How to Support a Loved One Coping with Infertility
Those struggling with an infertility diagnosis or undergoing fertility treatment deserve support all year round, and the holiday season is certainly no exception. For many, the holidays are a time for family, friends, parties and gifts – a chance to catch up and check in with how things are going and learn about future plans. This can be a lot of fun, and it should be, but for those facing infertility, the holiday season can be a source of anxiety and dread since reuniting with family and friends could bring many unwanted questions.
At the San Diego Fertility Center, we realize that it’s not always easy to know the right thing to say or which questions are OK to ask, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the infertility community or modern family building techniques. Because of this, we’ve created an easy guide which defines ways you can support a loved one coping with infertility.
Think through questions before you ask.
Even though intrusive questions can feel like an acceptable boundary to cross after spending significant time with family and friends, these questions can be especially uncomfortable, even painful for someone working through infertility. Questions about infertility treatment can even come across as judgmental, even if not intended to be. Some of the questions below can be especially triggering, so please think twice before using them in conversation.
• I have a friend who tried “x” -- have you tried it?
• I heard IVF is very expensive. How will you pay for it?
• Do fertility medications make you feel crazy?
• Maybe you should just relax and it will happen. Have you thought about taking a vacation?
• When are you going to have another baby?
• What will you do if treatment doesn’t work?
Even well-meaning questions like the ones above can put someone on the defense. They may feel as if they need to passionately defend their choices – even in the middle of a festive holiday party. Asking these questions creates unnecessary stress when there are kinder ways to engage when someone chooses to discuss infertility, such as expressing optimism and providing encouragement.
Practice empathy and be a good listener.
Maybe your loved one will feel comfortable discussing their entire fertility treatment plan, or maybe they’d prefer to keep the details quiet. Either way, assuring this person that they are heard and understood can go a very long way. Often, we forget how important it is to simply listen intently to someone who is talking, especially when this person is discussing something sensitive like infertility. Giving the time and attention this topic deserves requires very little of you, but can mean a great deal to a loved one who may be feeling vulnerable and on edge during the holiday season.
We invite you to learn more about supporting loved ones dealing with infertility by visiting Resolve, the National Infertility Association’s website.