The Christmas holidays are often painful for those who are struggling to get pregnant and cannot. Many of the traditions surrounding the holidays focus on children and can be an agonizing reminder of what you don't have. What makes it more difficult is that it's not just one day, but an entire month of reminders.
Dealing with infertility during the holidays is an endurance race and it is important to pace yourself.
- Make new traditions with your spouse. If you grew up in a home that thrived on traditions surrounding children, the fact that you don't have children can make all the decorating, parties and baking difficult. It's important that you not be subject to the expectations of others, but to create new traditions that don't include children. That may involve scrapping everything you grew up doing, but discuss it with your spouse and try to find out something that will bring stability to this holiday, as well as future ones if you remain childless.
- Serve those who are hurting. Getting involved with those who are having personal difficulty can be a great reminder of what you do have. Serve at a food pantry, soup kitchen or homeless shelter can help to take your mind off the negative. It may even help you feel like there's a purpose in your own pain.
- Deal with insensitive comments. Parties and family gatherings are a breeding ground for insensitive or rude comments. Be prepared that this will likely happen and be armed with answers you will feel comfortable giving. Afterward, share your horrible experiences with a support group and find a way to laugh about them.
The truth is most people don't realize they are being insensitive, they just don't know how to handle someone in your situation. Be the one to teach them!
- Do what you can handle. You probably don't have to attend EVERY party or do all things associated with the holidays. Do what you will definitely enjoy (adult activities with friends who know what you're going through are usually safe bets) and then decide what you can skip. You may have to attend that Christmas brunch at Aunt Martha's with all your pregnant cousins, but maybe you can decide beforehand that you will leave early. Being prepared ahead of time is the best defense.
- Realize that infertility is a grief process. Some doctors believe that infertility is just as devastating as a cancer diagnosis. When you can't have children of your own, you will feel deeply the loss of dreams and wishes you probably had for a family of your own. Christmas often creates a whole set of expectations that makes this process harder.
- Feel how you feel. If you feel sad, that's okay. When you try to ignore your pain and grief, it will only come out later, and sometimes in destructive ways. Besides, experiencing grief makes us human.
- Hold on for January 2nd. Remember, the holidays will pass eventually. Try to make the best of them and after a few weeks they will be gone and you can go back to your normal life.
- Know that you're not alone. Infertility can be very isolating. Others may treat you as if being upset around the holidays is silly and may feel you're the only one who feels this way. You're not. If you want to find others, try locating an infertility support group near you. A local church or RESOLVE.org is a good place to start.