Infertility is an unwelcomed guest in many homes. Most of us know a couple that have walked through this struggle and we often have no idea what to say or do to support them. In my recent blog post Complete. I shared our journey with infertility over the last 13 years. Today I want to share some advice from my perspective on how to best support those in your life as they battle with infertility. This is going to be very real and direct! I hope that you walk away with a greater level of empathy plus helpful tips in supporting those you love.
Let’s start with what NOT to do!
1. DON’T BE AN EXPERT
Under this category I would also include: don’t send them articles to read, don’t buy them books, and don’t shower them with miracle stories. Many well-meaning family & friends have positioned themselves as a medical experts and cornered us with unsolicited advice and direction over the years. I believe they care, I really do – but I assure you it is not helpful.
Trust me, most people going through a struggle with infertility have already done ALL. THE. THINGS! We’ve read all the books, seen all the doctors, had all the tests, watched all the documentaries, and we have heard all the miracle stories. When you position yourself as an expert it is humiliating and belittling, it’s as if you are saying they probably missed something or are incapable of figuring this out on their own. Just don’t do it!
2. DON’T FLOOD THEM WITH MEDICAL QUESTIONS
Medical questions are extremely personal and not everyone feels comfortable sharing those details. Sometimes people are in the place emotionally to drudge through all the medical details, and sometimes they are not. When you drill them with medical questions it can be extremely overwhelming and trigger painful emotions. Supporting them through this season means giving them the space to share what they want to share, when they are ready to share it.
3. DON’T SAY STUPID STUFF
Words are powerful, use your words wisely and check your heart! Here are some doozies I’ve heard over the years and perfect examples of what NOT to say.
What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you have children?
I’d wish you happy Mother’s Day but you’re not a mother.
You must not have enough faith. Or Where is your faith?
Are you trusting God enough? Is there sin in your life?
Listen, I know it can be awkward and at times you mean well but just don’t know what to say. When in doubt, listen and love. Allow the couple with infertility to lead and guide the conversation, if they are ready they will open up. If you must speak, speak life giving words of encouragement and hope.
4. DON’T PRESSURE COUPLES TO FOSTER/ADOPT
To be honest I have a ton of baggage with this one y’all! After 13 years in this struggle with infertility I can honestly say my husband and I are at complete peace and in complete unity with the fact that we will not have children. I’m talking about the kind of peace and unity that can only come from God, it is an absolute gift.
Often we feel enormous pressure from family, friends, and even society to foster or adopt. Listen I want to be clear about something, we absolutely celebrate the beautiful ways God builds families through means like fostering & adoption. We are huge supporters and advocates for fostering and adoption. We would encourage anyone who feels God leading them to foster or adopt to follow His direction.
However, at the end of the day our job is to seek God’s face and follow His direction for our own family. We believe the very best place to be is in the center of God’s will. No matter how good a thing is, if it’s not God’s will then it is not best for our lives. Amen?!? My husband and I have prayed about this over and over again and we are crystal clear that God is not directing us to foster or adopt.
So in supporting those in your life going through infertility, I want to caution you to tread lightly on this subject. It is never helpful or supportive to pressure or manipulate anyone into doing what you think is best. Always encourage people to follow God’s plan for their family.
Now let’s look at what to do!
1. MANAGE YOUR OWN EXPECTATIONS & EMOTIONS
One thing my husband and I have noticed over the years is that our close family and friends have had to process their own grief and loss over the fact that it’s not God’s plan for us to have children. It can be so real and painful for everyone in your inner circle. Our parents and siblings will not have the grandchildren, nieces, and nephews they so desperately wanted. The picture of our family in their minds looks differently than they expected or wanted. Each of them have had to process this reality on their own and work through their own emotions.
If you are in a situation where a close loved one is battling infertility I would encourage you to prayerfully journal, processing your own expectations and emotions about this situation. Allow the Lord to speak to your heart to bring healing and understanding. Psalms 34:18 says “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted.” I pray that He will be near to you as you work through your own unmet expectations and emotions.
2. PRAY OFTEN
Pray for healing, pray for strength, pray for God’s will to be done, pray for wisdom and direction, pray without ceasing as directed in I Thessalonians 5: 16-18 that reads “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” They say that prayer moves mountains, and I believe God uses prayer to change not only our circumstances but our hearts. Prayer is simply having a conversation with God, and it is always a good idea!
3. BE PRESENT
Last but not least, be present. Without expectations or demands, resist your desire to try to “fix” the situation, and wade into the messy of it all. Be present to listen and support your friends as they have need. You’re not going to do everything perfectly and that’s ok. What matters most to those who are hurting is knowing they have someone who cares about their pain and is willing to be there.
Thank you for caring enough to read this post! I hope these do’s and don’ts help empower you as you support those in your life who are walking through infertility. I’d love to know which ones spoke to you the most. Or which ones you thought of that didn’t make my list?
Coming up next week I’ll be sharing “When God Says No”…see you then!