This post was updated on May 20th, 2019
Infertility is a difficult thing to deal with most days but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who finds they suffer from additional anxiety or unhappiness as a result of their infertility during Christmas and other family oriented holidays.
So leading into the holiday season this year after four years of infertility, I’ve put together a list of the top coping strategies I have learned in hopes that it might also help you through the holidays and support you through the various social settings you may likely find yourself in.
1. Hang out with your childless friends
We often give our relatives an automatic booking for the holidays either out of habit, choice, or a bit of social obligation, so it’s easy to miss out on spending time with our friends. If you’re lucky enough to have some childless friends, or even better still, know other couples who are struggling with infertility, making time to hang-out with these people can be a real relief from whatever negative triggers you might be exposed to with your relatives.
Nothing can help bring home the feeling that infertility is NORMAL than sharing the experience with your peers. Whether you’re commiserating together or making fun of yourself, spending time with someone else who is struggling to conceive can be one of the best ways to enjoy the holidays.
2. Consider how you’re going to communicate about your infertility ahead of time
While you probably get plenty of time to get good at answering questions about your family planning status all year, seeing relatives who you only catch-up with occasionally is often a time when the topic seems to be a regular staple. Some people will prefer to not talk about it at all. Others like to pre-prepare a witty response to questions like “when are you going to have kids?”.
Although I know this option is for everyone I generally prefer to be upfront about it. I feel no shame (rationally speaking, most of the time) that I am going through infertility, and it never ceases to amaze me how warm people are when I tell them I’ve been doing IVF, or have had a few miscarriages.
However you choose to deal with personal questions you’d rather not be asked, taking the time to think about what you want to share, and what you don’t, with various people over the holidays will see you cruise through the moment, rather than being a Santa’s deer in the headlights.
3. Make the most of being child free
Last Friday, my husband gave me a call on the way home from work. We decided that since it was such a warm evening as soon as he got back, we’d head to the beach for a swim and a few beers, and then have dinner at this new taco place nearby. We just decided what we wanted to do, and then we did it. No big deal right? “This is the sort of stuff we’ll find difficult to do when we have babies” David declared after his first sip of his favorite pale ale, and he was right!
We always imagine how awesome it will be when we eventually get to start our family, but as everyone knows, despite all the upsides, raising kids is not all rainbows and unicorns. There are plenty of adult pleasures that are harder to prioritize and access when you have children, especially during holidays, so make the most of it while you still can. Who knows, it might be your last Christmas where you can indulge yourself without having to think about what’s best for bubs.
4. Let your feelings be
You know better than anyone how terrible your current state of infertility makes you feel. The predominant unpleasant feelings I experience on a regular basis, include, but are certainly not limited to:
- Anger and,
Holidays bring plenty of opportunity to get a regular dose of these feelings as we’re often exposed to extra triggers, such as seeing your younger cousin who you haven’t seen all year with her second newborn since the time you started trying to conceive!
Now that I’ve been trying to conceive for over four years, and thanks in large part to regular mindfulness meditation, I’m now learning to let these feelings be. It’s ok to feel sad, or angry or whatever feeling you experience when you’re struggling with infertility. It’s a terrible thing, and you’d have to be a robot to not be affected.
Learning to accept that you’re feeling down, and then treating yourself with warmth and kindness is one of the few great things that infertility can teach us. We can all benefit from being better at this, regardless of what stage in life we are in.
At the very least, acknowledging our current emotional state, and realizing that we may feel like this for a while, but that it will eventually pass is an empowering process and a great tool to carry around with us during the holidays.
5. Treat yourself with kindness too
While I’m sure you are an absolute angel all year round, making an extra effort to share love and kindness with those close to us is a key theme in most holiday’s right? Well I also want to remind you to make sure that YOU are on the list of people you need to take especially good care of.
I’m sure it’s been a hard year with all your unsuccessful attempts at conception, and the stress of whatever treatments you’ve had, so make sure you do something (or many things) that let yourself know, you love you too. Whether you want to buy yourself some gifts, give yourself a special treat (or many special treats), or indulge in your idea of fun, whatever that may be, giving yourself a bit of extra love during the holidays will surely make you a happier person to be around. Go on, you deserve it!
I would love to hear from you in the comments below what strategies you use to survive the holiday periods!
Kym Campbell is a Health Coach and PCOS expert with a strong passion for using evidence-based lifestyle interventions to manage this disorder. Kym combines rigorous scientific analysis with the advice from leading clinicians to disseminate the most helpful PCOS patient-centric information you can find online. You can read more about Kym and her team here.