Guest Post by Lynn Polin
If you’re reading this, it’s because you care. Because someone in your life that you love is struggling to build a family. The fact is that they are not alone. It is estimated that 1 in 8 couples are affected by infertility (which is about as common as breast cancer). Infertility is typically classified as a disease where a clinical pregnancy is not established after 12 months of trying to conceive, or it is diagnosed to one who is unable to reproduce.
Here are some other fast facts about infertility:
- A couple aged 29-33 with a normal functioning reproductive system only has a 20-25% chance at conceiving in any given month
- 7.4 million women have received infertility services
- Approximately ⅓ of infertility is due to the female partner, ⅓ due to the male partner and ⅓ due to both partners or is classified as “unexplained”
Infertility is a trauma; a trauma of the mind, body and spirit. It is difficult and brings about hard feelings such as shame, isolation and guilt. A landmark study conducted by Dr. Alice Domar revealed that those who struggle to build their family have the same level of anxiety and depression as those diagnosed with cancer, AIDS and heart disease.
You can help.
1. Be mindful of your seemingly “innocently ignorant” language. “Just relax,” “Stop thinking about it,” and “Maybe you should take a vacation” are not helpful and, in fact, triggering.
2. Refrain from offering “advice”. You do not “just adopt” or “just do IVF.” Your loved one most likely has a team of professionals who are helping them to explore all options available. Leave it to the experts.
3. Be respectful of boundaries. Let your loved one lead the conversation when it comes to their family-building.
4. Keep their journey private. Allow them to choose whether or not to share their journey with other family members and friends.
5. Support and respect their family building choices, including the decision to stop trying if they come to that point. Again, this is their journey, not yours.
All you really need to do is show that you care.
- Sit with them in empathy without trying to fix it.
- Ask, “How can I help?” and “What can I do?”
- Sending a simple caring text like “Thinking of you.”
- Send a card, note or email just because.
- Tell them you love them and are here for support.
Infertility is not a bad word. It’s okay to talk about. And it certainly does not define someone’s worth. The bottom line is to talk less and listen more. Know and respect the boundaries set by your loved ones.
SAVE THE DATE: RNE’s 28th Annual Family Building Conference will be held on Saturday, November 13, and will be fully virtual. More information will be available soon!
Lynn Polin is a fertility warrior, advocate, coach, author and co-founder of Kindred Beginnings, a family-building support community. She has a long, complicated, borderline-overwhelming family-building story consisting of 10 rounds of IVF over 6 years, a foster-to-adopt situation that fell apart, and a pregnancy loss that almost cost her life. Infertility changed who she was and how she viewed the world. After 17 years as a third grade educator, Lynn decided to pursue a career as a family-building coach and mentor with the mission to help others successfully navigate their own family-building journeys. She is also a volunteer peer-led host, locally and nationally, for RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association.