The holiday season is that time of year when people come together to share gifts, eat food, and visit with family members. That last activity can be particularly difficult for individuals who are struggling with infertility, as there’s nothing that fans the flames of infertility quite like spending quality time with other people’s babies, toddlers, and young children. Being surrounded by an array of glitter-infused children’s crafts and the multitude of “Baby’s First Holiday” social media posts is difficult enough, notwithstanding the anticipated and invasive questions from family members and friends regarding the state of your reproductive system.
You already foresee being asked by your prying aunt or your overly curious nieces and nephews when you’re going to have a baby. You also foresee other family members suggesting unhelpful advice (cue the, “if it’s so hard to get pregnant, why don’t you just adopt? There are a million kids in foster care who need a loving home” pitches). Before you find yourself in a situation where the status of your uterus or the quality of your sperm becomes a major topic at the dinner table, consider these tips on how to survive the holidays with infertility.
- Prioritize your feelings
If the holidays are a time that gives you dread and anxiety, identify the source of those feelings. Is there a particular family member who you know asks way too many invasive questions? Maybe a particular event that is triggering to you? Try to pinpoint exactly where some of those really bad feelings come from and try to remove that source from your holiday experience. If that means, for example, attending a holiday church service virtually to avoid Snooping Sheila or Boundary-Crossing Beth from asking you when the baby’s coming this year, so be it.
- Set some limits
Surviving the holidays with infertility doesn’t have to mean avoiding any and all interactions with someone who might ask you about your fertility. Instead, you can consider limiting some of the time that you spend with certain family members or at certain events. This might mean spending less time over at certain family members’ homes or certain events. Make sure to have a discussion with your partner about a plan that supports his needs to see family too, but still keeps everyone’s stress levels low during the holidays.
You don’t have to force yourself to spend time in a place where you’re not comfortable either. Even if you set time aside for visiting a particular family member, if they are making you uncomfortable by bringing up your fertility or if you start to feel overwhelmed by the presence of other people’s children, your decision to leave early is justified and valid.
- Talk to your family members and loved ones
You can also consider having a meaningful discussion with your family and loved ones about the boundaries you’ve set regarding infertility. Stand your ground and explain to them that your boundaries are firm. Let them know what triggers you and how it makes you feel.
Here are some examples:
- “I am feeling nervous to see my sister at Thanksgiving because she just found out she’s pregnant and it’s all everyone’s going to talk about.”
- “It’s really hard for me to come to your house because you ask me each time I visit when I’m going to have kids.”
- “I feel guilty that I don’t want to go to Aunt Sherrill’s house because all of the grandkids will be there, and it’s painful for me to be around little kids and babies sometimes.”
- Engage in some self-care
Give yourself something to look forward to during the holiday season, something that will relax you and help de-stress you. Consider scheduling a weekly massage or spa trip during the holidays or allow yourself a couple of guilt-free shopping trips over the next couple of weeks. Or plan a holiday getaway with your significant other or even a group of your closest friends. Do something that takes your mind off infertility, and prioritize something that you know will bring you joy this holiday season.
- Give back to your community
Serving others can make us feel good. Acts of service and kindness can also help shift your attention away from the topic of infertility. There are many community agencies that welcome help during the holidays, like homeless shelters, food banks, or even animal shelters. You can even give back in simple ways, like offering to tidy up a family member’s home or clean a neighbor’s yard.
The holidays are stressful for many. However, dealing with infertility can sometimes make the holidays feel unbearable. Prioritize yourself and your feelings this holiday season. Focus on what brings you joy and alleviates sources of stress from your life.