I'm not sure how to write this post, where to begin, if it will make any sense, or if I will hit "publish" at all. I have been sharing bits of our infertility story here and there and a sweet reader suggested doing a post on how to help people dealing with this struggle. She mentioned a friend who was fighting her own battle and noted that sometimes she wasn't sure how to help. I'm no expert, and what works for me may not work for others.
I don't have all the answers; I may not have any answers, but I'll talk through my past and hopefully somewhere in these words, someone might just find a bit of hope.
The most important aspect of my own journey was/is being open with friends about what's going on in my life. Thankfully, I've always been surrounded by prayerful people, and I cannot tell you what hope I have always had knowing that there are people praying for me, both at times of which I was aware and times of which I was not. Pray for your friends whose struggles you know. Pray for your friends, maybe just mere acquaintances, whose own journeys and future family concerns you may not know.
Life struggles become consuming. They can be all we see, feel, breathe for any given length of time and it's often hard to step away from talking about them and perhaps seeing life in another's shoes. There are days recently where I find myself calling my best friends and only talking about my struggles without ever asking, "how are you?" or even talking about recent episodes of a favorite television show or what I did this weekend (besides the outcome of an ovulation test. True story.). I don't excuse myself for this seemingly selfish behavior, but I cherish these friends who have stood by me and listened, truly listened, as I shared information and feelings and speculations and hopes. Pray for your friends and then listen to them. Believe me; life is fair in its sharing of hardship, and there will be at time where the roles will reverse themselves and you will need her to listen time and time again.
That being said, there were stages where I was less open. I was hurting, scared, anxious, and all-consumed. It was easier to throw myself into my work and my hobbies instead of facing everything. My good friends asked about it and let me know that I was cared for and loved and embraced during this fight. I'd imagine it might be difficult to approach perhaps a coworker about it, but your friends for sure can be uplifted by your concern.
And at the end of the day, maybe here are some practical, doable, ways to brighten the spirits of a loved one struggling with infertility:
*Plan an outing that might not involve shopping (well, for clothes) or alcohol. If you are hopeful for an upcoming pregnancy, do you really need to buy new clothes that won't fit shortly? Or perhaps you've got to lay off exercise for a while and just aren't feeling that fit and toned.
We all know alcohol's negative effects on conceiving, so let's just avoid that as well while we are at it.
*Forget I said that. Plan an outing for a glass of wine. Sometimes a girl just need a glass of wine with her girlfriends. I'm serious, but keep it to a glass and drink plenty of water. Okay, happen to have the second (and third) glass. Just don't do it every weekend.
And plan to go shopping. Help a girl out and find something that celebrates being a woman and feeling beautiful!
*Meet up when you can for some exercise or outdoors. Some fertility issues involve losing weight. Grab the Jillian Michaels video and sweat it out together.
Perhaps if part of the plan is to lay a bit lower on the exercise agenda, go for a walk together.
*Randomly send a card, email, even a sticky note full of words of support.
*Plan a craft night. A little creative therapy never hurt anyone.
*Help her look into useful resources (like the book Making Babies perhaps) instead of message boards that are far too daunting sometimes.
*And don't forget to pray.
Update--I wrote this months ago and indeed, as you are reading this, I decided to finish and publish it. I've read so many posts lately about this issue, and it's just close to my own heart. The more support we can give each other, the stronger we all become.