Here’s what to say and do instead.
When people hear that someone they know and love is beginning fertility treatments, an all too common piece of “advice” they love to offer is “relax.”
“Relax, and it’ll happen.”
“Relax, and enjoy ourselves.”
“Relax, and stop putting so much pressure on yourselves.”
There are so many things that women who are undergoing IVF need to hear, but I promise you, “relax” isn’t one of them. It doesn’t even make the top of the list. It’s counterproductive, and it’s hurtful, and it’s downright annoying. It might be rooted to try and say something positive, not to jump down a rabbit hole of the unpredictable nature that is one’s fertility, but it doesn’t do that.
It just makes the hopeful mother-to-be feel bad.
It ignores part of the story, too — like the endless blood tests, sonograms, and doctor appointments. It ignores that there could be a problem with your hormones, with your egg quality, with your husband/partner’s sperm. It doesn’t encompass the realities that come with having a blocked tube, or recurrent miscarriage, or a unicornuate reproductive system.
It implies that a yoga class or mediation is the fix to your problems — as if deep breath work could somehow rebalance your hormones, or unlock your tubes, or change the quality of your eggs and sperm.
Spoiler alert — it can’t.
It’s a beautiful thing to want to support the women in your life when they’re walking this road, be there for them, help them, and make sure that they know that they can lean on you. To make sure that they don’t feel as if they’re all alone in their struggles, sadness, and frustration; to walk beside them as they navigate the depths of their valleys.
To want to be there for your friends who are walking this road is a beautiful thing, and yet, there are other ways to help them feel supported, other than telling them to relax. Here are five things to say/do to your friends walking the IVF road that are supportive:
- How can I help you? Sometimes, it’s best to let your friend take the reins. She’ll let you know if there’s something you can do.
- If you need to vent, I’m here to listen. If you haven’t gone through fertility treatments, there is absolutely no way that you can understand what she is going through. But you can be there to listen — to let her cry and vent and scream and question everything. Letting those words fall upon a pair of ears that wants nothing but the best for her is helping.
- Send her a small gift in the mail. A bath bomb. A book you love. A candle that smells like warm cookies or Christmas trees or something else you know that she’ll love. Sometimes those tiny gestures are more impactful and meaningful than having conversations.
- Don’t hide the joys of your own life. It’s ok to talk about your children, or pregnancy, or marriage. It’s ok to chat about work or your home renovations or the latest discovery you fell in love with on Netflix. It’s ok to plan mini-vacations together or talk about what you want to do in the summertime. Life doesn’t stop just because you’re going through IVF — and your conversations about the joy that surrounds you don’t have to stop, either.
- Send an “I love you” text that needs no response. It’s a warm welcome to know that you’re being thought of and less pressure when you know that you don’t even have to respond.
I could add to this list more, but each action item will depend on your friend’s personality. You know what makes them laugh and what makes them smile. You know what makes them angry and what makes them want to retreat into a corner. Proceed accordingly, and you’ll be fine.