Written By Lisha Cash, MSW, RSW
Yoga Mamas Social Worker, Psychotherapist
April 24th-30th, 2022 is Canadian Infertility Awareness Week. In Canada, 1 in 6 couples face infertility, and that number doesn't account for women who are on a solo mission to motherhood. If you have a friend who is on their fertility journey, it can be difficult to know exactly how to show up and support them. Especially if you're unfamiliar with fertility concerns, or pregnant yourself.
Here are seven sensitive ways you can be there for your friend, that acknowledge and respect their challenges and emotions.
Listen To Your friend: Avoid “Toxic Positivity” when responding to a friend going through a fertility journey, such as “everything happens for a reason” or “don’t worry, everything will work out”. You may be well-intentioned, but it might feel invalidating or dismissive.
Avoid Giving Unsolicited Advice: Those experiencing infertility are likely receiving professional support through the fertility process. If they want advice, they will ask you. Try to be there to listen, rather than give advice.
Practical Support: Provide support that is helpful in a practical way. For example, drop off meals, drive to appointments, pick up medications.
Educate Yourself: Learn more about infertility or a friend’s diagnosis, understand more so you are able to ask fewer questions and can lend an ear to listen instead. Show your friend that you have an interest in understanding what they’re going through.
Don’t Make Assumptions: People experience infertility in different ways. It is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach to supporting them. Try to ask your friend how you can be supportive and don’t assume you know what they need.
Be Inclusive: When people are uncomfortable with a topic, they often avoid it. Infertility can become the elephant in the room, so to speak. Friends might start to avoid talking to a friend who is going through a fertility journey when they become pregnant or have a baby themselves. Be open and ask your friend if they want to hang out, demonstrate empathy (but not pity) towards their feelings and ensure that you make them feel included, welcome and missed, but also let them know you understand if they would rather not engage in pregnancy related conversations or be with pregnant women/newborns for the time being.
Try To: Be there for your friend, one day at a time, one appointment at a time, one step at a time. This is a journey and many times it can feel a lot like “hurry up and wait”. This can greatly impact someone’s emotions and mood on a daily basis. Understand this and meet your friend ‘where they are at’ during each encounter.
Infertility can be a long and complex journey. And like any difficult experience, we all long for someone we can open up to who will listen to us intently, without judgement. We don't always reach out to others for answers, advice or encouragement. Sometimes we just need to be heard. By dedicating some of your time to listening and learning, you can become an extended hand that your friend can reach out to anytime they need it.