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.