I've been inspired this week by many things, It's been a crazy week of spending a lot of time out on the road for work away from home, and when I am in the car on long journeys I like to listen to lots of podcasts. I have a number of favorite's that I choose to keep me company. But this week I was introduced to a new podcast that I couldn't not listen to!
A fellow IVF warrior & success story had been brave in sharing her story with some old friends who ran a podcast, having been speaking with Gemma behind the scenes for quite some time throughout the course of the pandemic and her journey, I just had to listen to what she was going to say and share as I know just how challenging this can be, and it is often not until we come out the other side and reflect, accept and move on from what we have endured that we are able to share so openly about it.
If you like listening to Podcasts then this one I would highly recommend, it is a brave and courageous account of Gemma & Guy’s story with the girls from GLOW Global (http://www.glowbrandglobal.com) you can find their podcast on Spotify and Apple.
But it got me to thinking after listening to many of the topics Gemma brought up, back to when we began our journey to have our family, how tough some of those points were, how little overall support there was as it was just and still is such a taboo subject that isn't talked about enough.
I often felt like why me? I come from a large family who seem to have no issues in the reproductive area and there are many generations and children in my family, Alan is also one of 3 children so again no issues on his side either that we were or are aware of, both his brothers have children.
So it was hard without having friends and family to turn to who really understood what we were going through, most never know what to say or how to deal with it if you tell them. So mostly you just stay quiet keeping everything to yourself that you endure along the way, the highs and lows are all kept between the two of you which is rough at times as you are both dealing with and accepting the challenges in different ways all whilst trying to be there for one another. Like Gemma and Guy, Al and I were lucky our journey brought us incredibly closer, and I know I would never have gotten through some of the darkest moments of my life if it wasn't for Al, but sometimes the guilt hits me of ….where was I for him in all of this? I had discovered support groups through Facebook and had a few ladies I had become friends with and would often chat to when I needed someone who really understood the most, but Al didn't have any of that he just had me.
Sometimes the hardest thing was having very few people to talk to who really understood, and for those that didn't the things that would often get said to us could be really hurtful, hard to respond to, or just insulting. We always knew everyone meant well but I feel the more our community shares the highs and lows of this journey the better chance we have in educating generations of how they can really help someone through this journey when they haven't been through it themselves.
This week's blog is an attempt to help with some of that education and as I say inspired by Gemma's brave podcast interview with GLOW.
Going through IVF is a difficult and emotionally challenging experience. It can be a time of high stress, anxiety, and uncertainty for couples who are trying to conceive. It is important to remember that no matter how many resources and support systems they have, nothing can replace the support of loved ones.
Here are some of my recommendations for ways that friends and family can support loved ones through IVF journeys.
Understand the IVF Process
The first step in supporting a loved one through their IVF journey is to understand the IVF process. In order to be supportive, it is important to have a basic understanding of what they will be going through. This will help you understand the emotional and physical toll that IVF can take on couples. There are a number of online resources available that can help you understand the IVF process, including online forums, websites, and blogs. Doing a good search on industry experts and experience experts is a good place to start, following their social media channels, signing up to their newsletters will all be useful to you educating yourself on the topic and what's really involved.
Be a Good Listener
One of the most important things that you can do for someone going through IVF is to be a good listener. IVF can be a very emotional time, and it is important for loved ones to have someone to talk to. If your loved one wants to vent, cry, or express their fears and concerns, it is important to listen without judgement. Let them know that you are there for them and that you support them. And above all ALWAYS ask if they want to talk about it, don't force them to, don't text or call them without prior consent that they are ok with you checking up on them at key stages throughout their process. If they don't get the results they very much hope for, this can be difficult to process and having to answer to many friends and family’s questions on how things have gone can make this even harder to bear.
Offer Practical Support
During the IVF process, your loved one may need practical support. This can include anything from help with housework, cooking meals, or running errands. Even something as simple as offering to pick up some shopping can be a huge help during a difficult time. It is important to be specific in your offers of help. For example, instead of saying "let me know if you need anything," this is so open ended and often if we are all honest with ourselves whilst there is the best intentions with that offer, no one ever calls on it when they need to as no one ever likes to ask for something that might not be in the realms of the possible for the person who offered the help. So offer specifically the help you are able or prepared to give. The smallest thing could be the biggest help.
It is important to be sensitive to your loved one's feelings during the IVF process. They may be feeling a range of emotions, including sadness, anxiety, and frustration. Try to be sensitive to their needs and be patient if they need to cancel plans or if they are not as responsive as usual. It is also important to be mindful of the things that you say. Avoid giving unsolicited advice or making comments that may be hurtful. These are the comments that can be most damaging, I cannot recall the amount of times we had comments like “Just relax, stop stressing it will happen” or “I know someone who got pregnant naturally after IVF” or “Why don't you just adopt” or “Have you tried X” all of these aren't helpful to someone on this journey.
Offer Emotional Support
In addition to practical support, your loved one will also need emotional support during their IVF journey. This can include words of encouragement, sending thoughtful messages, or simply being there for them when they need someone to talk to. Let your loved one know that you are thinking of them and that you are there to support them. Little tokens and gifts to let them know you are thinking of them and you are there can mean so much. I've had many friends over the years purchase one of our signature collection bracelets as a token of support for their friends and family members.
Respect Their Privacy
It is important to respect your loved one's privacy during their IVF journey. IVF can be a very personal and private experience, and not everyone may feel comfortable sharing their journey with others. Make sure to ask your loved one how much they want to share, and respect their wishes. If they prefer to keep their IVF journey private, do not share their news or updates without their permission.
Offer to Accompany Them to Appointments
Your loved one may feel anxious or overwhelmed during their IVF appointments. Offering to accompany them to their appointments can provide them with much-needed support. You can also offer to take notes during the appointment or ask questions on their behalf. It really depends on the individual how comfortable they would be with this and their circumstances, as not everyone going through this process has a partner to share it with.
It is important to be understanding of your loved one's needs and feelings during their IVF journey. They may need to cancel plans or take time off work to attend appointments or recover from procedures. Be patient and understanding if they are not able to do things that they normally would.
Celebrate Their Successes
IVF can be a long and difficult journey, so it is important to celebrate your loved one's successes along the way. Whether it is a successful egg retrieval process or a number of good grade embryos ready for freezing, make sure to acknowledge and celebrate these milestones. This can be as simple as sending a thoughtful message or giving a small gift to show your support and excitement.
Offer Financial Support
IVF can be a costly process, and many couples may struggle with the financial burden. If you are in a position to do so, offering financial support can be a huge help. This can include anything from contributing to the cost of IVF treatments, or simply offering to pay for a meal or activity to provide a much-needed break from the stress of IVF.
In addition to understanding the IVF process, it is also important to educate yourself on fertility issues and treatments. This can help you provide more informed support to your loved one and help you understand the challenges that they may be facing. There are a number of online resources available that can help you learn more about fertility issues and treatments.
Avoid Making Assumptions
It is important to avoid making assumptions about your loved one's fertility journey. Everyone's experience with infertility is unique, and there are a number of different factors that can impact fertility. Avoid making assumptions about why your loved one is struggling with infertility, and instead, offer your support and encouragement.
Offer Alternative Support
Not everyone may feel comfortable sharing their IVF journey with family and friends. If your loved one prefers to keep their IVF journey private, offer alternative support options. This can include connecting them with support groups or online communities where they can connect with others going through similar experiences.
Going through IVF can be a difficult and emotionally challenging experience. It is important for loved ones to provide support and encouragement throughout the process. By understanding the IVF process, being a good listener, offering practical and emotional support, and respecting your loved one's privacy, you can provide the support that they need during this difficult time. Remember, even small acts of kindness and support can make a big difference.