How Do I Support Her Through Infertility?
Supporting a loved one struggling with infertility can be difficult. How do I help? What do I say? When your spouse, friend or daughter is struggling through the ups and downs of infertility it is hard to know how to help.
For the woman who is struggling with infertility the emotional toll, to say nothing of the physical toll, can be immense. Every month brings the opportunity for new hope and despair. It is difficult to accept the fact that there is nothing you can do to fix the problem or to stop the hurt, but there are things that you can do to help:
Offer to lighten the load: Trying to juggle work and home responsibilities in the midst of infertility can often feel overwhelming. Be specific with your intent. Instead of saying, “Let me know if there is anything you need.” Offer to bring over a meal for her on a day that you know will be particularly trying, such as after an IVF treatment.
Ask her about her treatment: Most women are consumed with thoughts about their infertility and would appreciate the opportunity to talk about what they are going through. If she is not in the mood to talk she will likely let you know, but she will be glad to know that you will be there when she is ready to talk.
Keep asking: Unfortunately for many women the infertility struggle can be a long one lasting many months and sometimes even several years. As time wears on the emotional strain deepens. Try to avoid questions like, “Are you pregnant yet?” which can make her feel like a failure if the answer is no, and opt for something more supportive like “How are you holding up? It is helpful to know that you have people that will be there to support you regardless of how long it takes.
Don’t minimize her feelings: A platitude such as, “Well, at least now you know that you can get pregnant.” or “There’s always next month.” doesn’t erase the fact that she is hurting now. What may seem like a small set-back to you could feel huge to her. Don’t assume you know how she feels, even if you have struggled with infertility yourself. Each person’s reproductive story is unique.
Run interference: For a woman trying to have a baby it seems that everywhere she goes there are babies and everyone she knows is pregnant. Handling situations like family gatherings and holidays where it is likely that the focus is going to be on children can be especially painful. Try to anticipate people or places that might be difficult for her. Help her to steer clear of those things or give her an outlet if she needs to escape.
Be present: Sometimes empathy is the only tool in your arsenal. Being a shoulder to cry on or crying with her will help her through her grief and let her know that you care.
You may not always do or say the right thing to your special someone who is struggling with infertility, but what really matters is that you let her know that you love her unconditionally and will be there to support her whenever and however she needs.
Erin Clark is a therapist who specializes in working with women and couples struggling with issues related to infertility, pregnancy loss and adoption. If you found this article helpful you can reach Erin through from our Contact Page