The holidays are already tricky when it comes to finding that perfect gift for each special person on your list. If you have a friend or family member experiencing infertility, as one in eight couples are, you may want to give a gift that shows your care and support. But be careful. Often the gifts that are given to people going through infertility are well-meant, but can be painful or frustrating.
With anyone going through a life crisis, as infertility truly is, it’s a tough balance to show you care when you don’t completely understand the experience they’re going through. Yet, it’s so thoughtful for someone to want to give a meaningful gift of support. In that spirit, here are some holiday gifts you should avoid giving someone going through infertility, as well as tips for what you should give.
Avoid the supporting/hopeful presents
You probably have given your friend pep talks during their low times about the struggle they are going through. The holidays are not a great time to further that pep talk with an “infertility support” or “hope” related presents. Although well-intentioned, items like hope stones or a piece of jewelry that says ‘believe’ are not the way to go. Someone struggling with infertility knows that they need a lot more than just hope to achieve their goals. So this type of gift can be interpreted as downplaying the seriousness of their medical condition. The possible exception to this is if they know that you have also personally been through the same struggle. Otherwise, they don’t want that gift from someone who doesn’t totally understand what they are going through. Every time they look at it, it will just remind them of the gap between the two of you.
"For when you get pregnant" gifts
You may think getting a gift that your friend can use when they get pregnant, such as a calendar that tracks pregnancy or a cute onesie that says “worth the wait,” are a great way to show your faith in their journey, but it is really a painful reminder. Think about it – when they receive this gift, there is nothing they can do with it. They often hide it in a dark corner of their home so they avoid a daily reminder of their struggle and grief. Someone struggling with infertility may buy these items for themselves to give themselves hope, but when they receive them from someone else, they often just feel misunderstood. There will be plenty of time to give these types of gifts once they have built their family successfully. But when they’re in the midst of the infertility struggle is not the right time.
A self-help or advice book
It makes people sad to see a friend struggle and they want to help. But trust me – your friend realizes they are sad going through infertility. They fully understand they are not the same person they used to be. They are likely aware of the changes in their life, like avoiding social functions and distancing themselves from friends and family. This knowledge of how they have changed during infertility makes them even more sad. To realize that other people see it too is just too much. Plus, they’re too busy reading everything they can get their hands on about their family building journey to read anything else. Reading a self-help book is incredibly low on the priority list.
What should you give?
The very best gift is the gift of your time. Specifically, doing an activity together that takes their mind off what they’re going through, even briefly. Try some of these options:
Try to give them any gift that will take them out of their normal routine. An activity that involves spending time with you is the best gift of all.
Nicole Witt is the owner of The Adoption Consultancy, an unbiased resource serving pre-adoptive families by providing them with the education, information and guidance they need to safely adopt a newborn, usually within three to 12 months.
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