by Jenny Tanis
For most, December is a month filled with love, joy, hope and excitement. However, for the 1 in 8 families in the US who struggle with infertility, December can be excruciating.
Think about it: the month revolves around kids, from toy commercials on TV to kiddos lining up to sit on Santa’s lap. And don’t forget all of the family gatherings with too many nosy questions. For those trying to conceive, the month of December can feel like one giant neon light reminder that they are still not pregnant.
Maybe you have been walking through infertility yourself, or perhaps you now realize you are guilty of making the holidays harder for the people in your circle; either way, everyone journeys through life with their own silent stories. These experiences do not disappear with a fresh blanket of snow or the buzz of the holidays. Enter December with intention, knowing how to better care for yourself and those in your life as you navigate this season.
You may not be in the “holiday spirit.” That’s OK. Create space for yourself that allows you to experience your emotions and feelings fully. Let go of unrealistic or unmanageable expectations for yourself.
As the invitations flood in, look at your calendar and decide what is manageable for you. Set a limit to how many parties you attend (or how long you stay). Attend adult-only parties. Set aside alone time or time to be with just your partner. You do not have to do it all, and you owe no one an explanation.
Be prepared to answer inevitable questions. Rather than holding your breath and hoping Aunt Sally won’t ask when you are going to fill those empty bedrooms, spend time thinking about how you are going to respond to the hard questions. Being prepared and practicing your response will allow you to be present and enjoy your holiday celebrations.
Take this opportunity to find small, local shops to do your holiday shopping and connect with your community.
If a person doesn’t broach the subject himself or herself, avoid asking childless friends and family members when they will have children. Even people you think you know best may be experiencing silent struggles.
Picking out clothing and toys for other children can be an unwelcome reminder of infertility struggles. If you know of people who are experiencing infertility, offer to go shopping for the kiddos they love. At the very least, offer to accompany them and lend support (or ice cream) as needed.
Encourage healthy boundaries and self-care by understanding when people in your circle turn down an invitation. Rather than saying, “We wish you could come” or expressing disappointment, instead respond with a gift card for a date night or a card of encouragement.
Emotional reactions to infertility can sneak up on you when you least expect them. Allow anger, hurt, sadness, disappointment or fear to attend your holiday gatherings this year by accepting people for exactly who they are and how they feel.