How to Talk to Your Infertile Friend

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

about my eggs

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…

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Surprise Pregnancy Announcements

Fall is a time for many of my favorite things, including beautiful foliage, chilly mornings, boots, and college football. College football means meeting up with old college friends to relive our glory days. Or at least it used to. We’re now in that stage where almost ALL our friends have kids/babies. The college friends were among some of the last to bite the bullet, so there are lots of babies and surprise pregnancy announcements are always lurking.

Let me say that I’m typically not one of those people who can’t handle pregnancy announcements. If you’re one of those people, I totally get it and I’m not judging at all. But usually I can keep it together and put on my happy face. In two weeks we’re invited to a little reunion with a bunch of college friends. There will be a bunch of kids, a newborn, one friend who I found out today is five months pregnant, and another who I have my suspicions about. I’ll be about one week into my stims and I’m a little worried about how everything is going to go. Some of these friends know we’re having trouble conceiving (an understatement at this point) but others have no idea. I can deal with all the baby/pregnancy talk, but I’m dreading the conversation turning to us and when we’re going to have kids.

Today’s strategy for the surprise pregnancy announcement was to toss my greek yogurt and veggies back in the fridge and binge on some of these bad boys for lunch. Hey, it is the first official day of Fall!

My Fall Weakness - Candy Corn!

My Fall Weakness – Candy Corn!

I’m still working on my strategy for our reunion in a few weeks. I want to be open, but also don’t want to turn into an emotional mess. It can be a fine line to walk. I’m curious to know how all of you cope with surprise pregnancy announcements and friends who aren’t clued in to infertility? I’m very open to suggestions! 🙂

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