Many infertility patients find that the holidays are an especially difficult time. Child-focused events, spending time with extended family and running into friends at holiday parties may prompt unpleasant emotions and uncomfortable conversations relating to starting a family and infertility treatment. We asked a handful of our physicians and providers to weigh in on the topic of navigating the holidays successfully and joyfully while battling infertility.
But some great general advice is to feel free to correct your friends and family. They may be well-meaning but they can inadvertently be insensitive, such as when they say things like, “You’re trying too hard, just relax and you’ll get pregnant.
This is both totally inaccurate and suggests that it is your fault that you’re not conceiving. Keep in mind how wrong this is and feel free to gently correct the individual(s). It’s important for them to understand that such statements are incorrect and potentially hurtful. They should also not repeat this to you or other patients dealing with infertility.
Happier holidays advice for patients in infertility treatment
Trust your gut
My advice would be to trust your instincts and do what is best for you. Maybe the love and support of family is just what you need right now.
Or, maybe this year brunch with Santa and all the kids is just too much. That’s okay. Do something special with your partner, go to a yoga class or watch your favorite movie instead. You know yourself best. Now is the time to make sure to take care of you.
Be prepared and set some goals
I think that being prepared for the holidays is key. But also important is knowing that you can’t anticipate how you will feel and how raw your emotions may run.
Things that may help are to lean on your support people (partner, sibling, etc.) for strength and strategy, and to have them run interference. Determine up front what you and they are willing to share and what is off limits. Try to give people the benefit of the doubt when they say something that is hurtful, intrusive, and/or unsolicited.
If you have an answer ready for the relative offering you medical advice, such as telling you to just relax and it will happen, or practically boasting about how easy their many pregnancies were, you may feel both better prepared and less likely to say something you may regret later.
Lastly, think about what you hope to get from the holidays so that it is a warm, memorable and fulfilling experience for you. Try to set a goal such as having time for a deep conversation with a favorite older relative, enjoying a wonderful holiday dish served only once a year, choosing the perfect gift for someone, etc. And then relish and celebrate that time and moment. Don’t let your anticipated interactions or actual exchanges detract from your preset goal of what is important to you!
Get on the same page with your partner and enjoy each other
Much of what happens around the holiday season is kid-oriented, and for some couples undergoing infertility treatment, it can be difficult to be in settings with lots of children. However, many are okay with it, and may even be encouraged and hopeful after spending time with kids. Everyone is different and must decide what’s best for them.
I think it is a good idea to have a plan so that you and your partner are on the same page as far as what you will talk about with friends and family. It is always better to be on the same page and not reveal any information that your significant other doesn’t want to disclose. You might try to keep the info to a minimum and don’t go into too many details. Simply say, “We’re seeing a doctor and we will let you know.”
Above all, enjoy the holidays and enjoy each other.
Be frank, be funny and lean on a chosen family member
If you’re asked about your diagnosis and treatment but don’t wish to go into specifics, be frank. Say, “We are having challenges with fertility. We are in treatment and those hormonal changes may make us feel more vulnerable. I know you want the details, but we don’t feel comfortable sharing those right now.”
You can also take a more lighthearted approach by saying something like, “We are so busy having fun as a couple that we really are waiting for building our family – why would we want to add kids now?”
Another thing I often suggest is for patients to choose one person in the family that they feel comfortable with (sister, mother, etc.) and use that person as the one they share with. That person can then tell grandma and Aunt Nellie not to ask about babies – sort of head off the questions. The close person can also divert and steer the conversation in a new direction if need be.
Start a new tradition
Consider doing something special as a couple, perhaps starting a new tradition. Feel free to avoid events that will be child focused.