How can I support my sister?

My sister has been going through some infertility issues for the past two years now and I think she is at an all time low, lots of friends are now on their second child etc.

I am just looking for some advice really on how best to support her? Does anybody have a similar experience of being there for somebody else, or are in her situation and can offer some guidance on what I might be able to say or do to help her through.

Thanks x

28 Replies

oldestnewest
  • Hi there. Think it's lovely you're trying to help your sister. I think my own sister felt awkward because she got pregnant during our fertility troubles and it was difficult for her too. I guess the best thing is to be there for her, to listen, to be sensitive to her situation. We are still sadly childless and I feel my sister is sensitive to other friends etc who are pregnant and reins in what she's saying at times. Hope that helps xx

  • She is the best sister and has always been so supportive to me.

    You just always wish there is something more you can say or do but it is often difficult not to feed her the same "it will happen in time", "remain positive" talk she hears daily.

    But thank you, I guess just being there for whatever she needs me for is all I can do.x

  • I’ve been doing this with my daughter for 3 years now. All I can say is I’ve googled till I can’t google anymore and loaded myself with so much about infertility that when the next stage of her treatment is approaching, we are fully aware what is goin to happen so we can prepare. As for when other ppl get pregnant ( my son and daughter in law got pregnant in their first month of trying and are now 21 weeks pregnant) just listen to her and how she feels. She will probably feel very resentful but reassure her that it is completely normal and to be expected. Hug her if she needs it, listen when she needs it because that’s all you can do. I’ve done it for so long now and it all eases her pain and that’s that’s the aim. Hope that helps xxxxx

  • Thank you. I guess just to be there for whatever she needs is all I can do x

  • That’s all you can do. Believe me we have cried buckets together but just by being there, I know helps her. You are her sister so even if at times she gets a little nasty, forgive her. She really doesn’t mean too but she knows you have unconditional love for her so you may be the brunt of her anger. I know because I’ve been there. Sending massive hugs to you and your sister xxxx

  • I don't think I realised the full impact really until recently. I'm trying to offer support to my mum also who is finding this very difficult not being able to just make things right for her. But we are all there for each other. Thank you so much xx

  • My love to you and your daughter too x

  • Maybe as well as all the good advice others have given you, be aware that some of us find talking to family very hard. Somehow it’s harder than talking to friends. I think it’s because you know that close family feel your pain too, and you don’t want the people you love to feel sad for you. Also, family, especially your parents, sort of have a vested interest, after all, any child I have will be my parents’ grandchild, my siblings’ niece/nephew etc. So maybe also accept that sometimes she might not want to talk to you about it. And it’s not because of anything you have or haven’t done. It might just be that you are too close.

  • Yeah I agree. I believe counselling may be a great way for her to offload thoughts and feelings which I think may be something she feels too.

  • You could suggest she joins this forum - the ladies and gents her me are a real support to each other amd totally get it because we’re all facing the same issues. It’s great you are trying to work out how to help. No suggestions there except to be guided by your sis. Xxx

  • Hi there, there's a guidance sheet on here for people to give to families and friends to help them know ways they can support. If you log in to the main site and look in resources you can find it. I agree with Lizzie, it can be hard to talk to family about it because you hold a sense of guilt that you haven't provided something for them. I didn't tell my mum or sister until we were at the end of our ttc journey. They now know there will never be a child produced by us. I didn't want them to have to go through the uncertainty with us and I also couldn't face constantly disappointing them with bad news throughout the journey. Although it came as a bit of a final blow, they have accepted it. Also, at the end of the day, the pain is never going to be quite the same. My sister has three children who are grown up now and it is likely she will be a grandmother at some stage and my mum of course is already a grandmother. So whilst they feel sad on my behalf, they do have joy in their lives and have had their own experiences of those roles. For me, the element of infertility I find hardest is knowing I will never be a grandmother and having to plan in advance for a future that will be very lonely if and when one of us dies. We will need to save enough money to be able to buy in help as we won't have family we can ask. I have three grown nieces but in reality, they're all off living their own lives and when I'm old and grey, the chances are they'll be busy with their own children. We have a strong bond but it is nothing like the bond between a parent and child. The other thing I find hard is when people say just adopt. Adoption is not a solution to infertility. It may be a choice people may once their infertility journey has come to an end but it is an incredibly hard decision to make for a whole host of reasons. It cannot be underestimated how heartbreaking and gut wrenching it is to give up the hope of not having your own child that is created out of a deep love between yourself and your partner. It is a pain that is woken with every day and thought about before sleep every night. So to casually suggest adoption can come across as a bit flippant although it might not be intended that way. The last thing I would say I find hard is when people give you urban myths e.g. A friend of a friend tried for ten years, decided to give up and then got pregnant naturally. These stories do not help because in reality they are very uncommon. I hope that helps give a picture from the point of view of someone who has been through infertility treatment and is coming to terms with the unhappy ending in the final chapter. Well done for supporting your sister. I'm sure she appreciates you taking the time to find out about it. I wish her the best of luck with her journey and hope that she does get a happy ending. x

  • Thank you and thank you for taking the time to share your story with me. X

  • _MrsC, that made me cry because it is so spot on and although I haven't quite decided to end my fertility journey yet, those thoughts echo my own so much and my heart goes out to you.

    I'm so sorry about the cruel place you find yourself and wish for a sense peace to settle within you and all of us who stand at what appears to be a long and empty road ahead.

    I hope that road comes alive with the colour of other joys and send you strength and love to help you tread it.

    Massive hugs xxx

  • Thank you my dear. Your reply is so sweet and kind. I am very grateful to you. I also hope for you that peace comes and other joys if this one joy is not to be. xxx

  • Thank you MrsC, that means a lot too. Xxx

  • Check in with her regularly just to ask if she’s ok and if there’s anything you can do to take some of the burden. So many of my family don’t bother - maybe it’s because they don’t know what to say, maybe it’s because they’re too distracted with their own lives - but it’s difficult to take when you’re at an all time low and struggling.

    Ask questions. Be interested and read up on the things she’s going through so that you can show you’re that invested in it you’ve taken extra steps.

    Don’t constantly send her photos of your children or talk about your children (my sister does this all the time and on the really bad days it can push me over the edge). She will no doubt want updates and some photos occasionally but sending numerous pics every day can be insensitive and seem uncaring.

    If she suggests meeting up or doing something specific, just say yes and go with her whenever you possibly can - she’s probably reaching out for support at that particular time. Try not to put her off.

    Don’t trot out the cliches that she hears all the time or tell her “you know it’s definitely going to happen for her” - my mom does this all the time and it makes me want to scream. Unless you’re mystic meg with a proven track record of predicting great things, just don’t say it. We need people to actually understand and appreciate the fact that all the odds are against us. Don’t minimise it. This is the absolute hardest thing I have EVER gone through and when people dismiss it like that I want to cry my heart out. There is no guarantee on this journey. If the doctors can’t say it’s “definitely” gonna happen, no-one else should be saying it either. Of course it’s difficult to know what to say but often you don’t really have to say anything just ask and listen and say “I’m so sorry that this is happening to you, it’s so cruel and infair.”

    Just by coming on here to ask the group how you can support though shows that you’re clearly doing all that you can do to be the best sister - so really, just keep doing what you’re doing. She’s a lucky girl. X

  • If you do have children though, be guided by her about how much she wants to hear about them/spend time with them. I’m very grateful that my brother and sister in law send me videos and pictures of my nieces and even let me look after them for long periods of time... I had the two year old all day on Thursday and had such a lovely time. Yes, I did find myself thinking “wouldn’t it be lovely if I could do this all the time with my own child”, but in the absence of my own child, being involved with my nieces helps to fill a little gaping hole in my heart. Once again, everyone is different. If you do have kids, maybe just ask her whether she wants you to send regular photos/be asked to babysit etc.

  • Hi there,

    Everyone has made some really good suggestions. I’m close to my sister, and whilst she wants to be supportive, she has barely asked me about my 2.5 year journey and 2 rounds of ivf. It’s always me who has to bring it up which has always made me feel like it’s very forced. So just being there for her openly will probably be a great start.

    My mum has been great and has been my backup to come to any appointments that my husband couldn’t come to, so maybe you could be that person.

    My work colleagues (the few that I’m close to that know) have taken a real interest in ivf and anything that I tell them, always excited to hear how many follicles I have at baseline, at each scan etc. None of them have been through ivf but their excitement and interest was infectious and kept me going. So that helps too!

    What has helped me the most though, is a combination of people I’ve met through this who are going through the same. So a couple of people on here, and LOADS of people from my clinics support group, and from Instagram. It’s not clear whether your sister has had or is going to have ivf or other actual treatment, But many clinics, or local health practices offer a support group for their patients and it’s good to get together with people going through the same. I’ve now made lifelong friends going through exactly the same thing. Same with Instagram - I’ve met lots of other lifelong friends through here - ladies who have a private account to document their journey. Through this I’ve learnt about “meet ups” and gone for lunch and a laugh with 20 other women going through the same. We now have whatsapp groups set up and keep each other going with gifts, cards, quotes, inspiration through the highs and lows. It’s just a thought. You’re welcome to see my account if you think she might be interested - I’m onedaywewillbethree

    It’s lovely that you’re looking into how to support her, I think all of the above have really helped me

    Xx

  • Thanks. I don't want to advise or push her to try forums or support groups as I don't want to seem patronising towards her. I think when somebody close is going through difficulties you always feel on the edge of wanting to show interest and support but then not wanting to bring it up too much when it's all she must think about. I guess like you say being here openly for her, which I am, is a great help xx

  • It’s interesting because in my case I would say I prefer people not to bring it up unless I do- I guess just asking “how are you” and taking time to listen to the answer would give your sister the option to tell you or not, as she prefers. I wouldn’t like my friends or family to directly ask me about how ivf etc is going, but I often choose to talk about it if someone asks me how I am as it is a big factor in how I am, as it were!

  • Yes I’m on this wavelength too Lizzie. Sometimes if I’m asked outright I shut down as I don’t have the inclination or energy at that point to talk. But if asked a “general” how I am, as you say it’s always there- I’ll open up then x

  • Ah your sister is so lucky that you are so thoughtful and sensitive to her situation . I would echoe what has already been said. I certainly would avoid saying "it will happen" because of course it might not. This is the cruelist thing about ivf. Definitely read up so you know what she is going through. It's such a complicated process! Also let her know her feelings of anger frustrating or sadness are all understandable normal and valid; e.g. give her permission to vent if someone else gets pregnant. It's normal to feel those things. Ask if there is anything you can do; one of my friends used to.send me really trivial links on WhatsApp that were nothing to do with what I was going through; the distraction was great. Above all just listen. You can't provide the answer or make it better but you can be there for her

    She is lucky to have you xxx

  • I echo what you have said Jenny! A friend of mine is good at doing the same thing, she’ll send me countdowns and reminders about nice things we’ve got planned and when I feel low it does help (I might not see it right then and there but the next day/week etc it brightens me) x

  • Sometimes acknowledging to your sister that it is utterly crap what she is going through can be enough. It breaks my heart when family don’t know what to say to me, and the usual lines have failed and they run out of words - so sometimes just letting her rant to you or agreeing with her how rubbish the whole thing is and she’s every right to feel the way she does, that can be comforting. Good on you for trying so hard and being aware how awful this stuff is xx

  • So sweet of you to ask. My own sister has abandoned me on this fertility journey. I had a miscarriage in June and she only texted me once. No phone calls, visits etc. Your sister is very lucky to have you x

  • Hello, tell me, what is your sister's diagnosis? Maybe she still has chances to become a mother? After all, the procedure of IVF is very popular now, in addition, this procedure is not only popular, but also effective. And also she can think about the surrogacy. My husband and I start preparing for the second attempt of IVF. Recently we returned from a rest, we rested on the sea, we liked it so much. There, we forgot about all our problems and concerns. Therefore, the first thing I can advise her is to fly to the sea for a week. This will help her distract her anxieties for several months. And also please tell me if your sister has a boyfriend or husband? Maybe they need to "refresh" their relationship? She could feel loved and desired, and this could give her more strength and faith in herself. And if she is lonely, then maybe she needs to communicate more with men. Their attention will also help her feel like a real and full-fledged woman. Also I can say that self-confidence helps the best. And for this she needs to become a successful woman. I understand that many women think that success for them is maternity. BUT! Maternity is happiness, but SUCCESS is self-realization. She must feel independent, maybe she needs to open a small business or find a good job. Then she will not worry that if she does not have children, then her husband or boyfriend will betray her and leave her. And in fact often depression appears precisely because of these fears, and not because the woman can not have children. If she feels that next to her a man who loves her and accepts her as she is, with all her shortcomings, she can relax and be happy. Unfortunately, everyone has a disease. Each person has different degrees of severity. But the woman needs not only children, but also love. It seems to me that the guy or husband of your sister should support her and help her believe in herself. And then they will succeed, let them try to do IVF or let them get advice about the surrogacy. And if your sister is lonely now - I wish her to find a good man who will love her. And love will help them to believe in success, and reproductive medicine will help them achieve their goal. Because even on this forum you can find many incredible stories. It seemed that the woman lost faith and hope, but fate rewards her for waiting. Of course, there are many unfortunate stories, but only your sister is responsible for her fate. And only she can decide how her story ends.

  • Thanks for taking the time to reply.

    There is still chance. IVF is a last option I believe as of corse you get 1 lot free on the NHS.

    They don't seem to be too sure what they're dealing with it seems.

    Sometimes she ovulates some times she doesn't.

    She fell pregnant last year but was a very rare ectopic where the embryo actually attached in the stomach. She was lucky to be alive.

    She has a cyst on each ovary which they don't want to touch.

    She's just changed her medication to try something new.

    It's just always a waiting game to see the fertility nurse for blood tests to see if she's ovulated and she's off quite a lot and there nobody else she can contact in between.

    Her husband is wonderful and they're very supportive of each other!

    I believe it will happen it's just the day to day struggle of feeling nothing is happening and nobody knows the answers x

  • Dear s610

    We often find it hard ourselves to cope when there is nothing we can do to help those whom we love and care for to feel better. Fertility Network UK have created a factsheet for friends and family that you can download here: fertilitynetworkuk.org/for-... but a key message is to be available, just to listen, give a hug, not so much to encourage to think positively - more to accept that any thought or feeling is OK, that you can manage how she's feeling, then it will become more manageable for her too as she's able to share honestly.

    I think you are a very special sister for finding here and asking; bringing her along to a Fertility Network UK support group might help you to feel your doing something useful too in addition to helping her recognise her thoughts and feelings, including feeling very low, are OK. The low thoughts validate our situation and help to make sure we don't push on too quickly and explore all options before deciding what next.

    So often people experiencing infertility have to spend time and energy reassuring others they are OK and are coping - so saying it's OK, tell it like it is, I can't fix but can hold, can be a huge gift in itself.

    Very warm wishes and do suggest here as a place for your sister too!

    Tracey

    Fertility Network UK Volunteer Counsellor

You may also like...