Cheers, dear readers,
The holiday season is upon us here in America with many invitations to holiday parties, family gatherings, and other festivities. It is a time of celebration of the family unit as well as friends. For someone struggling through infertility, the holidays can be a particularly difficult time to cope with, especially if there happen to be young children and radiant, happily pregnant women there at the celebrations. While we are happy for friends and families who have young children or are expecting, it can be difficult not to feel a twinge of jealousy or even anger at our own challenging circumstances.
Here at Slow Swimmers & Fried Eggs, we are all about support, the feeling of community and love, and offering any guidance from others who have already been in the trenches of infertility. So please allow me to offer some encouraging words of advice in the forms of Do’s and Don’ts.
ATTENDING HOLIDAY PARTIES
DO: Feel free to be selective about which invitations to gatherings you decide to accept – especially if you know there will be a lot of children or pregnant women in attendance. Forgive yourself and know that you do not have to say “yes” to every invitation.
DON’T: Please don’t allow feelings of guilt to overwhelm you for choosing not to participate in every gathering. Be kind to yourself and remember that you and your partner are going through a difficult time, and need to do whatever it takes to get through the holidays as best as you can.
VISITING FAMILY AND FRIENDS
DO: Keep in mind that this might be a good year to spend extra time with your friends who do not have children, and that is OK. It is possible that family festivities are too much to bear this year. Again, please be kind to yourself in whatever way feels right to you. If you MUST go to a family gathering, consider staying for a shorter period of time, possibly just during the dinner portion where you can focus on eating and asking questions about the food being offered to distract yourself. Then feel free to leave early. At least you attended.
DON’T: Be too hard on yourself. And don’t rely on your usual family traditions to fulfill your needs. There are other ways that you can get your needs met this holiday season.
HONOR THE HOLIDAYS
DO: Spend quality time doing things that you enjoy, such as:
– Spend extra quality time with your partner, and be extra loving towards each other. Maybe take a special trip together to a place that is special to you, just the two of you. Go on long walks together, enjoying the love that you share.
– Pamper yourself with such things as a bubble bath or massage, do your favorite invigorating workout, or alternatively curl up with a good book by a fire. It is imperative to take good care of yourself at this time.
– Begin your own family traditions, remembering that you and your partner already ARE a family to be cherished and celebrated. Rejoice in your love for each other, with or without children.
DON’T: Feel obligated to pretend that nothing is wrong or do everything that you normally would do during the holidays. Don’t deny the feelings that you are experiencing. It will help you more to accept your feelings and honor them by working through them with your partner at your side.
MANAGING YOUR EMOTIONS
DO: Take a moment to try to decide in advance how you will handle difficult or insensitive questions. As you work to take extra care of yourself possibly by yourselves at this difficult time, be prepared that people may say things such as “How can you be so selfish?” or “The holidays won’t be the same without you.” You may even want to rehearse your answers ahead of time. You can decide to be honest with close loved ones as to why you can’t join certain gatherings if they are just too painful right now. Also, remember to express appreciation and thanks to those that do generously offer their love and support to you. Lastly, find community support at places such as here at SS&FE or other support groups who understand perhaps your situation better than your family.
DON’T: Be caught off guard by unexpected or embarrassing questions about your plans for having a family, or how you are choosing to spend your time (or deal with your pain). Have a response prepared, but also don’t feel obligated to disclose all of the details about your situation either! Protecting your privacy is also important.
SUPPORT YOUR PARTNER
DO: Allow yourself to be sad, depressed, or angry. And make sure to make time to share your feelings with your partner and support one another. Remember that infertility is a major life crisis, and you are entitled to those feelings. Help each other through this painful period as best as you both can. Your love will grow as a result, which is a positive thing during a difficult time. Create the joy and capture the “spirit” in each holiday which makes it special and creates meaning for the two of you.
DON’T: Forget to acknowledge each other’s successes, patting each other on the back for making it through the holidays together. And don’t get caught up in the whirlwind of the holidays and forget to love and honor each other, and provide each other the needed comfort that you both need.
Please join me next week to hear more about my personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. And I wish you the best on your journey.
This post is also available in: Arabic