After publishing 15 Things Not to Say to Couples Facing Infertility, I only felt right putting together a post about things to say or do for couples facing infertility. It’s easy to list negatives and warn people away from them. It’s harder to find positive words and actions with which to replace them. Infertility is so tough, no matter what. Nothing that you say or do for your loved ones will ever make things 100% better. However, making the effort to do or say the right thing at the right time goes a long way toward uplifting your infertile friends and family members.
1. Say “I’m sorry.”
I know that “I’m sorry” seems incredibly basic. But it really is the best thing to say in so many tough situations. You have no idea how much people will appreciate these two little words. Instead of trying to find the right thing to say and providing an unhelpful (or even offensive remark) or irrelevant story, keep it basic.
2. Let them know that you’re praying for them.
After saying “I’m sorry,” follow it up with a brief statement about how you’re praying for them. If you aren’t already praying for your infertile friends, it’s never too late to start. Taking a few seconds out of your day to offer up a prayer makes such a difference. Letting them know that you’re making this effort provides even further peace of mind.
3. Demonstrate your interest.
I’ve read a number of articles of this nature in which the author urges people to “act interested” in their infertile friends’ journeys. Honestly, I’ve reached the point with certain people in my life that I would take an act of interest over the constant need to gloss over my feelings. However, a genuine interest is so much better. Ask your friends how they’re really doing periodically, and then take the time to listen to their answers without interrupting to offer advice or share a story.
4. Let them know that you’re here to talk or just listen whenever they need.
Continuing the notion of genuine interest, establish trust as someone your friends can go to as needed when they just want to talk. Having a friend or family member who will listen without judging or offering unsolicited commentary is priceless when you’re going through a tough period in your life. From simply sending a brief response to a text message rant or setting aside an afternoon for a coffee date, you’ll be there for your friends in the way they need it most.
5. Do your research.
There are so many misconceptions about infertility. Unfortunately, pop culture seems to provide more false information than facts. Most infertile couples don’t want to spend all of their time educating their loved ones about infertility. And frankly, their loved ones don’t want to spend all of their social time getting educated. Do your friends a favor and do some of your own research.
6. Let them know that you’re thinking of them, just because.
It’s great to get supportive messages on major holidays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, your birthday, and any other days that are especially tough for you (i.e. miscarried babies’ birth dates). However, arguably, it’s even more meaningful when someone reaches out to you for no particular reason. Send a quick text message when you think of your loved one, even when it seems completely out of the blue.
7. Offer to do something nice for them, just because.
Again, some of the most meaningful gestures come when you’re least expecting them. You don’t need a major holiday or any particular reason to reach out to your infertile friends. Think about what you’d appreciate the most when you need some cheering up, and offer it to your friend. It could be anything from an afternoon of pampering with manicures and facials or a girls’ night out for drinks and dancing.
8. Support their decisions throughout the fertility treatment process.
Undergoing fertility treatments involves a lot of difficult, expensive decisions. It may not seem like a big deal when someone is beginning a round of Clomid or an IUI cycle. However, this treatment plan comes after months, if not years, of waiting and testing. Ask your friends about the current status of their treatments, and make note of important upcoming dates, such as starting a new medication or treatment. Follow up with your friends on these dates.
9. Attend difficult appointments with them.
Most fertility clinic appointments are difficult. Some are especially tough, such as waiting for test results or determining how you’ll proceed with treatments following a miscarriage. Having a friend along at these tough moments makes them a little easier to get through.
10. Offer to watch their older child/children during appointments.
Another common misconception about infertility is that couples no longer have problems once they’ve had a full-term pregnancy. Numerous couples undergo fertility treatments to have second and third children. Bringing kids along to testing and treatment appointments isn’t ideal. Propose swapping child care or offer to take the kids during an appointment and then meet up at a park or restaurant afterward.
11. Offer to be a buddy during fertility treatments, such as exercising together or following the same diet.
Even when you’re really excited to try a different tactic to get pregnant, exercising regularly or sticking to a new diet may be a drag. Having a friend follow the new routine will keep you accountable and help you stay motivated to stick with it.
12. Don’t judge them when they aren’t overjoyed at a pregnancy announcement or don’t attend a baby shower or gender reveal party.
Being at an age where tons of family members and friends are getting pregnant and having babies and you aren’t, even though you really want to be, is tough. Even when it’s your closest loved ones, it still may be difficult to show the same level of excitement. I know that it seems offensive when you’re thrilled and your infertile friend isn’t sharing the same reaction. Don’t take it personally. Respect their decision to skip out on a family gathering or send a present separately.
13. Share your own pregnancy announcements with them privately, not in front of other friends or family and not on social media.
When you know friends are facing infertility, don’t put them in the position of hearing about your pregnancy in front of other people, secondhand from other people, or through social media. Depending on the relationship, it may be fine to share the news via text or email.
14. Remember them on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are tough holidays for so many people. Infertility, miscarriage, pregnancy loss, parental death, and estrangement from parents are just a few of the reasons people don’t like facing these holidays. Reaching out with a quick text or sending a card goes a long way toward letting your infertility friends know you’re thinking about them on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
15. Suggest counseling, therapy, or a support group.
Personally, I think that the suggestion of counseling, therapy, or a support group has to come from someone who has also faced infertility, has a close loved one who has faced infertility (and ideally, has a specific therapy, counseling, etc. recommendation from them), or had a similar experience (i.e. pregnancy loss, grieving the loss of a young sibling). Otherwise, it comes off as a “oh, have you tried [X]?” or “you know what helped my best friend’s cousin’s sister you’ve never met?” which isn’t helpful.
Are there any other things to say or do for couples facing infertility that you would add to this list?
I’d love hear your insight!
More infertility resources: