Pregnancy isn't easy, but for many people trying to get pregnant isn't easy, either. Hormonal imbalances, chronic illness, or being under or overweight can all impact a person's ability to conceive. Smoking and drinking, steroid use, certain STDs, and having an undescended testicle can impact a male partner's ability to conceive, too. And friends, that's just the tip of the iceberg. The entire process can be stressful, which is why we should all consider ways to support someone trying to conceive. Chances are high you know someone going through this very process and, after all, it takes a village.
While I have not personally experienced this struggle (I have difficulty staying pregnant rather than becoming pregnant), I currently have several friends who are trying to conceive and feeling extremely frustrated by the process. One friend recently became pregnant after nearly a year of trying via IUI and, eventually. IVF. Another friend finally got pregnant after she and her husband had adopted a baby (they were still thrilled, of course). And, of course, I have more friends who are still anxiously awaiting the day they get to hold a positive pregnancy test in their hands.
As a friend and someone who knows what it's like to watch your reproductive plans completely derail, I've tried to support my friends through this process as best I can. From listening to their stories to trying to be sensitive to their struggles, there's only so much you can do as someone on the outside looking in. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't do whatever we can to support those trying to conceive, including the following:
“I am a mother of two daughters after more than two years of trying for the first and almost four for the second. Listen. Don't offer advice unless asked. If supporting someone close to you, educate yourself. If announcing a pregnancy to someone you know is trying to conceive, understand that their sadness is not a reaction to your joy, just their circumstances. Ask them what they need. Pray for them. Support their choices without judgement. Be gentle with them. Struggling to conceive is going through a grieving process every month. It is rough.”
“Don’t talk about it. It’s like Fight Club. Unless you’re also trying to conceive, or have before with problems, you have nothing to add. Harsh, but true.”
“I've been trying for a year now and just started getting testing done to see what the issue is. The biggest support is having friends and family tell me it will happen and to keep trying. It's hard when people keep telling me I'm stressing too much about it and that's why it's not happening, or telling me it's the universe saying it's not time. When you want another baby and it's not happening, being told to stop worrying about it isn't realistic. It makes me feel alone, like I shouldn't talk about it.”
“Not hearing ‘it will happen when it happens,’ or, ‘it will happen when you stop trying.’ I hate that. It's like someone telling you to calm down when you're mad. It helps to see other kids behaving badly. Baby fever cure!”
“We struggled for just over three years before I finally found a doctor who was able to help, and who cared enough to help. I was first diagnosed with endometriosis and had scar tissue and buildup/blockages removed via laparoscopic surgery, and got my first ever positive pregnancy test about two months later. That pregnancy sadly ended after just a few days. After another couple very early miscarriages, it was discovered that I also have the MTHFR gene mutation. I began taking baby aspirin and a folate supplement and became pregnant again with our now 5-year-old son after two months. We began trying again when he was about 19 months, but because of the endometriosis I had to have laparoscopic surgery to remove the scar tissue and blockages again. I had one more miscarriage before I became pregnant with our now 2-year-old daughter. I thankfully had very uneventful and easy pregnancies.
When we were struggling to conceive, it was not helpful for people to tell me to ‘just relax’ or ‘have you tried yoga, acupuncture, chiropractor, having fun with sex, etc.?’ Because, yes. Yes, I have tried everything, and I'm failing and reminding me isn't helpful. What I found to be the most helpful was someone just listening to my hurt and telling me that my feelings were valid.”
“Don’t give unsolicited advice on something your mom’s friend’s cousin did. Don’t say, ‘stop trying and it will happen.’ Just listen, hug her when she cries, and be understanding if she doesn’t want to attend a baby shower or gender reveal party or generally be around your new baby. It isn’t personal, it’s self preservation.”
“It helped me when my friends were just as angry as I was when I started my period. Then we’d go out for sushi and wine since I wasn’t pregnant (and wouldn’t be able to do that if I was).”
“Everyone’s path is different. Baby showers are hard. Unless you are a doctor don’t ‘suggest’ ways [to conceive]. I’m sure their doctor already has plans, and your suggestion is not helpful because it could be something that tried that didn’t work, it could be expensive, and everyone has their own path and way.
Do not be offended if they didn’t tell you they were pregnant until way into the pregnancy, as several moms have experienced loss and wait to announce. It is helpful to learn about things like rainbow babies (babies who are born after a lost baby) and butterfly babies (babies in nursery or NICU with a butterfly sticker were in a set of multiples where all babies did not survive).”