Infertility includes a revolving door of emotions and it is an all-encompassing struggle. There are no holiday breaks for couples undergoing treatment for infertility. There is today, tomorrow and the next day. There might be a few holiday celebrations thrown in along the way, but those don't put a stop to the poking, prodding and emotional ups and downs that are part of the day in the life of the infertile.
That said, the holiday season can be particularly difficult for couples struggling with infertility. The holiday season is a time of family gatherings and togetherness, of adorable pictures of babies in Santa hats and cookies sprinkled with care by overzealous toddlers. It's fun and cute and magical all at once, but it leaves a hole in the hearts of those struggling to conceive.
Those great big family gatherings by the fire often turn into question and answer sessions by well-meaning family members who don't know the whole story. As much as infertility is often a very private struggle, it starts to feel oddly public when you find yourself struggling to answer questions that fill your heart with sadness.
It's best to be prepared.
Keep it simple
Guilt is a powerful emotion, and it sometimes leads us to make choices we wouldn't otherwise make simply for the sake of making others happy. Let go of guilt this holiday season.
There is no rule stating that you have to attend every party because you made the invitation list. If attending parties crawling with babies and toddlers is too much for your heart to bear, politely decline. You don't need to provide lengthy explanations and you can't be responsible for the reactions of others. You have the right to take care of you.
When you do attend parties, keep it short. Chances are that you are exhausted, in the middle of some form of treatment and short on patience. Decide on your departure time before you enter the party and stick to it. Adequate rest and healthy eating are essential while undergoing treatment for infertility. Prioritize your health and emotional well-being.
Write a script
More often than not, people are simply trying to make conversation when they start asking pregnancy questions. They are not trying to upset you or pry into your private life. But when you're stuck in the infertility vortex, it's hard not to take these innocent queries personally.
It's useful to have a script prepared. I tend to rely on dry sarcasm when I want to redirect a topic, so I always had a few lines ready should the questions become too difficult. You have to do what's right for you. Whether you craft a simple reply such as, "I will be sure to let you know when I have some news to report" or make a joke to change the subject, it helps to practice in advance.
Role play a few options with your spouse before you leave the house and decide which one suits the mood for the party. When you practice your lines before the event you will be better able to say them with confidence. And if you want to tell it like it is and break the silence, go for it. But be prepared for mixed reactions. People often struggle to find the right words in response to talk of infertility, and this can sting.
Sure, your partner in infertility is likely to be by your side during holiday parties and other big events, but it can also be useful to have a friend or family member in your corner. The better your support system during the infertility process, the better your chances of coping with the accompanying stress effectively. Find your people. Trust them. Come up with a nonverbal cue to signal them for a rescue when you're feeling overwhelmed during the festivities, and take them up on their offers to drink wine late into the night while finishing off the last of the pumpkin pie.
It can be hard to accept help and support, especially during the holiday season. It can sometimes cause you to feel like a burden. People only offer the help they are willing to give, and often people don't know how to best help friends struggling with infertility. Say what you mean. Ask for the help that will actually help you. And never underestimate the power of a good cry with an old friend.