Let’s be real for a minute: Infertility sucks.
#1in6 couples are facing fertility challenges and #1in4 women have experienced a pregnancy loss or miscarriage
Chances are, your friend who has bravely confided that she’s “doing fertility treatments” is going through so much more than you’ll ever know.
She* is awake bright and early most days of the week to stop in at the fertility clinic for an appointment, another set of bloodwork and what feels like her millionth ultrasound.
She is waiting by her phone all day to hear an update from her nurse on her latest labs or next steps.
She has learned a whole language of fertility terms and should have honorary degrees in reproductive medicine for how many hours she has poured over resources on fertility.
She puts on a brave face every time someone says “When are you going to have a baby!” or eyes her glass of water instead of wine at dinner.
She painstakingly sorts her pills to time them perfectly and probably sneaks off to the bathroom to take a deep breath before injecting herself with hormones.
She is trying to get through the day without crying despite her skyrocketing hormones and all her hopes and stresses about this cycle.
She waits two weeks to hear if all of her effort and stress has been worth it. And, she probably shows up to work the morning after she gets her period, because she can’t put her life on hold anymore or call in sick another day.
She has a “journey” and a “story” that would take hours and buckets of tears to tell.
So what do you say to help?
Instead of saying “Have you tried…” or “My friend did _____ to get pregnant”
Try saying “I am here for you”
Chances are she has heard every piece of advice and has tried all of them, many times. Hearing that your friend did x, y or z and it worked to get her pregnant doesn’t often help, because all she will hear is that someone else got pregnant and she is still waiting for her turn. Knowing you are there is all she needs.
Instead of saying “You just need to relax and it will happen”
Try saying: “This must be so difficult, let me know if you want to talk or if you would like a distraction”
Or better yet – drop off a care package full of cozy socks, healthy treats or and some (pregnancy-safe) herbal teas. Cook a yummy soup, so she doesn’t have to worry about meal prepping. Send funny quotes or posts online that remind you of her. Plan a day at a non-toxic nail salon. Trust me, she’s trying everything she to relax, and having you nearby will help her feel less isolated.
Instead of saying “Did your IVF work? Are you pregnant?”
Try saying “I’m thinking of you today!”
Some days are going to be very hard. The days of failed pregnancy tests, of poor test results, or just days where she feels downright frustrated. It’s a great idea to keep note of any important dates, but rather than asking for the details of how the appointment went, just check in to let her know you’re there if she needs you. Don’t be afraid to talk about fertility, but remember to respect her privacy as well.
Instead of saying “Being a mother is so tiring” or “Are you coming to Sarah’s baby shower”
Try saying “It’s ok to feel…”
Most women have strong mixed emotions when they hear other people’s pregnancy announcements or other women talking about motherhood. They are usually happy for the mom-to-be, but deeply saddened that yet again, they are not yet pregnant. Because you are friends, you will want to share the good and bad moments of your life, but realize that some of this will hurt, a lot. Recognize that it’s ok for her to need to pull away from these conversations or RSVP no to certain gatherings.
*Please note: This blog is written from the perspective of supporting a woman going through fertility treatments. However, the information and need for support applies to partners and those in the LGBTQ+ community as well, as fertility challenges affect us all.