Infertility. It’s something so many women struggle with… yet it’s often relegated to hushed whispers or simply left unacknowledged at all.
It shouldn’t be that way.
Whether you are pregnant, TTC (trying to conceive), have suffered a miscarriage, been saddled with the label “unexplained infertility,” have had a child, or are at any stage of what can be a harrowing process, know this: you’re not alone.
Here at Everygirl HQ some of us have struggled or are currently struggling with infertility. All of us know women who are navigating this journey. And we wanted to shed light on their strength, resilience, and pain. So we asked readers struggling with infertility to submit their experience — specifically when dealing with a friend, family member, or even a stranger who did get pregnant. The response was overwhelming. We’re humbled by the women who reached out to us — by their astounding fortitude and their willingness to share their stories.
Be upfront, honest, and considerate.
One of the best things someone can do if they’re trying to get pregnant is to talk to their friend who’s struggling with infertility and let them provide guidance on how they think they’d like to get the news when the time comes. Simply saying “I’m trying to get pregnant, and if it happens, I’d like to share the news with you — but I want to be sure to do it in a way that you’re comfortable with. I know this has been so painful for you, and I don’t want you to feel like you have to put a brave face on and pretend to be fine if you’re not. So, you tell me what you’re ok with: how you’d want me to let you know, if you’d want to be invited to the shower, if you think you’d need space while I’m expecting — we can navigate this together, because I love you and support you no matter what.”
— Lillian M.
Don’t surprise them, or make them react in front of others.
Some of my worst experiences were the surprise announcements at events and during the holidays. Also, phone calls announcing the pregnancies were the absolute worst. In these situations, I had no time to prepare or process the information and was taken completely off guard, which usually resulted in a lot of awkwardness and me desperately trying to hold back tears before I could find a place to hide or hang up the phone.
However, I had one friend who was so kind and understanding and went out of her way to research how to tell me she was pregnant. She sent an email. And gave me the time and space to process it. She told me that there was no pressure to respond; that she completely understood if I needed some distance from her during this time. She told me she loved me and she would be there whenever I was ready to talk. Then she sent ME flowers to let me know she was thinking about me. I recognize that many people wouldn’t go above and beyond this way, but I will never forget how thoughtful she was to me during the most difficult period of my life.
— Sabra L.
Let them work through their feelings and don’t take their response personally.
My best advice to those supporting a friend through infertility and loss is to simply be there. Acknowledge her feelings, and let her know that you understand. And for goodness sakes, don’t take any negative emotions or bad days personally. We love you. We are happy for you. Our emotions are just part of a grieving process in which we have little control. And if you remain a good friend while we process, the day will come when can genuinely ask about your pregnancy and share in your joy.
— Carol S.
Don’t shy away from the subject or act like their struggle doesn’t exist.
Everyone’s journey with infertility is different. Some try IUI or IVF, some suffer from endometriosis, PCOS, miscarriages, or stillbirths, others experience a combination of these and more — we all have unique stories, but regardless of any differences, we understand the pain that is associated with infertility. Some of us want to be able to talk about it freely while others might not be ready, but please, don’t ignore our struggles. Ask us how we’re doing (because hardly anyone does), and let us share with you if we’re ready. Listen… really listen because if you do, our struggles, our pain, our infertility is validated and it becomes a conversation we no longer feel we need to keep hushed behind our doctors’ doors.
A close friend called me up when she was about eight weeks pregnant. She wanted to give me more time to grieve my loss and I’m sure she was dreading the conversation regardless. She articulated that she does not deserve this any more than I do, that I don’t have to be happy for them, and that they wished it was easy for me. She said she was sorry she was pregnant and I was not. That was it, I’m sorry. I also deserved to be pregnant and that she was still here for me. That is all I wanted to hear from anyone celebrating. Not silence or guilt because I make you uncomfortable.
— Cristina M.
Acknowledge that what they are going through is really freakin’ hard.
I never wanted to be that woman who found it difficult to celebrate when other’s have what she wants or the woman who can’t walk through Target without tearing up when passing the baby aisles. But lately, it’s been getting more difficult to genuinely feel joy and not despair when I hear more friends are pregnant or see yet another pregnancy or birth announcement on Facebook or Instagram.
Keeping the conversation and news soft, brief, and at the end of the day (sleep always helps it all seem easier in the morning, doesn’t it?) can help make the news a smidge easier for a woman struggling through this journey. But it will be hard regardless of the time of day, the location, the way in which it was delivered, etc. It will just be hard. Acknowledging that it is really freaking hard for your friend, and maybe asking how much they want to be involved or hear about your pregnancy details, is, unfortunately, all that can really be done, in my experience.
— Allie N.
Recently, I received a text from my good friend letting me know that she was expecting her third child — and it was different. In her text, she took the time to address how this news might make ME feel, and that her hope for us was even stronger. And I found myself feeling more joy than sadness.
Yes, of course, I felt the familiar pangs of disappointment and had a good cry with just my husband, but the fact that in the midst of her joy she addressed my heaviness and my journey made it more bearable.
And I think that’s the best way — recognize and address that this news may be difficult to receive. Acknowledge that you know she’s in a hard place, and delivering the news of your pregnancy may make it even harder. Be cognizant of how your news will possibly impact your friend, and then SPEAK THAT.
— Liesl C.
Avoid vague or triggering language.
My closest girlfriends ask me how I’m feeling, check up on me, and have honest conversations with me. It is a relief to talk about infertility and my miscarriage with my friends because it’s always on my mind. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.
However, I have gotten plenty comments that do NOT help me:
- It will happen, don’t worry
- It just wasn’t meant to be
- Know that everything happens for a reason
- Blah, blah, blah
I don’t want my friends to feel like they have to give me the answers, solve my infertility problems, or be afraid to talk about it. I do want to know they care and empathize with me. That they acknowledge my struggles, ask questions, and listen. It shouldn’t be an elephant in the room or relationship, even when sharing exciting news.
Understand they might want to skip the baby shower and express that to them.
To the friend who is expecting and doesn’t quite know how to share the news: know that we are really, truly happy for you. Please don’t be afraid to share the good news with us. Just don’t be surprised if we skip your baby shower. We will still send you a gift, but sometimes it’s just more than we can handle on a given day. We will love you and support you on your journey, we just ask for that same kind of support in return.
— Carolyn K.
Finally, don’t shut them out or not tell them at all because you’re afraid to hurt their feelings.
There’s really no easy way to receive the news that someone is expecting when you’re knee deep in infertility because the truth is, it always hurts a little no matter who it is. But personally, I’ve been hurt the most when a pregnant friend purposely excluded me from finding out to avoid hurting me. It made me feel completely alienated and in a way, punished for being infertile. I definitely do not need to be reminded of my infertility by each friend who is expecting. The best way my friends have shared their pregnancy news with me is to share it as they would with any friend who is not facing this struggle. Each pregnancy announcement gets easier, and over time I’ve learned not to let their joy turn into my sorrow.
— Alice K.
Are you struggling with infertility? We want to hear from you! Tell us about your experience in the comments below!
This article was originally published on The Everygirl on September 26, 2017.