I met with my counselor today, and we talked about how some people don’t know how to support someone who is going through infertility treatments. Though they may mean well, Emily Post doesn’t really cover this.
My counselor suggested that I write out a list to help these folks. While most of the usual suspects who read this blog already know this stuff, I thought it might be helpful in case you run across a friend (or stranger) who isn’t sure of what to do.
Speaking of strangers, the other day while I was sitting in the waiting room at my clinic, a woman asked me if I was in to have my tubes untied, too. I replied that I was there for IVF. She instantly gave me one of those, “Girl, you must have some jack,” looks that’s usually reserved for fine jewelry reactions. Little does she know that all of our jack is being spent trying to make a little Jack. She obviously needed a list of reactions to choose from so here we go.
DO ask your friends how their treatment is going. Infertility treatments are all consuming in the same way that training for a marathon is. You’d ask your friend how fast they were running. Why not ask about how they’re feeling about their treatment?
DO randomly call, e-mail or snail mail a card to your infertility friend. One of my friends even found infertility cards. I think they were from Hallmark. These messages of encouragement are invaluable, as they remind us that we’re not in this big science experiment alone.
DO randomly drop by if you live near someone going through infertility treatments. My next-door neighbor randomly dropped by the day I found out my second IUI didn’t work. She let me cry (ball is more like it) on her shoulder. I truly don’t know what I would have done that day had she not decided to knock on my door.
DON’T go on as if everything is normal. Everything is not normal when you’re going through infertility treatments. For instance, a shelf of our refrigerator now looks like it belongs in a biotech center, and my husband is now a connoisseur of non-alcoholic beers because neither of us can drink during treatment. While he’s drinking McBeer, I’ve had to cut out running and pilates and replace those activities with walking. This is hell for a runner, so this probably isn’t a good time to ask if I want to run the next 5K in town.
DON’T ask about long-range plans. Infertility chicks are always thinking nine months out. If you ask them about going on a cruise in the fall, this is going to conjure up all kinds of emotions because she has no idea if she’ll be pregnant by then or not, which will remind her that her whole life is on hold until she’s done with treatment one way or the other.
DO let infertility women cry in public places. It happens. Don’t be embarrassed, just go with it and ask if your friend needs some water. A soft pat on the back is also a nice touch. There’s really no need to say anything in this situation — being there is plenty.
DO verbally encourage your infertility friend. My mother (the queen of infertility) told me how brave she thought I was the other day. My mother has said some wonderful things to me in my life, but that was by far the most powerful. I’ll never forget it.
DON’T simplify what your infertility friend is going through. Whatever you read in Redbook about infertility, trust me, your infertility friend knows about it and has probably tried it more than once.
DON’T make light of the situation. This is really not the time to make jokes if you’re on the other side. It’s like talking about your parents. It’s fine if you do it, but if your friend starts making fun of your mother’s bouffant, it’s game over. FYI, my mother doesn’t have a bouffant, but my tenth-grade world history teacher did.
DON’T complain about your children. Children aren’t perfect, and there are all sorts of mishaps to be had. Ask my mom what I did to a roll of toilet paper when I was little. Regardless of what your little rugrat does, do not complain about it. Do not call your child “a mess” because your infertility friend would be grateful to have grape juice stains to clean off of the carpet.
DON’T ponder whether or not you’d like to have another child in front of your infertility friend. That’s the same thing as a rich friend lamenting about which Burberry bag to buy while her poor friend wears the latest from Wal-Mart.
DON’T be offended if your infertility friend doesn’t come to your baby shower or christening. Though this is a joyous occasion for you, it’s truly hell on earth for someone trying to get pregnant. Don’t worry, she’ll send you an expensive gift.
DO volunteer to cook for your IVF friend on the day of her retrieval or if she has to have other surgeries.
DO pamper your infertility friend. We need love and support in all sorts of ways, and we will pay you back.
DO ask questions about the process. Most people have no idea what’s involved with IUIs and IVF. I certainly didn’t until I became a participant. Most folks have no idea how long it takes and what the side effects can be. Knowledge is power!
DON’T joke about how many kids your infertility friend is going to have if she goes through treatment. She knows the statistics and realizes she’ll be lucky if she gets one.
DO refrain from talking in any way, shape or form about the octomom in California. Not good.
DO respond when your infertility friend talks about her treatment. Although you might not know what in the world to say, saying something is better than looking at her like she has three heads. This is always a great time to tell your friend how proud you are of her.