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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Infertility Etiquette (Part Three)

Well I really had plans to write this last part a lot sooner, but life happens. It actually worked out well anyways since this week is National Infertility Awareness week. What better time to let everyone know what you CAN do for those with infertility than now!

I saw something about the different "stages" of infertility and what these people need at each stage. I loved it so I have to share!

Stage 1- The Infertility Newbie- They are the optimist, they don't need a lot of support in their journey at this time. They believe the problem is temporary and will get resolved soon. They don’t feel broken, different, or an outcast. 

Stage 2- Long Term Infertile- They are very tricky and must be handled with great caution. This person feels alienated from society and carries great pain and angst in their souls. They might not show it all the time, but there is a very sensitive, raw spot in their souls that is easily bruised. 

Stage 3- Old Timers- They have been doing this so long it just becomes part of who they are. These infertiles have gone through the great angst and intense pain of the ‘dark years’ and have come out realizing that while infertility sucks, it is not all consuming. And instead of crying, they laugh. Because infertility is actually a comedy of errors, sometimes.

I can honestly say this is so accurate! I am to that "stage 3" of it all, but I still remember that raw, wounded feeling about halfway through and the naive feeling of the first year or so that we were trying. That middle stage is the hardest. If  you've been there you know exactly what I'm talking about, no explanation needed. If you haven't I say count yourself blessed. My friend just had a baby the other day (and he's perfect, by the way!) and it got me thinking..what if I could've never gone through any of this, just had kids right away, any time I wanted to? Would I want that? I know it may sound crazy, but I honestly decided that no, I wouldn't change any of it. I really do mean that.  I have grown so much and learned so much more compassion than I would have had otherwise.  I have learned how my smallest action, or passing comment can hurt others unintentionally. Plus, I believe we aren't as likely to take things for granted that we have to struggle and fight for. It's good when something comes easy, but when it's tough, that's where the real blessings are. With that said, here's what I say you can do for those friends/loved ones going through infertility.

1. Educate yourself. And not so you can suggest the latest fertility tips to them (ha!) Find out what infertility issues they are having and read up on them. This will help you to be able to show genuine interest and ask relevant questions. I'm not saying you have to spend days studying, but many of my friends have learned the basics of my thyroid and other fertility issues. They can ask questions about my levels and not be bored by my response because they have taken the time to learn what all of the "terms" mean. The fact that they think enough of me to learn about it means a lot to me. 

2. Let them know you care. Send cards, tell them you are praying for them, whatever it is that you can think of. My friend got me a picture frame with an ultrasound picture of her baby, the frame said "believe" on it. She wrote a note to me about how she couldn't wait until the day I replace it with my own child's ultrasound picture. Another friend knew I was having a bad day and brought me a card and my favorite drink. Those things made my day. It doesn't have to be anything big, just let them know you are thinking of them and praying. Most importantly, be positive! 

3. Remember them on holidays. This includes Mother's Day and Father's Day, but really it's any holiday. Holidays are always centered around family and it can be a painful reminder to couple about the children they don't have. Also, baby showers/births can be very tough for women to attend. Let them know you are thinking of them during these times. 

4. Provide Support. Be positive and supportive about their decisions. Refrain from being critical, you never know what you would do in their situation! Offer to drive them to doctor's appointments if they need it, ask if you can help out with anything, tell them you are there to listen anytime they need to talk. I was wanting to have a pity-party for myself the other day and I felt guilty for it, I messaged my friend and told her I was having a rough day. I told her I was feeling sorry for myself but I knew I shouldn't. You know, she told me that I have the right to struggle and feel bad and I need to work through it. She told me that she would have a pity-party with me and she would bring the chips and dip to the party. I laughed (which helped my mood) and I had a good cry and vented to her. It lasted maybe 10 minutes and it was over. I felt better and I had a new perspective. To me, that's the best support a person can get! 

5. Validate. When they do talk to you about their struggles, or negative emotions validate that what they are going through is serious. Don't brush it aside, or give some vague reassurance. Let them know you understand why they are having a hard time and that it must not be easy. If you brush off their feelings they most likely won't confide in you anymore. Even if you haven't gone through infertility and you can't empathize at least validate their situation. Also, "keep the faith" when they can't. If they are struggling with doubt and fear, that is your time to be bold and believing. They need to know someone is in their corner rooting for them, believing they will have children of their own.

6. Ask. Above all else, ask what they need. Every woman is different and they don't all need the same thing. Get with them privately and let them know you really want to be there for them, but you need help knowing what they need you to do. They will gladly tell you!

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