April 26, 2021

Managing Infertility and Offering Support to Loved Ones

This week is national infertility awareness week and I, along with many of you, have walked the long, arduous, heart breaking road of infertility. It’s not a path I wish for anyone, but a path that has truly defined our family. Our road has been 9 years… 9 years, six IVF cycles, 2 infant losses, 3 miscarriages, and a healthy baby boy. Now we have this miracle baby conceived without fertility treatments; it should make me feel like I conquered infertility, right? Newsflash: it doesn’t. It’s exciting and wonderful and true blessing to us but does it negate all the heartbreak, all the shots, all the losses, all the surgeries? I don’t think so.

The last nine years have been such a rollercoaster but right now feels like that moment right at the top – right before you drop and get a that rush of adrenaline, that huge smile, and that visceral reaction of WOOOOO…. the next 25 weeks will likely feel like the slow chugging of the car going up the other side of the track. The anticipation, the anxiety, is real.

So this week during NIAW I want you to know you are not on this roller coaster alone. 1 in 8 couples face infertility.  1 in 8…. that means someone in your circle has probably been affected by infertility.  Infertility is scary… and dark… and no one wants to talk about it (almost as much as no one wants to talk about loss).  But we can shed light on this by bringing awareness and educating women and men on what infertility means and how it affects those who have been stricken by it.

Infertility is more than being impatient.  Infertility means something different to each person…

When I started my infertility journey 9 years ago. I was alone. Very few of my friends had been down the road of IVF, my family had never, and I felt like there wasn’t anyone talking about these struggles or really anyone struggling at all! I was determined to normalize this process. Why weren’t we talking? Why weren’t we supporting each other? Why was the first response from someone who hadn’t been down this road… “stop stressing and it will happen”. I had a clinical diagnosis of a 1%-3% chance of ever getting pregnant and a multitude of experienced and qualified physicians saying “You need assistance”. It wasn’t that easy to just stop stressing. Would you tell someone with cancer to “stop stressing” and it will go away? No – that’s insane!

So, how can you help someone you know struggling with infertility?Here are my 5 tips to support those enduring infertility (including men!)

#1. Listen to them with an empathetic ear. Even if you haven’t struggled, if your friend or sister, or brother or nephew want to talk – LISTEN. You don’t always have to have the right advice (or any advice) sometimes we just need someone to listen and tell us they hear us and are here to support.

#2. Support their decision to start (or stop) treatment. Infertility treatments are draining. Emotionally and financially. No one person or couple can undergo treatments forever. And the decision to stop treatment can be just as hard as deciding to start. It brings it’s own set of grief and cope. Your support in this decision is critical.

#3. Don’t minimize their struggle. The inability to conceive is heart breaking and painful. Comments that seem light hearted and/or funny can actually minimize the journey and the pain the couple face.

#4. Reach out on appointment days and other important days (Mother’s/Father’s Day). If your loved one is sharing their story and you know they have an upcoming appointment; reach out and tell them you are thinking of them. A simple text will do – just a note to say you support them and you are there if they want to talk.

#5. Just simply ask what they need. If you aren’t really sure what to do or say, just ask. Can I send you dinner on your retrieval day? Do you need help with anything while you are recovering? Want to go to a movie to take your mind off things? Just be there for them in the way they need… which can change through each stage of their journey. Be open and flexible and come from a loving heart.

So remember, whatever storm you are facing – you’ll find your rainbow. Find your smile through the tears and know you are never alone.

By: Allison L. Kelly, ARM, Vice President Business Development, Sedgwick