Your Infertility Holiday Permission Slip
If you've been dealing with infertility for any amount of time, you know that social engagements can be difficult. If you've been a part of a family that gets together for the holidays for any amount of time, you know that social engagements can be difficult. The season is upon us, and I have a prescription for you.
Infertility is exhausting. I work with my clients to help make it feel less exhausting, but nonetheless, a crisis of health will take it out of you. Unfortunately holidays can also be exhausting. And the combination of infertility and holidays has not been known to go exceptionally well. You're faced with another holiday season and you're not where you thought you'd be this time last year. You're faced with ever-conceiving and producing sisters, cousins, and sisters-in-law at family events, in addition to all the children they already have. You're faced with nosy relatives that continue to prod into your plans to conceive. That's a lot to face in the name of holiday cheer, without a lot of return.
So I propose to you that you give yourself the gift of a permission slip this season. You have the permission to miss a given number of events upon your choosing, or to skip the holidays altogether and get out of town. I sincerely hope that you have a caring, loving advocate in your family regarding your fertility struggles. If you do, explain to her how much it's taken out of you this year, and you just can't bear to face cousin Julie's newborn this year.
If you think skipping town during the holidays this year really won't cut it, or it might be Grandma's last Christmas, maybe you could consider planning something for yourself in January to look forward to (besides that acupuncture appointment, new package of OPKs, or next blood draw). Then you can change the conversation to how excited you are about your new pottery class or trip to the coast.
If you do have to be with frustrating fertile family during the holidays, make a plans to have other topics in your arsenal if the conversation leads to family building or babies. Think of a few stories to tell, or questions you can ask. Since you're all related maybe you can turn the conversation to the matriarch or patriarch and ask questions about the past. (Get them talking then sneak out for a few minutes.)
Expect that someone will inquire about your child-having-status. Have an answer prepared for a few different occasions. Here are some examples:
Relative: "When are you going to have children?"
You: "We're still waiting on the stork." smile, then excuse yourself.
Relative: "Are you all going to have children?"
You: "We'd all like to know the answer to that one!" smile, then excuse yourself.
Relative: "Are you pregnant?"
You: "Anything is possible!" smile, then excuse yourself. (You see the common thread here).
I think we all get to create our own holiday traditions. Wouldn't it be great if yours involved less stress and more self-care? Talk to your partner about your needs this season and make plans that support those needs. You may have to attend an event or two, if so, make a plan and go in prepared. And if you need to cut it short or get sick an hour before, you have permission to do that too.
Allison Ramsey is a licensed professional counselor and fertility counseling specialist in the Asheville area. She’s a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and completed their certificate training in mental health counseling for infertility. Contact her to start feeling better.