Infertility is stressful no matter the time of year, but the holidays bring an extra challenge. For many who are dealing with infertility, the end of the year may bring a sense of dread and loneliness.
Family gatherings can be emotionally challenging. Questions from friends and family may be less than sensitive, causing unintended heartache. Unsolicited advice is often tossed around without thought.
It’s important for you to know that you are not alone and that there are ways to minimize the stress that the holidays inevitably bring.
Here are some tips for coping with the holidays, courtesy of Resolve.org
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 horseback 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 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 that 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.