After I featured this blog post by my friend Amy, a reader asked, "What should we say to infertility warriors?"
And then I realized, it's easy to talk about what not to say because it happens so often.
It's easy to stew in the hurtful, off-the-cuff comments because they're tossed around freely.
But what can you do -- what can we all do -- to help our brothers and sisters, friends and family members, colleagues and neighbors, who may be trudging through the trenches of infertile hell?
I'm not an expert by any means, but I have been known to spend many 'a days sulking on the bathroom floor next to wadded up Kleenexes and wrappers from negative pregnancy tests by my side.
So, on that note, here's five ways I'd recommending supporting someone struggling with infertility:
1. Ask them what they need.
You may not know exactly what it's like to be in their shoes, but you can still support them.
"Hey, I don't know what it's like to be in your shoes. What can I do to best help during this time?" is a great place to start.
Some ideas include [but are not limited to] the following:
Cook or send a meal on IVF retrieval or transfer day. And don't forget dessert. Lord knows women doped up on Gonal F injections or progesterone suppositories could use some chocolate.
Send flowers on a failed treatment day.
Mail a card of encouragement in the middle of a cycle.
Snag a gift card for a manicure or pedicure.
Send a box of sunshine for a day-brightener.
2. Validate their feelings.
The inability to conceive a baby is extremely painful.
Life passes infertile couples by while they sit in an empty house with broken hearts wondering if they'll ever experience the joy of feet pitter-pattering down the hallway.
Validate your friends' feelings.
Let them know it's not fair they have to go through this.
Make sure they know it's okay to be open and honest, even if it means having a breakdown over a margarita during a not-so-happy "Happy Hour."
3. Support their choices.
You may not agree with infertility treatments or procedures your friend chooses to pursue.
You may wonder why your friend decides to stop fertility treatments.
Or why your friend wants to explore surrogacy or donor sperm or donor embryos or adoption.
But lemme be upfront and honest here:
Your opinions don't matter.
Decisions on how to grow a family are agonizing for people struggling with infertility.
Put your personal opinions aside and support your friend's decisions no matter what.
Google search terms and common infertility phrases so your friend feels comfortable confiding in you (i.e. IUI, IVF, morphology, etc.).
And if your friend feels comfortable opening up about her struggles, let her know she can trust you with her raw, honest feelings.
That means don't gossip about what she tells you over coffee with your friends tomorrow morning.
5. Be courteous.
Remember them on Mother's Day or Father's Day.
Remember their hearts at Christmas or Valentine's Day.
Understand they may not be happy during holidays or birthdays or other days hallmarked with happiness.
Share your pregnancy announcement with them privately, and allow them time to process your good news at their own pace.
National Infertility Awareness Week is coming up April 19-25, and I'd love to share some of your stories. The theme: "You Are Not Alone." If you are an infertility warrior and willing to keep this conversation going, please contact me.