TW: infertility; miscarriage; pregnancy loss
It’s Infertility Awareness week. I typically cannot help myself from ending most sentences with an exclamation point, but that is one sentence I do not find deserving. My husband and I are the 1 in 8 couples that are currently struggling with infertility. We have only been on this conception journey for 16 months, but those months have brought us some of the most devastating heartache we could ever experience. You see, we are also part of another infertility statistic: 1 in 4 pregnancies that end in miscarriage.
You are not alone
Whether you are currently struggling with getting pregnant, recovering from a medical procedure, in the process of IUI or IVF, taking medication, previously experienced infertility or experienced the inability to bring a baby to full term… I am with you. I know I do not need to explain the heartache and hopelessness than can be felt with every negative pregnancy test; the mixture of envy, sadness, excitement and joy when a friend becomes pregnant; or the dismissal and frustration you feel when people try to “silver line” your infertility journey (yes, I am making silver lining a verb).
When writing this, I have two purposes: to stand in solidarity with others experiencing infertility AND to offer helpful ways to support someone you love that is experiencing infertility.
When we lost our baby, I felt so alone and broken. (I literally was alone, my husband was not allowed in the hospital with me because it was during the COVID shut down last spring). The days and weeks after our loss were filled with flashbacks from the hospital, inconsolable tears, avoidance of using the bathroom, and a depth of sadness I had never before experienced. I think one of the cruelest aspects of a miscarriage is the physical pain and continued blood loss that go on for days following a miscarriage, which serves as a reminder of what you no longer have.
I remember being conflicted about how I “should feel” about my experience. I had heard of people experiencing pregnancy loss but had always seen them “bounce back” quickly or seemingly just move on with their life. I remember telling Emma I would be back to work the following week in an attempt to minimize the event that had just happened. I thought that was what everyone else did. I ended up taking almost two weeks off and I truly needed every minute of that.
I spent a lot of my time off looking for answers and seeking out others who had experienced this on Instagram. I found a few accounts that genuinely aided in my healing and offered validation for my heartbreak. This led me to feeling a need to share my story and add more visibility to the experience of pregnancy loss. So I did, and something amazing happened. I gained a community of warrior women who had also experienced pregnancy loss. My Instagram and Facebook were flooded with personal stories and messages from friends and acquaintances. I received countless text messages from friends and even family that had been in my position and could relate to my experience. It was beautiful and surprising.
A year later, my husband and I have not had success in conceiving another child. The wait is difficult, especially when you are in your mid-thirties and you feel up against your biological clock. But I am not alone and the story of our family is not over. If you are someone who has struggled with infertility or experienced pregnancy loss or are somewhere else on this journey– I encourage you to lean into community. Whether it be an online community or friends or even acquaintances you know who are on a similar path. You do not have to do this alone.
Support: The Do’s
For friends, family and co-workers of people who are struggling with infertility or pregnancy loss, here are some tips:
- Sit with them, pray with them, listen to them, be present with them
- Affirm their experience
- Drop off food or Restaurant gift cards
- Send flowers or plants as memorials
- Anonymously give money to support fertility treatments
- Let them know you are thinking of them at milestones (due dates, year anniversaries) or throughout the process
- Ask them what support looks like and honor that
- Share your pregnancy news in a gentle and honoring way, preferably 1:1
- Check for comfortability before inviting to baby showers
Support: The Don’ts
- Offer unsolicited advice
- Talk about your hardships as comparison
- Give them silver linings or tell them “It wasn’t meant to be”
- Check in on their “progress” towards conception (unless you are asked to do so)
- Have an expectation of when they should be “over it” or have moved on from their loss
- Tell them to focus on the positives in their life
- Discuss your pregnancy or send pregnancy updates (unless you are told or asked otherwise)
- Most importantly– ask your friend, family member or work colleague what support looks like and what doesn’t. This is a delicate topic and your sensitivity can go a long way.