When someone you care for is going through something you haven’t experienced, you may feel at a loss as to how to best support him or her. The good news is that if you’re struggling, it means you’re probably a compassionate, thoughtful person. The downside is that not everyone knows the right thing to do or say in difficult emotional situations.
No one wants to accidentally let slip something insensitive, especially as emotions about fertility issues can run high, and the landscape of fertility care has changed so much in the past decade – if you’re not part of the community, you may not have had any reason to keep up.
It can feel like a minefield, but it doesn’t have to. There are ways to sincerely help friends and family struggling with fertility issues, and most are quite simple:
– You don’t always have to say much; you’re there mostly to listen: Unsolicited opinions and advice can run rampant in discussions about fertility. Even the most well-meaning individuals can let slip a comment that will make a friend or family member stew. This doesn’t mean you’re a silent partner, but for the most part, when people are facing a tough time and are filled with stress, they probably just want to vent – about how long the process can take; the cost; dealing with insurance, medications, injections and disappointing results; and more. Having someone give them full attention and listen closely can be rare, so it’s going to be very appreciated.
– Help with the practicalities: Fertility treatment can take up time in someone’s schedule that would normally be committed to responsibilities. Having these responsibilities pile up just adds stress to an already stressful time. One straightforward but significant way to help is to offer your time to take over one or two of these responsibilities. If your friend has a procedure scheduled from which he or she will need to recover, offer to take care of a chore or two. If your errands sync up near one of your friend’s, offer to take it for the day. A little inconvenience in a small part of your day can save someone else from having a bad day.
– Do some research: You don’t need to spend hours sitting at a desk reading up on infertility and its various treatments in order to be supportive. A little of your time spent getting a feel for a certain diagnosis or a specific treatment plan can give you a bit of confidence when discussing fertility instead of struggling to find something to say or feeling out of your depth.