Holiday Baby Blues
Holidays are supposed to be joyous celebrations of tradition, with food, family and fun. But if you’re trying to conceive and having fertility issues the celebrating can become an ordeal. Well-meaning relatives ask when you’re going to start your family, not realizing the problems you’ve had. The long list of parties and get-togethers may seem irritating or depressing instead of fun.
If you’re undergoing fertility treatment you’re juggling appointments and maybe feeling the ups and downs of fertility drugs. And it’s difficult to be cheery when it feels like everyone else has an adorable child decorating the Christmas tree, and you don’t. You can get through the holidays with your spirits and hopes intact! It’s essential to take care of yourself at this time of year, and your partner, too. Here are some suggestions to make the holidays a little easier, our gift to you—and we’d like to hear from you about your own special ways of managing the holiday blues.
Pick and Choose Your Events
Forget about what you “should” do. You don’t have to accept every invitation or go to every get-together. If there are events you are dreading instead of anticipating, it’s okay to say no. Be a little selfish. Now is the time to be kind to yourself and cut yourself (and your partner) a little slack. Limit your exposure to the babies, children and pregnant women among your family or friends if it causes you pain. Maybe you can arrive just before Christmas dinner instead of socializing the whole day.
If there is a “command performance” you absolutely must attend, have an escape plan in your back pocket. Ask your partner or a good friend to stay by your side and move you away if a conversation is painful, take you home early or just be there to listen for a moment. Sometimes just having a plan makes events more bearable, even if you don’t have to put it into action.
It’s OK to Feel Bad During the Holidays
A lot of people get really depressed during the holidays, even if they are not struggling with fertility problems. We all expect to be happy and then we’re disappointed when we’re not. There are feelings of grief and loss for loved ones who are no longer with us, and longing for the baby we don’t yet have, mixed up with the pleasure of being with friends and family that we love. All this becomes stronger and more poignant with the holidays.
Allow yourself to feel sad, deprived or depressed. Experts agree that allowing your grief to surface instead of pushing it down may actually free up more energy for happiness. Give yourself some quiet time and let the feelings out for 20 minutes or so. Let your partner have his or her feelings, too. Talk with each other about your feelings and recognize what an effort you each are making in such a difficult time.
Decide What You’re Going to Say, In Advance
You know it’s just a matter of time at any family gathering before someone asks when you’re planning to have a child. Be prepared and you can handle it with less emotion. You can deflect it, saying something like “We’re working on it and hoping it’ll be soon,” or “We’re certainly having fun trying!” Then change the subject. If the question comes from someone who’s genuinely concerned, you may want to share a bit of what you as a couple are doing.
In this age of compulsive sharing of everything on social media, it’s up to you how much you want other people to know. You may find the pressure is less if you don’t tell the world about your fertility struggles in detail, or you may find sharing with a caring family member makes you feel better. But you and your partner have to decide what you’re comfortable with and how much privacy you want.
Celebrate Without Children
There are many fun things you can do which are more adult-oriented. Take a trip together, go to adults-only parties, enjoy a Christmas concert that doesn’t feature a children’s choir. You can skip some family events if you think they will be painful. There are many other people who don’t have children and are happy to socialize without them, perhaps at cultural events or social groups in your community.
A great way to celebrate is to help someone else who is lonely or down during the holidays. It’s a fact that doing something for someone else helps you get outside your own pain. Go Christmas caroling in a nursing home, help out at a soup kitchen or take part in some other activity that isn’t family-oriented.
Gather Your Support System
Your family and friends may be a good support system for you. If you’re feeling bad, calling someone you love and trust can help. If you haven’t told them about your fertility issues this may be a good time to break the news. You need their support, and they can help run interference at family events. Do something special with the people who make you feel loved and enrich your life, including your partner.
If you’re having fertility treatments your fertility center may have support groups or counselors you can talk to. RESOLVE, the American Fertility Association, also has support groups in many areas. It may feel like you’re the only one going through this pain. Talking to a professional or meeting with others who have similar feelings gives you a safe place to talk and to feel less alone.