Infertility, Coronavirus, and the Holidays
We all know this is going to be a very different holiday season. Usually around this time of year I start helping my clients figure out how to navigate their pregnant sisters in law, their nosy parents, grandparents, and in-laws, realizing they had thought for sure they'd be celebrating the holidays with an infant this time and perhaps plotting an early exit strategy. I'm sure some of you will still be managing many of these situations, but for those of you who are faced with vulnerable loved ones in your life, or live in states like mine that have banned indoor gatherings of more than 10 people, the new normal puts us in a situation to make difficult decisions about this holiday season.
For those of you on the fence about meeting up with your family for the holidays, you've never had a better reason to skip it. Coronavirus cases are on the rise, and from what we understand about spread - it's best to not be inside with people not in your household. I know it'll be hard to explain it to the family, especially as the virus has become political. But if you really do not want to go and have to defend all the typical invasive questions about your family building intentions, or watch everyone ooh and ahh over a newborn niece or nephew, this is the year to make the holidays yours.
Just think about all the self-care and me time you could engage in! Self-care is not just about baths and mani-pedis. Self-care helps you to be the person you want to be in the world. Sure, sometimes self-care is a bath, but that is not always what you need. Sometimes self-care is organizing that junk drawer so you can actually find what you're looking for and not waste precious moments of your life searching for a rubber band or paper clip. Self-care could be taking time to write Christmas cards to people who really matter to you, to enhance your feeling of connection during this isolating time. For some people self-care could be taking advantage of your employer's offer to pay overtime to work on holidays. We can get a surge of productivity when no one else is at work and start the new year off feeling caught up on old projects.
Anything you choose to do during the holidays can bring you joy, depending on your mindset. If you think "Everyone else is with family but me" then you'll feel lonely and left out. But if you think "I'm doing the right thing to keep my family safe from infection (and I don't have to answer stupid questions about when I'm going to have babies)" then you might feel hopeful and empowered to have taken the situation into your own hands. If you think "This is so pitiful I'm working on Christmas Eve" then you will definitely feel pitiful. If you think "I choose to work on Christmas Eve to get ahead in the new year" then you might feel powerful and in control of your work life. Take a moment and notice what you are telling yourself about your situation. How does it make you feel? Is there a different explanation you could choose to believe?
If you decide to take a year off from family holiday gatherings, know that you are protecting yourself, in more ways than one. Of course you would prefer to just be seven months pregnant getting ready to go to a normal family gathering. But since the virus is making that difficult, maybe you can take it as your excuse to skip the interrogation about your fertility and protect yourself from all the pregnant relative/ small children conversations and create your own holiday joy this year.
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.