The lights, the trees, the music – the holidays are in full swing. This is a time of year that brings joy to so many. But for those struggling with the intense challenges of infertility, the holidays can be a painful time of year. As you buy gifts for young children who are not your own, watch other families grow and hear the happy laughter of kids playing in the snow, it can be a constant and daunting reminder of the challenges you face.
The increased attendance of social engagements around the holidays can also lead to demanding questions from well-meaning family and friends. Talking about infertility can be difficult, personal and, for some, a very private topic. These questions, paired with the overall pressure of the holidays, can evoke emotions in couples that are trying to conceive. If this is how you feel this time of year, know that you are not alone. Infertility affects about 7.3 million people in the US and infertility emotional support is available. It is not easy, but there are a few things you can try to help you cope with infertility during the holidays.
The do’s and don’ts of how to cope with infertility during the holidays
Infertility has an impact on more than just the body. For some, the emotional rollercoaster infertility causes can also have a mental health impact; which, in some cases, can lead to feelings of anxiety or depression. The holidays, with all their social events, pressures and emotions, can heighten these feelings. To make coping with infertility and the holidays a bit easier, consider some of these tactics:
Make a plan for talking about infertility
Do: Have a plan ready to address questions and statements you might not be comfortable with. Talking about infertility can be difficult. Family and friends who are unaware of your fertility struggles may ask personal questions about when you plan to have children. While perhaps well-intended, questions and comments about your fertility can feel invasive if you’re unprepared to talk about it. Below are a few examples:
- Q: “When are you going to have kids?”
- A: If you’re not comfortable answering, a simple “we’re working on it” often answers the question sufficiently and deflects further questions about the topic.
- Q: “When are you going to start a family?”
- A: It’s ok (and good!) to be honest with your responses. Stating “we already consider ourselves a family” is a great way to diffuse the question. If you’re feeling cheeky and the social setting permits, you can follow up the question by stating “If we decide to expand our family, we’ll be sure to let you know.”
- Q: “I sure wish you’d take one of mine off my hands.”
- A: “Thanks, but I’m sure your kiddo would miss you too much.”
- Q: “I heard about this new fertility treatment. Have you considered it?”
- A: “It might sound easy, but fertility treatments are complicated and specific to each person. Thanks for the idea, though.”
Don’t: Be caught off guard. Talking about infertility can be difficult, especially if you aren’t emotionally ready to do so. Having a plan to answer personal questions diffuses the interest of others and minimizes the emotional impact.
Visiting family and friends
Do: Plan to spend time with couples who don’t have children. This will lessen the amount of questions you receive and allow you to take a break from the “baby conversation”.
Don’t: Avoid all social engagements. It’s important to stay connected to family and friends during times of need. Even if you decide it’s not the right time to tell them about your fertility struggles, it’s important to keep your support system close.
Share your feelings about infertility and the holidays
Do: If you’re comfortable talking about infertility, seek others who understand. Plan in advance how much you and your partner plan to handle difficult questions and, if it helps, rehearse your answers. Express your appreciation for caring family and friends who are genuinely interested in your well-being and tell them you appreciate their love and support. It’s important, as you go through the journey of infertility, to build a loving and caring support system.
Don’t: Keep feelings bottled up. Share as much as you feel comfortable.
Look to your partner for infertility emotional support
Do: Talk with your partner about your feelings and if you’re experiencing any infertility depression. Set aside time to confide in him/her and allow yourself to feel sad, deprived and, in some cases, depressed. Infertility emotional support is essential to maintaining a healthy relationship in this trying time.
Don’t: Get caught in the whirlwind of the holidays and forget about each other’s needs. The holidays are a busy time of year. It’s important talk about your feelings together. You need each other’s infertility emotional support more than ever.
Embrace the spirit of the holidays
Do: Find ways that the holidays bring you joy. Spend time doing the things you like best, such as make a special meal, give back to your community or plan a trip. Participate in community events, lend a helping hand to those in need, or snuggle up with a cozy blanket and a good book. Or, try something new. It’s okay to redefine normal and you have a right to take care of yourself. It’s important to do the things that bring you joy during the holidays.
Don’t: Pretend that nothing is wrong. Infertility and the holidays can heighten emotions. Repressing these feelings won’t help. It’s important to lean on family and friends for infertility emotional support. Don’t close off positive feelings and new experiences. You may find new things you enjoy, new friends or a new ability you didn’t know you had.
Know your limits
Do: Know when to say no. You do not have to accept every social invitation. If you feel like it, you can also share why you are uncomfortable attending. This may help family and friends better understand the challenges you face.
Don’t: Worry about it. It’s perfectly acceptable to decline an invitation. Those who love you will understand.
Find individualized support and treatment
It can be difficult to cope with infertility during the holidays. That’s why it’s important to seek out family, friends, and experienced fertility specialists for infertility emotional support. Working with a fertility clinic that understands the complexity of your individual needs is imperative to your reproductive success. Reach out to Kaldas Center for Fertility, Surgery and Pregnancy to speak with caring, experienced fertility specialists who understand the struggles you are going through and will work with you identify and address your fertility concerns.