This is the first infertility awareness week since I have experienced pregnancy and having a biological child. It took us five years to get here, and during this time we’ve dealt with our fair share of people who were unknowingly insensitive. From being told “oh [friend’s name] is pregnant, you should get pregnant and have a baby at the same time” to winked suggestions about how I should really be taking prenatal vitamins, people can say hurtful things without thinking. But here’s the thing – we know that one in eight people experience infertility, so that probably includes someone you know. So if we can be a little more intentional in how we talk about pregnancy, it could help someone around us whether we realize it or not.
Having been through this and talking with multiple friends who have experienced infertility as well, I have a few ideas to share. These are clearly my opinions and not everyone wants to be supported this way, but it’s a great place to start.
1. Let’s start with the hardest part first – pregnancy announcements. When telling a friend who you know is dealing with infertility that you’re pregnant it’s great to text first. This way the person can take the time and space they need to take in the news and then can celebrate with you when they see you in person. Being surprised in-person with pregnancy announcements is really hard and the friend might not respond with as much excitement as you would hope. Also, just being really honest here, unplanned pregnancies are the hardest to hear about.
2. This suggestion is related to the above, but it’s really thoughtful to give a heads up before sending sonogram pictures. Being surprised by sonogram pictures can be really hard and can throw off a day when you’re trying to make it.
3. Do still invite the person to baby showers with understanding they might not come but allow them to decide, don’t automatically exclude them.
4. Understand if they need space while you’re pregnant. They may not want to hang out as much while you’re pregnant, but it may be easier once the baby is born.
5. If you’re a pastor, please think about metaphors you use in Advent and how your church handles Mother’s Day etc.. We can honor the birth of Jesus without making everything about pregnancy imagery. And this one I can’t claim for everyone, but I have skipped Mother’s Day Sunday as much as I could. Besides it being a challenging day, I really didn’t like when people wished me a happy mother’s day before I was a mom.
6. Please don’t tell people to relax and it’ll just happen – I feel like everyone should know this one by now but I still hear it being said.
7. Lastly, be open to listening. I am so thankful for friends who asked about IVF etc. even if it was a foreign language to them.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for being the kind of friend who wants to know how to support your friends who are experiencing infertility. And for those who are still in the process and are waiting or have given up on waiting, I see you and you are not alone. If you have ideas and suggestions to add to this list, I’d love to hear them.