Whether you are ready or not, the holidays are here, and they can be one of the most difficult times of the year if you have not achieved the family of your dreams.
Maybe this year, you thought you’d be making a big pregnancy announcement at the family dinner or had fantasies of visiting Santa with your newborn. Reality can make anyone feel like they want to hide under the blankets until the New Year.
So whatever holiday you celebrate – Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanza – we have suggestions for how to deal better with the flood of emotions you may be feeling. You can decide whether you want to be merry and bright, act like the Grinch or straddle a happy medium.
Prepare a Holiday Game Plan
Do you like being prepared for difficult situations? Then you might want to create a holiday game plan where you can be in control of how you want to experience them. You don’t need to attend every event; instead, focus on the ones where you will feel comfortable and ditch those that will make you feel blue.
You also can prepare your responses so you won’t be caught off guard if you are asked intrusive questions about your baby-making plans. Create an ‘elevator speech’ so you know what you will say if the ‘interrogations’ begin.
Express your feelings
The holidays can be hard emotionally regardless of your parental status, but you can say ‘no’ to the pressure to appear jolly.
While others might try to have a perfect Christmas or Chanukah, you can be true to your feelings. Say farewell to guilt this year and let yourself be as sad and emotional as you like. But also be sure to communicate with your loved ones and friends about your emotions. You probably will find more support and camaraderie than you expect.
Realize you are not alone
The holidays can be a lonely time of the year, with or without being infertile. You can feel overwhelmed and isolated when all your friends and family are enjoying their children except for you.
One in eight couples also is experiencing the pain of infertility during the holidays. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association (resolve.org) is an excellent resource for finding in-person or online support. Also, feel free to ask us how we can help you with support and resources.
Connect with the infertility community
Chances are you know other infertility warriors in both your ‘real-life’ or through support groups or social media. Use the holidays as an opportunity to get together NOT to discuss infertility and to learn about each other in new ways. You can even do this virtually.
If a party is not feasible, you can still exchange gifts with your infertility friends, especially helpful products or services you have used, but they haven’t and visa versa. Comfy transfer day socks and pineapple fertility pins are nice as are personalized gifts, inspiring books, and gift certificates for massages and other nurturing activities.
Online shopping can reduce holiday stress in more ways than one if you ditch the mall and busy shopping centers. You’ll avoid the throng of kids waiting to sit on Santa’s lap as well as the crowds and limited parking. There always seems to Internet bargains, especially on Cyber Monday, and you can get free shipping through services like Amazon Prime.
Putting yourself first is not selfish, but an acknowledgment that you need to put on your oxygen mask before you can help others put on theirs.
It means being proud of who you are and not judging or punishing yourself or comparing where you are in life to others.
Kristin Neff, a pioneer of self-compassion research, describes it as follows:
“Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness, concern, and support you’d show to a good friend. When faced with difficult life struggles, or confronting personal mistakes, failures, and inadequacies, self-compassion responds with kindness rather than harsh self-judgment, recognizing that imperfection is part of the shared human experience.” (Neff & Dahm, 2015)
The holidays are a time for gift-giving, and you should include yourself on your shopping list. Spend what you can afford or splurge a little on something special. The best gift to yourself won’t necessarily cost a lot of money, however. Try reading a page-turning book instead of cleaning the house, taking yourself to lunch rather than eating it at home, or hiking in lieu of spending the afternoon at the mall.
Many people find it beneficial to be thankful for what they have instead of what they don’t, whether that be your relationship with your partner, a thriving career, or a beautiful home. You also can be grateful for the little things that give you joy like a beautiful sunset or a delicious meal.
Experts say those who regularly reflect on what they are grateful for “experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.” All of this will help you survive the holidays and other challenges.
Another way to reduce your feelings of sadness and loneliness during the holidays is to help others who need your assistance. There are many ways you can contribute to your community and people in need this holiday season. Even if you don’t have the best holiday this year, you can help someone else have a memorable one.
Reconnect with your partner
Make the holiday season an exceptional time for the two of you. Reconnect and remember why you want to have a baby together. You may not yet have the family you want, but you still are a family of two.
Ask for help
If you feel overwhelmed and unable to handle your daily activities, ask for help, Sometimes, just talking to someone who understands, including one of us at HRC Fertility, is enough.
We also can refer you to licensed mental health professionals that specialize in infertility. These individuals can assist you in navigating an emotionally fraught time now or in the future.
Even if this time of year makes you feel sad, you can still have fun. Ditch the obligations, but don’t skip the fun.
There is no need to attend every holiday party if you are not in the mood. Forgo the ones that are kids-oriented or where your relatives will ask annoying questions.
However, don’t forget to have fun! Plan a couple of evenings you know you will enjoy with your partner or close friends.
Infertility treatment combined with the holidays can push the emotional roller coaster to new heights. By being prepared, we hope an infertility holiday game plan can help you manage the ups and downs of the ride.