This post was also contributed to by Deidra T. Rausch, PhD, LMFT, executive director at The Cabin Counseling & Resource Center.
If you are struggling to get pregnant or are going through fertility treatment, the emotional and physical stress can take a heavy toll.
For those dealing with infertility, the holidays may seem full of painful reminders. Whether that’s seeing kids in line to sit on Santa’s lap at the mall or holiday dinners where family members pry about your child-bearing status.
While we can’t pretend that anything will take away the emotional weight of infertility, there are steps you can take to reduce stress and avoid some of the triggers, without ignoring your feelings.
1. DON’T TRY TO DO IT ALL.
You may normally be the hostess-with-the-mostest or the chief bringer-of-holiday-cheer. But if you’re not feeling very cheerful yourself, it’s okay to take this year off. Consider saying “no” to hosting the big family gathering, sending piles of handwritten holiday cards, or attending each and every ugly sweater party or holiday brunch.
While spending time with your support system and continuing to do activities you love is important, you don’t have to do it all. Do what feels right to you, and set aside some alone time with your partner.
2. CREATE DISTRACTIONS.
While it is important to take “me” time and practice self-care when you are dealing with infertility, it can also be beneficial to find additional ways to focus your energy. Sometimes volunteering can be a welcome distraction, as it can make you feel good about doing something positive. Consider helping out at a local food bank, nursing home or animal shelter.
You may also choose to use the holiday break as a time to travel and refuel your relationship, focusing on all the reasons you sought out your partner and fell in love with them before infertility entered your lives.
3. SCRIPT YOUR MESSAGE.
Some friends and relatives who don’t know about or understand your struggle (or who, let’s face it, just don’t have much of a filter) may begin to pry. If discussing your infertility is difficult for you, plan out an answer with your partner to help ease the stress of holiday gatherings.
“When are you going to have kids?” “How come I don’t have any grandchildren yet?” “How long have you been trying?”
Come up with a brief response to give. Give yourself permission to be direct (“We are doing everything medically possible to have a child.”) or politely request that they refrain from asking any more questions (“We’ll certainly let you know if we have news, but until then, we prefer not to talk about it.”). Then change the subject. If the questions persist, you can always say, “Help me understand why our having a child is so important to you?”
Yes, we realize you likely clicked on this article from your Facebook news feed. But during the holidays, the seemingly endless stream of baby bump posts on social media can be even more difficult to see when coupled with photos of kids on Santa’s lap or constant Elf on the Shelf updates. Sometimes, it’s best to just log off.
5. SEEK SUPPORT.
The emotional and psychological effects of infertility, miscarriage and pregnancy loss can be overwhelming. A strong support system in friends and family can be critical, especially around the holidays. Seeking help outside of your inner circle can also be beneficial.
We partner with The Cabin Counseling & Resource Center, whose staff is specially trained in the physical and emotional aspects of infertility. Support groups are also available, giving you the opportunity to talk with others who are going through similar experiences. RESOLVE: the National Infertility Association has resources to help you find support near you.
6. GO EASY ON YOURSELF.
You are allowed to feel sad or angry. You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to put your needs first. You’re not being selfish, and — most importantly — you are not alone.
Remember that everyone’s journey is unique. Looking for a little uplift? See some of our success stories.