Vincelli: Party of 6

Vincelli: Party of 6

Saturday, September 5, 2009


The best thing to do is to let them know that you care. People struggling with infertility most commonly feel ALONE! Just knowing you’re there let’s them know that they aren’t alone. Not saying anything is the worst thing to do. You don’t have to be a poet; you don’t know to know the right words to say. Listen a lot, but speak less. Ask questions without pressuring them. But do let that person know that if and when they want to talk about it – you are there. And if that time isn’t right now, let them know you are available whenever they need you.

Oftentimes, you don’t have to give advice; they just need to vent and to know that someone cares enough to listen. If you’re the “touchy feely type,” then give hugs and share tears along with him/her. Let them cry on your shoulder. But if you pretend nothing’s wrong or never ask, it’s like you’re ignoring that person and can make them feel like you forgot or that you don’t care.

Simply saying, “I’m thinking of you” can mean so very much. Send them cards. Any emails, texts, or cards that I receive that just say something like, “I love you and am thinking of you today.” mean so much. They don’t even have to say that it had to do with my infertility struggle. I just knew what they meant and that touched my heart. Let them know you are praying for them. Offer them the same kind of support you would offer a friend who has lost a loved one.

Those little notes, emails, or texts really touches and uplifts the soul. And you may not know it, but they usually come at the perfect time when people need it the most. Days where I get my period or received news I didn’t want to hear from the doctor, were days I oftentimes would find these messages. Some people may call that a coincidence, but I know it’s a God-incidence.

Overall, just be there. Show support, show you care, and do it often. The worst thing about infertility is the terrible feeling of being alone. Don’t ever let anyone feel alone…

Below is a great letter for families and friends of those experiencing infertility. I read it on by Mark Perloe M.D.

Letter to Family and Friends

Dear Friend:
I realize that sometimes it's difficult for you to know what to say to a couple who has a fertility problem. Sometimes it seems like no matter what you do, it's the wrong thing. I'd like to give you a few suggestions that may help you be the friend I know you want to be:

1. Be ready to listen. Infertile couples have a lot on their minds and need someone to talk to. Sometimes a good ear helps people get things off their chests. A good listener can help people express their anxiety, anger, and guilt; or help people work out solutions to problems. Without offering any suggestions your attentiveness and interest may provide the comfort and reassurance these couples need most.

2. Don't offer advice unless you are really well informed. Infertile couples read everything they can get their hands on. Sometimes it seems as though they know more about fertility treatment than their own doctors. So talking off the cuff about something you don't really know about will only make them angry and defensive.

3. Be sensitive and don't joke about infertility; attempts at levity will only anger them. Joking about infertility is as inappropriate as joking about death at a funeral. Remember, infertile couples are hypersensitive about many things. Try to put yourself in their shoes whenever you insist they come to a baby shower, when you brag about your children's achievements, or when you tell them about your friend's daughter who got pregnant at fourteen.

4. Be patient. This couple may experience mood swings with every treatment or monthly cycle. One week they may be high because a new treatment promises hope; the next week they may be in mourning for the child they lost (didn't make) this month. They may be riding an exhausting emotional roller coaster which makes their actions and moods unpredictable. Try to understand and flow with their changes. And remember that when they want to be alone, they are not rejecting you. Don't get your feelings hurt by the preoccupation they have with their problems; keep in touch.

5. Show that you understand their difficulty. Say things like, "I know this is difficult for you," "I don't envy what you're going through," or, "If there is anything I can do to help, don't hesitate to ask." If you aren't sure about what they are experiencing, read some articles and books that discuss the emotional aspects of fertility problems.

6. Be realistic and supportive of their decisions for or against fertility treatment. Once they've reached a difficult decision, don't say, "Shouldn't you see another doctor?"; "Are you sure that you really want to adopt?"; or, "I'd never consider doing that!" These couples usually weigh each issue as though it were a life-or-death decision. Don't take their decisions lightly unless you have good reason to.

7. Don't put down their doctor or choices for treatment. Refrain from making comments like, "I never heard of a doctor doing that. Does he know what he's doing?" or, "You don't need surgery. What you need is a vacation." Unless, from your reading or experience, you are certain that their physician is not using accepted methods, keep quiet about these topics.

8. Be truthful. Don't, for example, try to hide a pregnancy in the family. The truth does not hurt, provided you are not brutally frank.

9. Let them know when you don't know what to say. The couple will appreciate your honesty and will probably suggest how you can help them in that particular situation, even if it means remaining quiet. Admitting your problem will help establish honest communication.

10. Be an advocate for infertile couples. Educate others and speak up for the couple's decisions. Promote your local RESOLVE chapter. If you do not have a support group in your community, help form one.

11. Understand that individuals and couples respond to fertility problems differently. Learn to recognize the normal emotional stages they are experiencing—denial, anger, depression, mourning, acceptance, and so forth. And realize that they may cycle through these stages with each new round of treatment and with each lost opportunity. Accept them when they are angry accept them when they are depressed, and accept them when they feel guilty. Unless they remain in a single stage for a prolonged period of time, don't become overly concerned.

12. Above all, be there when they need you and show them that you care.
This is a stressful time for everyone. Don't underestimate how important you and your relationship are to this couple. Your understanding and support can make a significant difference during this difficult period.

Mark Perloe M D
Atlanta, GA.

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