For the infertile, the holidays are a decidedly mixed blessing. Like most, we look forward to seeing family and friends, celebrating traditions, and eating great food, including some once a year treats. But unlike our fertile friends the holidays are also filled with dread.
We know we will have people asking about when we are going to have kids forcing us to decide how much information we want to share and is appropriate to share.
We probably will be surrounded by kids–other people’s kids. And even if the kids are not actually present, holiday conversations often center around them: how many do you have, what are the grandkids doing, what sports is your niece playing, what cute things has your cousin’s baby done lately. We want to participate, we want to be filled with joy and laugh at the cute antidotes of adorableness…but at the same time we know we will be filled with a longing that will cut so deep that we’ll end up in the bathroom sobbing.
I can offer nothing to completely take away that pain, but I can offer some concrete suggestions for making a game plan for holiday survival.
Surviving the Holidays When You Are Infertile
- 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. Don’t overindulge in alcohol! It will make you morose, too talkative, and possibly hung over–none of which you need during this season.
- Review past holidays to see where the major stressors were and make a plan to be proactive and address them beforehand this year. We give very specific examples in the Infertility Survival Guide to the Holidays.
- Talk with your parents or in-laws about how it feels for you. Say up front that it isn’t their fault and they didn’t make you feel this way. Use “I” statements. “I find it hard when the conversation is always about the grandkids.” “I dread seeing Betsy this year since she is 7 months pregnant.”
- Consider limiting the time you spend with your family if it is too stressful.
- Why not change the way you celebrate. Go camping or to Portland or Paris for the weekend. Go out to dinner with friends rather than doing the big family celebration. Join your parents for dinner after the holiday.
- Volunteer on the holiday (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 and hopefully your coworkers and boss will take notice, and if you are lucky will remember it when you want to ask for a favor.
- Plan something for at least one day in the holiday that you really are looking forward to. Maybe a guilt free shopping trip or visit to a spa.
- Make a date to see your siblings away from their children to allow you time to really visit.
- If you know you might react badly when under stress, decide in advance how you want to behave, and tell someone (husband, parents, sister, etc.) who can help hold you accountable for controlling your tongue or behavior. (And remember to avoid excess alcohol!)
- 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.
Other Creating a Family Resources You Will Enjoy
- Surviving the Holidays Without a Child: A Multimedia Guide for Those Trying to Conceive or Adopt (One of my all time favorite guides we have published!)
- The Holidays are About Kids (So What to Do When You Can’t Have Them)
- Which Holiday is Hardest for the Infertile
Originally published in 2010; Updated in 2017.