The last full week of April is National Infertility Awareness Week! Did you know that 1 in 8 couples experiences infertility at some point? Or that 1 in 4 pregnancies is effected by loss? This is such an important week. Infertility is a very frequently misunderstood condition; Focus and even blame is often put towards women experiencing infertility, whereas fertility struggles are actually experienced almost equally between the sexes. Often times, people who are struggling with infertility are met with barriers to being able to seek treatment, including finances, negative stigma, religious beliefs and more.
Since infertility effects so many people, everyone has someone in their life who has been effected by infertility or loss. Because of the stigma about fertility, it can be hard to know how to support a friend or family member through a loss. Here are some tips:
Don't invalidate their experience
For a couple struggling through infertility, every month can feel like a loss. Feelings of hopelessness and fear are common. Take this time to be with them, avoid minimizing their experience, and show them support. Some things that might help could be saying "I love you and I know this is a hard time for you and I am here to listen" or bringing them a little gift or meal just to show you care. Avoid "at least" phrases and empty reassurances.
Use this as an opportunity exercise your empathy muscles
Your friend or family member who is struggling through infertility loves you, but they may struggle with things like baby showers and pregnancy announcements. Take this time to walk in their shoes and think how they will take the news of your pregnancy, and choose a kind and gentle way to announce to them in particular, and then give them space if they need it. Your friend struggling with infertility might be over the moon happy for your pregnancy, but may prefer to pass on the surprise pregnancy announcement party. To quote one of our favorite Doula colleagues, Lori Lynn Tucker "It is possible to be equally happy for someone else while also being sad for yourself."
With food! With friendship! With hugs! Whatever their love language is, feed it and nourish it. They need your love more than ever at this time.
Are you struggling through infertility? Have you ever supported a friend through infertility or loss? Please share your story!