Between My Reads : How to support friends through infertility issues

August 14, 2014 Between Reads 15

Between My Reads is a feature that appears on here sporadically. As I’m sure you might have guessed by now, I’m passionate about books. However, they are not the be all and end all of my life so I thought it might be fun to share some other stuff now again here too. If this doesn’t interest you, don’t worry books will be back on the agenda tomorrow.

This topic is a very personal one for me. I’ve lived through dark days trying and failing to conceive, multiple fertility treatments, failed adoption plans and now I’m embracing a child free life as best I can. It wasn’t what I wanted but it is my life and I’m always about finding the bright side and running with it.




What I did find though over the years was that I heard countless remarks that burned inside me for days, months, years. Most of these were just thoughtless with absolutely no harm intended, I know that but it still hurt. So I just want to share what not to say and what to say and how to be a supportive friend.

And this will be relevant to you at some stage in your life. One in six couples have problems conceiving so it will be your sister, your friend, your work colleague, at some stage you will encounter this.

 How to support a couple having fertility issues:

Number one rule : Don’t tell them to relax. Nothing unrelaxed me or wound me up tighter than a clock than someone saying this. I already felt stressed enough about it all and now I was getting even more stressed and guilty about being stressed. Don’t say it, ever. Even if you think it, just don’t say it.

Don’t tell them about the latest miracle treatment or fad cure that is guaranteed to work. They will know all about this. Believe me they are googling everything, reading all the forums and trying everything. Eating pineapple, wearing socks after sex and multiple other crazy things that worked for someones best friends, neighbours sister, they will know them all.

Don’t tell them that it will all work out. The honest truth is it may not. You don’t know, they don’t know. Be hopeful but realistic and allow them to express their doubts without immediately wanting to shut them down.

If you have a pregnancy news to share, text them with it. I love to congratulate my friends and celebrate their good news with them. But I need a moment to get my sad why-not-me thoughts out the way first. Over the years this has gotten easier but I really appreciate hearing the news in advance so I can prepare and then make it all about their news and not my feelings.

On the other hand; don’t feel you can’t talk about your children. I love baby talk and always want to hear the latest on my friend’s babies and children. Don’t shut them out of something that is such a huge part of your life.

Listen to them. Ask them about their feelings. They may or may not want to talk about it but I always appreciated being asked how I felt. Always. I hate to moan and never really brought up the topic myself but when someone asked I was always glad to share and it helped.

There are lots of options out there but don’t tell them what they should do. I often felt under pressure when someone told me I should look into donor egg, surrogates or whatever. Just leave the couple free to explore their options in their own time. Listening to our thoughts on the options though, that is great.

Allow the person to be sad. It’s a loss in their life and a traumatic time. They need time to grieve and work though it. Being there without offering advise, just being present and willing to listen, that is more help than you will ever know.

Don’t tell them maybe they just weren’t meant to be parents. That makes them question everything about themselves and feel they are not good enough. I know that wasn’t what you meant to imply but they are super sensitive on the subject. Just stopping and thinking for a moment before you blurt something out can make a big difference.

That’s my two cents worth. I hope it’s of use to someone. If you want to ask anything, feel free, I’m happy to help.

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15 Responses to “Between My Reads : How to support friends through infertility issues”

  1. Ana

    This is a lovely post. Thank you for sharing this part of your life and I admire your courage. Reading this, I can almost feel the strength it took to be able to share this with us. Again, thank you.
    Ana recently posted…What makes me happy?

    • trish

      Thank you so much 🙂 I’m not courageous, I just want to share my experiences and hopefully someone somewhere will benefit.

  2. Dee @ Dee's Reads

    I appreciate this post. I think the one I will take most to heart is the just relax comment. I have a tendency to say that to myself and my friends in other issues and situations, but I never want to sound like oh just relax it will all be ok. Because it won’t, not necessarily and that comment doesn’t help anyone.
    I think it’s important just to let them feel, and grieve, like you said.
    So, I’m gonna say it now – I know we are just bloggy pals but you can always talk to me. I’m here for you and send you and your husband lovey thoughts 🙂 <3 *hug*
    Dee @ Dee’s Reads recently posted…ARC Review: The League of Seven by Alan Gratz

    • trish

      Thanks Dee, I am glad you found something useful in there. I’m lucky that I had some great friends around me who supported me through this and who I could talk to openly and honestly. And hugs, after chatting for nearly a year and a half, we are more than just bloggy pals, we are pals full stop.

    • trish

      Thanks Kim, I’m glad that came across. Most of what was said was never meant to hurt it was meant to be helpful. I just want to highlight for other people better ways to show support.

  3. acps927

    It amazes me the insensitive things will say to people when it comes to babies/kids, whether it’s to someone who can’t have them, doesn’t want them, isn’t sure if they want them, does have them but isn’t raising them right in their opinion, whatever. I think these are some great thoughts on the subject, and I am sorry that you have had to go through this.
    acps927 recently posted…Mini Movie Reviews: Divergent and Guardians of the Galaxy

    • trish

      I know, it’s crazy. One of my friends is only married a few moths and already the questions are coming thick and heavy. People need to stop assuming they know what the next step for someone else is.

  4. Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun

    This is such a great post, put tears in my eyes a little bit actually. Me and my BF have been trying for 2 years now and we haven’t tried treatments yet, but we’re talking about it. What makes it super hard is that so many of my friends have had kids or are pregnant right now and people keep asking why we don’t have kids. It sucks because they assume we just aren’t trying and I don’t feel like advertising to the world that we’re trying and failing, especially since my BF already has a son so clearly it’s me. (I know that’s not necessarily true, but it’s how it feels) Anyway, people don’t mean to hurt you, but I don’t think anyone can have any idea how much even the best intended words can hurt when you’re in this very vulnerable place. Thanks for sharing your experiences and advice 🙂
    Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun recently posted…Sunday Post | 54th Edition

    • trish

      Hugs Berls, I know what a hard time you are going through right now. The cycle of hope and failure is soul destroying. And I agree it was often the questions and laughing hints that tore at my heart. I didn’t want to share too much as it was still a very private pain at that stage and I was still hoping all would be ok.

      When I went for treatment, it was both easier and harder. Harder because you are officially saying there is an issue and easier as it was no longer all down to us. We now had the experts on our side.

      Whatever route you take, I hope it all works out for you. Even you ever want to talk, you know where I am xo And one thing I learned very quickly, there is no blame, you are in this together.

  5. tonyalee

    I love that you posted this. I get to see more inside your life & struggles (not like I want to see you struggle, or anything.) I can’t imagine what you have went through and are going through. But thank for sharing your side, and that advice. It’s always difficult to know what to say to someone, ya know?

    *hugs* <3
    tonyalee recently posted…Review + Giveaway | The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco

    • trish

      LOL, that did sound a bit funny!
      I’m glad you found it helpful. I think as long as you are empathic and I know you would be then you’ll be fine. Even just offering a listening ear is always welcome.

  6. Lisa @ Captivated Reader

    Thank you for sharing this post on your blog and being so open and honest about what you’ve been through.

    I think this is such a wonderful post to read. I have a cousin who’s been struggling with infertility. She’s tried everything to get pregnant the past decade. Now that she’s approached her mid-forties, she has sadly given up on the hopes of ever getting pregnant.

    It’s difficult to know exactly the right thing say to someone going through this situation… This post helps. 🙂
    Lisa @ Captivated Reader recently posted…Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

    • trish

      I’m glad you found something that might be of practical use. That was what I wanted. I’m in a similar position to your cousin and I know just listening and allowing us some sad days helps a lot. Eventually it gets easier, life goes on and I have tonnes of happy days, weeks, months but I know the pain will never fully leave.

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