Cut Christmas Card Comparison
As a child my family would receive Christmas cards from family, neighbors, friends of new and old. There was one particular family that we would always look forward to receiving their card. You know the one, pictures of a perfect nuclear family and complete with a double sided letter touting the achievements of each member over the last year. Jessica's honor roll status and dance team victories, Brian's lacrosse team taking the state title, Carol's prize-winning begonias, and Bob's promotion at work. I'm a little ashamed to admit that we loved making fun of this card. It was so outlandish to think anyone's family could be so perfect. While we had a few laughs, I think underlying was the assumption that we didn't stack up in some way. That this letter was an annual reminder of not being good enough.
I would like to think that rubbing success in the face of others is no one's goal for a Christmas Card. But when you're struggling with infertility and every card you receive is plastered with pictures of happy families, it can certainly feel that way. I am aware that many of my clients dealing with infertility avoid sending Christmas cards. They think that they don't have anything to show for themselves amidst their pain.
After a little research I was surprised to learn that the original intention of Christmas cards was to brag! The idea was that young college students would send letters of progress back to their parents at the end of the term (right before Christmas) to show off their penmanship and other achievements. An interesting bit of history, but what if we were to redirect the intention of Christmas cards? The goal is not to send a picture of yourself to your loved ones. Goodness knows we all see enough pictures of each other on social media. What if you made a list of all the people you love and want to stay connected to in your life. Imagine that you wanted to sit and write a line or two specifically to them, wishing them a merry holiday season. Think about the person while you write to them, smiling, thinking of good times you've shared. What a wonderful way to spend a few evenings in December: Realizing all the loving people in your life, giving yourself time to think about each one and wish them well.
Maybe you don't have to spend $50 on stamps to get this point across. The point is not to compare how your life doesn't match up to your college roommate's, but to reflect on what's good in your life, mainly the people in it. I can't stop those happy nuclear families' faces from arriving in your mailbox, but you can experiment with how you receive them. Some people have their spouse grab the mail first, so it doesn't catch you off guard. Find a time in your evening when you're feeling filled up and compassionate for yourself to look at the cards and allow yourself to have your own genuine emotional reactions. You might try not looking at them all! Find the power you have in this situation and do what works for you.
Allison Ramsey is a licensed clinical mental health counselor and fertility counseling specialist seeing clients online throughout North Carolina, Washington State, and internationally. She’s a member of Resolve, The Infertility Association and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Contact her to start feeling better.