It’s that time of year again to be celebrating the season, attending parties, reminiscing about the good things that happened in 2016 and looking forward to another year of prosperity. But for many of you, the last twelve months have been anything but. Instead, it is just another reminder that another year has gone by without the addition of a child to your family. Coping with infertility is hard, but it’s even harder during the holidays.
The increased social interactions tend to highlight these longings and feelings of depression in our patients. Family and friends who are not privy to your infertility struggles may ask personal questions about when you plan on starting a family. Holiday meals and celebrations often include children. Buying presents for nieces and nephews can send you into a real holiday funk.
Our friends at Resolve, the National Infertility Association, has put together a great list of do’s and don’ts for the holidays that can help you cope with it all. If you haven’t heard of Resolve, check out their website. They have tons of information that can provide you with an amazing amount of support with what you are going through.
Attending Holiday Parties
DO: Be selective about accepting invitations to parties and holiday celebrations, especially the ones at which you know there will be a lot of children or pregnant women. Remember: you don’t have to say yes.
DON’T: Feel guilty about not participating in all the traditional family events. You’re going through a difficult time, and you need to concentrate on helping yourself and your partner get through the holidays.
Visiting Family and Friends
DO: Plan to spend time with couples or friends who don’t have children if family festivities are too much to bear this year. Consider arriving just in time for the holiday dinner, rather than the night before if you find it painful to be around your young nieces, nephews and cousins.
DON’T: Rely completely on family traditions to fulfill your present needs.
DO: Spend time doing things you like best. Prepare a spectacular meal, take long walks, go horse-back riding or jogging, or curl up by a fire with a good novel. Plan a special trip just for you and your partner: a ski weekend, or a few nights at a cozy country inn. You may have to put up with comments like, “How can you be so selfish?” or “The holiday won’t be the same without you.” But those remarks may be easier to bear than a holiday table packed with children. Begin your own family traditions: a special ceremony or ritual that says that you and your partner are already a family, and that you can rejoice in your love for each other, with or without children.
DON’T: Pretend that there’s nothing wrong and carry on with “business as usual.”
Sharing Your Feelings
DO: Decide in advance how you will handle difficult and insensitive questions. You may even want to rehearse your answers. (You can decide to be honest with friends and relatives as to why you can’t join certain celebrations and traditions which are just too painful right now.) Express your appreciation to friends and relatives who have given you their love and support. Be sure to keep in close contact with your friends at RESOLVE; many of them are in the same boat and can understand and offer the support that perhaps your family cannot.
DON’T: Be caught off guard by unexpected or embarrassing questions about your plans for having a family. Plan your responses, but don’t feel that you have to disclose all the details of your situation either!
Lending a Helping Hand
DO: Try to help others in need. Visit an elderly or bed-ridden relative; volunteer at a hospital or nursing home; or participate in a holiday program to help the homeless. Cheering up other victims of the holiday blues has a rejuvenating effect.
DON’T: Close yourself off to positive feelings and new experiences. You may find that you have a special ability to make others feel good, even though you’re not feeling upbeat yourself.
Staying Tuned-in to Your Partner’s Needs
DO: Set aside time to share your feelings with each other. Allow yourself to feel sad, deprived or depressed. Infertility is a major life crisis, and you are entitled to those feelings. Talk with each other about your feelings. Your partner may be able to help you through the rough times. Give yourself, and each other, frequent pats on the back for making it through the holidays. Remember to capture the “spirit” in each holiday which makes it special. Participate in activities which bring meaning to you at this time; create the joy intended in celebrating the holiday for its own sake.
DON’T: Get caught up in the whirlwind of the holidays and forget about each other. You need each other’s comfort more than ever.