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Top 5 Ways to Cope with Infertility over the Holidays
It’s that time of the year again, when you can’t walk into a store without tripping over a seasonal display or turn on a radio station without hearing some holiday tunes. But while it seems like everyone else may be in the holiday spirit, you’re just not feeling the cheer this year.
The holiday season can be tough on couples who are struggling with infertility or are currently receiving fertility treatments, largely because of its focus on family, which can then expand to children, babies and pregnancy. One of the most common holiday stressors for a person or couple with infertility is the fact that they are surrounded by children at the holidays, albeit their beloved nieces, nephews, and cousins, it doesn't fill the void like a child of their own would.
“Holidays are based on family, and it’s almost impossible to avoid that,” says Dr. John Rinehart, a reproductive endocrinologist and founding partner of the Reproductive Medicine Institute in Chicago. “There are toy ads on TV, parties with a bunch of children running around. And if you’re the one who’s trying to have a child, but there are problems, that can be hard.”
If you’re struggling with infertility, it’s common to feel stress over the holiday season. But we’ve put together a list of ways you can cope with stress and preserve your sanity well into the new year.
- Just Say No
Is your holiday calendar full? If you’re booked solid with cocktail parties, dinners, and family get-togethers, you may want to get out your list and check it twice. Ask yourself if there are any specific events you are dreading or people who mean well, but insist on offering advice you'd rather not take at this time. If apprehension outweighs excitement about a certain event, you might want to consider tactfully declining the invitation. Remember, it is ok to be a little selfish, sometimes you just have to protect yourself from an upsetting situation.
“It’s OK to put your own considerations first,” Dr. Rinehart says. “If there’s a particular situation you know will be stressful, give yourself permission to say no.”
- Prepare an Answer to the Dreaded “Kids” Question
If you’re at a family get-together, you know it’s only a matter of time before someone asks you and your partner when you’ll be having children. And if you’ve been undergoing fertility treatment after trying to get pregnant for over a year, that question may not be something you want to hear.
So how should you respond to this? It’s tempting to fire something back, but that may not be the best response. According to Dr. Rinehart, you should tailor your answer depending on who is asking the question.
“If someone asks in a passing manner, you can say something like, ‘we’re working on it, having fun doing it.’ Kind of deflect it,” he says. “But if it’s someone you feel comfortable with, you can tell them a little about what’s going on.”
Though these questions can be hurtful, it’s important to remember that the person probably didn’t know they were hitting a nerve.
“Try to put it in the perspective of how it was offered,” advises Dr. Rinehart.
Chances are they want to comfort you, but don't know what to say. This guide will help them understand it is more about support than advice.
- Call on Your Support System
You may feel like you’re sailing through the holidays one day, only to feel bogged down into a funk the next. It’s important to recognize your feelings as a completely normal reaction. Don’t feel like you have to squash them in order to put on a show of holiday cheer for the important people in your life.
“If you’re having a bad day, call up a friend or family member,” Dr. Rinehart says. “Say that you’re feeling low, and ask for an electronic hug or a real hug, however you do it.”
Also, while you may feel uncomfortable bringing up your infertility struggle, your family also can be a strong source of support for you. If you’ve been keeping your fertility treatments or infertility diagnosis to yourself, you may want to consider confiding in a close family member. This can also help you avoid uncomfortable questions by others at a get-together, since your confidant may be able to run interference for you.
- Look for the Positives
If you’re debating whether to attend a multi-pronged event, you don’t have to treat it like a package deal. If there’s a part of a family event you don’t feel up to this year, such as a children’s holiday recital, you don’t have to forego the whole event. Instead, make arrangements to meet up with the group later.
“Ask yourself what works for you,” Dr. Rinehart advises. “Don’t let other people guilt you into doing something.”
Seek out parts of the get-togethers that you really like, and make room for them. If you like baking, volunteer to help out with the cookies while the rest of the group is swapping baby stories in the living room. Just make sure to monitor how you’re feeling about the situation to avoid being pressured into anything.
“Learn how to turn stressful situations into positives,” Dr. Rinehart says. “That may mean leaving a party early, or embracing a situation by getting involved with the kids.”
- Think about Giving Yourself a Fertility Break
While you may be scheduled to undergo fertility treatments over the holidays, you may want to consider placing them on hold until the stress of the season has worn off. Others may consider holding off on fertility treatment because they don’t want to feel sad or anxious throughout the whole holiday season.
“It’s not going to make a difference if you hold off one or two months and start back up after the New Year,” Dr. Rinehart says.
However, there are some factors you should weigh before deciding to put off fertility treatment over the holidays. For instance, if you have already met your insurance deductible earlier in the year, you may need to fit in your fertility treatments before the end of the year, in order to save money.
If you do decide to continue with treatment over the holidays, it can be helpful to look at it in a positive way. According to Rinehart, one of his patients scheduled for treatment over the holidays and is looking forward to it.
“She’s looking at Thanksgiving as a new beginning,” explains Rinehart.
It’s completely normal to feel stress and tension while coping with infertility over the holidays. However, if stress or depression is interfering with daily activities, consider making an appointment with an infertility therapist. Infertility therapists are specially trained to help you deal with the unique challenges that come with an infertility diagnosis.