By Fertility SA :: Julie Potts, Dip Tech in Social Work
Imagine you have an old friend. Imagine this friend lives on the other side of town and they plan a dinner to catch up. They can’t wait to catch up. Sounds simple, but the friend isn’t so easy to pin down. You make a real effort because you really want to catch up with this friend. You put off other plans, leave work early, organise dinner on her side of town to make it easier for them and even offer to pay for dinner. Imagine this friend doesn’t show. But you still want to catch up with this flakey friend, so next month you do it all again. And the friend doesn’t show again.
“Hope” in the context of fertility struggles can be such a friend. How long do you keep holding out that hope will not disappoint you? What an exhausting position to be in. You don’t want to banish this lifelong friend, but how long can you remain optimistic that it is all going to work out?
Welcome to the life of someone struggling with fertility every month. It is hard to remain the optimist whilst riding the emotional roller coaster that is fertility treatment. Every month someone struggling with fertility doesn’t have their hopes of a baby fulfilled is another month of invisible grief and lost hope. Grief that can’t be shared – patients aren’t celebrating the life of a departed person who was known and loved by others, they are grieving the loss of a longed for, long held, loved dream with which only the couple have deep familiarity. How then can those feelings of repeated mourning be validated?
So, what are some tips for helping your loved one through fertility struggles?
:: Listen to and validate their feelings of sadness and their need to grieve.
:: Support them in learning to manage their friendship with hope rather than allowing hope to set the terms.
:: Encourage your friend or family member, whenever they are able, not to put their lives on hold – take the promotion, buy the house, keep other creative endeavours active in their lives.
:: Acknowledge their efforts to embrace what they can change and to accept those matters that remain outside their control.
:: At times when sadness or frustration are acutely raw give permission for them to opt out of social events where they might feel more vulnerable. Conversely, also encourage friends not to socially isolate themselves. Its ok for them to resent the fertility queue jumpers, but don’t retreat from all contact with others to avoid those who seem to be where you want to be. Encourage them to join up with others of like lived experience through support groups or forums.
:: Remind your friend or family member that their identity is not defined by infertility-that infertility is a chapter in their book, not the entire book.
:: Be mindful of your conversations with your loved ones, for example be aware that complaining about your child not sleeping to a friend that wishes she had a child to keep her awake at night, may be considered insensitive.
:: Support loved ones in seeking help, individually or as a couple.
By Julie Potts, Dip Tech in Social Work
Julie’s biggest fear is talking to large groups of people. The Fertility SA team find this incredible as she always has them captivated (and sometimes in tears) when talking about her passion in supporting patients.Julie is a professional counsellor, trained and experienced in fertility counselling. She provides positive assistance, on an individual or couple basis, in managing the stress and spectrum of emotions generated by the experience of infertility. She is available to support people in the process of their decision making and can provide information about options, like adoption or donor treatment. Julie is well known to many women in Adelaide who have needed a compassionate ear and a sound voice of reason during their fertility journey.
On another note, if you’re experiencing fertility struggles of a different kind – in that you’re in your 30s and have not yet met a life partner, there are options. You might find this helpful: All the things you need to know about freezing your eggs.
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