In response to my previous post about infertility, I had a lot of people comment that they knew someone struggling with the same thing and didn't know how to help them. I wish there was a magic formula I could give you that would help. Or a line I could feed you that you could say to every person in that situation to make them feel better. But there's not. Every person is different. We all handle trials differently. I know a lot of people said things that both helped me and hurt me, so here are my opinions on what you can try to help someone you know who is experiencing the heart-wrenching sorrows of infertility.
Do acknowledge how difficult their trial is.
Do try to be sensitive. Particularly if you are pregnant, be sensitive when sharing your good news. Tell them individually instead of in front of a group. Give them some time to grieve. Because they are probably happy for you, but I can speak from experience that most likely the first emotion they will feel is anger and frustration. And then they'll feel guilty at feeling that way, because it's not like we don't want you to be happy with your new little family. It's this never-ending spiral of trying to be happy but just being mad/sad/frustrated and then feeling guilty for having those feelings. So give them time. It took me about 2 months to get over it and get to the point where I could even congratulate a close friend or family member on their pregnancy. (For whatever reason, it was easier for me to deal with pregnancies of those who already had kids. It was hardest coming from those who were younger than I am, had been married for less time, and didn't have any kids yet.) So try to be understanding if they cry instead of smiling and congratulating you right away.
Do remember them on Mother's Day and Father's Day. Those days are particularly hard.
Do send notes, cards, flowers, food.. Make sure they know they are in your thoughts and prayers. And do pray for them.
-"Are you expecting?" Please, please never ask ANYONE this question, unless you know the answer is yes. Let them tell you. There are so many couples that struggle with infertility, and asking them if they are pregnant is another painful reminder of everything they don't yet have. Right along with this question goes "When are you going to have kids?" Prior to going through infertility, I would look at couples who had been married for a few years and didn't have children. I hate to admit this, but I sometimes thought that maybe they didn't have kids yet because they enjoyed the comforts of having two incomes and the freedom of being a couple without children. I know, terrible me. It kills me now that I ever thought that, because I have had people tell me that that's what they thought about Forrest and I before we had Charlie and Caroline. And it really hurts me to hear that. Please don't assume that. You never know what people are going through.
-Upon learning that someone is struggling with infertility, or a single woman struggling with never having children, saying "You can have one of mine" or "You can hold mine anytime you want." Don't. Just don't. Don't pretend that your children can fill the void. Although I will say that being an aunt and a primary teacher to perfect little children did bring so much joy to my heart. But It's just not the same. They weren't mine.
-After hearing how hard it was to get pregnant, saying "Wow. I'm just a fertile Myrtle." or "I just have to hug him and I get pregnant." I think people say this just because they really cannot relate at all, and they don't know what else to say. But trust me, it does not help to hear how easy it is for you to multiply and replenish the earth.
-"The clock is ticking." Really?! Who says that? Don't you think that we are very aware of how old we are and that right now is the best time to have children? (For the record - I am not that old. I am not particularly concerned about my biological clock. But I know many who are.) There is no need for the painful reminders of how much time we have left. I assure you, we wanted to be pregnant years ago.
-"I had a friend who got pregnant right after they stopped trying. So maybe you should just relax and not try so hard." Oh sure that's easy to do. Let me just stop thinking about how much I want to be a mom. If only the stress/pain/emotion was just a switch we could turn on and off. Don't minimize what we're going through by saying things like "Just give it time" or "I'm sure everything's fine." Because it's not fine.
-Anything about adoption. We may get there at some point, but most likely we are not ready to think and talk about adoption just yet. One step at a time.
-Don't complain about your pregnancy and/or children. This one bothered me the most, I think. When all you want is to see your belly growing bigger, it is really difficult to be around other women who are pregnant. It is made 100 times worse when they complain about it. And the same thing for those who have children already. When I was dealing with infertility I had to stop getting on Facebook because it was so painful to see posts about my friends' children, and even worse to hear their complaints about them. Be grateful for what you have, because there are so many who are longing to have it too.
Please know that if you have made one of these comments to me, it's ok. I'm over it. But in truth, it probably did hurt. I know my experience with infertility has made me think a lot more about what I say to and think of people. But I'm not perfect either. Let's just all be a little more conscious of those around us and how the things we say can make them feel.