8 Tips for Supporting a Friend through Infertility
It is surprising that many people never know that their friend or family member is struggling with infertility. Sadly, it just seems to be that we don’t talk about openly about infertility. It’s private, right? Unfortunately this just results in your friend becoming isolated, infertility is a very lonely word.
If your friend does confide in you, consider yourself very privileged. Now that you have this information, what do you do and how do you support your friend? You initial reaction is crucial in securing your friend’s confidence in continuing to look to you for support. It is very likely that you will feel unsure of how to react and what to say to comfort your friend. Here are some tips on how you can effectively offer support so that your friend receives your comfort and that you don’t feel out of your depth.
Reassure that your counsel is confidential
It will have taken a huge amount of bravery for your friend to confide in you. With a diagnosis of infertility, she’ll be wrestling with embarrassment, shock, resentment and often shame and feelings of being inferior. Reassure that whatever she tells you, stays with you. In some circumstances a friend may want you to be the one that tells her other close friends, so that she doesn’t have to go through the whole story again and again. Be open to this, if this is what she is looking for.
You don’t need to be a fertility expert to offer your friend support, that’s not why she has confided in you. So don’t feel under pressure if you are not familiar with the IVF process or infertility investigations. However you might want to get up to speed with the ins and outs so that she doesn’t need to explain everything in detail every time. However, part of your friends desire to process what is happening to her, maybe that she does want and need to go through all the details with you. Be guided by what she needs.
Agree a communication strategy
Although this might sound complex, it’s really not. Take the earliest opportunity to chat to your friend about how she would like you to check in on her. Does she want you calling or texting regularly to see how she is or would she prefer that she called the shots and got in touch when she needs to chat? By doing this you are both on the same page and will remain that way.
Don’t be offended if your friend goes a little quiet now and then. This may well be her way of coping with a particularly bad week or when for example she is going through an IVF treatment cycle. Stick to your communication strategy and she’ll be back when the time is right.
Put back the fun
As a friend, your job is to create the fun times. Invite your friend to join you on activities, days or evenings out. Be aware that she may turn you down on a few and that’s OK, but keep asking.
Can you help practically?
Is there anything you can do to help make life a little easier for your friend? If you are really close, there may be the opportunity to go along to some of her hospital appointments and scans, especially if her partner is unable to be there. If this is not appropriate, then there is nothing like coming back from a long day at the hospital to a gorgeously prepared casserole on your doorstep! Other practical options are offering lifts, looking after the dog etc.
If you have been closely supporting your friend, you’ll be living and breathing this journey with them and will be keen to hear test results or how an important day has gone. Be mindful not to pester them and wait for them to tell you on their terms. It may be hard but sit on your hands and wait!
Be a good listener
Your friend has not confided in you so you can supply the answers. Be aware that she just wants you to LISTEN not find the solutions. Keep in your mind that your job is to keep her positive as she navigates this journey.