How to Support Someone Struggling with Infertility
…Now, if it were you, how would you like it if someone simply ignored your agony?
Learning that you have to seek alternative solutions to build your family is not akin to having to choose another neighborhood because you can’t afford to purchase a home in the one you really wish to live. It’s also not even close to attending your second choice college/university. I know this because my husband and I have built our family through fertility treatments and adoption.
The only quasi comparison I can make is that infertility may be a bit like being stood up at the alter. When you're standing there feeling insanely happy about starting your life with the woman/man you love more than anything, the moment you learn that he/she doesn't feel the same way, betrayal falls down on your like shards of glass. They've made a mockery of your loyalty and devotion and it shatters your belief in the shoulda', woulda' coulda's. That's how losing my unborn children felt to me. God had played a sick joke on me/us and I was profoundly devastated. But I bring up a good point, when a person is stood up at the alter, they have a logical person towards whom they may direct their anger. Who do we blame when we learn about our infertility? I wanted to shake my fist at God but realized I would probably need his help in the very near future. For the record, I was right.
Some people tell their friends and family when they have endured a pregnancy loss and yet others withhold that information for various reasons. A direct parallel cannot be drawn between someone sharing the news that they or their partner has suffered a miscarriage to how much pain they will experience while their hopes and dreams are in serious jeopardy of ever coming true.
When couples are encountering fertility issues, it’s not uncommon for them to disagree over how they should create their family. There are so many factors that go into mapping out a parental path especially when it requires the assistance of third parties. In addition to being forced to accept the fact that a person’s future child/children will not share his/her and/or their partner’s DNA, a significant financial investment must also be made in order to pursue that goal. Can you imagine spending $20,000 or more without the guarantee of parenting a child in the end? The stress of trying to figure out from where the money will come while absorbing the shock that your body has forsaken you takes an enormous emotional toll.
Having said all of this, the question I’m sure you continue to ask yourself is, “How do I support my loved one during all of this uncertainty?” To start, put yourself in his/her shoes. Really think about what it would be like to embrace the possibility of never being able to parent a child if that was your lifelong dream.
In a previous post, I wrote about what one should NEVER say to a person facing infertility. You may want to read it and forward it onto others in your immediate family/circle of friends.
Ultimately, the person you love just wants to feel understood. They need to hear the words, “I’m so sorry!” I urge you to listen to them—really listen. Prior to asking a question, rehearse it in your head before it leaves your lips. That exercise could save you from having to apologize for inflicting unintentional pain for what may have been an insensitive remark. Try to refrain from offering the usual platitudes and definitely don’t say, “It will all be ok!” The bottom line is that you can’t assure him/her a child. Your loved one’s doctors and/or adoption facilitators can’t even grant them their wish with 100% certainty.
I realize you may feel like everything you say/do these days is all wrong. I seriously doubt that is the case, however. But sadly, I think you would agree that your predicament is far less precarious than the one your loved one is currently facing. At this particular juncture, your quiet and unconditional love is what’s needed most. In my no-so-humble opinion, these are the ways in which you may support someone who is experiencing infertility.