I've never gone through IVF (in vitro fertilization), but I have experienced pregnancy loss and watched while friend after friend experienced a myriad of infertility issues from stillbirths to multiple rounds of IVF. As a child, it never crossed my mind when playing "house" that those pretend babies I had might not ever be real. Once I got pregnant with the first pregnancy though, I learned that making a baby is not as easy as it looks. Hitting the end of my thirties, I am standing by and holding the hands of friends who are also discovering that, lo and behold, pregnancy is not a walk in the park. If you know a friend or family member going through IVF, keep in mind that it's not easy and try to support them with one or all of these three ways!
Don't Ignore the Elephant
Your friend may not want to talk about what's going on, but at least ask her how she's doing and see if she wants to talk. If she says she doesn't want to talk about it, then leave her be, but ignoring the topic altogether is uncomfortable and makes your friend feel as if people are too afraid to ask how she is. This is difficult because she needs the support, so even if you simply ask if she would like to talk, she will feel loved.
Don't Ask Everyday If She's Pregnant
In fact, don't ask if she's pregnant at all. Ask how she is doing regarding IVF. That way if she wants to tell you, she can, and if she doesn't want to tell you, she is not put on the spot. Some family members eager for another baby in the family will ask daily if their family member is pregnant, and it's frustrating and upsetting for the person going through the process. Believe you me, she wants to be pregnant even more than you do. Ease up on the pressure!
Learn About the Process
Each IVF experience is different, but there is a ton of information on the internet or in your local library (for the older generation) that will give you an idea of some of the trials and tribulations a woman undergoing IVF and her family are experiencing. Knowledge is power. If you understand the process somewhat, you are then able to ask good questions or at least follow along.
The fact is, most of the time, all a woman and her partner need is a good ear and a hug.
Mood Swings and Weight Gain
It's common for women going through the IVF process to gain weight and experience mood swings. Don't comment harshly — or at all, especially about her weight. There's nothing she can do about it. Hormones are a mighty thing, so zip your lips and recognize that even if she snaps at you, it's most likely because she's under duress and the mood-altering power of hormones.
Cautious With the Pregnancy Talk
Friend after friend going through IVF (and those of us who miscarried) finds Facebook News Feeds almost offensive with the amount of pregnancy chatter. It's very difficult to watch others delight in the joy of a baby while, for this person, making one is so much work it's like a second job. If you're pregnant or hear of other friends who are pregnant, be delicate about the matter. Your swollen feet and nausea may be awful, but for the woman doing a round of IVF, those are signs of joy. It's all perception.
Offer Your Hand
Is she feeling crappy at work and perhaps needing a helping hand today? Does she need someone to go with her to treatments while her partner works? Is she feeling depressed and needing a girls' night? Don't be general: asking if she needs something will simply end up with her stating "no" most likely. Instead, offer specific help as listed above. For example, "Do you want me to come with you to the doctor's tomorrow?" It's more effective than just, "Do you need something?" She may say no and want privacy, but asking goes a long way to show you love someone.
The Day Of
On that day she's waiting for pregnancy results, don't pester her to know the answer. This is one time you should wait for her to tell you. She may not be ready to talk about it, whether it's positive news or negative.
Recognize that pregnancy for you may have been a joyful experience, but for the woman undergoing IVF, it may never feel totally carefree, even when she's ready to deliver. When you have to fight to make that baby happen, everything seems precarious and tentative.
Showing your friend, coworker, or family member extra love during this difficult time is incredibly helpful. A little empathy and a kind ear go a long way!