Over the next few weeks, Jamie Killian will be working on a series that asks a series of questions of those who have been through a difficult time, providing some guidance for how you can support someone in a similar situation.
Infertility is defined as trying unsuccessfully to conceive for more than a year. For many couples, however, the struggle continues much longer — and through a great deal of heartache. I spoke to my friend, Hannah Clements, about her difficult journey to motherhood. Below, she gives us some insight into her experiences and how to support friends you may know in a similar situation:
Can you give us a timeline of your experience with infertility?
“We did not prevent pregnancy for about two years. We thought we would just get pregnant on our own during that time. When we didn’t, we started actually trying – timing, charting my basal temperature, ovulation tests etc. for another year.
Statistically people get pregnant on their own after a year. When I didn’t, I decided to go to the doctor. At this point, I had been seeking fertility treatment for over a year.”
Infertility can be emotionally taxing. What are friends and family saying that you find most comforting?
“Absolutely emotionally taxing! Infertility is an emotional roller coaster. I have certainly been blessed with friends and family who are very understanding. I would say the best way friends and family can support is to just simply listen. I have found that many people want to have the right thing to say or want to fix the situation.
“Infertility can’t be fixed with a one-liner or in a conversation. In other words, friends and family just need to listen and to show empathy – acknowledge that ‘Yes this does suck. It isn’t fair. I am here if you need to talk.'”
A lot of times, people on the sidelines feel really helpless or don’t want to intrude but want to do something. How can they show they care in the most meaningful way?
“Sometimes, infertility brings up feelings of being forgotten. It is nice to be remembered either by just asking a question, remembering to check in after a doctor’s appointment, or sending a note.”
Has anyone said anything with good intentions that left you shaking your head? What should we not say?
“I was telling (not crying or yelling) someone about a situation going on that I was worried about, and they said, ‘You know you are having a temper tantrum.’ Those words still sting and it has been close to a year since they were said to me. I think that person just wanted me to stop… but that was not the right way to word it.
“A lot of people offer advice like, ‘Have you tried this…?’ That doesn’t bother me so much because I know people mean well. However, honestly, by the time people are seeking medical treatment we have probably tried all of those things.”
I know that often times, expectant or new parents feel awkward about including struggling couples in their new baby’s big moments. Can you give us your perspective on this?
“Celebrate! It has helped me through my own struggles to celebrate new baby moments of friends. For me, that means making pink cupcakes for a gender reveal, ‘liking’ pregnancy announcements on social media, and throwing showers. However, sometimes that also means attending the shower but crying all the way home. It is okay to celebrate others and at the same time feel sad for yourself.
“It is also helpful to remember that we don’t always know what someone else went through in order to get pregnant because infertility isn’t always talked about. Everyone is fighting their own battle. Sometimes we just don’t know what it is.
“I also try to be open with my friends about my journey. So many of my friends have gotten pregnant before me. I let them know that I am honestly very happy for them and I want them to be open with me and talk to me about each step of the way. Every child and pregnancy is a blessing.”
You can follow Hannah’s infertility journey by checking out her blog: hisgoodness.wordpress.com.