The holidays are supposed to be a time of good cheer and glad tidings, but for those facing personal struggles — like infertility — it can sometimes be difficult to get into the holiday spirit.
If you are coping with infertility, here are five things you can do to combat the holiday blues this year:
1. Be prepared.
The holidays tend to go hand-in-hand with family gatherings, which means there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself surrounded by kids, happy new parents and even pregnancy announcements. It also means there’s a good chance that your own plans for starting or adding to your family might come up in conversation.
Try to prepare yourself for these scenarios. Decide ahead of time how you’ll react if a well-meaning relative plops a baby into your arms, and consider how you want to answer the inevitable “So, are you thinking of having kids anytime soon?” questions. You might develop some stock answers or use it as an opportunity to open up about your infertility — if you feel ready.
You are always entitled to your feelings, and it is always up to you to decide how you want to respond to nosy or insensitive questions and comments. But having a plan in place can help you better handle these tough situations and the emotions that may come with them.
2. Say no.
You don’t have to accept every invitation, and if you do attend a party or gathering and start feeling overwhelmed, you’re not obligated to stay. Saying “no” to close friends and family members may not be easy, but it’s important to take care of yourself and to do what you think is best for you. If a particular family tradition or event seems like it might be too emotionally difficult for you, it’s okay to say so; don’t feel guilty about not participating.
If you do decide to opt out of certain gatherings, consider making alternative plans. Book a getaway with your partner, or host your own holiday celebration with adult friends (and no children).
3. Reach out.
Feeling less-than-merry during the holidays can feel isolating. But, if you’re struggling this holiday season, know that you’re not alone. Even if you’re not quite ready to open up about your attempts to conceive around the Christmas dinner table, it’s important to talk to someone about the challenges you’re going through.
Don’t be afraid to lean on your support system, and consider reaching out to an infertility counselor for help. There are many infertility support groups and forums that may also provide the comfort and solidarity you need, as well.
The most important person in your support network is your partner — and it’s especially vital that you keep communication open with him or her during the holidays. Don’t forget to check in with each other about how you’re handling things, especially if one of you is having a particularly hard time coming to terms with your infertility.
Also, make sure you both are on the same page about which events are musts and which you’d rather skip. Talk about your game plan for answering those sensitive questions. Develop a signal you can use if one of you needs to bail on a party early. Be a unified front, and you will get through the holidays together.
Again, you are always entitled to your feelings, and you should allow yourself time to feel sad and to acknowledge any grief, anger and other emotions you may be experiencing.
But, you should also take some time to try to find meaning in the holidays, too. Look for positive moments to celebrate — take part in the traditions that mean the most to you and bring you joy, or start new ones with your partner. Consider volunteering or donating to a cause that’s important to you. There are many ways to mark the holidays, so find what works for you.