Hi there, this is Elyssa, Erika’s youngest sister here writing a guest post. You may remember me from Erika’s post. Thanks for inviting me, Erika. Erika suggested that I put together a post of what to do if you happen to be a loved one or sort of bystander to this fertility situation. It is hard to navigate the journey initially and there are some helpful and harmful things you could potentially do. I by no means think I am the epitome of all things good here, but I just do my best and it seems like my best is good enough for E&N.
Do become knowledgeable on what the couple is going through
If you had told me years ago that I would be excited that my sister has finished her final IUI treatment before she is eligible with insurance for IVF I would have probably stopped you and asked for definitions of these acronyms. You learn a lot about the process just by being along for the ride. The great thing is that your loved one does not expect you to be an expert about all of these terms or procedures. My lawyer of a sister is very happy to lay it down for me… and her whole demeanor actually changes from “emotional Erika” to “lawyer Erika” when I ask her questions about the procedure. It has always seemed to me that her putting her lawyer hat on helps her to be less afraid of what she is about to go through.
Do support the path they are on
Fertility and reproductive rights have to be one of the most polarizing topics in existence. There are some moral and ethical decisions that are factors in the decision to do some of the procedures that your loved one may be facing. My advice here is to let them tell you what they are nervous or apprehensive about and support their decisions. Early into this process, E&N were not sure if they’d be able to go through with IVF due to some of these roadblocks. I overheard several people telling them to “just do it” and that they shouldn’t care about the un-implanted embryos. It is not our place to pressure, it is our place to love and support!
Don’t ask “why aren’t you just adopting?”
Let me start here by saying that one of my best friends was adopted and her relationship with her parents is one of the absolute best I’ve ever seen between parent and child. The point of avoiding this question is not because I have anything against adoption, but more to the point that it is not helpful to your couple for the journey they are going through. I guarantee they are familiar with the concept of adoption and likely have considered it. They are making the decision at this time to proceed with a biological baby. This is completely within their right to decide to do this, just like it is within other couples’ right to adopt and even others to choose to do neither. Asking this question is sort of subliminal way of saying “I don’t think anything you’re trying is going to work, so just skip it and take a baby someone else made.” On the other hand, if the couple brings this up to you, pop some champagne and toast to their future child!
Do reach out
I check in with my sister most days (not due to this scenario, but just because that’s the type of relationship we have). When I ask how she’s doing, she generally will update me on all facets of her life including her fertility journey. I think one of the hardest parts of loving someone going through this is wondering how you can broach the topic of their fertility without reminding them of it if God forbid you caught them in a moment that they were not already thinking about it. The fact of the matter is that there is most likely not a moment when they aren’t preoccupied with thoughts of future babies and it is always nice to know that someone is reaching out because they care.
Do know what the worst part of the process is for them
…other than the not being pregnant yet part. As you may recall from an earlier blog post, the worst part for Erika tends to be needles and blood work. Based on her details of what all of these procedures consist of, your loved one may have a totally different worst part. Whenever Erika is going to have to have blood work I try to check in a special time that day to make sure she knows I am thinking of her and to see how it went. Some days I think of this journey as a sort of horrific Olympics where she is demonstrating her strength through various obstacles before she is granted her gold metal, or baby. If you had asked me 5 years ago, I would have thought she was already the strongest person I know.
Do know it’s not about you
There are bound to be good days and bad for your loved one during this journey. Now, add in the possibility of extra hormones (E has been injecting for a while) or just the lack of the pill regulating hormones and you may see additional ups and downs. If this loved one acts out of character, give them grace and just love them harder. (Note: E&N have been nothing but incredible mood-wise when it comes to me – even when I stayed in their home, but I know that this is a factor that COULD come up with loved ones and figured it was worth mentioning!)
I am a strong believer of the power of prayer. Most people, even those who are not religious, appreciate the thought of someone praying for them. E&N are both religious so I know they definitely appreciate hearing that people are keeping them in their thoughts and prayers. Many churches even have prayer request forms you could add your loved one to so that a broader group is praying!
Do find the humor in the process
When Erika first described IUI to me we basically decided it was giving the swimmers Red Bull and we have called the procedure “Red Bull” ever since. I think somehow picturing her having a procedure called Red Bull makes it seem a bit less scary than it actually is and finds the humor in it. When Erika turned 35 last year, she informed me that she now would be considered a geriatric pregnancy. After I finished laughing from the outrageousness of that, we made a lot of jokes about how she is as old as dirt. (But seriously now, when the average age of life expectancy has gone up so much can we stop using the word geriatric when referring to someone who is about 50 years away from collecting any Social Security. Bad joke). So many parts of this process are exhausting and emotional that I think it helps to find the humor in things.
Do stay positive and excited
E&N are two of my absolute favorite people and I cannot wait for their future babies. I plan on loving E, N, and their kiddos with the same intensity regardless of if they are conceived naturally, during IUI, during IVF, through adoption, or if they have 4 legs and a tail (don’t get me started on their cute fur-babies). At the end of the day, E&N’s family will be incredible because they are and because they spread that to all who encounter them. Your loved one needs to lean on you a bit now and they definitely will need the extra help changing diapers soon enough!