In the US, more than 7 million people of childbearing age are dealing with infertility. Infertility does not discriminate and spans all socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and religious groups. Given this information, it’s likely you know someone facing infertility. As a society, we are ill equipped to talk about it. It’s emotional, uncomfortable, and people don’t know what to say.
It’s important to understand that infertility is a grief process, much like having a loved one pass away. However, infertility is unique because the grief is recurring. Couples are grieving the loss of a child they may never get to experience, but also the idea of the life they imagined. Each month gives the couple a new sense of hope that maybe this month will be the month, even as they try to prepare for bad news. This hope leads to heightened devastation when the couple gets that negative pregnancy test. Imagine engaging in this cycle month after month, year after year.
If you’ve had a friend come to you and discuss their difficulties with getting pregnant or having a miscarriage, you may be taken aback and not know what to say. You want to be there to support your friend, but worried you may say the “wrong thing.” I have put together this quick Cheat Sheet to help you begin this difficult conversation.
You may inadvertently say something hurtful without realizing it and figure it out by the look on your friend’s face or a change in their intonation/demeanor. It’s ok, you won’t be perfect at this. Simply acknowledge that you’ve struck a nerve, apologize and say something like “I’m so sorry, I don’t always know the right things to say. I want to support you but I don’t always know how.” This opens up the conversation for more understanding, compassion, and communication about what kinds of support your friend will find helpful. Most people feel better when someone acknowledges that what they’re going through is painful and difficult, and that you’ll be there for them.
Read more about infertility myths here. It’s a good place to start doing your research.
I am a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in infertility counseling. I would love to help you learn how to be a more supportive friend or in your own journey of infertility/loss. Call me (832) 827-3288 for a free 20 minute phone consultation. I understand the challenges and emotional turmoil of infertility, and would love to be part of your journey to healing.