Holidays can be an especially challenging time for couples and individuals who are experiencing infertility. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 6 couples worldwide will experience infertility. And 1 out of 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. Due to its prevalence, it is important to understand how to support someone who is currently struggling with infertility.
The Emotional Toll
Infertility often comes with emotions of guilt, grief, self-blame, loneliness, and sadness. It can strain relationships. It can affect people’s jobs. It is demanding both physically and emotionally. Although it is as common as 1 in 6 couples, the effects it has emotionally is not often discussed. Working to understand the complexities of the emotional and physical toll it takes on people is a great starting point in helping support individuals experiencing infertility.
Active listening is a tool that is often forgotten. Active listening is when we provide our full attention to the person who is speaking with the intention of being able to understand their perspective and provide support. Active listening conveys compassion and empathy while allowing the space for the person to share their experience. Often, people engage in sharing advice or attempts at finding the positive within the person’s experience. Although these approaches are often well-meaning, they convey a lack of understanding and can invalidate other’s emotions and experiences.
Although it is natural to want to relate to others through our own experiences, sharing your own experiences can be overwhelming and invalidating. You may have a friend who had a cousin who went through infertility, but it is best to keep these connections to yourself unless asked to share. Infertility treatments in and of themselves can be overwhelming emotionally. Validation of the person’s individual experience and their emotions is a more effective way to emotionally support your loved one.
Baby showers, family gatherings, birthday parties, and holiday celebrations can be emotionally challenging during infertility. They can be triggering for the grief that follows people on a journey with infertility. It is helpful to continue to extend invites to these loved ones. However, it is important to extend compassion and shift expectations of their attendance.
It is natural to want to ask for updates when supporting someone through infertility. However, feeling pressure to update friends and family can be incredibly overwhelming to individuals who are experiencing infertility. It is helpful to allow for the space and opportunity for updates to be shared, if and when the individual is ready to. This can look like simply sending a text letting the person know you are thinking about them. Or sending a note letting the person know that you are available to support however they need.
Less Is More
Sometimes the simplest approaches to support are the best. Sending some money for them to pick up a coffee on a treatment day. Offering to cook them a meal or drop off takeout. Giving them space to grieve and avoid gatherings while validating that decision. Ask someone how they would best feel supported. Sometimes it is the simple gestures that have the greatest impact. If you or someone you know is experiencing infertility and would like to begin counseling, please contact our office to schedule an appointment.