When you are infertile, the holiday season can be a decidedly mixed bag of feelings. Of course, there is the joy of time with family and friends, celebrating traditions, and eating great food, including some once a year treats. However, when you are infertile, the holiday season can also be filled with dread and painful reminders of what you don’t have yet.

As a person struggling to create the family you have always dreamed of, you are all-too-aware of the Nosy Nellies who ask all year ’round about your plans to have kids. You have probably already been backed into a corner at the occasional family BBQ, deciding on the fly how much information you can or want to share and with whom to share it.

You could also try these snarky answers to the Nosy Nellies.

The Holidays Feel Hyper-Focused on Children

The holiday season just ramps that feeling of panic up several notches, doesn’t it? The whole season is framed in childlike joy and excitement. Traditional hymns, folk songs, and carols alike tell you that you should be looking forward to the events with the innocence of a child. You are surrounded by kids – other people’s kids at every social, religious, and community event for two months running.

It’s like the eyes of the whole world are turned to the children. Even if the kids are not actually present, holiday small talk often centers around them:

  • How many do you have? None? Oh, what are you waiting for?
  • Where do your kids go to school?
  • Is your niece playing indoor soccer?

You want desperately to participate in the conversations. You want to feel joy and laugh at the cute antidotes of adorableness, but you are fully aware that your longing cuts so deeply that you’ll end up in the bathroom sobbing if you even try.

We cannot offer anything that will take away that pain. However, we can provide concrete guidance for a survival plan to help you cope.

A Holiday Survival Guide When You are Infertile

  1. Take especially good care of yourself during this time of year. Make sure you are getting enough sleep and exercise. Enjoy all the holiday foods, but make sure you eat healthy when not at the holiday table.
  2. Don’t overindulge in alcohol! It will make you morose, too talkative, and possibly hungover – none of which you need during this season.
  3. Review past holidays to see where the significant stressors were and be proactive in addressing them beforehand this year. Our e-guide, Surviving the Holidays Without a Child, offers some specific suggestions and alternatives to challenging moments you might encounter.
  4. Talk with your parents or in-laws about how the holidays feel for you. Lead with assurances that this isn’t their fault, and they don’t make you feel this way. Use “I” statements: “I find it hard when the conversation is always about the grandkids.” or, “I dread seeing Betsy this year since she is 7 months pregnant.”
  5. Consider limiting the time you spend with your family if it is too stressful or if they are unwilling or unable to connect with your struggles when you share your feelings.
  6. Why not change the way you celebrate? Go camping or find a luxurious AirBnB for the weekend. Go out to dinner with friends rather than doing the big family celebration. Join your parents for dinner after the holiday.
  7. Volunteer on the day of challenging seasonal events  (serving meals at a homeless shelter, playing bingo at a nursing home). If your work needs people over the holiday, sign up. It’s a nice thing to do. Hopefully, your coworkers and boss will notice, and if you are lucky, they will remember it when you want to ask for a favor.
  8. Plan something for at least one day of the holiday season that is “just” for you – something to which you can really look forward with anticipation and joy. Maybe a guilt-free shopping trip or an all-day spa splurge!
  9. Make a date to see your siblings away from their children to allow you time to really visit.
  10. If you know you might react badly to elevated stress levels, decide in advance how you want to behave.
    • Tell someone (husband, parents, sister, etc.) who can help hold you accountable for controlling your tongue or behavior.
    • And again, remember to avoid excess alcohol!
  11. Make sure you incorporate the events that are meaningful or joyful to you into your plans. Do not let infertility rob you of these joys.

Image Credit: Carla Cometto

Originally published in 2017; Updated in 2020