Oh, the holidays. A time to get together with family and friends, celebrate all that you’re thankful for, and reflect on the year that has passed and the one coming up. And for those planning a family, how exciting is it to be able to announce to everyone that there is one more thing to celebrate: You’re going to have a baby!
Infertility, however, sometimes has other plans. Instead of sharing a joyous announcement, you’re grieving or accepting a loss. Perhaps you’re recovering from a round of IVF or deciding whether or not you and your partner are ready to try again. Questions are going through your head: Can we afford another round of IVF? Am I ready to try IVF again? Is it time to consider egg donation and surrogacy instead?
Whether you’re in sunny California or snowy Boston or NYC, the holidays can be a time of joy and merriment. They can also be challenging for those who are experiencing loss or grief while trying to start or grow their families. It’s a social season that calls for gatherings and celebration; however, you may be feeling like all you want to do is put on fleece pajamas and curl up on the couch and be alone. And that’s okay.
Infertility sucks any time of year. But during the holidays, it can be even harder to endure.
If you’re facing infertility and the holidays, be sure to take care of yourself (physically, mentally and emotionally).
Why Is Infertility So Hard During the Holidays?
During the holidays you may normally spend additional time with family and friends. Being together and seeing siblings, nieces and nephews, or friends with their children can cause reflections of your own family and the desire to grow it. Spending additional longer periods of time together also gives family and friends more opportunities to ask you questions about your family plans. This can be especially hard if you’re caught off guard with a question and you have to react or answer in the moment (especially if everyone’s eyes are on you expecting an answer).
Holiday gatherings can promote personal questions from friends and family, whether you’re a close-knit family that shares everything or the type of person who takes some time before sharing private details or stories. Either way, parties and events – especially situations where people may be enjoying festive cocktails – may lead to more direct and unfiltered questions than normal. You may find quiet Aunt Mary asking you when you’re having a baby after one too many eggnogs.
The holidays are also a time when people reflect on the year to come. Perhaps you thought you and your partner would be further along in your family building by now. Or, maybe you’re facing decisions about continuing IVF or choosing an alternative path to parenthood in the coming year. Infertility – and how you face any challenge – is personal. Finding yourself in very public or familial settings where you’re being asked questions you’re not prepared to answer can be hard to navigate.
Impact From COVID-19 on the Holidays
This year, the holidays may look a little different. If you are celebrating, it might be in a smaller group. Or, you may choose to stay home. Staying home presents a different scenario than the normal large holiday gatherings: isolation. While not being around family may reduce the stress of being asked questions or having to share information you’re not quite ready to disclose, being alone can have the opposite effect by not providing you with the support you need during a difficult time of year.
If you find yourself with more time alone during the holidays, you can plan and prepare for this as well with the ideas below.
Tips for Getting Through the Holidays With Infertility
Here are some tips to help you get through what can be a difficult time of year.
Take care of you. Carve out time for self-care – whatever that may look like for you – and schedule it into your day just like a work meeting or an appointment. That self-care may involve exercise, taking a relaxing bath, reading, or getting coffee with a good friend.
Spend time with your inner circle. Spending quality time with people who are close to you and support you in your journey can help make the season a little more bearable. If you’re comfortable, take this time to express to them how difficult this time of year is for you.
Let yourself say “no.” Just because you’re invited to a party or event doesn’t mean you have to attend if you’re not feeling up to it. Give yourself permission to say no to events if you don’t feel comfortable attending or are just not up for it. If you don’t want to go, more than likely you won’t end up having a good time.
Be prepared. When you’re going to be in a setting with people who may not know what you are going through, having a rehearsed “one-liner” to respond to their questions will help you navigate the conversation. Try something non-committal such as, “Only time will tell,” and then move on to another topic or physically move on to speak to someone new.
Have an escape clause. What circumstances or topics of conversations can lead you to want to call it a night? a pregnancy announcement? someone gushing about their children? being asked to hold your sister’s new baby? Share with your partner what to keep an eye (and an ear!) out for so you can both be on the same page should you decide it’s time to leave, pronto.
Have back pocket conversation topics ready. When you’re headed into a social situation where you will be surrounded by others who may not be privy to your personal life, it’s helpful to have a repertoire of topics ready to talk about with them that feel ‘safe’ such as a project you’re involved in at work, a recent trip you took or will be taking, any DIY projects you have going on, or even something as simple as a book you recently read that you enjoyed.
Have a social wingman or wingwoman. If possible, use close friends and family to communicate on your behalf prior to arriving at an event. That way, if there is a nosy relative, you have someone in your corner to change the topic or quickly move you away from the conversation.
Take a break from social media. Look at the holiday season as a time to disconnect a bit from social media and reconnect with those who are close to you. You may also consider refraining from visiting online chat boards and forums related to infertility and pregnancy.
Attend a local support group. If there are support groups available to you, try one out. Just being in the same room/phone call with others who are having a similar experience can help reduce stress. To find a support group in your area, Resolve can help.
Enlist close friends and family. Use those that are close to you and your situation to communicate on your behalf prior to attending an event by having them reach out and suggest that they not ask about ‘baby making’ or timelines. Many well-meaning family members may not get the hint to not discuss certain topics or ask certain questions and may need a little reminder.
The holidays can be tough, but you are stronger. It’s okay to not feel your best, both emotionally and physically, during this time of year. Hopefully the tips above help you survive the holidays with a little less stress and a little more cheer.
If you’re considering surrogacy as a means to grow your family, the team at Circle Surrogacy is happy to speak with you and answer all your questions. About 40% of Circle’s staff has personal experiences with surrogacy as parents, surrogates or egg donors, or are parents through IVF or adoption. You can learn more about surrogacy on our website and fill out this form to schedule a time to chat with our experienced team.