This week is National Infertility Week. This post is dedicated to raise awareness about infertility and help others develop greater empathy for those who are struggling. Women who struggle with infertility often feel that they are “broken”. Infertility can cause extreme stress physically, emotionally and financially in marriages. Some feel embarrassed to talk about infertility. Many feel very alone.
Infertility comes in many forms. Some couples cannot get pregnant. Some couples struggle with miscarriages. Some couples were able to have one (or more) children, but can’t seem to get pregnant again. The battle with infertility teeters between grasping onto hope for a baby and preparing for the pain when one doesn’t come.
Here are a few statistics about infertility (source):
More than 7 million people are affected by infertility
12% of women who are of childbearing age struggle
1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility
You may not realize, but you very likely know someone who is struggling with infertility. Infertility is a very private and painful struggle, and can be very difficult to talk about. I have heard infertility being compared to having a cancer diagnosis. It is life-changing. There are many who struggle that will never speak about it openly. We need to raise awareness about infertility and become more empathetic and understanding to those who are in the midst of this very difficult battle.
Here are five things you can do when someone is struggling with infertility:
1. Listen: If you truly listen to someone you care about, they may build enough trust in you that they will share their struggle. Listening is a skill.
You have to be patient.
You have to be available.
You have to pay attention.
All of the above are things that are difficult in our busy world. If you truly care about another person, you have to put aside your own agenda and listen–with all of your senses. We all can usually tell when someone is really interested in us, or if they are only interested in themselves. Be the person who is interested in another’s well-being. It will pay off; for you and for the person struggling with infertility.
2. Be aware of your own complaints: Being a parent is full of ups and downs, difficulties and trials, joys and sadness. But, remember, those that struggle with infertility would often give anything to be in your shoes. When you say things like, “Well, just be glad you don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night 12 times.” or “I hate my pregnant belly!” remember that the person who is struggling yearns for those things. To them, it appears that you are just ungrateful for your blessings or insensitive to their struggles.
3. Include them: Just because a woman doesn’t have children, doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to be included in your activities. We all want and need interaction with those around us. Invite her to your outings (even if it is a play date), include her in your girls’ nights, ask for her advice. She may surprise you with her perspective.
4. Be real: If you are concerned for a friend’s well-being, ask them. If you wonder if you have offended her, talk to her about it. So often we “pretend” we know what someone is going through and we really don’t have a clue. If you want to be a real friend, ask the hard questions. If they don’t want to answer, they don’t have to. If they sense your sincerity and you have a relationship of trust, you will be amazed at the openness and camaraderie that will emerge from just being real together.
5. Pray: We all need a little extra help sometimes. Prayer can be a universal healer. It can bring you peace to know what to do for your friends that struggle. It can also bring your friend peace and comfort that you care enough to include them in something so personal. Pray for your friends who struggle with infertility and let them know how much you care about them.
Educate yourself about infertility and become a real friend to someone in need. You don’t have to talk about it all the time. It doesn’t need to be the center of your friendship, but a little awareness, and a lot of empathy and understanding can be very healing to someone in the midst of a struggle.
Please join me in supporting this good cause. A little knowledge and understanding goes a long ways.
If you are interested in learning more about infertility, here are a few options:
You can also refer to an article I wrote previously here.