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To the Mother of a Woman Dealing With Infertility

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After dealing with infertility myself and coming out on the other side, I have stood alongside many women during their own journeys with infertility. Sometimes family members, including parents, don’t really “get it.” My own mother has admitted to me that it was truly challenging to know what to say or do as she watched her daughter in pain. I wrote this piece on behalf of three friends who were really struggling with their family’s expectations of them during this time. I wanted their mothers to understand their daughters’ pain and how best to stand alongside them during this storm.

Dear mother of a woman dealing with infertility,

I write this to the mothers. But it really is for fathers, too. It’s just that mothers are usually the ones more directly involved, the ones privy to the personal details, the ones called upon when the tears cannot stop flowing. They are often the communicator to their spouse of the most recent information: a failed cycle, a failed adoption, another cycle that signifies pregnancy did not occur.

Your daughter is dealing with infertility. Or maybe it’s a daughter-in-law you love greatly.

Your role is so important in her life. She is grieving something monumental, and unless you grieved it once too, you cannot imagine the depth of this pain accurately.

In addition, her grief might also be for you. She might long to see you hold her baby and spoil her baby and hear her baby call you Grandma (or Nana or Oma or whatever other name).

And you are left wondering, questioning, pleading, begging for happiness for this wonderful woman in your life. Your prayers are rampant but feel unanswered. You want more than anything to help her in any way you can. I want to help you do this. But this will be tough love. I will not mince words. And it might be hard to hear. But please hear me.

Social media has brought other people’s personal lives hard and fast right into her face day in and day out. She might watch people announce their pregnancies, detail their pregnancies and share about the pregnancies as if she had a front row seat. Each detail of a baby’s life is photographed and splashed right in front of her face.

She might be grieving. Hard. And you must let her deal with this her way.

How do you do that?

Tell her you love her. Tell her you are praying for her if that’s something she would like. Listen. Be present. Do not offer advice. Just offer your ear. And your hugs. And your heart. Respect her feelings even if you don’t think you would do it the same way.

But more than that, you must give her an exceptional amount of grace and freedom to grieve this the way she needs to.

This is especially important if you have another child who has children or is having children. You may feel that your daughter should act a certain way. You may think she needs to be present at baby showers and christenings and baptisms and birthday parties. You may be embarrassed that she is in the bathroom crying while the gender reveal party is going on.

But you don’t feel what her heart feels.

This pain can be monumental and all-encompassing and beyond anything you could even attempt to understand. You may think she should process it differently. You may think you would have or did process it differently. That may be true. But how she is processing this is how she is processing it and it is OK.

Do not …

  • Ask your daughter if she has thought about adopting. She will bring it up when she is ready.
  • Complain about not being a grandma or nag her about having children.
  • Give unwarranted advice about treatments they are pursuing or decisions they have made.
  • Think she should be sharing more.
  • Think she should be sharing less.
  • Expect her to do things the way you think you would do them.
  • Expect her to be able to be happy for her siblings.
  • Suggest she relax or stop trying so hard.
  • Start a story with, “I know someone who…”

Instead …

  • Recognize that not being able to have a child can be the loss of a dream.
  • Pray for her if that’s something she would like.
  • Send her an email or card on a big day (like an attempt with an IUI or IVF).
  • Understand that she may want to talk about this all the time.
  • Understand that she may not want to talk about this at all.
  • Spoil her.
  • Put her in touch with other women she can talk to who have been there, too.
  • Invite her to all events but give her the option to “opt out.”
  • Read books that will help you understand.
  • Listen.
  • Tell her you love her.
  • Say “I understand” even if you don’t.
  • Hug her. (If she is a hugger.)
  • And commiserate when news is bad.

You, dear mother of a woman dealing with infertility, have the ability to serve your daughter during this time. How you choose to handle this can define your relationship for years to come. You can do this.

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Image via Thinkstock Images

Originally published: November 8, 2016
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