How to Support Someone Struggling With Infertility

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW). While I appreciate the attention given to something that impacts a large part of our society, those who are suffering from it or have suffered from it do not need the reminder to be aware. The freedom to speak openly about the struggles many endure to get pregnant should always exist. What I hope to shine a light on this week is the need for support systems for someone struggling with infertility.

As a therapist, I feel as though many think I should be an expert in all things “support”-related. That’s my job, right? To resource people, to sit with them, to empathize with them, and to support them. Yet, the human race is nuanced. What feels supportive for one is sheer agony for another. 

In thinking about my journey with infertility, I started taking inventory of what felt good to me through those nine brutal years of trying to get pregnant. While what felt good seems a bit hazy, what felt awful stands out so clearly. I could get very detailed with you, outlining each phrase, specific people, or events, but there’s a common theme through all of it: lying.

We have been lied to.

It all started with sex education in grade school. We were taught that sex, which you should avoid at all costs, leads to pregnancy. All it takes is one time and your life would change forever. I do not remember a single adult in my life explaining the intricacies involved for a pregnancy to make it full term. I do not remember anyone explaining how difficult it could be to get pregnant, stay pregnant, and be able to deliver the baby. Instead, we were conditioned to think that a few quick minutes would end in a family.

I felt so cheated when I had to educate myself on infertility issues, medications, and procedures. Why do we hide these things from women and then leave them on their own to navigate these hardships?

The lying didn’t stop with sex education.

The lying came from family and friends when they shared their platitudes of hope and reassurance. I have never met anyone so confident as a family member who was just certain it would happen for me if I would just stop stressing about it. No one had any idea how my life would play out or what my family would look like. Yet, they would tell me with such certainty. 

What is it about the unknown that makes us so uncomfortable? That we would rather lie to someone we love than look at them and say, “I am so sorry, I have no idea how this will play out, but I am with you”?

The lying also came through empty promises.

Promised coffee dates, check-ins, and accompanying me to appointments. These things were offered with the best of intentions but were rarely followed through on. Even the medical professionals to whom we seek help from tout bold results from their “proven” methods.

Why is it so scary to say, “I don’t know what will happen, but I am going to try my best to help you and see you through this process”? The one thing a woman with infertility wants is certainty. And though many promise it to her, no one can provide it.

We have to reframe our view of what support is.

Support can come from group settings, therapists, family members, friends, medical professionals, online groups, Voxer, text threads . . . the options are endless. The various types of connection make it so simple to reach out, to show support for someone struggling with infertility, even when you can’t in-person.

I felt so seen when a friend put a reminder in her phone to check in with me weekly. Seeing her name pop up on my phone felt like a lifeline I could count on. All in all, support for someone struggling with infertility boils down to honesty and sincerity; showing up and pausing before trying to ease someone’s hurt with empty promises and meaningless catchy phrases.

We are so quick to say the thing we think sounds good, or sounds like it will take away the pain. Taking away the sting of someone’s infertility is not your job, nor is it even possible. With any sort of hardship in life, what you really want is to know you are not alone. Instead of trying to fix someone’s problem, just show up in a genuine and consistent way. Your presence says, “I am here with you.” 

If you want to support someone struggling with infertility, will you simplify it for me? Will you sit with them and say, “I am so sorry,” “It makes sense that you feel that way,” or “Thank you for trusting me with this.” Can you follow through on your promises of check-ins, coffee dates, and DoorDash? We have the support systems in place, we just need to stop lying to ourselves that anything we say can take away the sting of infertility.

–Guest submission from Brooke Stone

We want you to know you aren’t alone. Learn all about our Infertility + Loss Support Group and the women who are holding space for you.


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