It's hard to understand how emotionally and physically gruelling IVF is until you've gone through it yourself. I was completely unprepared for the roller coaster ride I'd be in for when my husband and I turned to IVF to conceive our son a year-and-a-half ago. Not only was I naive to all that was involved, but I didn't know a single other person who had done IVF, which made my journey feel even more scary and lonely.
I can vividly remember how raw I felt after weeks of shots and tests, and how hard it was to go through the whys, hows, wheres, and whens with curious friends.
Unfortunately, the few friends I confided in didn't really know what to say or do to support me. Through no fault of their own, the people closest to me made insensitive comments, shared anecdotes about their own experiences getting pregnant that had nothing to do with me, and asked prying questions, which I felt ill-equipped to answer. Fast forward to present day and one of my best friends is now going through IVF. I'm thankful to be in a position to support her, because I know there really is only one thing I can do that will actually help: just be there.
Being there is simply about seeing how my friend is doing, so about once a week, I call or send her a text and ask her just that. Sometimes she opens up and shares specifics about where she and her husband are in their IVF journey. Other times, she just says she's scared or overwhelmed. I try not to respond with any opinions, stories about my experience, or questions, because I remember people sharing their own take on my choices when I was doing IVF, and that really hurt. For example, one friend questioned our decision to perform genetic testing on our embryos, even though I hadn't asked for her input.
To anyone supporting someone going through IVF, remember that no two IVF experiences are the same. I remind myself that if I had a certain fear or side-effect from a medication, those things won't necessarily happen to my friend now. The last thing I want to do is place more worries in her head when I know she has her fair share already.
I can recall people constantly telling me about other couples struggling with infertility that they'd read about, when IVF either didn't work for them or it took several cycles before it did. Those accounts weren't helpful, and instead, left me feeling even more terrified that I was putting my body through hell for absolutely no reason. Asking too many questions is also tough on someone enduring IVF. I can vividly remember how raw I felt after weeks of shots and tests, and how hard it was to go through the whys, hows, wheres, and whens with curious friends.
When I speak to my friend now, I just try to listen more than I talk. If she asks for my advice, or to share my experience, then I will. If not, I try to keep the exchange totally focused on her. A person going through IVF simply needs support, not judgement, opinions, or questions, unless they say it's OK. If only I had known what to ask of my support system when I was the one suffering through endless morning monitoring and invasive procedures. I can only hope that somebody will read this and know being there and listening is what women (and men) who are in the midst of IVF truly need more than anything else.