The relationship between a couple and their friends and family can be one of the hardest parts of dealing with something like infertility. People who are experiencing infertility sometimes find this difficult to talk about. This information is intended
to help you understand some of the medical and emotional issues, and suggests some ways you might be able to help your friend or relative.
So what can you do?
Learning about infertility, what the issues are and how couples cope with it would be a good first start. We have some quick medical and emotional facts about infertility that may help.
So what else can I do to help or support my friend
or family member?
There are a few things we would suggest:
Be there. There may be times when he or she doesn’t want
to see you, but let them know that you’re around for when they do.
Listen. The most valuable gift you can give is your attention. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can say that will make them feel better, so try to refrain from giving advice or reassurance. This may be difficult when you’re wanting to say something comforting. However, sometimes well-intentioned comments will make them feel worse: “I know just how you feel” (when you don’t); “well, at least you’re luckier than …” (when they’re not feeling at all lucky); “you shouldn’t feel like that” (when they do, anyway). It is nice, however, if you know they’ve had bad news, to acknowledge it: a simple “I heard about your news, and I’m really sorry” can be incredibly comforting.
Sometimes infertile people are advised by friends of family
to “just adopt”, and they find this advice very frustrating.
Many have considered this option, and find that very few children become available for adoption in this country,
and that adoption is a very difficult process, emotionally
and financially. It is not as simple as “just adopt”.
Try not to judge. Your friend or family member may
do some things which you think are foolish, even irrational.
For instance, they may decide to finish a course of treatment when they could have gone on for longer; or to keep going when it seems obvious to you that it will never work; to adopt, rather than try IVF or DI. Infertility causes very intense feelings in people. Remember, you have not experienced
these feelings. Your friends may consider IVF a terrible emotional strain; or they may decide that they need
to persist with an unsuccessful treatment in order to prove
to themselves that they have tried everything; or they may decide not to persist because of financial constraints or the effect of constant failure on their relationship. Their feelings about their infertility may defy your understanding, so try not to judge. They are probably doing what is right for them.
You may hear them talking about fertile people in a very
angry way, which you might find alarming, eg. “There are times when if I see a pregnant woman on the street I feel like knocking her over”, “If I see another Tarago van full of kids I’m going to slam into it and knock the smug smile off that father’s face!”. This is normal (a combination of grief and jealousy), and it’s okay to talk about it. Sometimes they can’t help feeling those things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to do them!
Suggest they seek professional help if their grief or depression seems disabling over a long time. It is normal for your infertile friend or family member to experience some depression and grief. But it if seems to have gone on for a long time and to
be interfering with their day-to-day lives and relationships, suggest they seek the help of a professional counsellor.
The staff at the closest Fertility Unit will be able to suggest someone.
AccessA has available to subscribers, an Infertility Counsellors’ Referral Network in Australia and New Zealand.