Supporting a Loved One Through Infertility
Oct 15, 2009
The day after Thanksgiving, Liz cried as she opened the box of Christmas decorations and realized that once again, there would be only two stockings on their mantle and no Santa Claus at their house. At the Sunday School Christmas party, friends teased Liz and Zac about being “rich” since they didn’t have to buy gifts for any children.
What they didn’t know was that Liz and Zac had spent thousands of dollars on infertility treatments in the past year, and were facing yet another holiday season filled with painful reminders of the children they did not have.
For couples like Liz and Zac, infertility is often a very painful and private issue that is a source of grief. If a loved one has entrusted you with information about their infertility diagnosis, take a moment to reflect on the responsibility that comes with this before you say or do anything. It can be difficult for even the most caring friends and family members to offer constructive support. But there are ways you can help:
- DO pray for those who are struggling with infertility, and ask permission before telling others about their struggle — even as a “prayer request.”
- DO have the courage to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). This is often more helpful than any attempt to cheer the couple up. Avoid offering suggestions such as “Maybe God is trying to teach you a lesson.” These can sound like heartless accusations. Leave it up to the couple, when they are ready, to testify to God’s grace and His sovereignty.
- DO respect the couple’s privacy. While some couples are very open about their struggles with infertility, others are very private. When the couple wants to share, do be available to listen. Express empathy using words like “loss and sorrow.”
- DO remember that holidays and special events can be painful reminders of the absence of children in the couple’s home. Try not to pressure their attendance, and allow them to come late or leave early. They will not need to avoid these events forever, but may need to do so at particular times in their grief journey.
- DO educate yourself about infertility, both the medical and emotional experiences. Your local hospital, library and the Internet can be good resources.
- DO offer to put them in touch with others who have dealt with infertility or adoption. Let them decide whether or not to pursue that contact. This is MUCH better than sharing secondhand stories about others who tried for years to conceive and eventually got pregnant.
- DO be aware that couples who already have one or more children can experience “secondary infertility,” which is difficulty getting pregnant following the birth of a bio logical child.
- DON’T give advice unless asked. Unsolicited suggestions about home remedies, physician referrals or infertility treatment options may not be very well received.
- DON’T ask the couple invasive questions about the reasons for their infertility, whether the problem is his or hers, or what types of infertility treatments they have tried.
- DON’T say “just relax.” In 85 percent of cases, doctors find a medical cause for the infertility that no amount of “relaxing” will cure. In general, it’s best to avoid statements that begin with “just”, or “at least.” These can be very hurtful and cause the couple to feel their very painful experience has been invalidated and trivialized.
- DON’T push adoption or say “just adopt and you’ll get pregnant.” Adoption is a wonderful way in which God builds families, but God doesn’t call every infertile couple to adopt. And while there are couples who have gotten pregnant following adoption, studies have shown that the rate for achieving pregnancy after adoption is the same as for infertile couples who become pregnant without adopting — approximately 5-10 percent.