Just be there: How you can Support your Friends or Family through Infertility
Published June 2021
June is recognised as World Infertility Awareness Month. It’s a time for us to acknowledge and support those experiencing fertility issues and also learning how we can help.
In this blog we endeavour to show you how you can support someone through the trials and tribulations of infertility, whether they’ve just found out they’re going to need medical intervention or whether they are currently undergoing treatment.
If someone tells us in confidence that they’re having issues conceiving, it’s important to recognise that they trust you and are reaching out for your support, not your advice, not telling them to ‘just relax and it will happen’. They need to have your friendship that can be relied upon through their journey and that’s just how they need you at this time. They’re probably feeling lonely, worried, confused and concerned. Simply be there for them. Listen, try to understand and just be there. Being diagnosed with infertility can be overwhelming, it’s a real bolt from the blue just when everything appears to be going swimmingly and it can be all-consuming. Know that you can help get your friend or relative through this time in their life by just being the ‘you’ they’ve always known.
Just Be There
Turn up, sit down and listen. You don’t need to offer advice, that’s what the experts are for. You may need to be a sounding board. What have they done to deserve this? Nothing. What have they done wrong? Nothing. 1 in 6 couples experience infertility and 40% of infertility related problems relate to the male in these instances. Listen to how your friend feels as it can be a lonely experience. Let them rant, let them cry and be there to give them a hug and show you care. Let them know you’re there. Help them work through it. Lift their spirits and laugh together like you both used to. Neither of you have changed, except now there’s a white elephant that’s suddenly appeared in the room and you can both acknowledge it and talk about it. There’s still a stigma attached to infertility that needs to be broken. Don’t let it be a taboo subject. Let them know you’re always there for them.
Admit you don’t know
Don’t say you understand what they’re going through when you don’t. Unless you’ve had your own fertility problems, you’ll more than likely just sound flippant, which can be frustrating for you both and damaging to your friendship. Even if you have been through a fertility pathway to achieve your own family, share your experience to show them there is hope, but do it with an understanding that your journey was entirely different from theirs. Let them explain their diagnosis and treatment plan and help them travel their path by just being there.
Remember – You’re not the Specialist
Your friend doesn’t need your advice. What worked for you or for someone you know does not mean it will work for them. There’s so much information available nowadays, about online fertility supplements, holistic treatments, success stories etc, all just a click away on the internet and in books, and it’s great that they worked for other people but remember that this is their journey to parenthood, not yours. Their medical history and diagnosis is going to be different from yours. Leave the treatment plan to their Fertility Consultant.
In order to understand what it is they’re going through; you could offer to go with them to their appointments if their partner is unable to attend. You’ll know first-hand what they’re having to undergo to achieve their dream. Depending on their treatment, they’ll need a lift, both in the physical and emotional sense and you can do that for them. Clinics can be…well, clinical and quiet and the familiarity of your presence will be good for them. Just be there.
This journey can be exhausting. It’s emotional, mentally debilitating, physically wearing and can have a serious short-term impact on finances. Celebrations can be particularly poignant. Children’s birthday parties, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Anniversaries, Christmas are all dates they don’t feel capable of fully embracing at the moment. Remember that when they were younger, they probably had dreams of settling down and having children but they’re not here yet. Check in with them, keep them busy and amused.
You may be incredibly close, from either having grown up together or having shared some amazing moments but remember to be considerate of their feelings now. Read their mood and gauge whether they’re having a bad day. They might not want to hear that someone has fallen pregnant by accident, or that someone else is expecting twins. Of course, they’d normally be happy for others and want to celebrate but remember, they’re hurting too because that’s all they really want.
Don’t let it get awkward
If you feel like you don’t know what to say or do, don’t stop calling or visiting your friend. Don’t avoid them. They need you in their life now more than ever. You can help them get through this with your support and care.
- Be There
- Try to Understand
- Don’t give Advice
- Be Supportive
- Check In
- Be Considerate of their feelings
- Don’t Avoid Them
Individual or Couples Fertility Counselling Services are available through IVF Matters. You don’t have to be a patient to request access to this specialist fertility support.