‘Happy’ Infertility Awareness Week
First, if you don’t know me in real life and only follow this blog and not my other blog (http://prayingformiracles.wordpress.com), you are likely not aware that we found out in February that we were unexpectedly expecting another child. We have had two babies born in heaven and two born on earth (August 2010 and May 2012)…all of whom are the result of fertility treatments (IUI). In our 12.5 years of marriage we had never seen a positive pregnancy test NOT related to fertility treatments. Then this last February, I got that familiar ‘feeling’. I was late (like a day) and despite knowing that pregnancy tests always come out negative, I took one to keep from going crazy wondering if it was possible (you’d think that hopeful part of me would have died a long time ago after so many negative tests). Well, you guessed it, it said ‘Pregnant’. Surprise. A good surprise, but a surprise nonetheless. We never even thought it was possible…12 years of negative tests told us that it wasn’t possible without intervention. Yet, here we are…13 (almost 14) weeks pregnant.
While I cannot currently claim the ‘infertile’ status, I don’t believe anyone really ‘gets over’ being infertile. Once your eyes are opened to this disease, it is nearly impossible to shut them. Our church does baby dedication on Mother’s Day and I think “well, at least you’re getting all the really bad Sunday’s out of the way at one time.” I see a childless couple and I cannot help but wonder if they are trying, how long they’ve been trying and if they’ve been introduced to my favorite fertility specialist yet. Someone tells me “see, you just had to stop trying” and I want to punch them, but instead I smile and say “that or God miraculously intervened on our behalf because we knew we wouldn’t be pursuing fertility treatments anymore.” Infertility still permeates me to the core of who I am…it has changed me.
So, I celebrated the kickoff of infertility awareness week by updating my resource pages (long overdue) to share with people some facts and resources for infertility. I went back to some of my old internet stomping grounds, held back some tears, and diligently copied and pasted enough to make a decent page.
What can you do?
PLEASE, whether you know you know someone dealing with infertility or not (chances are you do even if you don’t know it), please take some time to educate yourself on infertility. There is nothing more frustrating than having conversations with people who are not educated about infertility. Don’t be one of those people. Here is a great article from Resolve on Infertility Etiquette.
Here is another article that I got from Resolve before, but cannot seem to find it now:
How Can I Help?
The Dos And The Don’ts Of Support
By Diane Clapp, BSN, RN and Merle Bombardieri, LICSW
Coping with Infertility can be extremely difficult for the family and friends of the couple going through infertility. As with any crisis it is difficult to know what to say. Because infertility is such a sensitive topic it is important to understand what you can and cannot say.
Let’s start with what doesn’t help, because the more you continue to say the wrong thing inadvertently, the deeper the rift will be between you and the couple. There is a universal list of No-No’s that most infertile couples agree on. The following do’s and don’ts should help you support the individual or couple who is struggling with infertility.
Don’t Try to minimize the problem by saying, “Don’t worry. At least you have each other and don’t have cancer.”
Do Listen to what the couple has to say about their experience and express empathy for their difficulties.
Don’t Tell a couple who has had a miscarriage that it wasn’t meant to be or that you know that they will be pregnant again soon and it will work the next time.
Do Realize that the couple has just lost a specific potential child who will never come again, no matter how wonderful the next pregnancy may be. Acknowledge how sad they must feel. Use the words “loss and sorrow”; don’t be afraid to use the words that probably describe how the couple must feel.
Don’t Give medical advice or doctor referrals without being asked or hearing the couple say they are looking for new information or referrals.
Do Tell the couple know that you’ll be happy to listen to any details they want to share with you and that you would like to offer support during any procedures by a phone call or by offering to go with them to a medical appointment.
Don’t Assume that new medical breakthroughs you read about in the paper will solve the couple’s problems. The breakthrough announced by the news media may be irrelevant and if it is relevant, chances are the couple has seen the article and their medical team is knowledgeable about it.
Do Ask the couple if there are any books or articles that you could read to understand what they are going through medically.
Don’t Expect the couple to act happy about attending baby showers, christenings and other family events that feature pregnant women and new babies.
Do Give them plenty of opportunity to decide whether to attend an event or whether to come late or leave early. They will not feel the need to avoid babies forever, but less contact right now may be a necessary part of their healing process.
Don’t Start a discussion about infertility without paying attention to timing and to the couple’s openness.
Do Choose a time when the couple’s privacy is assured and ask the couple if they would like to talk. Couples experiencing infertility often feel out of control. Your letting them choose whether and when to talk about it gives them back some control.
Don’t Assume that it is fine if you talk to your son’s wife or your daughter’s husband about their situation.
Do Respect the privacy needs of each individual and do not assume that they both want to talk about it with you.
Don’t Offer unsolicited stories about others who have been successful at treatment or adoption.
DO Tell them if they are ever interested you could put them in touch with a couple willing to talk about their infertility experience or adoption process. Let them decide whether they want to pursue that information. As a parent, family member, or friend, you want to make it better for the couple, to take away the pain. But probably the greatest gift you can give your loved one or friend is to be a listener, a sounding board. Instead of erasing the pain, you can diminish it by your caring. One of the hardest questions to ask someone is, “How can I help you?” It is such a difficult question because you should be prepared for their answer and not the answer that you think they will say or should say. To ask that question and to trust the response that you hear is a powerful step in your efforts to help the couple struggling with this kind of crisis.