Infertility is no easy battle to face. I know this because I have a warrior of a best friend who is currently battling infertility. She is an amazing strong woman who is on a mission to spread the gospel; and hope to those who are waiting. She just so happens to be the face and heart of this amazing blog. I’m so honored and blessed to call Raven one of my best friends. I believe that it is so vital to be a supportive friend, especially when your friend is dealing with infertility.
I have never been diagnosed with infertility, but my journey to children has not been a completely smooth process. I got my first cycle in elementary school, and every cycle I had was painful. I didn’t have “pop a Tylenol and you’ll be fine” cycles. I had those curled over in a fetal position, crying out in agonizing pain, and having to miss school every month type of cycles. I was always so embarrassed because I felt like everyone knew my “time of the month.” Although I knew this was abnormal, I never was seen by a doctor to diagnosis what was going on with me. I had many trips to the ER, but I was always given heavy narcotics and sent back home. The heavy prescription pills that were prescribed to me still didn’t take away the pain I felt every single month.
Now fast forward to 2011, with me being a grown, newly married woman. My husband and I went to the doctor so I could start birth control. As I was discussing my history of painful cycles with my doctor, she diagnosed me with secondary dysmenorrhea and endometriosis. After she gave me the diagnosis she said “it will probably be difficult for you to conceive.” I remember my heart sinking into my stomach when she uttered those words out of her mouth. I looked at my husband with the upmost sadness. I was heartbroken. All of my hopes and dreams of having the family that I had always desired felt like it was a coin toss. Although fear and disappointment gripped my heart, my husband had so much faith. He encouraged me to not lose hope, and to trust God to expand our family.
Within 2.5 months of being off of birth control, my husband and I found out I was pregnant with our first child.
I was so overwhelmed with joy because I had so many doubts that I would even be able to carry a child. When my son was 14 months old my husband and I decided to permanently toss out birth control due to the side effects and our personal convictions. We wanted more children and were ready whenever that time came. I was still nursing my son, and had no cycle. It took us a year before we got pregnant with our second child. I tried to stay hopeful and positive during that time, but the thoughts of secondary infertility began to plague my mind. I confided in a friend about my desires and struggles, and ended up being so hurt by the things she said and did during my time of waiting. Although I was hurt, I learned so much,and now have a greater sensitivity to those who are facing infertility. Having a best friend who is battling infertility certainly pushes you to be more caring, kind, loving, and supportive. I am not perfect, and I always have room to be better, but I have learned several ways in which I can support her. I want to share those ways with you so you can be a better support to your friend(s) who maybe facing infertility.
Tip #1: Offer support, not unsolicited advice. When your friend confides in you and shares that she’s been diagnosed with infertility, you should offer her your support. The fact that she is sharing this with you means that she trusts you. Ask her how she is feeling, be a good listener, and offer to be there whenever she wants to talk. It is not your duty to bombard her with googled medical advice. She doesn’t need another doctor, she needs her friend.
Tip #2: Do your own research. Ok, so google isn’t that bad. When Raven told me that she was diagnosed with infertility, I made a personal effort to do my own research so she wouldn’t have to constantly explain everything to me. I became committed to educating myself so that I could be a more supportive friend. I also became more familiar with the different acronyms and abbreviations used in the TTC (trying to conceive) community. You don’t have to become an expert, but knowing basic things like what BBT (basal body temperature) and DPO (days past ovulation) mean are very appreciated, and can make your friend feel a little more comfortable when talking with you.
Tip #3: Be cautious with your words. If your friend is battling with infertility, sayings like “just relax, and it will happen,” “just pray about it,” or “just adopt” are not helpful. These statements are not only hurtful, but they minimize and devalue what your friend is going through. Make sure that you are cautious with your words and are not making insensitive comments.
Tip #4: Be sensitive to her needs. One of the easiest ways to find out what your friend needs is by asking her. Find out the most effective ways in which you can extend your support to her. Be sensitive and mindful of her feelings. Make her feel comfortable and safe to express her heart to you, and remember the things that she shares with you. Your friend may go through seasons of depression and isolation. It’s important not to become offended or take her isolating herself as something personal. After all, this is a battle that she faces every day. Just because she doesn’t discuss it with you in every conversation doesn’t mean that she’s not hurting.
Tip #5: Be considerate. If your friend is battling infertility, the last thing she needs is to hear you complaining about your pregnancy or life with children. Think about it, you are complaining about the very thing that she’s praying for. Yes, sometimes you may become frustrated with pregnancy symptoms or your children, but constantly venting those frustrations to a friend who is battling infertility isn’t being considerate. During my waiting season for baby #2, I had a friend who constantly bragged about being pregnant. She conceived while we were in waiting, and although I was happy for her, I was annoyed at the same time. Hey, I’m being honest here. I was annoyed because she knew how badly I wanted to become pregnant and every time we spoke, she constantly bragged about her family growing and how blessed she was to be pregnant. It wasn’t that I wasn’t rejoicing for my friend, but the fact that she never let me forget how blessed she was to be pregnant again, made me feel sorrow and grief for myself. It was another reminder that I didn’t have what my heart so deeply desired. So if you are pregnant and your friend is battling infertility, be mindful of your conversations and invitations. Asking your friend who is battling infertility to come over and help paint your baby’s nursery may not be the best way to spend quality time with her.
Tip #6: Pray for her. I believe that prayer is one of the greatest acts of love that we can display. Nothing says I care about your situation more than presenting it directly to God. If your friend is battling infertility, keep her lifted in prayer. Exercise your faith by standing in agreement with her for her future children. Pray about the things that frustrate and overwhelm her. Pray for strength during this process, and pray for her womb. Pray for her marriage. Pray for a healthy pregnancy, and healthy babies. This is something that I do in my quiet time because I stand in faith with my best friend for her family. Remember that infertility is not easy, but it’s even harder without support. Part of being a friend is being supportive. Be present and let her know that her emotions are welcome and that she has a safe place with you. Acknowledge her on mother’s day and recognize how much it took for her to attend your baby shower last month. Or if you are having a baby shower and she doesn’t want to come, let her know that it’s ok. Reach out to her (even if she maybe isolating herself) and let her know you are there for her. Be understanding, grace her when she needs it, and most importantly, be the friend who shows up.
I am so grateful to have such an amazing friend like Raven. She embodies so many qualities that people search a lifetime to find. My prayer is that I can be the amazing friend to her that she is to me.
Written By: My best friend: Who prays for me before EVERY appointment, listens to all my cares and concerns-no matter how big or small, while being an amazing wife, mother, entrepreneur, autism advocate, AND new AUTHOR- Angel Jackson