A few weeks ago a reader reached out for guidance about how to talk to a friend who was struggling to conceive. The reader is the proud mother of a healthy baby boy and felt conflicted about sharing her joy with a friend who wants to desperately to be a mother.
I know this reader is not alone in wondering how best to support a friend facing infertility. What I shared with her based on my own experience follows. I hope it will be helpful to others, as well…
This is a great - and extremely difficult - question... It depends so much on the person, as well as your relationship to him/her. Because you describe this woman as one of your closest friends, you have far more latitude than you may think. When my husband and I were in the midst of our struggle, a very dear friend became pregnant, and I was truly happy for her. I wanted to know about her pregnancy and how she was feeling because I cared about her and her family. At the same time, however, news of pregnancy among strangers added to the isolation I was feeling.
When it comes to talking about your son, let your friend take the lead. If she asks about him, don't hide your joy – your maternal bliss may be the encouragement she needs to make it through the day – or the next round of testing/procedures. At the same time, don't initiate conversations about him or other kiddos. Some days she may want to relate to you as a friend – not a mama.
Perhaps most importantly, be a safe place for her. I only shared our struggle with a small universe of people, and I was grateful when one of them would give me a venue to express what I was feeling without judgment. Ask your friend how she is doing, and really listen to the answers. Don't worry about having the “right” things to say or try to identify with what she is experiencing (e.g. "I know how hard it must be"), simply let her know you are grieving for her and there for her.
If you have any additional advice to offer, share it in the comments section below.