In some ways, the holidays can be difficult for everyone. What is supposed to be a time of lovely, warm celebrations often is fraught with stress. For couples and individuals coping with infertility, this pressure is often brought to a critical point.
Expectations at this time of year are always high. Perhaps you had fantasized about making an announcement to friends or family about a pregnancy. Festivities are sometimes child-focused, and this can be painful if you are struggling to conceive.
Family members might pose questions that they’ve avoided during the year. Without them realizing it, their questions may come across as intensely invasive and hurtful.
Setting boundaries about your fertility problems in advance
When combating the hardship of the season and coping with your fertility problems in a healthy way, it is best to prepare ahead of time. It’s a good idea to decide what sort of boundaries you feel are best for you. Some individuals keep their fertility struggle entirely private, while others feel comfortable sharing details with family members.
Sometimes, one member of the couple wants to share their fertility problems with family and another wants nothing of the sort. In this case, try to come to some compromise that allows both individuals to feel comfortable and nurtured.
Another idea is to share your dilemma with a trusted confidante, one who will be present at family gatherings. Let that person fend off some inquiries or steer conversation away when it becomes awkward.
Making alternative plans for just this year
Perhaps this is the year to choose a getaway instead of participating in the family holiday. If there are elderly family members you would feel guilty about missing, it might be nice to do something privately with them instead of joining an entourage of extended family (particularly if that group includes small children or babies).
Are there things you enjoy as a couple? Skiing or snorkeling or dancing? Activities can be a great way to de-stress and have fun. Choose activities that are adult oriented. Some people find it helpful to volunteer, or reach out somehow to those who are in need. Helping others who are less fortunate can be a great way to boost your mood and to feel useful.
Be kind to yourself
Throughout the season, think of ways to nurture yourself. Go for a massage, take a restorative yoga class, try reflexology. Think of friends who do not have young children, and go for a nice dinner or lunch with them. Limit shopping to what feels reasonable, perhaps online, or choose small stores that are not likely to be child-centered.
If you are not pregnant and you are not in part of your cycle when that is a possibility, you might enjoy a glass of wine or a festive cocktail. Do not deprive yourself any more than is necessary. Do beware of over-indulging though, as this might intensify feelings of depression.
If you have a counselor or participate in a support group, this is a good time to seek out this support and validation.
When coping with infertility, sometimes the best we can do is to basically get through this time of year. Keep your expectations reasonable, and practice self-compassion. This is not the year to mail out 1,000 Christmas cards or bake the perfect batch of cookies.
It might be the year to eliminate or streamline the holiday letter. Try to have some fun, and spend some quality time with people who are kind and supportive.
Remember, above all, to be kind to yourself!