The Holidays and Infertility
Coping Hints to Help You Through the Season
When you’re TTC and not having success, the last thing you may want to do is sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with a large group of relatives or go to a holiday party with people who don’t know that you’re in fertility treatment. Many people find the holidays stressful even when they’re not trying to get pregnant. Seeing other people’s babies and children can cut like a knife when you want your own so badly. When you’re in fertility treatment, well-meaning people can say things and give advice that’s wrong-headed or hurtful, out of ignorance. And you’re the one who feels the pain.
Most people don’t know much about infertility. But you don’t have to educate them with stories of your life! It’s up to you to decide what you want to share and with whom, and how to cope with seasonal stress. Here are some hints.
Allow Yourself Time to Be Sad
The emotions of infertility can be overwhelming. IVF treatment can be a real roller coaster ride of excitement, worry, disappointment, shame and grief if you’re not successful right away. If you’ve been trying to get pregnant and you’re grieving over failed IVF cycles or just the amount of time and stress fertility treatment is taking, allow yourself to feel sad, deprived or depressed. Set aside some time, like 20 minutes or so, maybe each day, to feel your emotions fully. Let your partner feel their emotions, too, and acknowledge them. Experts agree that allowing yourself to feel your “feels” may actually free up more emotional space so you can feel happier. But it’s important, too, to limit the amount of time, so you don’t get mired in a pit of depression. You may find it helps to keep a journal where you write your feelings and express your longing for a child.
Redefine Normal for the Holidays
If you really feel like you can’t take the anguish of a succession of family parties with small children and pregnant friends running around, pick and choose your events. You may even want to do something like have an adults-only holiday or go on a trip with your partner, celebrating on your own. It’s fine to be a little selfish, and for your partner to be, too. If there’s an event you absolutely have to go to, have an escape plan in place. Arrange in advance with your partner or a friend who knows your situation to stick by your side and move you away if a conversation becomes painful, or even leave early. Sometimes just knowing you have an escape plan makes an event more bearable.
Decide in Advance What You Want to Share
It’s really important that you and your partner agree beforehand on what you feel comfortable sharing, and with whom. You may want to tell your immediate family if they don’t already know, and your partner may not want to discuss your treatment with anyone. That’s okay! If someone asks, “When are you two going to start a family?” it’s completely fine to deflect with “We’re working on it” or “We hope to do that soon.” Just make sure you agree before you’re sitting at Aunt Anna’s dinner table.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It
You’ve given yourself time to express your sadness and grief. Now make a conscious effort to count your blessings and reflect more on what makes you happy and less on your sadness and loss. This may be hard at first and it may feel “fake.” But it’s been proven that trying to have positive thoughts—and acting like you do—can actually change the way you feel. Try keeping a gratitude journal. Just thinking about the good things in your life as well as the bad ones can make you feel better. You don’t have to deny your sad feelings. You’re just thinking about and acknowledging that you have other, happier feelings, too.
Help Someone in Need
One of the best ways to deal with your own misery is to help someone else. Volunteer to serve dinner at a shelter, sing Christmas carols with a group at a nursing, or participate in a movement you feel strongly about—there’s nothing like a march with like-minded people! Give to a charity. If the timing is right, adopt a homeless pet. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”