Several months ago, the Rue team gathered for lunch. With an expectant mama and two brides-to-be, the conversation quickly turned to babies. We realized that while each woman at the table had been asked “so when do you want kids?” by multiple near-strangers, we don’t have enough conversations about motherhood. We don’t have enough conversations about balancing work and family. We don’t have enough conversations about birth, though the birthing stories many bloggers are sharing are powerful ways to start those conversations. And we don’t have enough conversations about trying to conceive.
Trying to conceive can be a long process and each negative test can feel like a failure. So often, individuals and couples trying to conceive don’t share their journey. When a friend does reach out, it can be hard to know what to say.
Pause before you ask about plans. It’s such a familiar conversation topic, but being asked about pregnancy plans can be very difficult for someone trying to conceive. Keep this conversation topic reserved for those you are close to and realize it may lead to a more difficult conversation than you imagined. We hope more and more women will have candid conversations with their friends, but just be aware of the many directions this conversation can go.
Give support, not advice. If your friend has been trying to conceive for a while, it’s likely they have already tried dozens of relaxation techniques and natural herbs, along with many medical options. So unless your sister is the best fertility specialist in the country, start the conversation by asking them how they are feeling and how you can help.
Think before you share a story. It’s easy to assume that the story of the person you know who got pregnant through IVF at 47 or the story of the couple who adopted only to also become pregnant are success stories that will boost your friend’s mood. In reality, they’ve likely spent nights reading those stories themselves, only to think “why am I still struggling?” However, if you have had your own fertility struggles, always share your own story.
Keep your friendship the same. Don’t drop your friend from events, even if you think they may be painful. If your baby shower is coming up, still invite your friend, though you may ask her in directly instead of sending her the invitation with sonogram. Be understanding if she declines, however. Despite being happy for you, she may not be ready for public celebrations.
Ask how they want to be supported. Anytime a friend is struggling, it’s hard to know what they need or the best thing to say. Maybe they wanted to update you but prefer to not go into details. Maybe they need a friend to insist on brunch the day after a negative test. If they can tell you what they need, respect that. If they aren’t sure what they need, just letting them know you are there can be a huge help.
Image from Rue Issue 23.