Those of you who are mothers or who conceived easily the natural way, may or may not have met a person openly struggling with infertility. As an IVF survivor (I tried for my daughter for 4 years and went through 2 IVFs), I know that not all infertile couples are open about their experiences but there are many who seek support from friends and family. But when a friend of yours or a family member eventually pours their heart out, you may suddenly find yourself feeling inadequate and having no idea what to say. How do you comfort a friend who has opened up to you about their fertility journey?
Fertility treatments are not an easy topic to discuss. Try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and imagine their emotions and state of mind. If it is hard, simply confess that you are not sure what to say and do not know what it feels like. Ask them how you can help and to tell you what it feels like to struggle with infertility diagnosis, undergo hormone stimulation, choose and rely on an egg donor or to wait those dreaded 2 weeks for the results of the test. Most likely your friend will be happy to share the details if you are only willing to listen.
Then educate yourself a bit on IVF (egg donation), in vitro procedures, egg bank options, success rates of IVF, etc. to get a general idea what is involved in the process and what the chances are. You do not have to become a fertility expert out of the blue, but at least you will have an understanding how “babies are made in the lab”. However, bear in mind that probably your friend will not want any advice. Still the knowledge of how IVF works will definitely help you imagine how much it can cost you emotionally and financially if YOU had to undergo IVF treatment.
Your friend has probably already researched the topic on the internet, spoken to fertility consultants from Fertility Network (UK) or EggDonationFriends.com and been to several clinic appointments. It is okay to just ask what options doctors have recommended for them and support them in any decision they make.
Be there for your friend. Be the person who just listens. Eat a whole tub of ice-cream with them, cry if you feel like it, be angry, grieve and agree with them that life is unfair at times. Talking about emotions and infertility may not be very “British”. However, this is one of the things we can do to break the shame and taboo associated with IVF or miscarriage.
If you have children, be very careful about complaining about being exhausted and sleeping too little. You may need support too, but perhaps your infertile friend is not the best person to turn to. Be considerate. Also do not try to find the reasons why infertility happens. It is just the way things are.
We should not ignore this topic and talk more about IVF (egg donation). It is a treatment like any other medical treatment, however, the inability to conceive, both for men and women, may greatly challenge your identity as a man or a woman. That is why support is so important. Remember – be a friendly shoulder to cry on for your friend’s fertility journey.
This is a collaborative post.