Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What to say (or not to say) to an Infertile Friend


I have thought long and hard about what to write here. I want to give fair warning to anyone reading this (especially if you are going through your own fertility struggle) that this is just my opinion and what I have seen as helpful and not helpful. One key thing to understand is that each person is different, their situation is different and they handle things differently (physically and emotionally), so take what I am about to write with a grain of salt. I am finding that I am kind of a rare case (in that I often share too much about our struggles with random people) among the infertile community so my views might be different than others going through the same thing.

Okay, so enough warnings …let's get this show on the road :)

I was approached by a fellow blogger (who is not sure what to say to their friend struggling with infertility) and they asked me to address what might be good or not so good to say to a person going through this struggle. As I thought about it A LOT I began to realize that it is not really in what you say. Now that might sound confusing but hang with me and I am sure I will make sense of it. You see, as we all probably have experienced a lot of times it's not what a person says (i.e. the words used) but the feeling behind it and the way that say it that has the most impact on us. Now don't get me wrong, words can cut like a knife and I am going to address that next but first I want to talk about the "un-said" parts. You have to be willing to be flexible and really pay attention to how your friend is reacting and feeling each time you talk.

Remember, whether they are going through treatments or not, whatever is making them infertile is probably also messing with their hormones and causing their emotions to be all over the place. Your friend also has to realize that although this is very hard for them, it is okay if you don't completely understand it or say the wrong thing (see it is on both sides). Hormones are valid but they can't be a catch all excuse and if your friend is acting like they are then they might take everything you say or don't say wrong. I think one of the most helpful things that my friends and family have done is just to listen to me vent or just be with me. Sometimes I need those answers or reminders that it will happen, other times I just need to be told that this sucks and they are praying for me. To me prayer always helps and when someone lets me know they are praying for me, no matter how bad or moody I am feeling that day, it makes me feel better. Today during my devotions I read something in "Faith Deployed" that I think really speaks to this and I want to share it with you. Rebekah Benimoff states "When someone is struggling with their faith, don't say simply "Oh, God has a plan, it will all work out." Allow the person to walk through the trials so that her faith can be tested and refined. When the wound is raw, put aside your own discomfort and your own desire to have an answer, and just BE with the person."

I have found that my struggle with infertility is also a struggle with God and trusting his will. It is definably a faith strengthening time because ultimately I have to learn to completely rely on Him for the desires of my heart. Yes, we can use modern medicine and other helps or remedies but ultimately it is God that forms this life in us and he can do it with or without all the extra measures we feel are necessary. As a person going through fertility struggles and treatments it can be overwhelming and although I know deep in my heart that God has a plan, hearing others tell me that is not always the most well received in my mind. This is where your judgment comes into play (I know, but again everyone is different); if the friend you are trying to help seems to be receptive to hearing about God's plan (and even go one step further to say it themselves first) then I think reminding them gently of that is good and can help. However, if your friend is either avoiding the subject or really upset about it then a little empathy is always nice. A lot of times I just want to feel like I am accepted and understood and during those times hearing friends tell me that my feelings are valid or they feel like that too or it just plain sucks…well it helps. If you are a person that hasn't struggled with fertility, then just the act of trying to understand and even say "I don't understand but this sucks and I am always here for you to vent" can make a world of difference. When I am able to talk out my feelings with my friends or husband or mom I end up working through a lot of the frustrations I am feeling (and most of the time they are just listening). Be careful though that it doesn’t turn into a complaining is good to vent but don't go overboard. Also if they are avoiding the subject then don't talk about it. Ask them about other things in their life and things you talked about before all the fertility stuff started (it's nice to just get away from it all sometimes).

Oh and hearing success stories is nice but also make sure that you aren't going overboard because when I hear them all the time I start to get discouraged and feel that it is never going to happen to me. Again, it goes back to reading the situation, knowing your friend and acting upon what you are perceiving. Sometimes we are just more receptive than others.

I honestly believe that if you are coming to your friend with an open mind and heart, taking the time to read how they are feeling that day, and just speaking to them through your love for them, then even if you do say the "wrong" thing at that time it will be okay. If you say something and can tell right away they were hurt or didn't take it the way you meant them to then it is okay to point that out say "I'm sorry I shouldn't have said that or I didn't mean for that to come out like it did".  You also have to be willing to give them space if they need it. I know there are days where I just don't want to talk to or see anyone and having people respect that is a relief. Now if they are locking themselves away for weeks at a time then you might want to get a little concerned.

Another thing, although pride can be dangerous but it makes me feel better sometimes when my friends tell me they are proud of how I am handling everything. This is a hard subject because everyone is so different. Some people are really private about their struggles and some aren't. But letting your friend know that you don't mind talking about fertility stuff and you want to be there for them and then leaving it in their court is good.

I know that I have probably been all over the place in this post and I hope you were able to make some sense of it. I'm not an expert and this is just my own experiences talking. I know that I shared in a recent post some of the emotions that I experience on a daily and weekly basis and if you haven't read that go here and read it because that might help you understand a little more about what your friend is going through. I am sure there are about 5 million other things I could talk about here so if you have any questions for me or need additional advice please feel free to e-mail me at bakogrl at gmail dot com and I will get back to you (there is no guarantee how fast the response time will be though I will try to be quick).

Bottom line though, you are already a great friend by being concerned with their feelings and I applaud you for that. I know that it can be exhausting sometimes not knowing what to say or always talking about the same thing. Hang in there and show them love but also show them that they still have a life and it is not only about getting preggers (that tunnel vision can really kick in for them). They are lucky to have a friend like you and they need to realize that as well. And if nothing else seems to help, well just keep praying for them because God can do some crazy stuff!

I hope this helped and if not ..well thanks for reading it anyways :)


  1. Thanks for sharing, girl! Wonderfully done! I hope you are doing well. I'm an offically back into the blogging world and have a lot of catching up to do! Hope to hear from you soon :)

  2. Thanks for sharing your perspective on this! I'm glad you did this post. xoxo

  3. Hey Ashley--loved reading this. I think I'll actually email you though.

  4. Great post, Ashley - I think you're right on with all your points! Having a friend say/do the things you mentioned was a help to me too when I was dealing with the same thing, so I think this a great guide for how to talk to an infertile friend. :-)

  5. thanks so much for posting! i just sent my friend a note about our positive preg. test and i hope that it comes across as compassionate and caring as i meant it to be. i so appreciate you posting your thoughts on this and also for being so open about your own situation so that i can have better insight into loving and supporting my friend. even though i don't *really* know you, i am really impressed at how you are taking your experience and letting it be a faith and life-changing thing, clinging to God even though you can't make sense of what He is doing. thank you again for sharing your heart.

  6. Hey sweetie, this is very well said and it's hard when one person has gone through one thing and the other has not, like you said it's important to gauge the other's feelings and ultimately just pray for them and be there for them. I'm praying for you girl and can't wait to meet you soon in the near future! xo!

  7. Hi, I just found your blog...

    I think the hardest thing on both sides, is that you just don't know what it's like unless you do through it. My battle was the hardest and longest 3 years of my life and I only started a blog after I got pregnant b/c it was just to hard for me to talk about and make even more public than I know it already was. Everyone figured we were trying and I think that just made it harder for me b/c I just felt like a failure in front of everyone. Now I think being open and talking about it is serving as a healing method b/c even once the baby is on the way it doesn't make all those feelings instantly go away (at least not for me). And now I feel like if I can offer someone an ear or even advise from my personal success it is healing and helpful for both of us. are welcome to join my journey but I will be keeping up with yours. :) Keep us posted as you feel up to it, we understand why you need a break.