Infertility sucks. Massively. It is an extremely isolating experience, even though modern technology brings benefits like social media and online forums.
While you might have found solace with strangers online, your real-life friends and family might not understand what you’re going through.
If your infertility struggles aren’t public, you could spend time at family events or a holiday gathering facing questions about when you’re going to have a baby. However, even if your wider circle knows about your infertility, you might find people don’t mention it or, even worse, make insensitive comments about your situation (‘Yes, Karen, I have tried relaxing. Cheers for the unsolicited advice’.)
According to the World Health Organization, 186 million individuals around the world face infertility. Infertility is thought to affect 48 million couples worldwide. For couples who struggle, infertility can be a very painful experience and one that is difficult to manage.
Coping With Infertility At Christmas & On Special Days
For those struggling with infertility, special occasions like Christmas, Mother’s Day and Easter can be painful reminders of other people’s success with fertility. Unfortunately, rather than looking forward to these special occasions, you could end up dreading the feelings of loss that accompany them.
Days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be particularly tough. Although you might feel you should use the day to honor your parents, it’s perfectly ok to escape the country instead.
Why not plan a vacation to a country that doesn’t celebrate Mother’s Day on the same day? Sometimes it’s ok to escape the so-called special occasions altogether.
Struggling with infertility at Christmas
It’s no fun to feel sad at Christmas. While everybody around you seems to feel the joy and magic of the holiday season, you are left battling with negative feelings.
Your social media feeds are filled with happy families in matching pyjamas, your social gatherings include lots of happy, excited children but your heart is heavy with the passing of another year. It’s really tough at Christmas.
Steps you can take to protect yourself at Christmas time:
1. Accept all of your emotions
Never feel bad for feeling the way you do. You can’t help your emotions. If you’re angry, jealous, or sad, welcome the emotions and let yourself feel them.
It never helps to bottle things up or deny how you feel. Journalling and writing can help you make sense of how you feel. This can be private; you don’t have to air your thoughts publicly if you don’t want to.
2. Don’t feel like you have to do things you don’t want to do
If the idea of a family gathering over the holidays, where you’re surrounded by babies and children, sounds like hell, don’t agree to it. It’s perfectly ok to stick to adult-only social events if that will be better for you.
You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, ever. True friends and caring family members will understand these things can be tough when you’re undergoing fertility treatment.
3. Don’t overcommit
Don’t schedule too many events if you know you’ll be sad over Christmas. Instead, give yourself plenty of downtime to relax as a couple and do nothing. The holidays don’t have to be jam-packed, especially if it’s going to leave you feeling worse for wear.
Don’t be afraid to say ‘Maybe’ and explain to loved ones that you’ll decide nearer the time. People will understand and, if they don’t, they’re probably not the right people for you to see around the holidays anyway when you’re feeling fragile.
Read more in BellyBelly’s article Putting On A Brave Face – 4 Tips To Coping With Infertility.
4. Be selfish on the day
If you don’t want to spend Christmas Day at a big family event, don’t. It’s perfectly ok for the two of you to spend it at home. You can laze around in pyjamas or dress up for a sit-down meal. You can wait and see how you feel on the day.
You don’t have to spend Christmas with other people if you don’t want to. It’s ok to take a day for yourself, even if it is Christmas Day.
If you know you will not enjoy a family or holiday dinner, don’t force yourself to attend one. You and your partner can have a lovely, intimate Christmas Day for two
5. Make time for people who know how you feel
If there’s a local infertility support group, try to attend their Christmas meetup. Those people know how you feel. They get it.
They will be able to listen, empathize and share their stories with you. You might even get some new tips to help you with future holiday celebrations and family gatherings. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other people in your local area, who are also struggling with infertility; they will appreciate the support as much as you do.
6. Communicate your feelings
Make sure you spend time with your partner, talking about how you feel. Give one another space to vent. Communication is so important and it’s easy to shut down and stop sharing when you’re struggling to have a baby. Instead, make Christmas a time to share and schedule lots of couple time, where you can do things you enjoy and prioritize your relationship.
If you have supportive friends and family members, communicate with them. Although you might not feel like attending your usual Christmas parties this year, you can still reach out to supportive friends.
7. Don’t dismiss your feelings
Infertility is a major life crisis and your feelings are valid. What you are going through is huge and it’s no wonder you feel overwhelmed by it. You don’t need to minimize what you’re going through or dismiss your feelings. Instead, you should be proud that you’ve made it through another milestone while enduring infertility.
8. Reward yourself
Plan something special to reward yourself for getting through the holiday season. Whether you fancy a city break with your partner or a spa day with your best friend, make sure you plan something to beat the January blues.
Be sure to include plenty of self-care in your Christmas routine, too. It might just be a daily bath or time spent reading but it could be all you need to recenter yourself after a tiring day. Never underestimate the importance of rest for your physical and mental health.
How to deflect pregnancy questions
For many couples, the worst thing about social events is the endless stream of personal questions. As soon as you are married, people start asking when you’re going to have a baby.
As the years pass, the questions become more frequent and even more personal. You might start to dread the unexpected or embarrassing questions about when you’re going to have a baby.
It’s important to remember that you decide how much to share with people. Although some people find opening up helpful, others would rather keep their infertility private. It’s totally up to you what you do; whatever you decide is fine.
Unfortunately, regardless of what you decide, you will still be faced with personal questions now and again. To avoid being caught off guard, it can help to have a planned response to fall back on.
It’s fine to say firmly, ‘No, we don’t have kids’ and then quickly change the subject. You don’t owe anyone more information than you are comfortable giving.
Things to avoid when you’re struggling with infertility at Christmas time
To make Christmas easier, here are some things you might want to avoid:
1. Social media
Delete your social media accounts for the holidays. You don’t need to see the endless stream of your friends’ babies dressed up as Christmas puddings. Delete the apps from your phone for a couple of weeks, too; you might be surprised at the difference it makes to your mood.
If you use social media to speak to the wider infertility community, it’s worth setting up an infertility-specific account. This means you won’t see any real-life friends and family and can keep the account a safe place for you over the holiday season.
2. Family-centered events
If you’re heading to a forest light display, buy tickets for the latest available time. This timeslot is unlikely to be filled with babies and young children, so you’ll be able to enjoy the experience more.
Likewise, when booking theatre tickets or attending Christmas Carol concerts, always go for the latest times. Opt for the timeslots that will least appeal to families to ensure you can enjoy the experience.
3. Busy shopping malls
Shopping malls are horrific during the run-up to Christmas, so spare yourself an ordeal and do your shopping online. If you prefer to shop in person, do your Christmas shopping early before the malls are filled with families queueing to meet Santa.
No way should you feel guilty this holiday season. You are going through something huge; it’s ok to make life more bearable for yourself. You have to put yourself first right now and that’s ok. Don’t waste time feeling guilty. You can feel proud of yourself, sad, or angry, but don’t feel guilty.
5. People who make you feel worse
It’s ok to avoid your insensitive friends or a family member who gives unsolicited advice. If it’s tough to see them at normal times, it will be ten times worse at Christmas.
It’s ok to say no to things to protect yourself. You don’t have to spend Christmas listening to ‘medical tips’ from a family member who makes insensitive jokes about your infertility.