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Painful Holiday? Here's Some Advice


a blog by Laurence A. Jacobs, M.D., Fertility Centers of Illinois, December 19, 2011

The holidays can be painful for many people, but as a fertility doctor, I see how painful they are for my infertility patients. Many of them know the holidays are going to be stressful, and they are reluctant to go to visit family members and face the inevitable questions like "Isn't it time you started a family?"

Sometimes, my patients ask me for advice on how to survive the holidays, and this is what I tell them:

  • Stay home. This is one way to alleviate the stress of painful holiday family gatherings. Of course, you have to be mindful that this action can lead to other issues within the family dynamics. But under certain circumstances; for example, a recent IVF failure, it may be the best solution. Basically, protect yourself. If it is too much of an emotional strain to be around someone else's new baby or pregnancy, don't put yourself in that position.
  • Stay on the same page with your spouse. Your spouse may have a different attitude about how to approach the holidays. Talk, support each other and compromise. Communicate about your decisions and feelings. It's important to be a team.
  • Take control. If you feel you must go to a certain gathering, then take control over the situation and limit the time you spend. You decide when you want to go and when you want to leave.
  • Do the things that make you feel comfortable. Are there family members or friends with whom you do feel comfortable? Then plan time with them! Or, better yet, plan a lovely getaway as a couple. Remember, the two of you are a family.
  • Prep yourself Have an answer prepared for the awkward questions. "Thanks for asking, but it's a painful subject, and I don't feel like talking about it," will usually end the discussion.
  • Volunteer. Remember, there are always others less fortunate than you. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, visit the elderly in a nursing home or with the veterans at a local VA hospital. One heartwarming experience I recommend for Chicago fertility patients is visiting Misericordia Heart of Mercy. This organization/residence supports children and adults with developmental disabilities in order to maximize their quality of life. Helping others will change you forever ... for the better.

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