The holiday season is upon us and we all know how stressful it can be, especially for those yearning for a child. Thanksgiving and Christmas are filled with a multitude of family events that can produce even more holiday stress for couples struggling with infertility. The thought of one more well-meaning aunt asking when you will be starting your family or a room full of nieces and nephews may just have you in a cold sweat well before November and December roll around.
What can you do to make this year’s holidays and celebrations more bearable? Read through the holiday stress saving tips below, and then head over to RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association for even more ways you can avoid losing it this season.
• Throw Out All The “Shoulds.” Or at least rephrase them. Rather than tell yourself you should be happy, tell yourself, “I should reasonably expect to feel rotten during the holidays. If I have even have a little fun, that’s a miracle, a gift and an accomplishment!” Every “should” you inflict on yourself is a kind of anti-present that leaves you feeling robbed and lacking any festive spirit. Ironically, allowing your grief to surface instead of pushing it down may free your energies for some genuine celebration.
• Find Childfree Forms of Celebration. Enjoy a ski trip, a cruise, a luxury hotel or a country inn. You can skip family events if you think they’ll be too painful. Yes, you may have to put up with remarks such as “How can you be so uptight about infertility?” or “How could you choose now, of all times, to go skiing?” But those remarks might be more bearable than a roomful of gleeful toddlers. Barbara Eck Menning, RESOLVE’s founder, points out that infertile couples sometimes deny themselves the right to a two-person celebration. “You’re as entitled as anyone else to have a tree in your home, even if there are only two presents under it,” she asserts. How about throwing yourself into the search for, or the production of, a special present for your partner? It’s a way of saying, “Baby or no baby, we love each other and we’re a family in our own right.”
• Be Selective About the Family Events You Will Attend. Perhaps there are some get togethers you would like to attend if you could just find a way to dull the pain. You can take some control. For instance: stay in a hotel instead of a house full of babies; arrive for Christmas dinner after the toddlers have already opened their presents; attend a midnight church service instead of a morning service. By avoiding some family events and changing the way you attend others, you improve your chances of having some fun.
• Find Comfort or Inspiration in a Holiday Theme. For example, Chanukah is a time of re-dedication and renewal. Renewal is also a major theme in Christianity, and it may help to think of Christmas as the celebration of the beginning of that religion. See if there are personal meanings you (and your partner) can find in Thanksgiving, Christmas or Chanukah that can lift your spirits and aid in your struggle with infertility. These holidays are often associated with hope. Find a way to tap into this, and you will give yourselves an invaluable present.
• Cheer Up Other Victims of Holiday Blues. Find someone else whose “perfect Christmas” has been thwarted, perhaps someone who is ill, elderly or away from their family for the holidays. Is there some form of tinsel or sparkle you could offer them? Even if you can’t be jolly, you can still be Santa if you bring Christmas cheer to someone else. Why not celebrate with other RESOLVE members? Consider a “Beat the Blues Party,” an evening program on holiday coping, travel with another infertile couple or a retreat with several RESOLVE members.
• Take Comfort in the Knowledge that Holiday Blues are Time Limited. They’ll be over that first January morning, when, instead of nursing a hangover, you’ll be heaving a sigh of relief. And it’s perfectly okay if the end of the holidays is the only thing you feel like celebrating this season!
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