Infertility is a topic I find many people don't know how to approach. I'm often at a loss myself and I'm the one going through it. Before I went through this experience I would not have had any idea what to say, and I surely would have said the wrong thing. Now I know what the "wrong" things are to say after having had them said to me. I think this article would have been helpful to me if I had a friend going through this. Here is some information that I could relate to very well.
How Can I Help? The Dos And The Don'ts Of Support
By Diane Clapp, BSN, RN and Merle Bombardieri, LICSW
Coping with Infertility can be extremely difficult for the family and friends of the couple going through infertility. As with any crisis it is difficult to know what to say. Because infertility is such a sensitive topic it is important to understand what you can and cannot say.
Let's start with what doesn't help, because the more you continue to say the wrong thing inadvertently, the deeper the rift will be between you and the couple. There is a universal list of No-No's that most infertile couples agree on. The following do's and don'ts should help you support the individual or couple who is struggling with infertility.
Don't Try to minimize the problem by saying, "Don't worry. At least you have each other and don't have cancer."
Do Listen to what the couple has to say about their experience and express empathy for their difficulties.
Don't Give medical advice or doctor referrals without being asked or hearing the couple say they are looking for new information or referrals.
Do Tell the couple know that you'll be happy to listen to any details they want to share with you and that you would like to offer support during any procedures by a phone call or by offering to go with them to a medical appointment.
Don't Expect the couple to act happy about attending baby showers, christenings and other family events that feature pregnant women and new babies.
Do Give them plenty of opportunity to decide whether to attend an event or whether to come late or leave early. They will not feel the need to avoid babies forever, but less contact right now may be a necessary part of their healing process.
Don't Start a discussion about infertility without paying attention to timing and to the couple's openness.
Do Choose a time when the couple's privacy is assured and ask the couple if they would like to talk. Couples experiencing infertility often feel out of control. Your letting them choose whether and when to talk about it gives them back some control.
Don't Offer unsolicited stories about others who have been successful at treatment or adoption. DO Tell them if they are ever interested you could put them in touch with a couple willing to talk about their infertility experience or adoption process. Let them decide whether they want to pursue that information. As a parent, family member, or friend, you want to make it better for the couple, to take away the pain. But probably the greatest gift you can give your loved one or friend is to be a listener, a sounding board. Instead of erasing the pain, you can diminish it by your caring. One of the hardest questions to ask someone is, "How can I help you?" It is such a difficult question because you should be prepared for their answer and not the answer that you think they will say or should say. To ask that question and to trust the response that you hear is a powerful step in your efforts to help the couple struggling with this kind of crisis.