It’s almost Thanksgiving and the official start of the holiday season. Oh, let’s face it, Halloween is the official start of the season at our local Target! While for some people, the holidays are a festive time that is filled with cheer, for other people facing yet another year without that long-yearned-for-baby, it can be an incredibly difficult time. Following some of the tips listed below can help ease the pain of this time of year, and can maybe even help you find a little bit of that holiday cheer everyone is singing about.
Pick and choose the things you want to do: Do only the things that you want to do. Don’t feel obligated to attend events that are child centered or where there are people you don’t feel like interacting with. If attending the holiday party where you know there will be a lot of pregnant people or babies feels too painful, don’t go this year.
Find childfree activities: Take this time to enjoy adult activities. Soon enough you’ll have children and it will be a lot harder to do many of the adult activities you enjoy now. Take this opportunity to go skiing, go out to eat in a fancy restaurant, enjoy some quiet time in a luxury hotel or mountain bed and breakfast. If you can, it’s a great time to take a much deserved vacation.
Change your expectations: Take away the “shoulds”. One of the primary causes of holiday depression is the expectation that this should be a happy time when it doesn’t feel like a happy time. Instead be true to yourself and let yourself feel what you feel. Once we take away the unrealistic expectations, and instead expect that it may be difficult, we take that burden off ourselves.
Focus on your partner and your relationship together: The best gift you can give your children is a healthy marriage. Your marriage is the foundation of the life you will be providing your children. It is critical that you nurture your relationship as much as you will nurture your children. It is well established that infertility puts a great deal of strain on a marriage. Take this time to focus on the things you love about each other and your relationship. Put the focus back on you as a couple, not on you as a couple trying to have a baby. Put a lot of thought into a special gift for your partner, or plan an activity just for the two of you. Remember, once this journey through infertility is over, you will still have each other. The two of you are still a family.
Do something for someone less fortunate. The old saying “I cried because I had no shoes until I met someone who had no feet” can often be true. While it’s important to feel your own feelings of grief and loss during the holidays, it can also be very healing to help someone else. Serve a meal (or two) at a homeless shelter, volunteer at a nursing home, visit a shut-in or someone in the hospital. Your presence may just be the present that someone else needs.
Talk about your feelings. There may be some people who don’t understand what you’re going through, but there are many people who do. There are 3 support groups offered at CCRM in the month of December: Saturday the 6th at 1:00 in Lone Tree, Thursday the 11th at 6:00 in Lone Tree and Saturday the 20th at 10:00 in Denver at the Rose Office. You can also schedule an appointment to talk to one of the counselors here at CCRM. Additionally, there are understanding people at RESOLVE meetings as well as on websites such as “IVF Connections”. Share your thoughts and feelings with those family and friends that you trust, those who have shown their love and support through the year. If you don’t feel like talking to someone, sharing your feelings in a journal or writing poetry can be a good way to express yourself.
Plan ahead. Have a standard phrase you can say to people who ask you questions about having children and rehearse it. Saying something like “We’ll let you know” or “we’re working on it” is all you need to say. Then change the subject. (It’s great to have a subject already in mind in case you get flustered.) Don’t feel like you have to go into details about what treatments you are going through.
As cliché as it may sound, pampering yourself really does help. Do those things you love to do: get a massage, buy that new novel you’ve been dying to read, take a long walk or run, spend the day in bed watching movies, do some yoga, spend time with people you love who you can be yourself with. Focus on doing the things that feed your soul.
Know that it’s OK to set some boundaries. You and your partner can decide to take a break from fertility treatments or from talking about fertility treatments. It’s OK to tell people that you don’t want to talk about it. It’s OK to say no to parties and even family traditions and NOT feel guilty. If people don’t understand or try to make you feel guilty, remind yourself that they don’t “get it” and you need to be true to yourself and your feelings.
Put off until tomorrow what feels too hard today: If opening one more holiday card with photos of adorable smiling babies or reading one more letter announcing a pregnancy feels like too much, put the cards away and read them another time. Facebook, Twitter and other social media venues may also be on “baby overload” so you may want to log off for a while. Once the holidays are over you may feel much more like you can handle it.
Avoid the shopping mall: It may feel like an emotional land mine. The lines of excited children waiting for Santa, the Christmas music blaring, the overabundance of holiday cheer may feel overwhelming. This may be a good year to do some internet shopping or to pick up gift cards at the grocery store.
Finally, remember that this too shall pass. This is not a permanent situation. Although it may sometimes feel like it, infertility is not a life-long crisis. It is a particularly difficult season of your life which will eventually resolve and you will find peace and happiness. It’s OK if you take a year or two off from the holidays. Right now you just need to take care of yourself.