the coin that has been interesting to learn about.

Jenna said...

I'm in the same category as you... Not technically infertile, but we've had a hard time getting pregnant both times. It's so nice to connect with others in a similar situation. Thanks for posting this!

Olivia said...

Yay thanks for posting!

I think alot of comments people make are based on ignorance. If you haven't dealt with infertility, you really don't know how incredibly painful it is. They want to say something but they don't usually know what to say, so it comes out "oh you're just stressed" or "Gods timing is best!" Most people were actually pretty sensitive with us to be honest, the less senstive comments came after Mia came home, but that is a totally different subject!
A word on that, don't tell someone "you will get pregnant after you adopt!" because statistically it's not true and it takes away from celebrating the child you have brought home.

Thanks Callie for posting :)

Leeper's said...

Great post. Many people don't realize how simple comments about every day things can hurt. It took us 17 months to get pregnant the first time, lost the baby. Then we didn't concieve again till the 24 month of trying... During the months of trying with nothing happening, several of my friends got pregnant with their first and then their second. It's rough but it definitely makes me more aware of others struggles.

Melissa said...

Thanks sooo much for writing this, Callie. My heart is hurting so much today, and some days i'm fine! It's been 12 months now. I know for others it has been much longer & others also have it much worse than i do, but it still hurts. It's so painful. I agree completely on what NOT to say. Some people just don't know what to say. I think if you don't know what to say, you should say nothing! I love what Jessica E said above. So true. I hate when people say "so-and-so tried for this many months, they stopped trying & then they got pregnant!" Um... well, anyway. So much wrong about that statement!

It's really hard. I didn't want this to be a problem for me and ... it is what it is. I have to believe that i WILL conceive at some point!

I also agree with what you said about those not struggling w/ this - they can still be a great help & encouragement.

xoxo

cait said...

Beautiful, Callie. Thank you for sharing from your heart in hopes to restore communication among both sides of fertility!

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