I feel like this one may come across a little angry (and who knows, maybe when I wrote it, I was a little angry – I honestly can’t remember), so I want to further explain myself. It’s hard to know what to say or do when someone we care about is going through a terrible experience. We want our actions to be just right because we so desperately want to help them get whatever they need, but sometimes we just need to sit back and say (maybe just to ourselves) — I don’t get it. I don’t get it doesn’t equal I don’t care and it does not equal do nothing, It means you admit you haven’t been there and you don’t try to give advice as if you have. Hugs go a long way.
On the other side of the coin, those of us going through the terrible experience need to give people a break! They may not say or do the right thing, but if they are truly trying to show you they care, take the best of what they are trying to give in the spirit of which it is intended. If you can muster it to help educate them in a kind and loving way (tall order, I know), by all means…
I would love it if someone would give me a guide to helping people through things I haven’t experienced. So, I’m not trying to be an asshole, I’m really just trying to increase awareness and understanding.
I’ve read a couple of articles lately on what women wished others knew about the infertility journey. Those articles bothered me because I felt they required a bit of mind reading, which I find unfair. It got me thinking…what would I tell people, what would I want people to know – especially people with a desire to be supportive and helpful?
Here is the cliff noted insight I can give you on infertility…
1) Infertility of any sort, at any stage, and for any reason is really fucking hard for both the Mother and the Father and the difficulties go beyond having a baby.
2) The losses and disappointments are unimaginably painful. When we lose a child at 6, 8, 10…weeks, we are devastated. When month after month, year after year, there is no positive test, we are devastated. When the procedures don’t work, we are devastated.
3) We. Are. Tired. The process is physically, emotionally and financially exhausting.
4) Infertility is insanely complicated in ways you will not understand unless you have gone through it. The timelines, the recovery, the medication, the complications, the research, the losses, the surgeries…No two cases are alike. Trying for many years or trying different procedures and routes (or NOT trying different procedures and routes) may seem crazy to you. Just, know and get comfortable with the fact that “ya don’t get it.” And it is okay and reasonable not to get it, but it isn’t okay to judge based on your lack of knowledge.
5) When talking to someone going through infertility the following are not options as questions, comments, answers or conversation starters:
Why don’t you just…?
Stop thinking about it so much.
It will happen.
Have you tried…?
This happened to my friend and she….
Again, you don’t get it. Even if you think you do, even if your trying really hard to, even if you really want to. You don’t. It is okay; we don’t need you to get it. We need you to stop assuming you do or can.
Try these instead:
So, what do next steps look like?
How are you feeling?
How can I help?
Do you want to talk about it?
Just a hug
Even…that fucking sucks…will do.
So, let’s break this down:
You’ve got someone going through something really fucking hard and unimaginably painful–they are devastated and tired and it isn’t something you fully understand.
What would you do for THAT person?
If you would simply hug them a little tighter next time you see them – do it.
If you would bring them dinner – do it.
If you would send them flowers – do it.
If you would call them on the phone to let them know you are there – do it.
If you would do nothing – do it.
If you would add them to your prayer list – do it.
If you would text them and just say “thinking of you” – do it.
If you would send them good energy out to the universe – do it.
Just do what you would do and if you don’t know what to do, it is okay to ask. “I want to help, if I can, but I don’t know how. Is there something you need?”
I’m not being basic to be condescending. I’m trying to give you the bare bones highlights so you realize infertility isn’t any different than a plethora of other shit going on in peoples lives. Turmoil and tragedy are difficult. We will all experience them and we will all need support. This type of disconnect is universal. I know the experience of infertility, but I have no idea what it is like to be diagnosed with cancer or to lose my husband…I would not know how to support people through these experiences with any authority or confidence. My support and the things I say would be tentative although sincere and well meaning. I would constantly wonder if I’m saying or doing the right thing and chances are – I wouldn’t be. But the fact that I care is important. And the fact that you care is important. It is necessary and needed (even if you say one of the lines from number 5).
Let yourself off the hook and realize you will never fully “get it,” and I won’t expect you to. I’ll expect you to need help and information from me. It gives you the space and comfort to ask truly interested questions. Your questions will be less judgy and my answers will be less asshole. And we might come to a place of understanding we never thought possible…together.