Many of us have one friend who is struggling with infertility issues. It can be a sensitive topic, so if that friend has had the courage to confide in you, it is a measure of their trust in you. It is important to know what to say and do, and what to avoid saying, so that you don’t add to their challenging time. Understanding that they may be dealing with this situation very differently than you might help to keep the lines of communication open.
Here are some ways in which you can offer your support to show that you care:
- Allow them the freedom to open up to you - Let your friend decide how much information she wants to share. Don’t dig for more information or seek to satisfy your own curiosity about details. But do let her know that you are there for her whenever she wants to talk about it.
- Do your own research - Learn more about infertility and the various treatments such as IVF, ICSI, and IUI. Having this knowledge about infertility may help you to empathise with your friend, rather than sympathise. You will also be able to understand the problem better and offer directions to possible solutions if asked. It is important to understand that only one-third of infertility issues are related to women and one-third to men. The other one-third is put down to unknown factors.
- Listen more, talk less - When your friends confide in you, they are rarely asking for a solution. Instead, they just want to be heard. Try not to give advice and suggest solutions to their problem when not asked. Also remember to avoid phrases like, “Stay calm”, or “At least you tried”, if they have had a miscarriage. Try to be optimistic without being condescending.
- Give them space - We all need our own space. When it comes to a friend who is struggling with conceiving, allow them space to accept what is happening in their life. These issues can be emotionally, physically and financially draining. Let them come to you for support when they feel ready. Allow them time to grieve after a miscarriage, or come to terms with the fact that they may never have kids.
- Remember them on special days - Don’t assume that because they are trying to cope with their own infertility issues, that they won’t want to continue to celebrate occasions like Mother’s and Father’s Days, or birthdays. Be a thoughtful friend and continue to invite them to these celebrations if that is what you have always done.
- Sharing your own news - It may happen that you are pregnant or just had a baby around the same time your friend is still struggling to conceive. Share the news with them in a gentle and private way and seek support for yourself from other friends at this point. Don’t let them find out about your own good news from other sources, like social media.
- Be optimistic yet realistic - Support your friend every step of the way. Whether they want to continue their treatment or stop it, or maybe even adopt a child, offer encouragement but don’t be unrealistic. Don’t encourage false hope, and always be honest and kind when asked for advice.
Should you accidentally overstep any boundaries, be quick to apologise, and assure your friend of your ongoing support. Keep the lines of communication open.