Fertility treatment is not only stressful for the person going through it; it can also be difficult to manage for the patient’s family and friends who are unsure of what to say and how to help. Here are 5 tips to guide you in helping your friends through their fertility journey.
Check in on them occasionally
Fertility patients often say that they feel isolated from friends and family during their journey. Because fertility is extremely personal it can be hard to talk about. While you may feel uncomfortable speaking with someone who you know is going through a challenging time; you may fumble for the “right” thing to say or do, but it’s still important to show your support. It’s also safe to assume that you may not fully understand what they are going through physically and emotionally. Nevertheless, check in with your friend. Simply ask how they’re doing. Recognize that they’re going through something that is physically and emotionally burdensome and give them permission to feel whatever emotions they may be experiencing. This will go a long way in helping them feel supported.
All too often, well-meaning friends and family offer advice, ask intrusive questions and say insensitive things without realizing the burden it has on their loved ones who are going through fertility treatment. Be there for your friend, but try and be the person in their life who puts their needs first. Sometimes people just need to talk about what they’re feeling, what they’re experiencing and aren’t necessarily looking for feedback. Be the person who just listens to them, without judgement, someone that they know they can turn to when they need to talk or vent.
Ask them what they need
Instead of wondering what to do or say, your friend will probably appreciate being asked what they need. Every person going through fertility treatment has a different experience and the type of support they need varies. Often times our loved ones try to “fix” what we’re going through in the way that they deem most helpful. It’s rare that we actually ask what would help them the most. Ask questions and listen to the answer. They will be appreciative.
Don’t try to fix the problem
When people have a medical condition, they are used to getting unsolicited advice. This is no different for fertility patients. They are not only getting instructions from their medical doctors, but also from their family, friends, and maybe even coworkers. It can be exhausting to hear what you “should” be doing all of the time. Be there for them without having to fix or solve anything, in the same (sometimes uncomfortable) space together.
Invite them out – even if you don’t think they’ll want to come
People going through fertility treatment are sometimes excluded from social events, such as baby showers or even birthday celebrations, because their friends and family don’t want them to attend something that may upset them. While this may be well-intentioned, it can be hurtful to the person who is not invited and make them feel even more isolated. One way to approach this is to invite your friend, but let them know that you’ll understand if they decide not to attend. Giving the person the opportunity to accept or decline an invitation can be enormously helpful and shows a sensitivity they probably don’t often experience.
Resources to Help
There are many resources to help you better understand what a friend might be experiencing when they go through fertility treatments. RESOLVE is a national nonprofit that supports individuals on a fertility journey by providing education and advocacy.
When in doubt on how to help a friend going through fertility treatment, try to think about what you would want if you were in your friend’s shoes. Let them know that you’re here for them, are thinking of them, and care about them.