How to be a Friend to those Dealing with Infertility

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infertility

Did you know April is National Infertility Awareness Month? Are you surprised that it was established in 1989? I was when I learned this earlier this month. I remember watching the movie Baby Mama (2008) and thinking how funny it was.

That was before I tried to get pregnant, before most of my friends tried to get pregnant. I thought it would be easy to get pregnant. Little did I know that 6.7 million women (ages 15-44) have difficulty getting and staying pregnant. I feel fortunate that my husband and I were able to get pregnant naturally. I feel fortunate to have friends who have been aided by modern medicine to expand their families.

To help raise awareness, I reached out to several of my friends who are in various stages of their journey with infertility and asked them what they wished people knew about infertility.

1. What was the most supportive thing friends and family did?baby mama

Listen!!! It is a very emotional time, and when you finally feel comfortable enough to talk to friends or family about what was going on, the last thing you are looking for is advice.  What did surprise me was how many other women and families were having the same problem. It’s like something that nobody talks about until you talk about it. It is comforting to know that other women had the same problems and now have healthy families of their own.

2. How did you deal with the news of others getting pregnant when you were struggling?

It was hard. You feel so guilty for feeling jealous when you hear of others good news.  Every thirty days waiting and then being disappointed was extremely emotional and frustrating. Stay away from Facebook and “Dr. Google” and talking with your partner and if you have one, a therapist.

3. What do you wish those who have never struggled to understand about your journey?

Please don’t share your story, especially, “I know someone who tried and tried and once she stopped trying, she got pregnant,” and “Do you really think you need IVF?” Basically, don’t share stories or give advice, just listen or ask what support would be the most helpful. Also never ask someone if they are having kids. Never say, “if it’s meant to be.” Never ask, “When are you having another?”

4. Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger self about what you’ve learned? 

Go into pregnancy with less expectations and put a little less pressure on yourself, and maybe things wouldn’t seem so overwhelming. Give your body a break; know your limit. Your body needs to be respected.

5. How have you supported a friend since going through this experience?

Try your best to remain supportive and positive. Also, try to remind your friends to find a provider they trust and not to turn to the internet for sketchy advice. It is a difficult time, one of the hardest things you will go through – but it is all worth it in the end.

6. Do you have any tips for those who are experiencing infertility?

  • Stay patient and calm, don’t let it take over your life. It can become all consuming.
  • The most important thing is to stay strong with your partner – do not let it get between you and remember you are in this together.
  • Realize that you are going through A LOT. Treat yourself with lots of fun and/or relaxing activities. Your body starts to feel like an ugly science project. Do lots of things to remind you that you’re more than the infertility.
  • Find someone who is going through or has been through infertility. Only they will really understand your pain and anger.
  • Give yourself permission to avoid all baby showers if you need to. You can’t grin and bear it while the glowing expecting mommy unwraps cute gifts and shares how easy it was to get pregnant.
  • Even if you’re lucky enough to finally have a baby, you will still secretly loath anyone who gleefully shares how effortlessly they got pregnant.april 1

Finally, for those who may be struggling with infertility don’t read any book that claims to help you get pregnant. They don’t work. If eating certain foods truly worked, there wouldn’t be any need for fertility clinics. You’ll just drive yourself nuts thinking you can control the situation when you can’t. Infertility is harder than you’ll realize. Go to the infertility support group even though you don’t like group therapy. You’re going to need all the support you can get. Only people who have been through it can really sympathize and understand. Remember, be nice to yourself. This isn’t your fault.

Any advice you would give if you’ve struggled with infertility?

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Maria is a full-time mom, teacher, wife, daughter, and sister, who feels pulled in too many directions! Her older son Michael took over 24 hours to be born, and at six-months-old was diagnosed with allergies to dairy, eggs, nuts, soy, shrimp, and wheat…all after exclusively nursing because she was SO SURE that would help him be a healthy kid. Luckily at age 1, he began to outgrow some of his allergies. Fingers crossed the others will soon follow because that plus a husband who doesn’t eat any veggies and Maria always battling her weight makes for three meals to prepare every night. Luckily, Christopher, her younger son, is a cooperative eater! As someone who has always been committed to making positive change, Maria uses her privilege and position as an educator and mom to work toward a most anti-racisit, equitibile, and inclusive world. Recently, Maria has even started getting up at 5am to workout in her basement. (Thank you pandemic living!) She is addicted to reading chicklit on her Kindle app in the dark, most Trader Joe’s products, and watching TikToks.

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