How To Build Healthy Fertility Friendships
by Elyse Ash | Creator of Fruitful Fertility
For me, the hardest part of infertility wasn’t the shots or the invasive medical procedures. It was feeling so isolated and misunderstood by my friends; the people who had known me and loved me for years.
Infertility made it feel like there was a wall between us. Trying to explain the devastation of seeing negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test fell on deaf ears. “It’s ok, hun. Kids are a lot of work. Just relax! Have you tried cutting out gluten? My other friend got pregnant after getting drunk in Mexico!”
It was like I was speaking a different language.
Nothing my friends said or did was right. They either ignored the topic completely, minimized it. or pitied me. Very few friends could find a way to sit with me, ask questions, listen and just say, “I’m sorry this is happening to you. It’s super unfair. This sucks.” In fact, this experience was my inspiration for starting Fruitful Fertility; a mentorship service for those going through infertility, miscarriage and IVF.
"Infertility still sucked, but at least I found people who could speak my language."
It wasn’t until I started cobbling together my own fertility tribe that I started to get the emotional support I needed to feel unstuck and less lonely. Infertility still sucked, but at least I found people who could speak my language. All of a sudden I went from feeling lost and misunderstood, to getting thoughtful texts on important test days and super sweet handwritten cards. One friend even dropped off a pineapple on my doorstep the evening before my transfer.
But before I found these special fertility friendships, I had to do a few things:
I had to step away from the people who couldn’t support me in a meaningful, whole-hearted way. This meant losing some friendships completely and letting others temporarily fizzle out. I didn’t nuke these friendships, but I did deprioritize them. When I was showing up for my other friends but they couldn’t show up for me, it made me feel resentful. I couldn’t listen to my hyper-fertile friends vent about motherhood (no matter how warranted that was), so I took a step back from the friendships that were not serving me.
I actively searched for other fertility warriors, leading with my vulnerability and truth. I attended a few IRL fertility support groups and yoga classes. I joined some private FB groups and even created an anonymous Tumblr account. I shared my story, opened up completely and found new friends who understood the specific shade of fear, anxiety and stress I was feeling. Did I connect with EVERY other fertility warrior? Of course not. But I found a handful who had similar values and outlooks and clung on to them.
I started getting really clear in my friendships about what I needed and how they could help me. When they didn’t bring up my struggles, I told them to please ask me about it more. Or if I wished they knew more about the IVF process, I sent them some articles and asked them to study up. I believe that when we’re clear about what we need, we give the people who love us the opportunity to show up. If they do, then everybody wins! We get what we need and they feel happy that they could meaningfully support us. If they don’t? That’s on them and we can move on guilt-free.
Here are a few other dos and don’ts when it comes to finding and maintaining healthy fertility friendships.
Be brave, honest and vulnerable
Ask your friends for help when needed (and be specific!)
Make new friends in the fertility community who get it (whether it’s via FB/IG/Reddit, Fruitful, The Fertility Tribe, Fertility Rally or elsewhere)
Be mindful of who you let in and who you share with
- Understand that this time in your life is temporary
Compare your journey to your friends’
Settle for shallow friendships that aren’t serving you
Completely nuke all your friendships
Take it personally if a friend cannot support you during this
- Commit to things that don’t feel good (e.g. planning your sister’s baby shower)
Everyone needs support when going through infertility and loss. It’s not one of those things you can really barrel through alone.
But it’s also important to build healthy friendships with people who can meaningfully support you and show up after horrible news or happy news. It takes time and effort and vulnerability to make these friendships, but holy moly is it worth it.
Elyse Ash is the founder and CEO of Fruitful Fertility whose mission is to make infertility suck less for the 1 in 8 couples affected by infertility and miscarriage. Elyse created Fruitful with her husband, Brad Ash, after the couple experienced infertility themselves and were shocked by the loneliness and isolation of the experience. Today, Fruitful has about 5,000 users, was a member of two Minneapolis accelerators, was named a 2018 semifinalist in the Minnesota Cup, and has been covered by The Los Angeles Times, Inc., Business Insider, Parents Magazine and many other publications.