How to Talk to Your Infertile Friend

Everyone approaches a diagnosis of infertility differently, but one thing that has struck me is the lack of communication between friends on the topic. During our first year of trying to conceive, conversations with friends went from discussing the life changes that a baby would bring, to the “you guys better catch up” jokes, and then quickly changed to sympathetic looks and silence on the topic.

elephant

Infertility is the elephant in the room

On top of dealing with the sadness that infertility brings, these changes in friendships can be very difficult.

Here are some tips on how to talk to your infertile friends:

Ask About the Elephant in the Room
Infertility can make you feel lonely and put a strain on your relationship with your partner. The worst thing you can do is avoid a friend who is struggling with infertility simply because you don’t know how to approach the subject. Keep engaged in your friendship and even if it is awkward at first, broach the topic of infertility and ask if they want to talk about it. You may be surprised to find they’re looking for a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.

Resist the Urge to Give Advice
Listening is different from providing advice or acting like you understand exactly what your friend is going through. Friends frequently think they are helping by providing “words of wisdom.” Here are a few things to avoid saying at all costs:

  • Telling her to relax (Ask anyone who is dealing with infertility and they’ll tell you this is virtually impossible)
  • Saying you understand because it took you {fill in the blank} months to conceive. (While it is stressful even if it only takes a few months to conceive, don’t compare that to a friend who has been trying for years/undergoing treatment/dealing with loss.)
  • Talking about how quickly you got pregnant or your unintended pregnancy
  • Minimizing their situation by suggesting adoption, IVF, life with fur babies, etc. (Fertility decisions are stressful and are based on many factors, including finances, religion, values. The solution isn’t always clear or easy.)

Put Yourself in Her Shoes
Be sensitive and ask your friend if she wants be included in activities with kids, such as baby showers, birthday parties, dinners with other couples with children, etc. Everyone is different – while some people who are dealing with infertility find it too difficult to spend a lot of time around kids, others may feel hurt if they aren’t included in activities simply because they don’t have children. It is best to ask.

Announcing your pregnancy falls into this category as well. Please share the good news with your friend, but be sensitive of how you deliver it. I had a good friend who had a surprise pregnancy. She sent me an email to tell me instead of waiting to tell me in person at an event when she told all our friends. This meant the world to me, because it gave me time to get over my initial shock and selfish sadness so I could be truly happy for her when I saw her in person.

Curb Complaining 
Sleepless nights, potty training and temper tantrums can wear you down and it can be very tempting to complain about the challenges of parenthood to your infertile friends. Keep in mind that people struggling to conceive would gladly accept all those challenges just to have the blessings that you have. Celebrate the joys and complain to other friends who can better sympathize.

Share Your Happiness
Don’t hide your happiness. While it can sting when friends announce they are expecting or talk about milestones or challenges with their kids, ultimately, sharing in life’s joys and disappointments is what makes friendships strong. A true friend will rejoice in your happiness, even when they are struggling with infertility.

Additional Resources
Infertility Etiquette
10 Things to Stop Doing if You Want to Support Someone With Infertility

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4 thoughts on “How to Talk to Your Infertile Friend

  1. All excellent tips! I appreciate your kind and gentle tone–so many of these types of “How to talk to _________” posts these days are snarky and bitter. I think most people aren’t trying to be insensitive and this type of information is helpful.

  2. Thanks! Yes, you’re right, it is very tempting to want to be snarky but I think most people are trying to be helpful and don’t realize they are being insensitive. Even my husband, mom, or close friends say things sometimes that are unintentionally hurtful.

  3. Reblogged this on no one asks about my eggs and commented:

    Since it is National Infertility Awareness Week, I thought it was a good time to put this one back out there. It still rings true after becoming a mother. #NationalInfertilityAwarenessWeek #StartAsking

  4. Pingback: How to Talk to Your Infertile Friend – Adopting.org Adopting.org

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