One of the most natural aspects of life is the creation of children. Unfortunately, not everyone gets to experience this. When it does not happen naturally it can be an incredibly painful experience. One that can take years, or even a lifetime to work through, especially due to the exposure to other children and families on a constant basis. Infertility is difficult to talk about for the person experiencing it and for those who have children and have friends who cannot have them. On both sides it can be challenging to know what to say or how to ask for what is needed. This month I wanted to provide some support for both sides of this equation.
To begin, if you are experiencing infertility, please know how incredibly heartbreaking this is and that even when it may seem like it you are not alone. In fact, 1 in 6 couples in Canada experience infertility. We just do not talk about it enough. You may feel like you are failing, you may feel anguish (that fall to your knees exhausting pain). Sit in the grief of it, ask for help, go to support groups, reach out to friends who will listen, find a therapist who will support you. You are allowed to be devastated and angry. Find a way to be with your friends using direct communication so that we can all talk about it more freely.
On that note, how do you support a friend or family member experiencing infertility? Despite the discomfort, talk about it. Will you say the wrong thing? Maybe. Does ignoring it because you are worried about saying the wrong thing make it easier for either of you? Definitely not. It is okay to check in with someone and ask them direct questions about their experience. If you have kids and the person attends an event with your kids make a point to check in after a gathering and ask how the experience was for them. Understand that sometimes they may need to say no to your kid’s party or when you need to bring your kids along to a social setting.
Consider that it might be too much for them at times. They can love your children, enjoy spending time with them, and feel like their heart is being pulled apart at the same time. Sometimes they may need to choose to take care of themselves and it is important to support them and not take it personally. It is okay that you have kids, they know that. It is also okay for them to be sad about it and find it difficult to be around them sometimes. Check in on it, sit in the discomfort of your varying experience. Consider checking in after holidays made for parents, a kind text or call after Mother’s Day or Easter can go a long way.
On a final note, when someone tells you that they do not want or do not have children be very cautious of your response, especially if it contains a judgement. It is possible that the person is aware of their infertility and comments like “you will change your mind one day” or “children are the best - you really do want them” can be really harmful. They may have also convinced themselves they do not want children because they know their body is not able to have them. Be kind and respectful, you never know the reasons behind being childless.
If you would like to be a part of a free support group for infertility, please contact Alpine Pathways Psychological Services for more information.
The content provided in this article is for information purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you find yourself in distress, please reach out to your local physician who can provide mental health resources in your community.
Photo by Vanessa Croome