09 Dec Dealing With Infertility During the Holidays
Infertility is an emotionally difficult journey every day, but the holidays and the events that come along with them can heighten those emotions.
The holidays are littered with opportunities to bring up upsetting emotions – kid-centered events, running into old friends who are out of the loop, holiday cards showing new babies, family members asking inappropriate questions.
The FSMG physicians share these strategies for preparing for the holidays.
Have a plan to address infertility questions during the holidays
While there is no way to completely plan for everything, knowing what you might do to handle an awkward situation ahead of a holiday event can calm anxiety and help you feel prepared to take on the day.
Have a trusted friend or family member to lean on as your support group
Infertility or going through fertility treatments can be isolating. Having a family member or friend who knows your personal situation with you during the holidays can offer help. Whether that help is deflecting questions or being a shoulder to cry on if you feel overwhelmed, this individual can make the holidays a little easier.
It would be good if your one-person support group was actually with you, but that’s probably not possible in every instance. So you might want to have a phone call or text plan in place, because sharing in any manner can help you get over an unpleasant exchange or moment.
Plan your answers
Knowing what you are going to say about your personal situation can help you feel prepared for the questions. Plan how much you would like to share, if anything. Your fertility is not anyone else’s business, if you don’t want it to be.
The no-talk plan might seem like the easiest way to handle things. However, while it may seem daunting, consider explaining your situation and fertility journey. You may be surprised to learn there are others in your family or friend group who are going through or have previously gone through something similar. Even if they haven’t personally, it is more than likely that they know someone who has. Infertility is far more common than most people realize.
This is also an opportunity to correct any misconceptions people may have, some of which may be hurtful. People who provide advice such as, “You just need to relax, and it will happen” may not realize that this is a hurtful, disheartening and false thing to say.
Create new traditions for the holidays
Go on an adventure, big or small
If you want to avoid the holiday parties altogether, traveling is an option. Whether it is being a tourist in your own city with a staycation or adventuring to a city or country you’ve never been to, traveling offers a distraction from the parties and can enrich your holidays.
If a big trip is out of the question, consider skipping the events for a trip to the movies, or trying a new restaurant.
Volunteer in your area
Giving back to your community can help you feel satisfied and fulfilled in a way that a holiday gathering may not. Volunteering at an animal shelter, an elderly care facility or a food pantry are great ways to give back.
Set new goals with family
If you are anxious about a holiday gathering but still want to attend, setting achievable goals for the event can provide a clear objective for you. Cook or eat something that is special and that you only enjoy at the holidays. Have a long, meaningful conversation with a friend or family member you do not often see.
Dealing with holiday cards
Holiday cards may not seem like a difficult aspect of the holidays, but if you have struggled with infertility, cards of happy families arriving every day during the holiday season can be exhausting. It’s OK to wait or not open cards that may bring you sadness. Display only the cards that make you happy.
Technology, self-care and the holidays
Similar to cards, social media can bring up difficult emotions during the holidays. Give yourself permission to avoid social media if you believe it will cause sadness or distress.
However, there are options to use technology to your advantage during difficult times. Consider using apps such as FertiCalm or FertiStrong. These apps both provide coping mechanisms for individuals dealing with infertility or fertility problems. FertiStrong is designed for men.
Know – and respect – your limits
It’s OK to not have the energy for every event, or any event if that is the case. Another option is to plan to arrive a little later to events or leave early. Avoid child-centered events if that feels too painful for you.
However, it is also important to not let your anticipated interactions keep you from participating if you want to. Don’t be hard on yourself if you cannot attend everything. Finally, don’t feel guilty for putting your needs first.