What you should and shouldn’t say to a family struggling with infertility

By: Kathy Trainor

Screen-Shot-2015-01-01-at-10.29.47-AMMy husband and I struggled for 9 years to become pregnant. We went through endless tests before I found out I have PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome), which is a problem that involves a woman’s hormones getting out of balance. It can cause problems with your periods and make it difficult to get pregnant. PCOS may also cause unwanted changes in your appearance. If it isn’t treated, over time it can lead to serious health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.  For me it also caused hair growth and weight gain that even the strictest, nutritionist approved, diets can’t help me lose the weight. Many factors can contribute to infertility and it can be different for every family going through it.

By the time we found out I had PCOS we had already had 3 miscarriages. We were told our best way to get pregnant would be to try IVF. We were very unsure; we knew we wanted to be parents, but we knew the risks and the increased chances of having twins or triplets.   The choices were not easy.   We started our cycles and I lost 2 more babies, including one still born baby girl.

The whole time we were trying we would hear so many statements from people, and many times they hurt almost as much as losing our babies.

We would hear things like this:

  1. “Don’t try so hard, maybe it is not the right time”
  2. “Are you Pregnant yet?”
  3. “Maybe you should try ….. (insert suggestion)”
  4. “Why don’t you do foster care or adoption…you would make great parents”
  5. “Maybe you’re not meant to be parents… there has to be a reason”
  6. “What about getting a pet?”
  7. “I know how that feels, trust me.”
  8. “Haven’t you learned after six losses?”
  9. “What about a donor or a surrogate?”
  10. “Take my kids for a day! You won’t want kids anymore.”

We learned that part of it was the fact that many people didn’t know what to say to a family who had lost a child.  It’s something that many people feel uncomfortable about don’t even want to bring up.

My husband did like when people would do the following to show support and offer understanding:

1.  Offer them a cup of coffee 
We may not need anything, but it is nice to know someone is asking to see us or wants to talk to us.

2. Make them a meal. 
We are often so drained from losses or even medical appointments that a free meal that we didn’t have to prepare really gives us time to regroup and relax.

3. Don’t exclude them. 
Many times we were not invited to baby showers, birthday parties or baby celebrations . It was not to be rude, but just that people didn’t want to offend us or make us upset. We really do want to go to them. It may hurt a little but it gives us hope.

4.   Listening ears and open arms.
It may be hard to listen to a family in the middle of a fertility  struggle but, when you are out for coffee or at the office, just give them a second to speak. Often we need time to vent, and even if it’s only for a few minutes, it makes our day a little easier.

5.  Ask questions.
Ask them about what they are going through ? Ask them about the process and doctors. It is a great learning experience  for people and allows families to teach others about what really goes on.

6. Be understanding but not suggestive 
As much as in number 3 we want to be asked to  social settings for babies and children, please support us if we opt not to attend. It may be just too soon.

7. Talk to us
We are still people .  Ask us about the house, a trip or even ask us what we thought about a recent movie. It may seem our whole life is about getting pregnant or having a loss, but in reality we do lead normal lives .

8. Offer to help
Ask us if we want someone to go with us to an appointment or watch our other children. Maybe even offer to walk to dog if we need a day or so to rest. We may say no, but it means so much to be asked.

9.Do your research.
Read up about infertility, possible treatments, or other family building options your friend is considering. This way you are a little more informed when your friend needs to talk.

10. Offer to be an exercise buddy.
Sometimes losing weight is necessary to make treatments more effective. If you know they are trying to lose weight, you could offer to join them! It might also help you achieve your personal fitness goals as well.  It gives us a chance to talk and relax with a good friend.

One thought on “What you should and shouldn’t say to a family struggling with infertility

  1. “Haven’t you learned after six losses?”??? I’ve never heard anything more rude in my life, holy cow. Thank you for this post, it is an uncomfortable subject, you never know how much or how little people want to discuss.

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