How to Be a Good Friend to Someone Dealing with Infertility
by Jacqueline Thompson Graves
Rather than wink and ask "got a bun in the oven yet?" when you cross paths with your friends struggling with
infertility, take these words of advice to heart.
1. Don't tell them to relax, get in the bubble bath, go on a vacation or tell them your stories about someone
who had a baby. The couple has a medical condition and needs more than deep breathing exercises to
deal with it.
2. Don't tell them there are worse things that could happen to them. Did it make your green beans taste any
better when your mother told you children were starving in Africa? If you cut your finger to the bone and
someone said "it could be worse, you could have cut it completely off", would it make your pain any less?
3. Sometimes people try to comfort a person who can't conceive by saying, "God must not want you to have
children." That is a cruel thing to say and paints a menacing picture of your God. Besides, if you say that
and then the person turns up pregnant, you look a bit foolish. Instead...
4. Pray for them, not just to get pregnant, but for all they struggle with, emotionally, physically, mentally,
financially. They will appreciate your empathy.
5. Keep your own pregnancy story to yourself. If you are pregnant, don't complain about your pregnancy.
Your friend would give anything to have morning sickness or swollen ankles.
6. Don't offer advice about adoption, insemination or other treatment. Let your friend explore alternatives
and share what she finds without telling her what to do. She is getting information from medical
7. Holidays stink when a couple is dealing with infertility. Let's face it, holidays are custom made for big
families. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother's and Father's Day, even July the Fourth picnics all show happy
families sharing the day. Churches, synagogues and other places of worship honor moms and dads on
their special days, host Grandparents' Days, Baby Days and more events that serve to remind the childless
couple they are failing to deliver a baby to an expectant world. Friends tread a thin line between leaving
the couple out and inviting them to a painful celebration. Your friend may not be able to handle mall
shopping this year filled with Santa, happy children and toys when she is hurting.
8. If you invite a friend dealing with infertility to an event such as a baby shower or where someone will be
announcing a baby on the way, give her advance warning. She can choose to manage the invitation by
attending, dropping off a gift early but not staying for the entire event, sending a gift with regrets that she
has "plans" even if those plans are simply to skip the stressful event, or to attend if she is having a good
day and feels up to going. Be understanding if, at the last minute, your friend cannot attend your shower,
picnic, reunion, girls' night out or bunko game. If she is having infertility treatments, she is a walking
hormonal bomb waiting to explode or implode and she needs understanding, not criticism. Send her a
text message or email the next day just to say "I missed you and I understand" and leave it at that.
9. If your friend suffers a miscarriage, she needs to grieve, just as if she had lost a child who had already
been born. She may need physical help: meals carried in, house cleaning, childcare, assistance with a
memorial service, out of town guests who need a place to stay. As she works through the stages of grief,
she simply needs you to be there for her.
10. "People don't think of infertility as a disease," states Kate Badey, Volunteer Coordinator for the Georgia
chapter of RESOLVE. "Cancer patients, for example, get surrounded by support when they are getting
treatment - pot roasts, childcare, cards, hugs. Those battling infertility don't look sick or act sick. Their
pain is all on the inside." If your friend has a failed IVF (in vitro fertilization) cycle or an adoption that falls
through, she will need support and care while she grieves and deals with the emotional fallout from her
crisis. A plate of cookies and a little note that says "I'm here for you" will help her know she is not alone.
11. Don't forget the man in the picture. Women get all the attention because they are often the information
seekers and are more willing to talk about their feelings, but men suffer, too. Father's Day is an especially
difficult time for them.
12. Sometimes the best thing a friend can do is be there and be quiet. In the Old Testament book of Job,
when his friends came to comfort him, they sat with him in silence for three days. Not many of us could
keep our mouths shut for three minutes, let alone three days!
What to Say to a Friend Dealing with Infertility
These suggestions, taken from Carol Fulwiler Jones' book, Hopeful Heart, Peaceful Mind: Managing Infertility,
give you a way to communicate to your friend without sounding judgmental, intrusive or disrespectful. You
don't want your friend to be in pain and you don't want to say something that will offend her. Sometimes
silence and a hug are best. Other times, try these:
• Infertility seems stressful. Is there anything I can do?
• Infertility is something I don't understand. Is there a book or website I can read?
• You have lots of doctor appointments. Can I go with you or drive you?
• You have surgery scheduled. Can I bring dinner or help you in some way?
• It's ok with me if you choose not to parent. A couple is a family, too.
• I will respect your privacy. I'm here to listen whenever you're ready to talk.
• I've never been through infertility. I don't know what it's like. I want to support you if you tell me what
• I hope you'll be successful in building your family. There are many treatments and I'll support the choices
Carol's book, Hopeful Heart, Peaceful Mind: Managing Infertility can be ordered from her website:
http://theinfertilitycounselor.com or at http://www.Amazon.com.
The book is a guide addressing the emotional and spiritual needs of couples and individuals struggling with
infertility. Chapter titles include: The Illusion of Being in Control, Deciding Who to Tell and When, How to Find
Medical Help. A glossary of terms and a resource section are included for practical application.
To contact Carol Fulwiler Jones, MA, LPC, LMFT: Phone: (404) 633-3041
For more information about RESOLVE (the National Infertility Association) visit http://www.resolve.org
Contact 888.473.3062 or email:
Information about the events mentioned in my June article: Infertility: Struggling Toward Parenthood is available
All in the Family Counselling specializes in offer infertility counselling to individuals, couples and group support. Contact us to find out how we can help you.