The value of good support while you’re trying to conceive through infertility shouldn’t be underestimated. People often tell me it’s the one thing they’re lacking. They wish they had someone close to them who really understands what they’re going through. However truly good and effective support can be hard to find. Even if you’re surrounded by caring and well-meaning friends and family, and a partner who’s going through this with you, you may still feel very alone.
Why is this?
Let’s consider what makes a ‘good supporter’ for you while you face fertility issues.
*Empathy and understanding
An understanding of the fertility issues, tests, treatments and emotions you’re experiencing is vital in those you’re looking to seek support from. People who found it easy to conceive their children or haven’t yet started on this journey, have no experience to draw on to empathise with your situation. If you do seek support here, be prepared for well-meaning but potentially hurtful comments such as “if you just relax you’ll get pregnant”. It can be useful to find other people who understand fertility issues at support groups, online fertility communities (such as the weekly #FertilitySupport Twitter chat), or seek a therapist like myself who specialises in fertility.
*Unbiased and non-judgemental
When you’re making decisions on your fertility journey you may only want to share this information with people who can be truly unbiased and won’t judge your decisions. There are emotive issues surrounding fertility treatment and your personal decisions, and seeking support from people who have strong opinions could be difficult for you. So choose wisely who you decide to share delicate information with.
*Able to give practical support and advice
There may be times when you need more than just a shoulder to cry on, and support that helps you make decisions, carry out research or take any other action on your fertility journey is invaluable. You may find this support through your doctor or clinic, or anyone else who has a good understanding of the issues and is practical and level-headed. Don’t rely on your most emotional friends to give you this support, as you may feel more confused than ever!
*Not too emotionally involved
Having an understanding and empathy for your situation is one thing, but if you find someone is too emotionally involved in your situation, they may become more of a burden than a help. This could be the case with your partner, your close friends and relatives. They care for you so much that they literally feel the pain you are going through, and of course your partner is going through the same challenges. When you’re not feeling emotionally strong it can be too much to deal with other people’s emotions too. So try not to lean on them unless you’re feeling strong enough to give them support too.
*Available and approachable
Even the best support won’t be meeting your needs if it’s not available when you need it. In our busy lives you may find that friends and family are sometimes unavailable at a time when you need them most. Or if they have their own issues they are dealing with, they may be unable to give you the undivided attention you need at times. This is when creating a wider support network, outside of your usual circle, can be useful.
So how can you find this ideal support?
You may have already identified some people who can give you the kind of support outlined above. Great! Be aware however that very rarely will you find a friend, family member, or partner who can provide you with all of these levels of support.
So choose well who you go to for what kind of support. Your partner may be great with the practical support, while a friend is always on the end of a phone with a non-judgmental listening ear. And when you’re looking for advice and support about an aspect of your fertility treatment, you may seek this from your clinic or fertility support group. And for the ultimate in unbiased, empathetic and available support you could choose to sign up for professional fertility support from someone like myself.
Bring all these strands together for truly useful, strong and nurturing support. It’s what you need, and deserve, as you navigate your fertility journey.