Women (and couples) struggling with infertility have a challenging time from the minute they’re diagnosed until they give birth to a healthy baby. Holidays, especially those focused on children or the role of the parent – like Mother’s and Father’s Days – can be especially painful.
As a loving family member or friend, there are several things you can do to support your infertile loved ones this Mother’s Day and during other chapters when you can tell the emotional struggle is getting the best of them.
Here are five simple ways to provide unconditional love and support so your infertility friends or family members don’t feel so alone.
In our post on how to support a friend struggling with infertility, the number one recommendation is “Be available.” The same holds true around poignant times of the year, such as Mother’s Day. Don’t shy away from speaking about it. Instead, be transparent and then let your loved one’s tone guide the way.
It can be as simple as “I can’t help but think your fertility struggles make it harder to celebrate Mother’s Day…” and see what happens next. Odds are, they’ll feel seen, and your willingness to lend an ear makes all of the difference.
Do you have a hard time opening up yourself or feel uncomfortable broaching the subject of infertility? That’s okay. Remaining open-hearted and learning more about how to talk about infertility, what not to say, and learning more about infertility, in general, are all perfect ways to start.
The best listeners are those that truly and deeply listen. They don’t counter your feelings with “another way to look at it.” They don’t offer platitudes that may be true or have some depth behind them, but that don’t alleviate the pain. Finally, a good listener doesn’t offer solutions or ideas unless they’re asked.
If you have a friend struggling with infertility this Mother’s Day, open up the conversation and practice deep, active listening skills. We recommend visiting psychologytoday.com’s post on Deep Listening in Relationships. As author and psychologist Diana Raab says, “…when individuals try to “fix” other people, they are most often responding to their own need to influence.”
Instead, listen without the need to respond. This shows your friend you truly care about what they’re going through and genuinely mean it when you say, “I’m there for you.”
Snail mail is all too uncommon these days, which makes it that much more precious when we receive a card or special note in the brick-and-mortar “inbox.” So send your friend a “Thinking of You” card, and ask if they’d like to get together for a hike, walk, tea date, or other “quality time” option to connect.
Even though infertility affects about 12% of the adult population (one in eight!), it can feel like a very lonely journey. Your card or note reminds her that she’s not alone and has people she can lean on in tough times. If you feel your friend could actually benefit from one of those platitudes or “cheer up” type of sentiments we warned about above, we have 10 Inspirational Quotes… you can use as part of your message.
Has your friend indicated she’s not keen on spending Mother’s Day with the extended family and their children? Or has she voiced honestly that she’s struggling? Then, an alternative Mother’s Day plan might be just the ticket to boost her spirits.
If your mother lives far away, you aren’t a mother yourself, or your idea of a great Mother’s Day is one spent child-free and pampering yourself, plan an alternative Mother’s Day plan. It may be just the thing to reset your friend’s perspective and take her focus off the Mother’s Day theme.
We encourage our patients to seek infertility support and/or counseling from the minute they get an infertility diagnosis. That encouragement is reinforced when they experience a failed IVF cycle or miscarriage. Unfortunately, all too many of them nod their heads and then return to their daily life without getting the outside support they need.
If you see your friend struggling with infertility and she’s not seeking outside support, it might be time to nudge a little. Offer her the Mother’s Day gift of breakfast or lunch, followed by a trip to a local infertility support group or a counseling session with a therapist specializing in fertility. If she doesn’t accept, that’s okay. But your suggestion may be exactly what she needs to take that extra step forward in building a more sustainable emotional support network.
The team at Fertility Solutions appreciates when friends and family take the time to provide extra love and support to the infertility community – especially around Mother’s Day. Feel free to contact us if you’d like to learn more about how to support your loved ones facing infertility diagnoses or fertility treatments.