How to support the IFer in your life

I decided to create this page in the hopes of helping friends, family and coworkers of IFers be more supportive/helpful when dealing with their loved one. We understand, of course, that you can’t fully “get” what we’re going through – but sometimes a little goes a long way. Because, for most of us, this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon – and we’re in it for the long run.

Most of us crave a return to “normalcy” – the life we had before infertility sapped us of our energy, robbed us of our joy and, sadly for many of us, our social life. So believe me when I tell you that while we will have days where we don’t want to see or talk to anyone, the isolation and loneliness that seems to be part and parcel with long-term infertility struggles is enough to get the best of any woman. Please consider how devastating our situation is – and how you, yourself, would feel if you were or had been unable to have biological children with the man you love most in the world.

This page will be a work in progress as I anticipate adding and changing the content with new information when it comes to my attention. Please let me know if you have any helpful suggestions, comments or advice that can make this page more useful. Thank you!

1. Instead of expecting your loved one to be happy all the time, offer to do something to cheer her up. Maybe you can just help with a mundane chore that has fallen by the wayside and is making her feel even worse about herself, or you can pack a picnic and go somewhere nice together, maybe take in a movie or enjoy some other distracting, entertaining activity.

2. Unless you and/or your loved one isn’t “into” hugging, a hug is like the most potent band-aid EVER. Sometimes even an adult needs her mother, her father, her siblings, relatives and/or friends to just hug her in a physical show of support – because we have to go through so much and we just need to know you’re there for us.

3. A home-cooked meal – or 5. This is especially helpful for IFers who are also working long, hard hours in between traveling to/from IF treatments and may not have the time or energy to cook a meal from scratch. Nutrition is an extremely important concern for most IFers anyway, so it would be really helpful if a nearby friend or family member would occasional offer to cook a meal or drop off a couple. To be on the safe side, check for any food intolerances/allergies and ask when would be a convenient time for you to drop off the meal – that way you’re not running into an issue like knocking at the door right after someone came home from a grueling medical procedure.

4. Listen attentively. By that I mean don’t pretend to listen while composing your grocery list, but also be honest if you don’t fully understand something. IFers very quickly become immersed and familiarized with a growing list of acronyms – by necessity – and we start using them without even thinking. Don’t be afraid to ask what it means! We want to know that you care enough to ask.

5. Help – without being asked. When your best friend, sister, cousin, or coworker confides in you about her struggle with infertility, it’s completely appropriate to take into account how close you are to the person in question. If this is someone you love and who is close to you, please take a moment to think about (a) what she would do for you if the situation were reversed, and (b) how you would like her to treat you and the information you’ve just received if you were in her shoes.

Having done that, please consider assisting her in what will feel like she’s trying to get a Phd in research and analysis. In other words, get online, read with her – even if it’s in your own time. If you know the specifics of her situation/diagnosis, all the better. If not, just let her know that you’re there for her and ask how you can help. BELIEVE ME, we appreciate it because we are only human and are overwhelmed by the amount of information we need to digest. Moreover, sometimes it helps when someone else – who is not personally dealing with this situation but also another woman we trust/love – is “in the trenches” with us, can talk the lingo and therefore act as a sounding board.

(6) Think before you speak. I know this sounds like an admonishment, but I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard or read horror stories about the kinds of things people have had to endure, over and over, from their nearest and dearest while struggling with IF. We don’t want to hear about how we should be happy to play the auntie, or how we should “just adopt” – because living vicariously through someone else’s good fortune isn’t the same or enough, and there’s no “just” adopting, unless YOU have a cool $25K or more lying around somewhere that you’d like to donate to the cause. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, for the love of the person you know who’s going through IF, take the time to get informed before you make any comments in relation to her struggle with this situation.

(7) If you don’t know what to say, or are unsure of how to support your loved one, ASK. Yes, sometimes these conversations can be a little uncomfortable – but I can guarantee they’re not nearly as uncomfortable as every single doctor’s visit she’s been through that involved being surrounded by pregnant women and/or being poked and prodded like a circus freak.

(8) Practice empathy, care and concern. You may not be well-versed in this. You may not be the kind of person who SHOWS affection, even if you feel it – or you don’t know how to express it. PLEASE, find a way. As women dealing with infertility, we are not just struggling with our inability to conceive from a medical point of view – we are struggling with our sense of self-worth as women, as wives, as human beings. WE NEED YOU. We need you to be there for us, to be a shoulder to lean or cry on, someone to make us laugh or cheer us on.

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