CHAPTER FIVE : WORDS

I felt a little overwhelmed when I first set out to write this post. I put it off for a few weeks because it comes with a lot of emotions both good and bad, happy and sad.

When it comes to having infertility, it’s hard to know/recognize/identify all the emotions that come with the unexpected ups and downs of your journey. For me, at first, I was in denial that I had infertility. I didn’t want to face the truth that it wasn’t working… then it turned into slow acceptance. I often thought I could manage and plan myself into pregnancy…. Then it turned into anger that my body wasn’t working, that my planning and managing didn’t work and that I was on the 50th something month of not getting a positive pregnancy test.

The longer I have been on this infertility journey, the more I have come to understand the emotions along the way. It was harder to understand the emotions in the first few years… It was denial and disappointment constantly and I was overwhelmed often… as I crept into my 5th year of infertility, I started to understand this experience so much more. Not that it makes sense that I haven’t gotten pregnant, but I can understand the emotions that come, how they come and when they come.

One of the things I have learned is that when others say things to show love or try to help, sometimes it’s really helpful and sometimes, it just adds to the pain I am already feeling - even if said with the purest heart. It makes us feel more alone than we already are.

In an effort to help anyone who wants to better understand how they can support a friend struggling with infertility to not feel so alone, I am sharing some things TO SAY to women struggling with infertility that help and things NOT TO SAY to women struggling with infertility that don’t help. And in order to do this, I enlisted a few friends of mine to share their insights from their own experiences. This list is a combination of all of our combined experiences.…

Here we go…

Things TO SAY to help a friend struggling with Infertility….
⁃“Give yourself permission to mourn, be mad, lose it... “
⁃“You are loved, even though you may not feel it.”
⁃Versions of “that must be really difficult, I’m sorry you have to go through this” - really, it is about acknowledging the pain and difficulty vs trying to make it better.
⁃Asking if they should check in or wait for us to bring it up…
⁃This is more spiritual.... “I wonder if the timing of your infertility journey is more about your babies and when they are supposed to come to earth, rather than your timing and when you think it should happen…”
⁃“That’s so hard, I’m sorry you have to go through this”
⁃“That is a really hard trial! What is your favorite drink? I want to treat you to a pick-me-up!”
⁃“That is so hard, if you ever need to vent or cry on a shoulder I am happy to lend mine, zero judgement!”
⁃“I think you are amazing for wading though this fertility journey, your example is a testament to me that you are a strong human…”
⁃One thing that helps is when you don’t lead with advice in a conversation with someone struggling with infertility. It is so wonderful when someone simply asks about my journey and what I have done so far to try and get pregnant rather than lead with advice and tips etc.
⁃(From my friend) “One of the tenderest moments for me when I felt the most supported was after my first miscarriage. A woman in my church who had 9 kids sent me a card that said ‘I’m so sorry you lost your little one.’ It’s something I’ve never forgotten”
⁃“I am so sorry that you are going through this”
⁃“I think you are going to be an amazing mother”
⁃“If you ever need to vent I might not understand but will always be here to listen”
⁃“I am inspired by your faith and commitment to not giving up on your babies”
⁃“Its okay for you to cry and be mad sometimes, that does not take away from your strength”
⁃“I don’t feel like I have the right words to say to bring you comfort but I am here and I want to be here to listen to you and love you through this hard time”
⁃“I am sorry this is your reality”
⁃“How can I help?”
⁃“I can’t begin to imagine how difficult this is for you”
⁃“What do you need?”


Things NOT TO SAY when trying to help a friend struggling with Infertility….(writing some of these made my blood boil haha)
⁃“Just relax. You are probably just too anxious.”
⁃“Would you rather work than have kids?”
⁃“Is there something you have done (negatively) in your life you need to take care of because you are not worthy to have children?” (Yikes! we no longer associate with these people 😂)
⁃“I know so and so and they got pregnant after they adopted. It will happen for you…”
⁃“I read this book and you should try.... (insert a hundred different responses here)”
⁃“It’ll happen when it’s meant to”
⁃“Just relax and stop worrying about it, stop trying and it’ll happen”
⁃“At least you know you can get pregnant” (after the first miscarriage)
⁃“It’s so common/happens a lot  of people” (infertility and miscarriage - there’s a line between relating and sharing a common experience vs implying it happens all the time and isn’t a big deal… super painful when our pain is diminished by being compared to others)
⁃“wow, that’s really hard, but it’s not as hard as (fill in the blank with a story that appears worse than yours…)” this is super common for others to share thinking it brings perspective but it doesn’t usually do anything except make us feel worse.
⁃“You should just focus on your blessings and try not to focus on your trial”
⁃“You should just relax and stop thinking about it, it will just happen…”
⁃“have you tried (fill in the blank) or have you tried (fill in the blank)……have you tried this....have you tried this.....have you tried this?….
⁃“why haven’t you had any children yet?” Never ask someone why they haven’t had kids!
⁃People commonly say “I know so many families who have adopted and get pregnant on their own now!” I hate that the most! It makes me want to say, “yeah I guess all those years we weren’t on birth control weren’t really that I had infertility. It was just my body being stupid.” 🤦🏼‍♀️
⁃“But think of all you do have” (thanks I already know what I do have)
⁃“Oh you can have my kids they drive me crazy”
⁃And Don't start giving us unsolicited sex advice, positions, meds, teas etc that we should try.

It is so hard to know what to say. I hope that seeing the difference between just extending love and understanding to someone struggling with infertility, rather than trying to solve their problems is a better way to connect with them in their pain. Simply put, if they are on the floor crying in a ball in pain from their heartache and grief, get down on the floor and cry with them. No words are necessary…. If you want to offer advice, seek to understand them first and then offer advice.

Lastly, I wanted to share a very personal note we received from a dear friend of ours right after we lost our twins. What was said has stayed with me in the deepest parts of my grieving and pain-filled heart because it meant the world to me that he didn’t suggest solutions, he didn’t try and tell us there was a “plan” or that “all would work out eventually”. Instead, he didn’t pretend to know what we were feeling or how to solve it, but simply extended his love for us by sharing his feelings with us in our grief and pain.

We had just shared the news that we lost the heartbeats to our twins and his response was, “That is absolutely terrible. It has been so hard to watch from the sidelines as this agonizing processes has gone on, but I know I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it has been for you both. We are at a loss for words. What can we say? What can we do to make this more bearable? How can we lift this burden off your shoulders? We care about you so much, and it just sucks. It sucks to feel so powerless.  For now, just know that we love you and are grieving with you. I know I don’t say this enough. I don’t say anything enough. But I admire the two of you so much. I don’t envy the trials that you are having, but you two are the sweetest and most amazing couple I know. And the dearest of friends as well. If ever the time comes that we can help, even if we can just be shoulders to cry on, we are here for you.”

I literally just read this again, 9 months after my miscarriages, and I still have tears streaming down my face. It was the perfect thing to say.

I hope this gives you a clearer understanding on how to help a friend struggling with infertility not feel so alone on her journey to getting her babies here.