This is the time of year that we are all “merry and bright”! At least that is how it feels, right? Everyone is running around shopping, or paying it forward in the coffee lines. But when you are trying to conceive and have been for a while this time of year can be downright painful. It can start to feel like the world revolves around kids and families. We get past “back to school” time and go straight into Halloween. Before Halloween is even done the stores are decorated with Christmas and starting to advertise their toy specials.
So let’s take a moment to explore how to handle this minefield of stress. First of all, let us start with being honest with all the areas that are stressful. Struggling with infertility or not, holidays can be HARD. There can be challenges with family or friends, or you could be far away from family and friends and missing them. There’s finances, not enough time in a day to get everything done, past trauma, just to name a few. The more you are aware of things that bother you, the better you can be at preparing for those things. Add on infertility to any of these and it’s just that much more stressful.
I’m going to take this chance to give you full permission to say NO! It IS completely okay to say no to attending a stressful holiday. Or to leave early. If you are needing all the time and finances you can manage, you don’t have to drive/fly/etc to a gathering several hours/states away. You can say no. And yes, I type this being personally awful at saying no and something I am working on. I also know that it is completely possible and done with kindness and respect it will be okay. This may cause some temporary stress, however, if it’s not possible for you to attend the holiday, making attendance happen at the risk of your finances, stress level, or treatments may be worth the temporary discomfort of saying no.
Now, I am not saying don’t go to the holiday festivities. I am simply wanting you to know that no, is okay, in attendance, or even how long you say, or even answering questions about your fertility. Use no when needed, it is empowering.
I talked very briefly about being aware of your triggers. This is important for planning. One trigger I’ve heard of a lot is the baby section at Target, seeing someone that is pregnant, or a big one at holiday time, baby announcements with family or over facebook or instagram. Can you avoid the baby section, probably. But can you avoid pregnant women, not so much, you still want to get out of the house. I find it helpful to be mindful that I don’t know their journey to pregnancy. Pregnancy announcements can be tricky. This is where planning can be helpful. I’ve heard of several people that reach a point that they just decide to leave social media or take a break from it (saying no, if you will) and that is completely okay. Another option that has become more accessible is to unfollow someone, this gives you more control over what shows up in your own timeline while allowing you access to the person on social media still, if you want. These are just a few things that can add stress while trying to conceive in the holidays. And a lot depends on your journey, are you open to family and friends? Talking about our infertility can be very intimidating but can also be very powerful. It can be hard for some because it may not feel safe to talk about or you may feel like there have been a lot of questions about your fertility. If you are not open with your journey, that is okay. If it’s possible to share with a family member that will be in attendance, they may be able to help navigate the holiday for you, for instance, those unexpected in-person pregnancy announcements. Your significant other can be a strong ally, One of my favorite tips is to come up with a code word that your partner will know, “it’s time to leave”. It’s also okay to go take a walk and step out, offer to go grab something forgotten at the store or take the family dog around the block.
My favorite tip for the holidays is to remember to make them your own. While it seems like everyone is preparing Halloween costumes for their kids or trying to do the elf on the shelf. Take the time to figure out the traditions you and your spouse would like to incorporate in each holiday and make it yours. It could be as elaborate as a weekend away during the holidays or as simple as indulging in your favorite local chocolates while snuggling up to a favorite movie marathon. Think outside the box and go ahead and go rock climbing every holiday season, or take a cooking class together. While it may feel that the holidays are all about kids, and it only seems more accentuated while trying to conceive, they aren’t. Holidays are about what you and your partner decide is important to you two.
So much of infertility is feeling powerless, take some of these small tips and go into the holidays feeling like you have some power over your responses and emotions.
Say no when needed.
Come up with a code word for if it gets too intense.
Share about your journey with whom you are comfortable to share, and let go of any pressure to tell anyone that would not be supportive.
Take breaks when needed.
Don’t be afraid to make your own traditions.
Because this is a small blog and not inclusive of all possible scenarios and family stories, the biggest recommendation I have is to talk with a mental health therapist that has experience in infertility or seek out a support group. I know that adding another appointment to your already daunting schedule of doctor visits can feel like a lot, but a good fit with a therapist can truly make your journey less of a rollercoaster. Another alternative, Conceive Nebraska has three online FB peer support groups, check them out here:
*Omaha Area Infertility Support Group:
*Omaha Area Infertility Support Group for Men:
*Parenting During/After Infertility: https://www.facebook.com/groups/680946769060939/?source_id=372375043248