Personal // How to Support Someone Struggling to Conceive
“SO WHEN ARE YOU GUYS GOING TO HAVE ANOTHER BABY?”
That question was like a knife in my gut, every time I heard it (followed closely by “you just need to relax and it will happen” insert eye roll emoji here). Not the words you want to hear when you’re trying to conceive. I struggled to get pregnant with my second child which was a major shock after getting pregnant so easily the first time around. Secondary infertility is devastating, isolating and there is very little awareness about it.
You are living one life of playgrounds and kinder gyms, surrounded by mums with swollen pregnant bellies, and the other is so completely disconnected from that life, one filled with blood tests, scans, doctor’s appointments and all the while, wondering – what the f**k is wrong with me? I’ve done this before, why is my body failing me now? It is an incredibly emotionally fraught time and anyone struggling to have a baby (whether the first or subsequent times) needs support. If you know someone going through secondary (or primary) infertility here are some tips on how to support someone walking that path.
1. Don’t be afraid to reach out and show you care
I only told a handful of people that we were struggling to conceive. I found it hard enough to deal with myself, let alone dealing with a hundred questions when I was trying to keep a grip on my emotions and my mental health. So admittedly, I probably didn’t exactly make it easy for people to approach me that something might be wrong, but I would have appreciated friends reaching out to me, to show me they cared (lucky I had close friends that did). It’s not hard to send a text message. If your friend doesn’t want to talk about it, she’ll let you know. But chances are, she’s looking for an outlet and will appreciate having a shoulder to cry on.
2. If you get pregnant, don’t disappear off the face of the earth
Secondary infertility brings about a whole new set of challenges. You can’t avoid play dates or children’s birthday parties when you have a toddler. And it can be really difficult seeing other women having their second or third babies when you’re not only struggling to have another baby but also struggling to keep it together mentally and emotionally. I removed myself from social engagements and situations where I felt I couldn’t cope with being surrounded by pregnant friends.
If you are the pregnant one, send your friend a text. Check in with her, see if she wants to meet for a coffee, or go see a movie together. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. And if you don’t reach out, she might assume you’re keeping your distance (which you most likey are, because you don’t know how to deal with the situation – which is understandable and probably why you’re reading this article). And trust me, that doesn’t help because this is the time your friend needs all the support she can get. Just be honest with her. Let her know you’re there for her, for the good, and the bad. You never know, your friend might just want to shower love on you and the baby bump too.
3. Don’t say something stupid, just listen
I’m going to be blunt. Don’t say “just relax, and it will happen” [If it was that simple, I would have had ten more babies by now], “My husband needs to just look at me and I fall pregnant” [Oh really? How nice for you], “Go on a holiday” [Thank you, we probably will but it still won’t mean I magically fall pregnant], “At least you already have one?” [I am so lucky to have my beautiful child, but it doesn’t stop the desire for more] or (wait for it) “My aunties cousin’s wife got pregnant at 54 so you know, there’s still hope!” [Seriously, just shut up!]. If it was really that easy, do you think we’d be in this predicament? But what is easy is this – just listen. Don’t dish out opinions. It’s as simple as saying “I’m so sorry. How are you? Is there anything I can do?”
4. Be the tribe
I remember telling one of my best friends we were undergoing IVF treatment. We were at a restaurant and we were drinking wine. The tears flowed, it was therapeutic. A random person at the restaurant came over and offered to buy me a drink to cheer me up. I cried some more after that! To your friend, I’d say – find your tribe and let them in. I wished I had opened up to my tribe much earlier than I did. The next month I fell pregnant.
5. Don’t give up on her
Month after month of trying for a baby; it gets harder to remain hopeful. So as the months roll by (whether your friend is trying to conceive naturally, or with help) cut her some slack. Don’t give up on her (see the first two points!) because hope is all she has. With some luck and baby dust, you will be one of the first callers on her speed dial when she sees those two perfect pink lines.