There are many resources online that can help others understand what it is like to be struggling with infertility and what they can do to be more sensitive and supportive, such as this fantastic article from RESOLVE (the National Infertility Association) and this video from Tears and Hope (an infertility awareness project).
In addition to these resources, here are a few tips that I would give to anyone wondering how to help support us or anyone else who is struggling with infertility:
- We want understanding and sensitivity, but we don’t want people to be walking on eggshells around us. One of the reasons we have been slow to open up is because we don’t want people to be overly afraid of upsetting us by sharing news of their children with us. We want to be included, so please don’t be afraid of talking to us about your kids. Just remember that we would love to talk about things other than babies, at least once in a while.
- When talking about your pregnancy or children, a little sensitivity goes a long way. We know that pregnancy and parenting are both amazing and difficult, and of course you have every right to talk about your experiences. Please be kind when talking to us, though. We want to hear updates on how you are doing, but we appreciate it if you don’t complain to us too often; it’s very hard to hear complaints about something that we want so badly.
- Recognize that our loss is real, even though it is not tangible. We are both lucky and unlucky enough to be struggling with unexplained infertility. Despite being perfectly healthy, we have never been able to get pregnant, and our doctors have not been able to tell us why. Our pain is different from that of those who have lost a pregnancy or baby, but it it is equally real and valid. Please do us the kindness of recognizing that we are grieving a loss even though it might take a different shape than more public losses. Our journey is not over, but we are still grieving the loss of a dream, the loss of hope, the loss of a child that we might have known.
- If we miss a baby shower or other baby-related event, please know it is not because we don’t want to be there, but simply because it is too hard for us to be there. We love our friends and family and are so happy when they welcome a new little miracle. There are times, though, when we just don’t have what it takes to put on a brave face and spend a few hours happily discussing babies at a shower or celebration. Everyone has their limits, and sometimes we reach ours.
- If we seem sad, it’s probably not because of you. Infertility is a constant battle, and we will have bad days every now and then. If we have a strange reaction to something you say, or if we simply seem more distant than usual, it’s probably just because we are going through a hard time. Be patient with us in our times of difficulty.
- If we seem bitter, please help us overcome it. Infertility stretches us and challenges us each day. Our perceptions can become clouded by the difficulties of our situation, and we have found ourselves becoming bitter at times. If you notice this, feel free to sensitively call us out on it, or just offer a little more love and kindness to help us through. We don’t want to be bitter, but this is a difficult battle, and we can use all the support and love we can get.