As a surrogate agency, we’ve worked with many women experiencing infertility and understand the myriad emotions it causes. In general, there are eight shades of emotions researchers have identified as being affected by infertility: loss of self-esteem, status, important relationships, health or an acceptable body image, control security, important fantasies and someone or something of symbolic value. The cumulative effect of these psychological factors is profound, and could create a life crisis that impacts a person’s ability to cope. Though it seems bleak, support from family and friends can help to make infertile men and women feel better about themselves, relate better to those who care about them, and ultimately respond better to treatment. Here are a few guidelines to remember:
Admit the problem is real. The first step should seem rather obvious. To pretend the problem does not exist or avoid solving it doesn’t help. You may first have to assess how you feel about infertility before addressing someone else’s problems. Picture yourself in the place of the other person and walk through the disappointment and thwarted expectations they must feel.
One of the best things you can do is acknowledge their infertility by asking how things are going with treatment or how they are feeling. This shows that you are truly interested in their situation and offers them the opportunity to confide in you, if they choose to do so.
Inform Yourself. Don’t assume that you know what the other person is feeling. Hurtful comments like “You shouldn’t feel that way when you have so much to be grateful for,” “You’ve got to get a hold of yourself and calm down,” and “You’re becoming obsessed with having a child,” indicate that you may have serious misunderstandings about infertility. Instead, you might suggest that they find a support group, a psychologist, or social worker who specializes in infertility.
Be realistic about the situation. Many times people think that the only way to help is by eliminating someone else’s pain, which is impossible. Try and help them manage it instead by being honest with your friend or family member about your emotional limitation and discomfort. Tell them that you may unintentionally say the wrong thing and that you’re asking for their understanding and guidance in the situation. Your humility will be a relief to both parties. Don’t be afraid to employ some gentle humor to diffuse the tension. After all, the real underlying purpose of the conversation is to show the other person your concern.
Really listen to them. It is important that you allow your loved one to freely express their emotions about their infertility—whether that be anger, depression, or guilt. Venting negative feelings is a good way to relieve tension, in order to open up to a more positive perspective. To push the negative emotions deep within themselves is unhealthy and may delay the grieving process. With almost any tragedy, most people are looking for a sounding board more than an opinion.
Accept different ways of coping. All people are inherently different, and as a result must each find their own way of coping with a situation. The way they handle infertility may be influenced by different factors like religion, culture, and their economic background. Be aware that they may act differently than you expect. Some may talk more openly about their treatments, while others refuse to share their experiences. Also, their emotions may change as well, depending on when they were asked, partially because of the nature of fluctuating In Vitro Fertilization drug protocols and procedures. A woman may be offended for you asking one day and offended you didn’t ask on another day.
Try asking an infertile couple just how you can be supportive. Do they want you to ask how things are going? Would they find it helpful to bring over a meal or groceries after a procedure or surgery? If they don’t know, ask them to think of ways you can help.
Be inclusive. Though christenings, family reunions, holidays and (especially) baby showers may stir some negative emotions in an infertile person, it is still better that they know they are being thought of and wanted. Even if they decline, it still always feels good to be asked. You could even make to the leap to ask them what kind of social involvement they want in the function, or ask them what would make it easier for them. If you have children, consider that you may have to make the extra effort to maintain a friendship with someone who doesn’t. Ask them out to lunch or at least try and call or visit them occasionally.
Show them dignity and respect. Having children is a major part of someone’s life, but you need to show that you believe them to be a multifaceted being. Infertility does not make them helpless or lead less meaningful lives. Show them that you respect their desire to have a child, even if you do not full agree with them. Most importantly, you should let them know that you love and accept them, not as an infertile person, but as a person.
If are looking for a reputable surrogate agency to help you with infertility, learn more about surrogacy, or find a surrogate, call (949) 363-9525.