Monday, 18 January 2016

A Letter to My Friends and Family During Our Infertility

One of the things I found most difficult during my miscarriages was how to talk to my friends and family about what was going on. I saw a social worker who helped me write this email to my friends and family which gave me the language I needed to share what I was feeling.

I was extremely nervous about sending this email to my friends. I didn't want to seem needy and selfish. However, many of my friends told me afterwards that they had found it so helpful for me to explain exactly how I was feeling and how they could help. They wanted to show their support and didn't always feel they knew the right things to say.

Please feel free to use and/or adapt this email in any way if it would be helpful to you.



Dear Friends and Family,

We are writing this letter to let you know how we are doing and a bit about what we are going through. You may know that for about a year we have been trying to start a family, and unfortunately have had two miscarriages, one of which resulted in an emergency surgery to remove the pregnancy. We have started seeing a fertility specialist and are having many tests. In June we will find out more, and a plan for our next pregnancy will be put into place at that time.

We are deeply grateful for your love and support during this difficult and emotional time. We know it can be difficult to know what to say to us while we struggle with this, so we wanted to let you know what we would find so helpful. We also wanted to give you an idea of what you can expect to see from us while we are trying so hard to conceive.

We have seen the counsellor at our clinic, who assures us our emotional reactions are absolutely normal for miscarriage patients. Many people having trouble getting or staying pregnant find this to be one the most difficult experiences of their whole lives.

Our counsellor tells us that it’s quite common for a couple going through this to need to “cocoon” sometimes, and avoid certain events.  You may see us less than you’re used to at these gatherings for the next few months. If we do attend, we may leave early. Sometimes these events are just too painful, and other times we may be exhausted from testing at the clinic. Please continue to invite us, but know we may decline. Please don’t take our absence personally! We love you, and we love your children, and we look forward to long, warm relationships with you and your kids. We won’t always need this kind of space…but right now we do. We will be back!

Some of you have asked what you can do, how you can help us during this difficult time. We are so blessed to have such caring friends and family. It’s not an easy question to answer, as sometimes we’ll feel pretty OK, and other times (if there is another miscarriage, for instance) we may be devastated, and what we need at those times will be different. Sometimes we just need to feel “normal” and not talk about the difficulties we’re having keeping a pregnancy, and other times, we may need to share with you how upset we are. If you’re not sure, it would be fine if you just ask directly, “What do you need from me right now?”

Generally, it would be most helpful to us if you wait for us to bring up the topic. If we tell you that we’ve had more bad news, what feels the most supportive is to hear you say something like, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this,” or just say nothing and give us a hug. If you become pregnant, we will be so happy for you – and it would be easiest to hear your joyful news via email (because Jenn might cry!). We want to share your happiness, but it can make us feel sad for what we don’t yet have and yearn for so much. If you are having an uncomfortable pregnancy, it’s probably best if you share these difficulties with other friends and not us (at this point, anyway).

We are seeing a doctor we trust. If you have friends or relatives who have had success with certain doctors or treatments, or who have adopted, it's not information from which we would benefit as we are focused and confident in our medical team that is helping us do all we can. Since nobody can know the outcome of this struggle, it would be good if you refrain from saying things like “I just know it will happen for you!”, as we are preparing for all outcomes. And while we love a good joke, our difficulties with conceiving a healthy baby is a topic we find upsetting, so joking about it is not a good idea. There are some good articles for friends and family of infertility patients at http://www.resolve.org/support-and-services/for-family--friends/

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask either of us, or send us an email. It won’t make us feel worse if you talk to us about our struggle. It would be best to talk to us in private, in person or by email or phone, instead of a public place such as a restaurant or the subway. We are so lucky to have a support system like you, and hope this letter explains somewhat the situation we are in and how you can help us. Your love and support are treasured more than you know.

Thank you for caring for us.
Jenn and Rob

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