3 ways to support those who are experiencing infertility

April 21, 2015

National Infertility Awareness Week is April 19-25, 2015. The theme is “You Are Not Alone,” which is appropriate given the fact that one in eight couples experiences this painful phenomenon. Resolve is the National Infertility Association, which has been holding the annual awareness week since 1989.

Infertility is my experience, too.

So, why have I not heard of this awareness week until just this year? Perhaps it is because I have a growing sensitivity to infertility due to opening up publicly about my own journey. I began sharing about it on my blog around January 2014. A few short months later, on Mother’s Day, my husband and I announced that we were planning to adopt. The very next week, we found out that we could not naturally conceive.

I love how God placed the desire for us to adopt on our hearts long before we knew we could not conceive. Sure, we had an idea we could not have biological children after not having had children almost a dozen years into marriage. But, we were not compelled to really explore the infertility or treatment for it.

This is just our story, though. You see, everyone who has experienced infertility has a different story. Some couples grieve significantly over not being able to conceive naturally or have biological children. Some couples decide to go forward with infertility treatment. Some couples decide to adopt, while others do not feel called to that.

Your support matters.

There are so many ways you can support people who experience infertility. If you think you don’t know anyone who has or is experiencing this, you are mistaken. Not every couple chooses to share their story. Trust me, it is very difficult. As a woman, it is easy to feel something is “wrong” with me (other than the physical issues that have led to the infertility). We hear that children are a blessing from God and may be tempted to question what we have done that led God to withhold this blessing. But, this kind of thinking is often unhealthy, irrational and unbiblical.

We may never know why some couples who long for a child are not able to conceive, but we do know that God is still good. He is still faithful. He can still bless us and use us to bless others. Infertility can be a thorn in the flesh, but we know that suffering leads to hope, and hope never disappoints (Rom. 5:3-5).  

So, what do you need to know in order to support your friends who are dealing with infertility? Here are a few tips:

  1. We are all different. Our reactions are all different. Some couples who experience infertility are emotionally affected when a friend announces a pregnancy or when attending a baby shower. Some don’t enjoy attending children’s birthday parties or working in the church nursery. I personally rejoice over all of this, but we are all different. Be sensitive to your friends who are walking down this difficult path. Be understanding when someone has a difficult time celebrating your pregnancy or attending your baby shower or child’s birthday party. (And, I also encourage those who are experiencing infertility to try and find the joy in those precious moments, and to rejoice with those who rejoice!)
  2. Be cautious with your questions. I have been asked all sorts of questions. Examples include: Are you going to have children?; When are you going to have children? Have you considered adoption? Are you trying to have children? Are you doing anything to prevent pregnancy? What about IVF? I am sure some of these questions stem from curiosity, while others are pretty personal. It is always surprising to me when someone asks questions that are actually related to my intimate life. To be quite frank, none of this is any of your business. It is likely that if you are close enough with someone, they will share some of this with you. But, please be cautious with your questions, and allow your friends to share with you what they want to share in their own time.
  3. Don’t make assumptions. You may think you know someone’s story and why they don’t have any children. The fact is, you may not know the whole story. I have had a number of friends who experienced secondary infertility—since they already had one child, people would frequently question when they were planning have more children, not knowing that they had either experienced miscarriages or that they were unable to conceive again. I have also found this to be the case with friends who have had more than one child. Infertility is not just experienced by childless couples.

God has a different plan for every couple. During this year’s National Infertility Awareness Week, please help raise awareness. Recognize that we are all different, be cautious with your questions, and don’t make assumptions. Instead, show God’s love, pray for your friends, and simply be there to support them.

Laurel Shaler

Dr. Laurel Shaler is a licensed social worker and professional counselor. She holds master's degrees in Social Work and Theology, and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision. Shaler is an associate professor at Liberty University, and is the author of Reclaiming Sanity: Hope and Healing for Trauma, Stress, and … Read More