I always see these lists, 10 things not to say to _____. Fill in the blank “a person with anxiety”, “a preemie parent”, “a cancer patient”, etc. etc.
While these lists may usually be good advice we might want to remember, we are human and most times things are said simply out of ignorance with no intention to harm. They were simply living their life and not being aware of those around them. I am sure there are so many things we say on a daily basis that carry no weight and have little meaning to us at all, yet with the right audience it could trigger a major reaction.
With that said, here is my own "list". If you have somebody you know going through IVF or infertility problems and you want to be sensitive to what they are going through, here are a few things you might want to know. Obviously you want to keep living your own life as it is best for you but if you want to be more aware of what your loved one or friend is going through please read on.
Every person is different so some things may or may not apply of course.
First thing to know is that unless you have been in their exact shoes, not even another infertility patient can truly know how another is feeling or coping. Granted somebody who has been through it might be better equipped to help or relate to their feelings but everyone’s journey is different. Depending on how long they have been on their journey to having children, how bad they want children, what method they would like to get them with and how their body handles the drugs can vary their tolerance and sensitivity level greatly and by the hour. I know for me my first round seemed easy compared to the 2nd and by the 4th I had a whole new level of crazy going on.
This does not mean you ignore their struggles and expect them to just be the way they always were. This journey can change a person forever. Maintaining a “normal” day to day life and hiding emotions to not be a burden on others while being beaten by motherly hormones and synthetic drugs is not the easiest task. Give them space and let them express what they feel if they choose to and try not to judge. Leaving it all to be the big elephant in the room nobody is talking about can leave them feeling very alone.
Understand when they might not be emotionally able to attend a baby shower, baptism or child birthday party. Although the developing life coach in me knows that learning to embrace these things can be a key development in manifesting a child into your life and that actually embracing children rather than avoiding them might be life changing but this is just not something for us to expect of them. This is a step they can take on their own terms and when they want to. Faking it is not helpful. Being around others rejoicing their children can sometimes stir up emotions of jealousy and disappointment which is not good for them to be feeling. Trust me they want to be happy for you, they just don’t know how to stop being unhappy for themselves at the moment and it’s not their fault.
Know that most infertility patients feel broken in some way. Something within them isn’t working and they can develop body hatred pretty quick. Hating their bodies does not make the process work any easier. It has quite the opposite effect. When they can’t produce a child on their own their inner bully will give them lots of reasons why they are being punished or unworthy. Be kind with them, what is happening in their minds is probably way harder than what is happening in their bodies.
Don’t tell them to “just relax”. Although there is really some truth in having better results when you are relaxed and not stressing about it, it’s just not what needs to be said. They know this already, but it’s just not an option they can see at this point. What I might suggest instead is to help them find things that make them happy. Not things to “take their mind off it”, things that make them enjoy life despite what they are going through. Help them find their happy places. Mine were to be in nature and to play with puppies.
Don’t tell them “It will happen one day” because we don’t know that. I have seen it happen for some and not ever happen for others. Yes, they will need bouts of encouragement and help finding faith but there is no promise it will happen. Just let them know you support them no matter what happens and whatever path they end up taking.
If you can think of it (you are human and allowed to forget) try not to tell them or carry on a conversation in front of them about other pregnant people, how you got pregnant on accident, your child’s birth, how long you breast fed, etc. They really don’t care to hear that. Save those stories for another time. If you need to announce your own pregnancy, do so with them privately and sensitively.
Don’t question them if they are not drinking alcohol, change eating habits or have a change in weight. These are all things people jump on and ask “oh is there a reason? Are you pregnant?” But these are also things you do when you are struggling with infertility. When they have to face yet another negative pregnancy test the last thing they want to do is have to repeat it over and over for others that they are not pregnant. They will let you know when they are….trust me.
For goodness sakes please refrain from suggesting “JUST adopt” or “JUST use a surrogate”. While these are valid options and you can inquire kindly, please don’t suggest they are easier options. The road to adoption can be very expensive and just as emotionally straining. Surrogates, can have massive emotional and legal matters attached as well as a very high price tag. These paths are sometimes ones that might come with better results for some people but they are not anything anyone "JUST" does.
If you find yourself face to face with somebody having a fertility meltdown at something you said or did please do not take it personal or get defensive. Try to understand their emotional battle and help them through the meltdown. They will beat themselves up enough on their own, you don’t need to assist.
Don’t be upset if they don’t choose you to talk to about their journey. Odds are they will want to talk with somebody who can relate to their situation. Help them find a support group, therapist or life coach to work with if they need it. There is no shame if they need to seek outside help. Their inside work is vital to what they are going through.
As I said, we are all human but being aware of things we say and do are important. Not just for infertility patients but for our own souls. You can’t and you won’t be perfect and you will mess up, but when you do, become aware and be forgiving of yourself and those who were hurt.
If you or somebody you care about it going through infertility problems always remember the most important things to do are to find happiness and joy whenever you can and forgive yourself whenever you can’t.