The holiday festivities are here, and you may soon find yourself traveling home to see family or welcoming loved ones into yours. The festivities, holiday cheer, and family gatherings can sometimes be painful reminders of fertility struggles.
Loneliness in the infertility journey is common as others exchange holiday cards and share pregnancy announcements. While the world around you seems bathed in holiday spirit, coping with infertility can feel like a never-ending life crisis.
In this blog, we’ll discuss how to cope with infertility during holidays. It also discusses how to handle your energies with boundaries, pregnancy announcement news, and emotional well-being. Read on!
“Even miracles take a little bit of time!”
– Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother
As holiday cheer draws near, you may feel anxious if you're on the fertility journey. Family get-togethers can be a holiday blues of what you want but don't have. Seeing your nieces and nephews or meeting your sibling's newborn baby is an exciting and stressful time for you to know what you want and don't have.
Then there's the well-meaning aunt in family events who gives you a painful reminder.
The uncle-in-law wants to know about your life crisis: "is it a-you problem or a-him problem."
Then you can't forget the cousins (pregnant women) just by thinking about wanting another baby. Here, your fertility struggles started!
If you're anxious about facing these potentially triggering situations this holiday season, know you're not alone. While the fertility journey is lonely, personal, and unique to each couple, know that 1 in 8 couples have trouble conceiving or sustaining a pregnancy. Statistically, you or someone you know is likely struggling to conceive.
Our loved ones sometimes blur the lines between what's okay to ask and what's not okay to ask. Remember, these people probably changed your diaper when you were a baby, watched you take your first steps, and saw all your awkward teenage phases... so why shouldn't they feel comfortable asking questions?
Just as we learn never to ask a woman when she's due without knowing with 100% certainty she's pregnant, there are questions we should be sensitive to ask someone in their childbearing years.
When are you two going to start a family? Alright. Not off to a great start here, are we? Wants to know when you two kids will have a baby?
This question might seem normal and like casual small talk, but it carries a heavy punch for those facing fertility struggles.
If you're on the receiving end of this question, consider responding with:
"My (husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, S.O.) consider ourselves a family! Being family members, we're thankful to be here and have time to play with our nieces and nephews, too. If we decide to add to our family dynamic, we'll be sure you know."
This answer helps solidify a boundary by letting the questioner know you'll communicate with them if you decide to grow as a family. Hopefully, that holds them over from asking for a bit!
If you are actively trying to conceive, this response can also set the boundary if you do not want to discuss your current situation.
However, if you're willing and open to discussing your situation and fertility treatment with your family, consider being honest with them. As Life Coach and Fertility Support Coach, Jeanette Esquivel says:
"When I was on my journey to conception, after about a year and a half of feeling guilty and shameful about it, I decided I was going to be open about it, regardless of how my honesty made other people feel. It ended up leading to more open dialogue, educating others, AND I actually got LESS questions about it from those asking simply to ask, which was a great perk!"
If you've been open about your infertility journey, you may come across this question asked by those who want to play holiday cards. Unfortunately, the question instead comes across as a "simple fix" to a complex problem. But you have to keep a "happy face."
Adoption is often an arduous, lengthy, and costly process, with a private adoption ranging from $20,000 to $45,000, making it a non-viable option for many families. Plus, it's completely okay not to want to adopt!
On another note, people often confuse adoption with a one-to-one "fix" for your fertility issues. It's not the same and will not be the answer for everyone wanting to start a family.
If you're asked this question (and you feel like you want to respond), consider responding with:
"No. We're simply looking to do all we can to have our own biological child."
Or leave it at...
"Yes. We have considered it."
It's up to you who you choose to share your infertility journey and fertility treatments. You have no obligation to give holiday light on your difficult time or loneliness.
Just as you might be struggling with the guilt of not giving your partner what they want - a baby, knowing your parents or in-laws are also eagerly awaiting a positive pregnancy test adds to the pressure.
If your parent asks this question, consider answering with:
"I am aware of how much you wish to be a grandparent, but I'd much rather not talk about that now."
Shutting the conversation down and letting them know you are not interested in discussing your fertility are good things.
If you feel pressured to continue fertility treatment discussions, try changing the topic or moving to a private location where you can be more comfortable asserting your boundaries.
It's worth noting the above questions often come from a place of love, curiosity, concern, and maybe a bit of naivety, but that doesn't mean they don't cut deep.
Remember, there's nothing wrong with setting boundaries and developing mindfulness to protect your energy!
There's a chance that the cousin mentioned above who gets pregnant just thinking about getting pregnant will announce that she is on the list of pregnant women this holiday season.
These pregnancy announcements may leave you feeling like a deer in the headlights, and the pressure to react positively can be overwhelming when you only want to cry.
It may help to mentally and emotionally prepare by planning what you would say if a family event like this happens, even if you don't expect anyone in your family to announce they're expecting.
Take some time to sit with the charge that comes up when you see ANOTHER pregnancy announcement. Ask yourself:
After you consider some of the tools above, you may feel more equipped to handle these announcements and family gatherings that create the space for them.
We'd love to invite you to consider some of these family event responses.
You can keep them short and sweet.
The support network of loved ones and family members can be a source of comfort and a potential trigger for victims in their infertility journey. During such a difficult time, you can help them seek professional help by leaning on a support network that can be a great way to navigate the holiday season or New Year party.
Sometimes, this may look like sitting silently in their pain. This may feel uncomfortable, but it's truly a gift to BE with someone when they're suffering. If you're looking for some statements to say, try some of the following:
Just remember that you never want to offer:
Most of the time, the holiday spirit is for social events with young children, parents, cousins, and other family members. Sometimes, family events are a painful reminder that you haven't yet reached your goal of having your own family. Table talks with loved ones can build a support network or holiday blues.
Getting emotional support or professional help is a great way for coping strategies.
Remember, it's all about you and ONLY YOU!
If you are having trouble getting pregnant during the holidays, go for a table talk with your partner about your fertility journey. Do you even want to tell people that you can't be a pregnant woman? Plan and discuss with your family members beforehand.
If the worry of not being able to get pregnant during the holiday light is too much to handle, know loneliness is not an emotional support. Asking for professional help is a brave thing to do. It can help you feel better about your difficult time.
Your mental health can be directly affected by how you talk to yourself. If you're having holiday blues and fertility struggles during the holiday season, try to accept it, connect to support groups, and develop an attitude of gratitude.
Boundaries are essential but necessary during the holidays when dealing with infertility. Don't lose hope when you see others playing holiday cards on you. Remember, your emotional support should come from within.
Holiday light is often linked with New Year happiness, family events, and good things. But self-compassion always needs a happy face. So, you must focus on getting rid of grief and developing gratitude, hope, and mindfulness from social media and social gatherings.
Mental health plays a crucial role in managing the emotional ups and downs of the fertility journey. It's okay to step back from social events or social media and focus on self-care and self-compassion.
If you or your significant other are on the emotional rollercoaster of your fertility journey, consider joining our newest peer support group, Emotional Fertility Support, to connect with others like you.
Life Coach and Fertility Support Coach Jeanette Esquivel leads this group on the MentalHappy platform for only $10 monthly. Jeanette's experience with fertility enables her to relate to group members and provide a safe environment to share frustrations and personal stories without judgment.
Be Ready to WELLCOME Your New Family Member!
In this group, you'll learn how to:
Find a place to share your story, learn from others, and be heard!
This group is open to women and men (with anonymous participation optional), so you can feel vulnerable. Because the fertility journey can be lonely, but you're not alone.