So... I know many people that are friends or "friends" with me and other infertile women who really say some stupid things. That being said... here is a brief lesson in Infertility Ettiquette. You can read more about Infertility Etiquette at http://www.resolve.org/support-and-services/for-family--friends/infertility-etiquette.html
Approximately 1 in 8 couples deal with infertility... so more than likely, even if you don't know it, someone you know and love is battling infertility. What makes infertility so difficult, empty arms aside, is the fact that every month the couple must mourn the loss of a child they may never know. This grief is recurrent which is different than the grief of losing a loved one. Those going through infertility need support, not criticism.
That being said, here are some dos and don'ts for supporting those with infertility with a blurb from me at the end of the list!
- Don't tell them to relax - By definition, a couple is not diagnosed as "infertile" until they have tried unsuccessfully to become pregnant for a full year. This year weeds out the people who aren't infertile but just need to "relax." Those that remain are truly infertile.
- Don't minimize the problem - Failure to conceive a baby is a very painful journey. Infertile couples are surrounded by families with children. Comments like, "Just enjoy being able to sleep late . . . .travel . . etc.," do not offer comfort. Instead, these comments make infertile people feel like you are minimizing their pain. You wouldn't tell somebody whose parent just died to be thankful that he no longer has to buy Father's Day or Mother's Day cards.
- Don't say there are worse things that could happen - Different people react to different life experiences in different ways. To someone who has trained his whole life for the Olympics, the "worst" thing might be experiencing an injury the week before the event. And, to a woman whose sole goal in life has been to love and nurture a child, infertility may indeed be the "worst" thing that could happen. People wouldn't dream of telling someone whose parent just died, "It could be worse: both of your parents could be dead." Such a comment would be considered cruel rather than comforting. In the same vein, don't tell your friend that she could be going through worse things than infertility.
- Don't Say They Aren't Meant to Be Parents - One of the cruelest things anyone ever said to me is, "Maybe God doesn't intend for you to be a mother." How incredibly insensitive to imply that I would be such a bad mother that God felt the need to divinely sterilize me. If God were in the business of divinely sterilizing women, don't you think he would prevent the pregnancies that end in abortions? Or wouldn't he sterilize the women who wind up neglecting and abusing their children? Even if you aren't religious, the "maybe it's not meant to be" comments are not comforting. Infertility is a medical condition, not a punishment from God or Mother Nature.
- Don't Ask Why They Aren't Trying IVF - People frequently ask, "Why don't you just try IVF?" in the same casual tone they would use to ask, "Why don't you try shopping at another store?"
- Don't Be Crude - Don't make crude jokes about your friend's vulnerable position. Crude comments like "I'll donate the sperm" or "Make sure the doctor uses your sperm for the insemination" are not funny, and they only irritate your friends.
- Don't Complain About Your Pregnancy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! - Just being around you is painful for your infertile friends. Seeing your belly grow is a constant reminder of what your infertile friend cannot have. The number one rule is DON'T COMPLAIN ABOUT YOUR PREGNANCY. I understand from my friends that, when you are pregnant, your hormones are going crazy and you experience a lot of discomfort, such as queasiness, stretch marks, and fatigue. You have every right to vent about the discomforts to any one else in your life, but don't put your infertile friend in the position of comforting you. Your infertile friend would give anything to experience the discomforts you are enduring because those discomforts come from a baby growing inside of you. When I heard a pregnant woman complain about morning sickness, I would think, "I'd gladly throw up for nine straight months if it meant I could have a baby." When a pregnant woman would complain about her weight gain, I would think, "I would cut off my arm if I could be in your shoes." Stay sensitive to your infertile friend's emotions, and give her the leeway that she needs to be happy for you while she cries for herself. The fact that she is willing to endure such pain in order to celebrate your new baby with you speaks volumes about how much your friendship means to her.
- Don't Treat Them Like They Are Ignorant - For some reason, some people seem to think that infertility causes a person to become unrealistic about the responsibilities of parenthood. The length of time you spend waiting for that baby does not factor in to your appreciation of responsibility. If anything, people who have been trying to become pregnant longer have had more time to think about those responsibilities. They have also probably been around lots of babies as their friends started their families. Perhaps part of what fuels this perception is that infertile couples have a longer time to "dream" about what being a parent will be like.
- Don't Gossip About Your Friend's Condition - Infertility treatments are very private and embarrassing, which is why many couples choose to undergo these treatments in secret. Regardless of why you are sharing this information with someone else, it hurts and embarrasses your friend to find out that Madge the bank teller knows what your husband's sperm count is and when your next period is expected. Infertility is something that should be kept as private as your friend wants to keep it. Respect your friend's privacy, and don't share any information that your friend hasn't authorized.
- Don't Push Adoption (Yet) - Adoption is a wonderful way for infertile people to become parents. However, the couple needs to work through many issues before they will be ready to make an adoption decision. Before they can make the decision to love a "stranger's baby," they must first grieve the loss of that baby with Daddy's eyes and Mommy's nose. You do, indeed, need to grieve this loss before you are ready to start the adoption process. The adoption process is very long and expensive, and it is not an easy road. So, the couple needs to be very sure that they can let go of the hope of a biological child and that they can love an adopted baby. This takes time, and some couples are never able to reach this point.
- Let Them Know That You Care - The best thing you can do is let your infertile friends know that you care. Send them cards. Let them cry on your shoulder. If they are religious, let them know you are praying for them. Offer the same support you would offer a friend who has lost a loved one. Just knowing they can count on you to be there for them lightens the load and lets them know that they aren't going through this alone.
- Remember Them on Mother's Day - With all of the activity on Mother's Day, people tend to forget about women who cannot become mothers. Mother's Day is an incredibly painful time for infertile women. You cannot get away from it-There are ads on the TV, posters at the stores, church sermons devoted to celebrating motherhood, and all of the plans for celebrating with your own mother and mother-in-law. Remember your infertile friends on Mother's Day, and send them a card to let them know you are thinking of them. They will appreciate knowing that you haven't "forgotten" them.
- Support Their Decision to Stop Treatments - No couple can endure infertility treatments forever. At some point, they will stop. This is an agonizing decision to make, and it involves even more grief. Even if the couple chooses to adopt a baby, they must still first grieve the loss of that baby who would have had mommy's nose and daddy's eyes. Once the couple has made the decision to stop treatments, support their decision.
Certain ones of these hit closer to home for me. I have other things I could ad to the list as well. Having gone through infertility and pregnancy loss... it's not an easy road and it's a road that most people can't even begin to understand. Sometimes people mean well by what they are saying, but boy, do their words sting. Some people can't stand beside you and be your friend through the hard times, and that's hard to deal with too. Infertiles aren't always fun to be around. I'm not going to lie. I've always dealt with depression since I was a teenager, and infertility certainly didn't help matters. Then losing the baby, that was a huge whammy. I hate being told do this or do that and you'll get pregnant. Really, no amount of "insert activity" is going to make me ovulate short of popping a few pills of Clomid. Without an egg you can't get pregnant. I'm sure people just don't understand what infertility entails. I guess that's one of the reasons I started my blog. I wanted to spread the word... I wanted to help people if I could... and I wanted a way to work through my own thoughts and grief. Lately, I've been having a hard time. Two of my friends are now pregnant with their second child... and they both started trying to get pregnant with their first AFTER Thayer and I started trying. That's a tough pill to swallow. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to be a normal person... if I would have conceived within 6ish months of us trying like most couples, I would have an 18 month old. Or if I hadn't lost the baby I would be about 4 months pregnant now. My mind lives in "what ifs" and "might have beens." I can't help but think about how different my life would be if I hadn't traveled down this bumpy road of infertility. I can't help but think about how different my marriage would be if we didn't have to go through these treatments or exprience the loss of our baby. Things have been hard between Thayer and I since I lost the baby. Most of the time I feel abandoned by my friends. *sigh* I guess I'm done with my novel of a blog... More writing tomorrow.