When A Loved One Struggles With Infertility

when a loved one struggles with infertility
Pineapple is the symbol of the infertility community

I consider myself to be good with words, but I’m at a loss for them when something bad happens to someone I love. What can I say to make them feel better? I don’t know if there’s a real answer to that question, but I wanted to ask my sister.

When a loved one struggles with infertility

My sister Lyndsey is my best friend. We talk almost daily, but I didn’t know exactly what to say to her a few years ago when she was struggling to get pregnant. As a big sister, you want to magically make things all better, but that’s not realistic.

The reality was that my sister was in an angry, bitter place. She and her husband are one of the cutest couples you could meet, but they were going through it. You name it, they did it. I even remember teasing them about the “fertility smoothies” they made using pineapple core. My sister is a notoriously picky eater and always hated pineapple because it’s allegedly “grainy”, but it became a part of her everyday.

Before interviewing her for this article, I didn’t realize she had seven unsuccessful IUI treatments.

It’s hard to wrap your brain around that number.

They then moved forward with IVF. I remember being around my sister at this time. She was so consumed and I didn’t know what to say or do. Just… helpless.

In addition, my sister ended up having endometriosis. Cause things weren’t bad enough, right?! She had a surgical procedure called a laparoscopy and continued on her IVF journey with, yes, some new physical scars, but also… hope.

It’s not all on the woman

I just wanted to quickly mention the fellas here, because I feel like a common misconception with infertility is that the issue is always with the woman, or on the woman.

While my sister’s husband’s sperm count was sufficient, he had low motility. He actually saw a urologist and had a procedure to help improve his numbers. Obviously not pleasant, but it worked.

I am blown away by the lengths that both my sister and her husband went to during this time and how they handled themselves. I actually got pregnant and had a baby while my sister was struggling. She could have easily been bitter, but was she? Never. I remember my father and I talking and crying over how amazed we were with Lyndsey’s reaction to my pregnancy while she struggled.

What helped?

When a loved one struggles with infertility – you want to help. Or maybe… you are the one wanting the help. Here’s what worked for my sister:

  1. Having a second, private Instagram account devoted to IVF. My sister says she spent her nights searching by certain hashtags. “I would find hundreds of other women doing the same thing I was: documenting their journey, asking for ideas/support or just venting… I didn’t have anyone else around me in the ‘real world’ who experienced what I did, so it was great to have these women. We cheered each other on and supported each other during our lowest moments.”
  2. Acupuncture. Specifically, with a specialist who worked with fertility issues. “I loved the private time and it was relaxing. I also felt like it gave me some control during those ‘rest months’ when I felt every minute of every day slowly tick by.”

when a loved one struggles with infertilityWhat didn’t help?

This is probably where I come in because I’m sure I didn’t always say the right thing to my little sis.

  1. Other people’s comments and stories. “They are doing their absolute best to be there for you and to understand you, but they can’t… and their stories did not help my problem. I don’t know why real people in my life who were essentially doing the same thing as the people on my Instagram were different, but they were.”
  2. Hiding the fact that you’re expecting in an effort to spare the other person’s feelings. “Never hide your experience… Sheltering her or even cutting her off from things will only hurt her more. Check in on her.” Remember you had a friendship before pregnancy – maybe get together and do something that doesn’t involve your children.

If you are struggling:

My sister says, “Never feel bad for how you are feeling. Infertility is the most out of control and vulnerable I have ever felt. The last thing you deserve, or want to do, is to feel bad for how you are feeling.”

“… Also, you should find your comfort zone. Whether it be researching all that exists on the internet, doing a holistic approach to fertility, or wearing infertility awareness shirts – find what makes you feel comforted in an unsettling time.” 

My nephew

My nephew was born in 2018. He’s the sweetest little boy with blonde hair and blue eyes. It took my sister almost three years to see those eyes looking back at her. Years of hope and heartbreak. Over and over. But it’s hope my sister and I wish for this article to provide.

“I have lots of scars on my body from my laparoscopy.. one particular injection.. my cesarean section.. My body will probably never recover from nearly three years of abuse, but I wear the scars and 20 extra pounds with pride. I am an infertility warrior, winner and, most importantly, I am a mother.”

And to all those struggling, “My love to all of you warriors.”

Did you know? This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. Check out this article on it.