The holidays can be hard for those struggling with infertility. In addition to encouraging anyone in the midst of their journey to create healthy boundaries, say no, and even consider a new holiday tradition if your current plans are too triggering, we’d like to offer something to the friends and family of those struggling (or, honestly really anyone because somethings should just not be asked about!).
First and likely most important: Don’t ask pregnancy related questions. It’s never ok to ask someone if they are trying for a baby. This question, while so painful for many, is just too personal! Can you imagine asking an equally personal question to your cousins/aunts/etc? We like a response with a gentle, but firm comment drawing attention to that question like “Wow?! That is a really personal thing to ask me!” Hopefully this will help stop further conversations like this.
Second, offer love and support on their terms. This suggestion is more for people who know about your journey. Let them determine what kind of support they need and, above all else, offer love.
Third, respect their boundaries. This just isn’t about you. It’s about protecting themselves during a really delicate time. Please don’t make it about you (see number 2, offer love). If they can’t stay for the whole gathering, or just can’t be around the couple that just can’t stop taking about their pregnancy, that’s ok. Boundaries are healthy.
Fourth, be mindful of conversation topics. I know that in a group of parents, conversation often revolves around kids and families, as it is often what occupies the majority of your time. But, if you have someone in your group that doesn’t ‘have a family (whether they are trying, not trying, wanting a family or not) make sure you move conversation to a different topic. Trust me, they will be so grateful!
Fifth, it’s ok to just hold space for someone who is struggling. They usually don’t want advice and saying “it could be worse” never comes off well. It’s ok just to say “that sounds awful. I am so sorry” and then just be with them or even ask how they need support. If you are feeling at a loss here, this video might help.
Sixth, if you know someone that is struggling, just ask them what they need. They might want to recount stories from the good ol’ days to get their mind off of it. They might want to talk about their feelings or their journey. They might want a wingman to help deflect questions from Aunt Susan. I’m sure, even if they don’t need anything, knowing you’ve got their back will make their holidays a little brighter.
Seventh, basically a repeat of number 4, but we wanted to reword this advice in another, more direct way. If you know someone is trying or even struggling, ask them about their job, hobbies, interests, literally anything else. They likely want social interaction and would love to be asked about anything other than their pregnancy status.
Eighth, last and definitely not least, don’t ever analyze anyones food choices to see if you can ‘figure out’ if they are pregnant or not. This behavior is annoying at best and intrusive at worst. You will find out soon enough and it is really none of your business. Someone might not be ready to share if they’ve previously had miscarriages or didn’t get great news at their last ultrasound. They also might be watching their diet or not drinking alcohol to prepare for a cycle or maybe they just want to be healthier and it has nothing to do with pregnancy or fertility. They might want a second helping of potatoes because they are eating for two, or they are just hungry and love potatoes! Again, this is none of your business unless you want your choices to be open for questioning.