Infertility is rarely talked about. It’s not discussed at family gatherings or introductions at work. If growing your family was easy for you, infertility can be hard to fathom. But one in eight couples struggle with infertility. So, odds are, you know someone on this painful path. Infertility brings a roller coaster of hope and despair, each month hoping, [begging and believing] this is the month! Then despair comes as dreams are dashed. Months turn into years and the hope of parenthood seems farther away. Infertility is difficult, but support from loving friends and family are essential to make it through. —Jackie Lopina
My friend, Jackie Lopina, and her husband went through five years of infertility before adopting their two sons. Infertility was an incredibly painful experience and she is now passionate about supporting others through infertility and adoption. I had the opportunity to talk to her about how to best offer this support to a friend in need.
Here are five things Jackie feels you need to know in order to best love a friend struggling with infertility:
1. We feel like life is passing us by.
Perhaps you’ve experienced a time of prolonged singleness or dealt with a chronic illness; you can relate to the pain of hope deferred. At its most basic level, infertility feels similar: an unfulfilled desire, an ache for more. In infertility, we long to become a family. Many of us have been dreaming of parenthood since we were little. Through infertility, the plan for our life seems to slip through our fingers. Our circumstances are out of our control. Things we took for granted suddenly seem out of reach.
2. We feel isolated.
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There’s a sisterhood that comes with motherhood. We watch friendships form over due dates and labor stories. When it seems like everyone is joining the sisterhood, we are left behind. While pursuing treatment or after a diagnosis, infertility can be an unseen, open wound and the common question “When are you having kids?” feels exclusive. Later on, these wounds may close but it becomes a scar that will always be tender.
3. We are not looking for advice.
It takes courage to share about infertility. Unfortunately, unsolicited advice is typically the response. Questions such as “Have you tried going gluten-free?” or “What about IVF?” aren’t helpful. Advice feels dismissive and can mistakenly communicate that infertility is our fault.
We understand your heart. We know you see our sorrow and you’re trying to fix it. But advice is never the way to do it. Empathy, kindness and sensitivity is the balm to our hurt.
4. We might not come to your baby shower.
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Through our infertility journey, the two hardest things were seeing a negative pregnancy test each month and hearing friends’ pregnancy announcements. To this day, I wish I could have rejoiced freely with friends and family over their news. But I couldn’t.
Their happy news reminded me of our ache. I felt my wounds afresh, anger that my body failed me and sadness that I couldn’t experience pregnancy.
We ARE happy for you, we really are! It’s just that our happiness for you and sadness for ourselves are all intertwined. On my best days, I can joyfully cheer at your announcement, attend your baby showers and snuggle your baby in the hospital. On my worst, a squeeze on the arm and a quick “Congratulations!” is all I can offer. Please show us grace as we navigate this. We’re doing the best we can.
5. We need you.
Infertility is difficult. It is lonely. Darkness often surrounds us. We need you to be the light. Cry with us. Invite us over to make cookies and watch a silly movie. Reach out to us on days you know will be hard. Remind us who we are: women of value and strength. Be our comforter, our encourager, our cheerleader.
Love us at our darkest, when we’re bitter or jealous. Forgive us if we skip your baby shower. Hope with us when we’re trying something new. Grieve with us when we get bad news. Without my friends, I never could have survived infertility with my soul intact. I am grateful for those friends every day.
You have the opportunity to be that friend to someone. In short, love them well. You can’t control the outcome of their infertility, but you can hold their hand through it.
To read more about Jackie’s journey, visit her blog.