A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

Seven Ways to Extend Kindness When a Friend Is Dealing with Infertility

The other moms and I chatted while watching our kids’ gymnastics practice through the glass. The small talk grew deep, and then awkward, as one mom shared with sadness that she wanted another child, but so far, it hadn’t worked out. “At least you don’t have to worry about birth control,” another mom offered.


I cringed. I wasn’t sure what the right response was but I was pretty certain the birth control comment wasn’t it. Given the fact that one in eight couples experience infertility, if you haven’t been on the receiving end of insensitive comments, you’ve probably struggled to find the right words to say to a friend who has been trying to conceive for months or even years.

There are, in fact, at least seven important ways you can support a friend dealing with infertility. The following tips came from conversations with experts: a dozen women who have experienced infertility and a clinical social worker.

Acknowledge the loss

Abby MacDonald, LICSW, an infertility specialist in private practice in Cambridge, MA, says a vital part of helping a friend with infertility is understanding that they’re grieving a loss. While it may not be as concrete as a miscarriage or a death, the intangible losses are many – privacy, autonomy, and the loss of the narrative when pregnancy just naturally happens. Your friend may also be struggling to reconcile her relationship with her own body, which she may perceive as having failed her. Even if you’re not sure what to say, your friend will appreciate your sensitivity to the fact that she’s grieving.

Remember it’s not about you

Especially if infertility isn’t something you’ve personally experienced, it’s not helpful when you project your own feelings onto the situation. For example, one friend cringed as another friend would ponder the possibility of multiples as a result of fertility treatments, and “be either excited by or terrified of it.” As a new parent, I have no idea what having multiples would be like. I might feel excited or terrified. Either way, I don’t give a shit how you feel about it. Nor do I care that you think I’m misguided for being excited or terrified. I’m allowed to feel how I feel about it.  

Sharing the fact that you would never be willing to go through IVF is also not helpful. As my friend said, “It’s personal. People feeling so free to comment on what they would do in my situation was unsettling.”

Unless you’ve been there, avoid giving advice

If you take nothing else from this post, take this: friends don’t tell friends who are dealing with infertility to just have a bottle of wine and relax. Nor do they give any variation on this. That includes telling the story of the couple who adopted only to find themselves pregnant immediately.

“Tips” from people who’ve never personally been through infertility are not tips at all. At best, they are annoying. At worst, they are cruel and insensitive, no matter the intention. No one who has given hours of her life to scheduling doctors’ appointments and carefully timed shots wants to hear about the position you heard was effective, or your sister’s friend’s cousin’s brother’s wife who got pregnant when she ate pineapple.

One woman recalled feeling insulted by a friend’s suggestion that she supplement IVF with herbs. “The implication is ‘You could do more.’ And my response is, ‘No, I couldn’t. I’m at my limit. I took three injections a day for the past week and a half, my stomach is purple, I woke up early and went to the clinic four of the past six days, and I am done.”

On the other hand, advice from someone who has been through it is comforting. One woman said she was grateful to hear her best friend, who’d also struggled to conceive, break things down in a very matter-of-fact way. She recalled her best friend’s warning, “There are only 24 to 48 hours a month that you’re likely to get pregnant. Time your ovulation and time sex. Don’t leave it to chance.”

Leave the wise sayings to the greeting cards

Perhaps even less helpful than advice from the uninitiated are their theories on why this is happening. As MacDonald explains, “Comments like ‘God has a plan,’ while often offered with good intentions and seemingly supportive of allowing faith to take a front seat during this difficult time, can reinforce questions someone has about why this bad thing is happening to an otherwise good person.”

Another cliché many women told me they did not appreciate: if it’s meant to be, it will be. Let Hallmark handle the “encouraging” remarks. All you need to do is be there if your friend wants to talk.

Just listen

This can be easier said than done. In a culture obsessed with doing, staying quiet can feel like inaction. However, the opposite is true. Giving someone space to talk (or not talk) is among the most powerful gifts you have to offer.

MacDonald says that it is key to simply listen and offer reflections based on what your friend says. For example, if she says she feels hopeless, an appropriate response might be, “Given all you’ve been through, it’s hard to expect anything will go to plan.” MacDonald emphasizes the importance of stopping at that point to give your friend a chance to talk about her feelings, rather than filling any silence with a stock line about hope or positive thinking.

Be curious (but not nosy)

If you have to ask when or if someone is planning to have a baby, that’s a pretty clear sign that it’s none of your business. Nothing is more awkward or painful than having an acquaintance put their hand on your belly and ask why you’re not pregnant yet, when you’re privately tortured over that very same question.

But if your friend has been open about her struggles, make sure she knows you want to support her, even if you’re not sure how. Said one woman, “Even if awkward things were said, I appreciated getting to have the conversation rather than nothing being said at all.”

MacDonald says one way to show that you’re curious and that you care is by taking the time to educate yourself. She and several other women I spoke with recommended connecting with Resolve, a non-profit dedicated to providing support, advocacy, education, and community for people facing challenges in their journey to create a family.

Offer genuine support

Avoid offering vague support, e.g. “Let me know if you need anything.” If you’re compelled to offer more than a listening ear (which is plenty), give something specific (exceptions: advice, platitudes). Women who’ve battled infertility recalled being grateful when friends:

  • called or texted just to say they were thinking of them
  • reached out to see if they wanted to get a drink
  • sent a copy of the book “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron
  • educated themselves on infertility
  • left flowers on the porch when they knew her period came

Another gift you can give is a pass when it comes to attending baby showers or kids’ birthday parties. MacDonald encourages people to be sensitive to the fact that holidays (including Mother’s Day and Father’s Day) can be triggers. One woman expressed gratitude for a friend who only called when she was away from her kids so the woman wouldn’t hear the sound of babies in the background.

Supporting a friend through infertility is showing up, listening, and being sensitive. It’s letting your friend feel her feelings. It’s sharing a long pause instead of filling it with anecdotes or adages. It’s asking, “How are you doing” and giving space for your friend to answer or a shoulder to cry on. It’s saying, “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I care.” It’s simply being a friend.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Whether you're filling out your own registry or shopping for a soon-to-be-mama in your life, it can be hard to narrow down what exactly new moms need (versus what will just end up cluttering the nursery). That's why we paired up with the baby gear experts at Pottery Barn Kids to create a registry guide featuring everything from the gear you'll use over and over to the perfect gifts under $50.

Check out the picks below, and happy shopping (and registering)!

MUST-HAVE BABY GEAR

These five gift ideas are designed to make #momlife easier while solving some of the most common parenting dilemmas.

1. Doona All-In-One Infant Car Seat/Stroller

One of the first things you learn when you become a mom? Those infant car seats are heavy. Which is what makes the Doona All-In-One Infant Car Seat/Stroller so genius. It's the world's first completely integrated mobility solution, quickly transforming from safe car seat to functional stroller without any extra parts. Simply pop out the wheels, pull up the handle bar, and you're ready to roll.

Doona All-in-one Infant Car Seat / Stroller, $499

BUY


GIFTS THAT CAN BE PERSONALIZED

Even the most utilitarian gift feels a little more special with some personalization. Here are some of our favorite options that can be customized with baby's name or monogram.

1. Nursery Blankets

You'll never forget the blanket you bring your newborn home in. And with Pottery Barn Kids' assortment of blankets, there's a wrap to suit every new mama's style. Choose from fuzzy neutral patterns or stylish printed options, and add baby's name for an extra personal touch.

Nursery Blankets, Starting at $39.50

BUY


GIFTS THAT GROW WITH THEM

Save money and space by gifting items that will last long after baby's first year. These clever gift items will have mama saying "thank you!" for years to come.

1. west elm x pbk Mid-Century Convertible Crib

A convertible crib is an investment in years of sweet dreams. We love this mid-century-style option made from sustainably sourced wood with child-safe, water-based finishes. When your baby outgrows their crib (sniff!), it easily converts into a toddler bed with the matching conversion kit.

west elm x pbk Mid-Century Convertible Crib, $399

BUY


GIFTS UNDER $50

Sometimes the littlest gifts mean the most. Here are our favorite gifts under $50 they'll be sure to cherish.

1. west elm x pbk Dot Muslin Swaddle Set

When you're raising a newborn, you can never have too many swaddles. Perfect for naptime, burp cloths, stroller covers, and spontaneous play mats, a muslin swaddle will always come in handy. And we especially love this neutral patterned collection in platinum, nightshade, and peacock.

west elm x pbk Dot Muslin Swaddle Set, $45.50

BUY

Learn more and explore all Pottery Barn Kids' registry must-haves here.

In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

You might also like:

They say there's no use in crying over it, but for pumping mamas, spilled milk is a major upset.

When you're working so hard to make sure your baby has breast milk, you don't want to lose a drop, and Chrissy Teigen knows this all too well.

The mom of two posted a video to social media Wednesday showing her efforts to rescue breastmilk from a tabletop. She used various utensils and a syringe to try to get the milk back in the bottle.

"I spilled my breastmilk and this is how important it is in this house," she says while suctioning up milk with what appears to be a baster.

In a follow-up video Teigen continues to try to rescue the spilled milk.

"We're trying," she says as she suctions up a drop or two. "I got some."

Teigen is currently breastfeeding baby Miles, her son with husband John Legend, and has been very public about the fact that she pumps a lot as a working mom.

She's also been open about the fact that milk supply has always been an issue for her, not just with Miles but with Luna, too.

"I actually loved [pumping] because I'm a collector of things, and so when I found out I could pump I [did it] so much because I knew the more you pumped, the more milk you'd make," she told POPSUGAR back in March. "So I loved collecting my breast milk and seeing how much I could get, even if it was very, very little."

Like a lot of moms, Teigen did struggle emotionally when a pump session wouldn't get her the ounces she wanted.

"I wasn't producing a lot of milk, and it was frustrating. When you're frustrated, [it can also make you] not produce that much."

Research backs her up. Stress has been linked to lower milk production. Because of that, she's trying to stay positive this time around, but captioned her video post "EVERY DROP COUNTS IN THIS HOUSE" because, well, they do.


So many mothers can relate. Have you ever tried to save your breastmilk?

You might also like:


What is it about networking that's just kind of...awful? Typically inconvenient and often awkward, formal networking events rarely yield the results most women (and especially mamas) are looking for.

Whether you're reentering the workforce post-baby leave or simply looking to make a complicated career switch as a busy mom (or just struggling to juggle play dates and professional meetings), making the right connections is often a hurdle that's difficult to surmount. And more and more often, networking comes up short in providing what moms really need.

When time is truly at a premium—a session swapping business cards can be hard to prioritize. Shapr wants to change all that.

Designed with busy people in mind, Shapr is an app with an algorithm that uses tagged interests, location, and professional experience to match you with 10-15 inspiring professional connections a day. You swipe to indicate interest in networking with any of them, and if the interest is mutual, you're connected. (But don't worry, that's where the similarities to that dating app end.)

It makes it easier to connect with the right people.

From there, you can chat, video conference, and even meet in person with potential mentors, partners, and investors while growing your real-life network. No more wasting hours trying to pick someone's brain only to discover they don't have the right experience you need. And no more awkward, stilted small talk—even suggests a few preset icebreakers to help get the conversation rolling more quickly.

The best part? You could do virtually all your connecting from your couch post-bedtime.

It simplifies switching careers or industries.

Sysamone Phaphone is a real mom who was fed up with traditional networking options. When she quit her full-time job in healthcare to pursue founding a startup, she quickly realized that in-person networking events weren't only failing to connect her to the right people, they were also difficult for a single mom of two to even attend. "I was complaining to a friend that I was so tired and didn't know how I was going to keep doing it this way when she recommended the Shapr app," Phaphone says. "I tried it right there at dinner and started swiping. [Later], in my pajamas, I got my first connection."

From there, Phaphone was hooked. Her network suddenly exploded with developers, potential partners she could work with, and even people to hire for the roles she needed. She was also able to connect with and empower other women in tech. Now, checking in with Shapr connections is just part of her routine. "I look for connections after drop-off at school and on my commute into the city," she says. "Then after bedtime is done, I go on to check if there is anyone I've connected with."

It helps you find a mentor—no matter where they live.

Another common roadblock Shapr removes? Location. While you probably wouldn't fly to LA from New York for a networking event, the Shapr app lets you connect and chat with the person who best meets your needs—regardless of where they're based. Even better for parents, the "mom penalty" many women contend with when trying to get back into the workforce doesn't exist on Shapr—if you have the right experience, the connections will still come.

To connect, simply create your account, enter up to ten hashtags you want to follow (either industry related like #film or #tech or by person you're seeking, such as #developer or #uxui), preset what you're looking for (investors, collaborators, etc.), and indicate how you prefer to meet. To connect with more people at once, Shapr also has community groups within the app around interest topics that you can join. And even though the connection begins in the digital space, it often results in the in-person experiences mamas crave.

"I wish I could encourage more moms and dads to use it because it has been a lifesaver for me," Phaphone says. "It empowered my career and career choices, and it provides so much convenience. I can put my kids to bed and not go to an event, but still meet 20 people in a night."

For women looking to grow their business, position, or simply achieve a little self-growth, Shapr is changing the way we connect. This powerful new app could change everything, mama. Download it today to get started.

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.