What I Want You to Know is a series of
reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their
personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the
unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to
this series,
click here. Today’s guest posts is by Wendi.

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THE BASICS:

A couple will eventually resolve the infertility problem in one of three ways:

#1 They will eventually conceive a baby.
#2 They will stop the infertility treatments and choose to live without children.
#3 They will find an alternative way to parent, such as by adopting a child or becoming a foster parent.

It
is important that you understand that each of these three “routes”
offers excitement, pain, and heartbreak in their own way. I have friends
who have chosen or been forced down each of these different paths. It
is important that you don’t press them down any of these roads. Number 1
is racked with worry and fears after the amount of time and money
invested. Numbers 2 and 3 are very difficult choices and usually not the
first option.

Here are some things you should NOT say to them
while you are struggling. Now if you have said any of these to someone,
don’t feel bad. One of my dear friends was struggling with infertility
before I was diagnosed. Looking back, I said every one of these things
to her. I have apologized, but she understands that I meant well. I
understand that people mean well. However, the more educated you are,
the better.

Don’t tell them to relax. This is called the “R”
word in infertile circles. This is very rarely the problem for infertile
people. While stress can be a problem, it is often not the issue for
people who publicize their infertility journey. Stress is usually an
issue that is quickly rectified.

Don’t minimize the problem or say there are worse things that can happen.

Don’t
say this really isn’t a big deal or shouldn’t bother them that much. Of
course there are worse things that can happen. Any life-changing event
could be worse, but it doesn’t change how much it hurts.

Don’t
say they aren’t meant to be parents. Well meaning Christians often say
this trying to imply God’s will is sovereign. Faith and God’s presence
is a huge issue for infertile women — let them deal with this on their
own or with a Christian counselor.

Don’t ask why they aren’t trying IVF. IVF is very expensive with a lot of ethical considerations. It isn’t an “easy” decision.

Don’t play doctor. Don’t give medical advice unless you really know what you are talking about.

Don’t be crude. This should be obvious. Making jokes about “Do you need a lesson?” is just mean.

Be
tender when making a pregnancy announcement.The general rule here is to
not make your announcement in a public place with your infertile friend
in attendance. Instead send them a card or an email and allow them to
digest it privately first. Or sometimes you can tell the husband and ask
them to let the wife know. Remember that they are happy for you but
they are jealous for their own frustrations.

Don’t complain
about your pregnancy or your children. Obviously there are things to
complain about but it is a wise move to find someone else to confide in
with these problems.

Don’t push adoption (yet). The general rule
is to not bring this up unless they bring it up first. This is a very
wonderful and tender topic and when they are ready, they will share. Why
do most people not adopt and have genetic children? Because biological
children is the primary choice for most people. Your friend is no
different in this desire.

Don’t start any story with … “I know
someone…” or “I had a friend who…” These stories often feature the
exception, not the rule. The biggest culprits: “I know who a friend who
went on a vacation and then had a baby”, and “I know who friend who got
pregnant right after they adopted.” These cause chills down an infertile
women’s spine.

Let them know that you care. Cards or caring acts are appreciated.
Remember
them on Mother’s Day. Church is very painful on Mother’s Day when you
are infertile. John and I didn’t go. We planned a fun day away from all
the mother’s with flowers. You can simply send a nice card that you are
remembering them on that day like you would the anniversary of a loss.

Don’t
tell them that if they adopt, they will probably become pregnant. The
fact is that very few couples conceive after adoption.

Support
their decision to stop treatments. Encourage them in whatever direction
they choose. This is a personal decision. If they want advice, they’ll
ask.

If your friend (or an acquaintance) brings up their
infertility to you, they are wanting to talk to to you about it. From
that point on, the conversation is probably welcome. Start off by
saying, “If you don’t want to talk about it, it’s okay, but how is
everything going?” Most of the time, once a couple decides to share, a
woman wants to talk about it.

Okay, so that’s a lot of things NOT to do. But what should you do:

Pray for them. Remember their “calendar” and send an email or card on a big day.

Put them in touch with other women “in their situation”. (Ask them if they want to be contacted or do the contacting.)

Provide encouragement for them to seek support. A great online support group is: www.hannahsprayer.org.

Attend Support Group meetings with them if they would find this helpful.
Invite them to all events but give them the option to “opt” out of events that might be painful (baby showers, baptisms, etc.)

Invite them to special child-free events whenever possible.

Give
them poems or even books that you think might be helpful — try to have
another infertile friend give a “stamp” of approval on the book. Don’t
have a friend? I’ll be your friend. Email me at: flakymn@hotmail.com.

Offer to go to appointments with them if their husband is unavailable.

Recognize
that not being able to have a child is the loss of a dream. It is the
same as a single person who wants to get married not finding “the one”
or an athlete having a career-ending injury. It’s a loss. They will move
through stages of grief (ups and downs) including a time when they
question their faith. However, they will cycle through this with love
and prayer.

Read books that will help you understand the
infertile woman’s heart. I strongly recommend Water from the Rock to
understand the grief process infertile women go through.