It’s the most wonderful time of the year….unless you are one of the 1 in 8…the ones wishing that their gift this year would be a child…the ones who find the happiest time of year to be one of the hardest times. With the rate of infertility being 1 in 8 individuals, chances are that someone you know and love is struggling right now. With all of the festivities and family gatherings, here are some helpful holiday tips to help you support the people in your life struggling with infertility.
Do NOT ask “So, when are you going to be hanging another stocking on the mantle?” or any variation of the “are you having a baby soon?” question. If you hear another relative asking this question, feel free to step in with the tasteful but pointed “I’m sure that Jane and John will let us know…so, tell me about your recent vacation?” This line of questioning is very painful for couples struggling with infertility. It can trigger waves of painful emotions and reminders of the questions they ask themselves daily. Even when the question is well meaning, it is not supportive.
If you know that the couple has been seeking fertility treatment, and it is not around the dinner table, but, rather a more one on one setting, inquire about how their treatments are going. Offer a listening ear and kind words of support. Perhaps ask when their next appointment is and if you can bring them dinner that day.
DO ask about the many other aspects of their life. Their jobs, vacations, home, and all the other wonderful things that they are interested in. Infertility does not define someone. Try to engage them in the conversations, even the ones centered around children by asking for their advice and opinion. Especially seek for ways to show them you care about their lives just as they are right now…life doesn’t begin or end with children.
DO ask them how they would like to be supported. Every person has a different journey on the path of infertility. Some people feel supported when asked about their treatments, some do not. Some feel the need to be less involved in child-centric activities, while others find support in being with extended family. There is no right or wrong way to cope with something like infertility. When in doubt, ask.
DO let them know in private if you are expecting. A big gathering is a fun and exciting place to announce a pregnancy, but, it is a complicated event for your friends or family struggling to conceive. While they are happy for you, a pregnancy announcement often brings to the surface very complex feelings. They don’t want to detract from your joy in the moment, but need space to process their personal pain. A private announcement is a way to ensure that everyone involved feels supported.
DO respect their feelings and need to grieve. When they cry, or seem distant, or even offended…cut them a little slack. Grief over infertility is complex and unique for each individual. As with other types of grief, there is no “right” way and the stages and pain are real. In the true spirit of the holiday season, a little love and compassion go a long way towards helping the people you love.
by Mandy Nielsen