What can you say to the people around you who want to love you through the struggle with infertility, but have no idea what to do or how to help? Kathleen Parker, an Opinion columnist for the Washington Post, offered guidance in an editorial about gifts….
“Here is giving: Listening. Sparing time. Not interrupting. Holding that thought. Leaving the last drop. Staying home. Turning it off, whatever it is. Making eye contact. Picking it up. Take the room’s temperature. Paying attention. Waiting.”
That’s how you help an infertile couple. That’s how you love us through this incredibly challenging, frustrating, stressful, heartbreaking journey. That’s how you stop trying to fix it, and instead, bless us by being fully present in the moment with us.
By listening, not interrupting, holding that thought, and paying attention – Sometimes, we need to voice confusion or wrestle aloud with our uncertainty. Don’t give us “the answer.” That’s patronizing. If it were simple, we would have figured it out already. Instead, keep quiet and give us a chance to blow off steam, rant without fearing a reaction, or cry without worrying you can’t take the drama. Don’t. Say. A word. You’ll be amazed how your attentive silence speaks volumes.
By sparing time, turning it off (whatever it is), taking the room’s temperature, and making eye contact – So much about the struggle with infertility is humbling and demeaning. Don’t make us beg for your time or attention. Don’t make us feel something else is more important. Be attuned to our moods, and when the room’s temperature is too “hot” or “cold,” be sensitive to what that tells you about what we need: time alone, or a hug? Eye contact that invites a confidence, or a glance that says, ‘I know you’re hurting’? Be. Fully. Present. You’ll be amazed how your attentive heart radiates loving support.
By leaving the last drop, staying home, picking it up, and… waiting – Infertility makes us feel incredibly vulnerable, wounded and fragile. Your thoughtfulness can be an amazing antidote. It lifts our spirits without making us feel guilty or indebted. Don’t make us ask for kindness; we won’t. Just know that the littlest kindness is magnified a thousand times by our need to feel that someone cares. It doesn’t take much, and no words are required. In fact, it’s better if you let your actions speak. Not sure what to do? Wait. Pay attention. You’ll see an opportunity. And you’ll be amazed how your attentive action tells us you understand.
Parker concludes, “Do unto others…. The alternative is surely hell.”
That sums it up pretty succinctly. There are moments along the infertility journey that are hellish. When there’s no heartbeat on the ultrasound. When the doctor’s office isn’t calling and the bleeding won’t stop. When the baby comes too soon and can’t possibly survive. When it’s time to tell everyone who thought there was a baby, “We lost it.” When the dream seems to be dying, and hope is barely alive.
In that moment, do unto us as you would want us to do for you. Would you want privacy? Give us some. Would you want kindness? Extend it. Would you need a shoulder to cry on? Offer one. Would you be angry at the world? Understand our intense emotions. Would you need wisdom? Know that we will seek it when we are ready to internalize it. Don’t try to force it on us if we don’t ask for it. You won’t get the response you want.
“Here is giving….” Parker began. So, we’ve made it clear. This is how you help us. Now that we’ve told you what we need, please give us the gift of love in ways we will gratefully receive.