A Guide to Infertility Etiquette

How to help your friends and family help you

You know your friends and family mean well. Really, they do. But infertility isn't exactly something we learn about as kids. There's no merit badge for infertility etiquette, and visiting a fertility clinic is not on the list of typical school field trips. The fact is, unless people have had to deal with it personally, most are blissfully unaware of even basic knowledge about infertility.

That can leave your friends and family members at a complete loss for the right thing to say or do, and odds are high that they'll tell you the last thing you need or want to hear. And, as you probably know all too well, trying to develop a "thick skin" isn't even an option. On the worst days, battling infertility feels like you have no skin at all.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • "Your day will come." (What makes you so sure? The reality is that it may not.)

  • "Just relax." (Seriously? This advice just stresses me out more.)

  • "I know a couple who gave up trying to have a baby and just after filing for adoption, the woman got pregnant." (Miracle stories may not apply to me.)

  • "You can have my kids." (Oh, you were only joking? What was the funny part?)

  • "Maybe it wasn't meant to be." (Ouch.)

  • "God has other plans for you." (Really? Do you have some inside track with the Almighty? And what have I done to deserve that?

Understand and educate

Remember, those of us diagnosed with infertility didn't know much about it either until we were forced to take a crash course – acronyms and all. You don't want to break out the flash cards on your family, but you can encourage meaningful discussions, even if you have to help define terms now and again.

This isn't easy to do. You're already reeling from what feels like an endless loop of heartbreak and hope. You're more than likely amped up on hormones and short on patience. Sometimes family and friend's comments can seem downright judgmental, and you've probably been hard enough on yourself already.

Besides not wanting to be judged, you want family and friends to know that you need their support, their kindness and when necessary an indulgence – from a getting to take a pass on a family event to a quart of your favorite ice cream. Most important, you want to be heard – not marginalized or dismissed.

We all differ in how much outside involvement we want or need. Some people, like me, feel comfortable being pretty open about their infertility. Others prefer to keep their struggles private. Let your inner circle know what you prefer – and that your needs may change over time. Being clear helps everyone understand your boundaries. 

Part II: A printable guide for your family and friends