Before we had our first daughter, I struggled with infertility. Fortunately, ours was not a long, intense struggle as it was for one of my former co-workers, but it was still painful. Over 14 million American women are either unable to bear children, or are using some type of fertility treatment to assist in their efforts to have children. While these statistics illustrate the pervasive issue of infertility in the United States, they do not begin to illustrate the emotional toll that infertility produces: feelings of social isolation, depression, and frustration. Worse yet, family members and friends of those struggling with infertility oftentimes don’t know how to help, or what they can say to try and comfort and support their loved one.
If you are someone who is struggling with conceiving a child, don't go it alone. For me, that was the hardest part - not being able to tell people about our struggles, because of some sort of stigma that I placed on myself. The more open you are with your struggles, the more you might help someone else. In my case, it was very helpful to my daughter's preschool teacher to be able to share with her what I had gone through. Being open also allows other people to help you. If well-meaning friends do say the wrong thing, try to take it with the supportive intent behind it, even if it's not what you needed to hear. At least people are trying.
If you have a friend or loved one struggling to conceive, just listen. Ask her to share what she is willing to share, and don't offer advice unless asked. If you've been in the same boat, then share what you wanted to hear at that time.
There is a lot that goes into infertility: causes, treatments, options for building a family, and a support network. All of this can be found in Zahie El Kouri's new book, Don’t Tell Her to Relax: 22 Ways to Support Your Infertile Loved One Through Diagnosis, Treatment, and Beyond. Based on her own painful experiences, El Kouri teaches readers how to be supportive with women dealing with fertility issues without being intrusive or offensive. Written in a compassionate and friendly tone, this new book is the ultimate guide for family members and friends who wish to help and emotionally support a loved one cope with the stress and frustration of infertility.
Zahie El Kouri writes about infertility and immigrant culture, sharing her experience of surviving infertility through personal essays and articles. She has taught creative writing at the University of North Florida and the University of Oregon Law School and legal writing at Santa Clara University and Florida Coastal School of Law. She holds a J.D. from Cornell Law School and an MFA in creative writing from New School University.