What to Say (And Not Say) to A Friend Struggling with Infertility

So often when friends are struggling we want to say the right thing, but oftentimes we don’t know what that is. Today I am delighted to welcome Shawna Beucler of Lunchbox Babies to help us with ideas for encouraging and loving words to say to our friends walking the difficult road of infertility.

As someone who has struggled with multiple miscarriages and heartbreak I was so happy when my friend, Shawna, started her blog to help women who are struggling with infertility. She’s created a wonderful community that’s not only encouraging, but adds much-needed humor and even fun to what can be such a tough journey. Here’s Shawna:

I started Lunchbox Babies earlier this year as a way to build a community of women that have walked or are walking the road of infertility, miscarriages, and infant loss. I have a crazy story of infertility and loss – 11 pregnancies, 2 miracle boys with me here, and a football team in Heaven – and I have always felt that I needed to share my story so that it can help others. Also, I like to talk a lot, and laugh. What better way to heal than with humor? And faith!

Unfortunately, infertility is something you can’t understand unless you’ve been through it. Sweet friends and family sometimes have no idea how to handle us, what to say to us, or how to behave around us. 

Having lived in the super awesome sorority that is infertility for just over a decade, I have had SO MUCH experience in what to say and what not to say when communicating with a friend that is struggling with infertility. This post could be much, much longer, but I have narrowed it down to the include the most important points! 

(And, yes, I have experienced all of these!)

6 Things to Say

  1. I support you.” For much of my journey I had just one or two friends that knew the details. I didn’t want it to be the water cooler talk during each outing, so I kept it to myself. HOWEVER, if your friend is willing to talk to you about the details, be supportive of her decisions and just be there for her. This journey is emotionally, physically, and mentally draining. She isn’t wanting you to fix her. She needs you.  You ear, your shoulder, your extensive wine collection. (Or maybe that last one was just me?!?)
  2. Tell me more…” Ask for education, really listen, and try to understand. Whenever I am dealing with a new issue, I am always researching and trying to understand. For those that have never experienced it, infertility is strange, and the treatments are just wack-a-do! Explaining the details to friends and family that I was willing to let in, always made it easier to communicate and didn’t make me feel like I was on an island all alone.
  3. Only give advice when asked. This is so hard for me to do! I love to give people advice. I once told my husband, Reid, that I was thinking about becoming a life coach, and he thinks I am crazy. I guess I could just tell people I am one, right?
  4. “How can I help?” Ask what you can do to help. Unless she is on bedrest from an IVF procedure, she won’t be in need of food, running errands help, etc. And, most likely she will tell you that she doesn’t need help, but the important thing is that she knows you are there.  And, if you are like a certain special friend of mine, you will just go over to her house and help her anyway. 😉 I do think that a small flower arrangement or an unexpected card can go a long way. Infertility is a lonely road and feeling like someone has your back can be a game changer.
  5.  “I have the funniest story…” Make her laugh (when appropriate). Sometimes talking about myself and my situation was ANNOYING! I was over me and over my issues. It just became too much. I wanted someone to tell me a joke, chat about the most recent Bachelorette episode, or just tell a funny story. That is what I needed. For my friends to treat me normally, and not handle me with kid gloves. Just call her and make her laugh.
  6. Pray for her! She might not hear these words come out of your mouth but these words are the best thing you can do for her she walks this journey. I know that I have felt the prayers of some amazing prayer warriors during this insane walk of mine.

6 Things Not To Say

As you read these, you may realize that you have said one of these comments to a friend before. Or maybe a few of them. No judgement because I am sure that I did as well before I stepped onto this path. Unless you have been through it, you will never understand what it feels like to struggle with infertility or experience the overwhelming heartbreak of a miscarriage. Grace for everyone!

  1. “Don’t stress so much. You should just relax.” The #1 thing people say! I can’t tell you how many times I heard this! And from people that had gone through infertility as well! Does anyone feel like when someone tells you to relax that it works you up even more? Or, is that just me?
  2. It’s all in God’s perfect timing.” This is SUCH a popular go to phrase for people. I have said it myself. But, when the desire of your heart is to grow your family, and you are on your knees in prayer, please don’t tell me that God is just chillin’ and will wait around for the perfect time. I am aware of that. But I want it NOW! 
  3. “How long are you going to try?”  This is a hard one. It is a valid question but not an appropriate one. When you are in the midst of this journey, you will try forever. The desperation is real.
  4. “What day are you on? How many eggs did you have during your last sonogram?” Please don’t ask for in-depth details of their treatment. If you are a dear friend, she will tell you. I made the mistake of letting too many people in at times, and I was one step away from giving my HCG levels in a Facebook status update. 
  5. “Everything happens for a reason.” This is my go to. Even today. I don’t know why, but it makes me feel better. It is why I created this blog. To try to make a difference out of so much of my own suffering. But, when someone is going through infertility, DO NOT say this. Think it. Let them think it. But don’t say it.
  6. “Sally got pregnant without even trying.” Ahhh, Sally. Bless you! I envy you! But, those going through infertility don’t want to hear about it.

And for those that are walking the infertility road right now, be gentle with yourself. You may be at the beginning of your journey, you may be on your fifth IVF transfer, or you may be at the place where you have maxed out your credit cards on treatments and don’t know where else to go. Wherever you are in your journey my hope is that Lunchbox Babies can support you, offer hope to you, and maybe even make it smile.  I’d love for you to join me over there and please share this post if you think it would help your family and friends know how to support you. 


Thanks so much, Shawna, for this helpful post!

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2 thoughts on “What to Say (And Not Say) to A Friend Struggling with Infertility

  1. I appreciate this list, as we’ve been down the infertility and multiple miscarriage road too many times. Another “not to say” would be “God knows best” or “Losing this baby was God’s way of keeping you from heartache down the road” after miscarriage. Now that we are adopting, we need another list of what not to say: “Now that you’re adopting you’re going to get pregnant!” or “Don’t get a baby with special needs, that’s the last thing you need!” or “Oh man, tell the agency NO DRUGS!!! You don’t want a baby who’s momma was on drugs, that’s for sure!!!”
    The decisions we make about which baby we will adopt are private and will be part of our baby’s story, not one open for anyone’s conversation.

    I know people want the best for us, but it’s really hard to go through all this and have 1,000 opinions when we are really trying to listen to God and His directions for us.

  2. 5.“Everything happens for a reason.”

    MY PET PEEVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am a Christian and I can tell you, this is NO WHERE in the bible. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ” Romans 8:28 is as close as I could find when I went searching with fury in my eyes after being told this, one too many times. God’s *plan* for us was Eden, and we chose sin… so no, in no way, do I think my pain is from God— I think He can and will deliver me! I think He will take this pain and turn it to good, but sorry, when you say “everything happens for a reason” it sounds like you are saying God doesn’t want me to have a child and I know that’s not true.
    Sisters, please be thoughtful and careful with your words when comforting a friend walking in a dark valley. We need to be equipped with truth, not idioms. xo

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