What to say (and not to say) to a friend who is struggling to start a family

Even if you didn’t have trouble starting your family, chances are you know someone who has. In my fairly small circle, the stats are pretty tough:

  • 4 friends struggled / struggling to get pregnant
  • 11 miscarriages (two were my own)

And these are just the ones I know about in my own group – not even friends of friends.

So you could say that I have a lot of experience in what to do, what to say, and what not to say to someone going through either infertility struggles or pregnancy loss. First up, let’s look at what NOT to say, then I’ll give you some wisdom around how to be a friend to someone who is going through it.

What not to say to a friend who is struggling to get pregnant or maintain a pregnancy

  • “If you stop stressing, it will happen.” It’s on her mind, and she won’t stop stressing about it. I can’t tell you how many times I was told this, and in my boiling anger, I wanted to strangle people. The truth is, saying this tells the friend that it is her fault she can’t get or stay pregnant. And it says she is in control of her fertility, which she is not.
  • “Thankfully, you already have a child / children.” Some people want to have a certain number of kids to feel like their family is whole.
  • “I have a friend, friend of a friend, cousin, etc. who stared the adoption process and then she got pregnant.” Again, there isn’t a prescription for getting pregnant. God works the way he works for his own glory.

Instead, say something like:

  • “My heart aches for you.”
  • “I know you are really having a difficult time.” (Be genuine when you say it).
  • “What can I do for you?”
  • “How are you doing with all of this?”
  • “Would you like to talk about it? Or would you like some space?”
  • “I know you are going to have a family. I don’t know what that looks like at this moment, but I know that God doesn’t put something on your heart like that without an amazing plan.”

I’ll never forget going through our second miscarriage. We found out one week that baby was actually a blighted ovum, and I had scheduled a D&C for a week or two later. On a Sunday morning, I received an email from a friend who told me she was expecting – unexpectedly. Talk about a knife to my grieving heart (while it was right for me at the time to need space, I wish I was happier for her back then because she has had some great pearls of wisdom for me as a mom to two sweet kiddos). What I appreciated most was the fact that she emailed me to let me know before she told our mutual friends. She gave me the gift of space and an opportunity to process her news on my own. So when I found out I was pregnant for the third and fourth times, I chose to use this same method with two sweet friends. One I texted, one I emailed. Both times, I told them I wanted to hear the news from me but that I wanted to give them space to process the news. And that I understood if they needed space from me for a while. And you know what? They both told me at separate times that they appreciated that. It doesn’t mean they weren’t happy; looking back, deep deep down, I was happy for my friend even though I was grieving. I just didn’t understand why God worked the way he worked.

So what can you do for a friend who is struggling?

  • Offer to bring her a home cooked dinner.
  • Take her for coffee.
  • Ask her to join you for a pedicure or retail therapy.
  • Ask her if she wants to talk or if she wants some space.
  • Ask her if there are specific things you can pray for.

I needed to be alone and became quite the recluse. My closest friends understood. I disabled Facebook because I hated seeing all the happy pregnancy announcements.

Now that I’m on the other side, I see the plan God had for me with the two boys I have here on earth. And my heart aches for my friends who are currently going through infertility and pregnancy loss. But if I can make their hearts ache a little less by staying away from certain phrases, then I’ve shown the best love to them that a friend can show.

What are some other phrases you stay away from with friends who are struggling? What are some things friends have said to you or done for you when you were struggling that really helped?

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2 thoughts on “What to say (and not to say) to a friend who is struggling to start a family

  1. Amanda Wethington says:

    Haley, thank you for sharing. I’m so so sorry for your loss and for how your friend tried to “cheer” you up. I agree that sharing your story is going to touch someone else’s life in ways you can’t even imagine. I read your blog post – you are courageous for writing about it – and I can see how you are allowing God to work in the midst of your grief. I’m not sure why God works the way he does, but you will come out on the other side. Hang in there.

    Like

  2. Haley Manning says:

    Loved this. I recently went through a miscarriage with my first pregnancy. I wrote a blog on it today as well. One thing that was painful for me to hear, although I don’t believe my friend meant it to be, was when a friend commented “well it’s a miracle babies even make it past 6 weeks, so don’t take it so harsh…” it felt like a dagger in my heart and somewhat insensitive. But what I have found to be most helpful for me is to share my story with others to try to encourage women who are going through the same thing.

    Like

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