Guide for Family and Friends

A Guide for Families and Friends

Statistics tell us that 15-25% of all couples will face some form of fertility issue in their lifetimes. It is inevitable that we all know at least one couple who is dealing or has dealt with a fertility challenge. It could be a friend, the person sitting next to you in the synagogue, a relative or yourself. It is important to be sensitive and understanding of the special needs of couples who are yearning, yet unable, to have children. How can we do this with both a feeling of openness and sensitivity?

A new couple (without children) moved into our neighborhood. We b"h have 5 children. How can I make them feel welcome to join us for a meal while not embarrassing them or making them feel out of place?

If you would like to invite a childless couple to your home for dinner, there are certain things you can do to ensure that they will feel comfortable.

First off, you should be cognizant of who else will be at the meal. Try to consider inviting them together with other couples without children or perhaps for an evening meal, when some of your children may be sleeping. In your invitation you can provide them with an easy way to decline: "I know that you may want to eat at home" or, "I am not sure if you are available, but we would love to have you."

Try to be sensitive about the topics you bring up in conversation, making sure they are not overly kid-centered (school issues, showing off Avi's latest artistic masterpiece or similar things), which could leave the couple feeling bored, neglected, or worse.

You can give them an easy way to leave early by having a relatively short meal and then retiring to the living room for coffee and cake, giving them the option of leaving after benching without being rude. This would also provide an opportunity, if they would like, to discuss more personal issues in a less formal setting.

Of course, all of this depends on your relationship with them: With time you will develop a closer connection with childless couples in your community and will be more sensitive to their individual needs.

Should I be bold about discussing their fertility issues with them?

This is a very complex issue. In most cases, you are best advised to leave the decision to open up about their issues to the couple themselves. They may need to have close friends/confidants whom they look to for emotional support and encouragement when they themselves are feeling down. When they feel comfortable enough with you, they will turn to you of their own accord.

There are times that an opening in the conversation presents itself. At such times, presenting a veiled invitation allows a couple who is ready to discuss the issue an opportunity to do so. Do not be upset if the couple chooses not to seize the opportunity; each couple has their own way of coping with their situation.

I heard about a terrific website or recently read an article that has information that I think may help them. Should I tell them about it?

If you are already involved in a discussion of fertility issues with the couple, absolutely! However, this topic should not be a conversation starter or opening unless you are a qualified professional in this field, with actual practical advice that may help this couple.

I have had fertility issues myself. Should I speak about my issues, or would this make them feel bad that I may have been successful while they have not?

Once again, this depends upon your relationship with them. As opposed to others, you  have the relevant experience to determine if the opportunity has presented itself. Further, in your case, you may be best advised to invite this couple for a one on one meal without other families present.

It is important to remember that every couple is different. You may feel very open about discussing your issues while they may deal with their issues differently.

OK. The couple is here and they have begun discussing their issues with us. What can I say to be supportive?

The most important thing that most couples really want is an open ear and a shoulder to cry on. They are almost certainly dealing with a myriad of medical professionals and doctors and are not turning to you for medical advice (unless you are a qualified professional). Be supportive and compassionate in a non-judgmental way. They have heard glib answers and statements many times already, try to avoid saying things like "just relax" or "it will happen in time.....".

Is there a Torah source that deals with fertility issues?

The Torah is replete with stories about couples that faced fertility challenges (our Forefathers, Chana, etc.). For more examples, read our articles here.

I had the couple over and the opportunity did not present itself. Yet, I feel it is important to let them know about PUAH, this website or other material that may help them. How can I do this without offending them?

The PUAH Institute is often asked this question. We advise that you contact the PUAH Institute and fill us in with the couples contact information (having their email address is especially helpful). PUAH has developed appropriate contact materials that contain information about PUAH without inferring that the recipient is in need of our services. We leave it to the couple to take the next step.

How do I ask my friend to be Kvatter for my son?

The kvatter has the honor of bringing the baby to the brit, a segulah for having children. It is customary to give this honor to a couple that has no children. However, for some couples, who may have already served in this capacity numerous times in the past, this can be an embarrassing reminder of their issues.

It is important to make the offer tactfully, and to clearly give the couple the opportunity to say no if they so choose. It should be made clear that their attendance at the brit is important to the host, no matter what choice they have made.

For further discussion on a couple serving as kvatter or attending other life cycle celebrations (Bar or Bat Mitzva, etc.), see our article here.

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