Having a friend with fertility issues can be a very difficult relationship to navigate. You want to help but have never been in her shoes. You don’t want to share too much about your children, but you feel like you are excluding her.
How do you keep your friendship in tact when your friend with fertility issues might be resenting you or pushing you away?
Let’s start with some situations and things you can say and do.
***Note, this is not a guide for partners, just friends and relatives***
If the Fertilitite tells you about her fertility issues
Share how brave she is taking her fertility journey into her own hands and how lucky her baby-to-be is to be already so wanted and loved.
Only give advice if you have also experienced similar fertility issues for the same amount of time. Otherwise, show compassion but not pity, and keep quiet but present.
If you went through IVF once and she is on her fifth round, it is much different.
I cringe when I hear women talk about their “fertility struggles” to a Fertilitite such as how it took three grueling months to get pregnant naturally.
If you say the words, “Relax and it will happen, like my friend who was trying and then gave up and put in adoption papers and then got pregnant….” you deserve to get flicked in the forehead.
First, this statement might be medically impossible for a Fertilitite like me. My husband has low sperm count. So, unless I start having sex with someone else's husband, this event is medically impossible. Yet, I had to hear this story over and over again.
Second, this statement makes the Fertilitite feel like she is doing something wrong (being stressed) and causing her fertility issues. But doesn't hearing that you are stressed makes you more stressed? And aren't we all stressed, but we all don't have fertility issues? So, why can you be stressed and easily get pregnant, but when I get stressed I am the cause of our fertility issues? Not accurate and not fair to say.
I will say that these stories about people spontaneously getting pregnant after years of IVF is perfect to share once the Fertilitite has a baby to warn her that she needs to be careful about having sex after the baby is born.
I would not refer her to infertility blogs where women post about their own journey as those tend to cause more anxiety.
Once she tells you about IVF, you can ask, “How is it going?” But, I wouldn't get more specific such as asking for dates or results of specific things happening.
Always assume she is ready for a fun girls day/night where you do not discuss kids (past, present, future).
Only offer up being a surrogate or egg donor if the Fertilitite is asking about one.
I have heard about many friends and family offering up to help find an egg donor or surrogate when that option is not something the Fertilitite is even considering. Though really generous, this is usually not taken well at all. If your friend is mentioning she needs one of these, and you have a known source, then it’s appropriate to offer.
The closer you are to the Fertilitite, the more distant she might be. If you are best friends or family, you might feel similar sadness and confusion and fear as she does. If you are outward about your feelings, the Fertilitite might feel like you need to be taken care of and reassure too. This is not something that she is equipped to handle as she can hardly navigate her own emotions.
If you get pregnant and have to tell your friend with fertility issues.
Don’t hide it or tell her last because of her fertility issues. This will make her feel even more isolated and ashamed.
Address it with a positive tone. This is not sad news and the Fertilitite hearing the news does not want to hear a sorrowful tone in your voice. Seeing or hearing pity from you bring more shame to the Fertilitite and she will be more likely to avoid you.
You might want to write the news in an email/text or say it over the phone. This way, the Fertilitite can digest for a second and not worry about how her face unintentionally reacts.
You can word it something like, "I wanted to share some exciting news that I am pregnant. This might be annoying for you to hear because I know you have been trying for a while, but I am going to make sure my baby puts in a good word for you. Any baby will be so lucky to have you as his/her mom."
Please let me know if there are other situations that you have been a part of and did not know how to navigate. Or, things you experienced that were helpful or not so we can continue to make this fertility journey easier for everyone involved.