And how not to stress (too much) about it.
The holiday season is upon us, and not everyone is in the holiday spirit. Indeed, all the family gatherings, the Christmas tunes and the pervasive focus on kids can be excruciating for those who are going through infertility. It is as though you cannot go anywhere without a constant reminder that you are neither pregnant nor a parent.
I understand this well. December of 2013 marked three years of trying to conceive for my husband and me, two years of infertility treatments, and three failed transfer -- two of which were back-to-back miscarriages. At that point, I was losing hope, and what most people consider to be the happiest time of year ended up making my infertility so much more difficult.
So if you are struggling with infertility and are stressed around the holiday season, know that you are not alone. Many people who aren’t able to conceive are not feeling the cheer either. Hopefully, knowing in advance what sucky things to expect during this time of year, will help you emotionally prepare. So without further ado, here are five of the worst things about being infertile during the holiday season.
1. Pregnancy announcements. Since this is a time of year when families get together, many people choose to make pregnancy announcements. What's worse than knowing you are depressed and struggling to have a baby? Having to hear your not-at-all-self-aware cousin Clarice gloating about how easy it was for her to get pregnant and how lucky you are that it’s taken you a while so you have more time to get your things in order.
If this is too much to bare, feel free to excuse yourself. It's unfortunate for everyone that you may have to step out, but infertility is difficult. Plus, it's much better than throwing the cranberry sauce in Clarice's face. Remember, taking care of yourself and protecting your heart is the highest priority during this difficult time.
2. People saying more thoughtless things. There are also likely plenty of relatives around who may know you are trying to conceive, and it's guaranteed at least one of them is going to say something like, “just relax, and it will happen.”
If you’re tired of such comments, a response with a touch of sarcasm may be the way to go. Or, you know, you can nod, brush it off, and rant about it later to your partner.
3. Trying to stick to your fertility diet. My fertility diet is anti-inflammatory. It's no gluten, no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol, no caffeine... NO FUN. So at holiday functions, you may find yourself, like me, trying to hold back your tears nibbling on a carrot stick with no dressing. Meanwhile Clarice is dancing around, stuffing her face with gingerbread cookies bumping into people with her pregnant belly.
In these situations it may be helpful to your happiness to bring a dish or dessert that meets your diet requirements to share with everyone that you love. So you can too can eat yummy food and be merry.
4. Trying not to drink. "No alcohol" is part of my fertility diet too, but it deserves it's own paragraph. Boy, would a drink hit the spot! Maybe you could have just one AND...at least Clarice can't have one! But, the joy will not last too long because soon, you will feel guilty and wonder if your drinking habits are contributing to your infertility, and then to top it off, you'll notice Clarice with a glass of bubbly in her hand! Her doctor is super cool and said she could have just a little bit of alcohol to relax. It's a no-win situation.
So instead, you can pour yourself some delicious lemon water and try your best to focus on how gorgeous you will look and how healthy you will feel in the morning since you didn't drink. And pray that Clarice's belly doesn't knock your glass over. But hey, remember also that no one is judging you if you take the night off and have a glass ....or ... er, a bottle of wine.
5. Holidays are about the kids. There is no doubt that for most people, Christmas is more lovely with kids running around. When you are a family of two-hoping-to-be-three, having that tree set up just isn't the same without an over-the-moon excited kid, running out at top speed to open presents on Christmas morning. So for me, the void of a child was very poignant during the holidays. It just made a rough time even rougher.
I wish this article had an ending that was helpful. I wish I had better advice to give to make you feel better. But everyone processes this pain differently and there are no one size fits all answers. It's just a time to trudge through. I know most people know that we learn from our struggles - there are certainly many positive lessons to be learned through a battle with infertility. But I know how it feels to feel like none of that matters now. So for now, try to be gentle to yourself. Take care and keep working and hoping for the family of your dreams. Odds are, you will get your miracle one way or another, and the holidays will be sweet as ever again.