Eat, Drink and Be Merry – Or Don’t: An Infertility Holiday Survival Guide

Surviving Infertility and the Holidays

Photo by skippyjon via Flickr.

In case you missed it, the rush for the end of year holidays has begun. I find, that for the life of the infertile, that dash begins right around Hallowe’en, although Back to School season has begun creeping in on this territory, too. From Hallowe’en it’s practically light warp speed straight to Christmas. Forget Thanksgiving. That poor bastard of a holiday’s been left in the dust.

And Hanukkah? Well… we get our seasonal endcaps filled with gelt, blue and silver decorations, and cheap menorot (pl. of menorah) made in China. For like a week.

The holidays are tough when living with infertility. I remember how I was feeling this time last year all too clearly. And even so, even with our own holiday joy to celebrate, that first trimester graduation into the second trimester falls at a precarious time of the year. (As ever, we remain cautiously optimistic.)

There have been many excellent things written throughout the ALI blogosphere on coping with and surviving the holidays. I’ve rounded up 8 of the most salient points into one big survival guide.

What you see here is much like your Thanksgiving buffet: lots of delicious bites and if you want more, head to the kitchen and grab yourself a second helping by clicking on their source links.

1. Brace Yourself: Winter Is Coming.

Source: Caring for Yourself During the Holiday Season, from Dr. Ali Domar at The Domar Center for Mind/Body Health

I think that Mother’s Day and the December holidays are the two toughest times for anyone going through infertility. The only good thing about Mother’s Day is that it is for one day only, and most people have some kind of mother to honor, which can take a bit of the edge off of not being a mother yourself. But Thanksgiving through New Year’s is a long time to be exposed to all that joy and festivity, much of which is focused on kids. Or family gatherings which feature kids. Or friends’ parties. Which include kids.

2. Reward Yourself

Source: How to Get Through the Holidays When You Don’t Feel Like Celebrating, from Mel at Stirrup Queens.

Create your own incentives and treat getting through the holiday season as your job. Pay yourself in whatever will make you happy. For instance, after a trip to the local mall to have your picture taken with your niece and Santa, pay yourself with a manicure. Attending the holiday party from hell may win you an entire bar of chocolate. It’s worth setting up small incentives and budgeting for your own happiness because it can be something to focus on during the task at hand.

3. Regretfully Decline

Source: Coping with the Holidays – Again, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association.

It is okay to say NO to some invitations. You may not be able to handle too many babies, children and pregnant women, too much effort to dress up, too many wellintentioned queries about your own “status” can all equal too much pain! True friends and close family will understand. Acquaintances will not notice or care. If it is a command performance and you MUST attend the event, or an event you are ambivalent about as you truly think you will enjoy yourself, it is always helpful to make a safety-net plan.

4. Dodge the “So When Are You Having Kids?” Bullet

Source: Giving Thanks, from Attain Fertility.

Be prepared with answers to the kid questions: Most are truly well intentioned; however, people have a way of surprising us especially after a couple glasses of the spiked eggnog. Keep the answer short and simple, “When we have news to share, we’ll let you know” or “Sometimes it isn’t a choice” and switch the subject.

5. Be Ready to Cope with Pregnancy Announcements

Source: Coping with Infertility During Family Holiday Gatherings, from Rachel at infertility.about.com.

Family gatherings are the place for pregnancy announcements, whether direct (literally announcing the pregnancy) or indirect (walking into the house in maternity clothes and a big tummy). It is far from easy to cope with pregnancy announcements when you’re trying to get pregnant. Even if you are happy for your friend or family member, it can still hurt. More than once, an unexpected pregnancy announcement had me giving strained congratulations and fighting a growing lump in my throat. Don’t feel guilty for your feelings of sadness, but do be prepared for the possibility.

6. Do – or Don’t – Hold Babies

Source: Infertility: How to Cope During The Holidays, from Mary Hinckley, M.D. at The Huffington Post.

Decide whether or not to hold any babies before you arrive. For some, holding a baby can bring hope while for others it can be incredibly painful. Well-meaning relatives may want to share the joy of a new family member with you, but it’s important to put your needs first.

7. Call on Your Support System

Source: Top 5 Ways to Cope with Infertility over the Holidays, from Fertility Authority.

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.”

8. Tell Friends & Family How They Can Support You

Source: Practical Advice for Friends & Family Members: How You Can Help, from RESOLVE New England.

If your daughter or sister offers information that she just got bad news from a failed procedure or suffered a pregnancy loss, tell her that you are very sorry for her loss, sad for her and her partner, and ask her if she’d like to tell you about it. It’s best not to offer solutions or look to the future because right now, she just needs to grieve this bad news or this particular loss. Let her be in the moment with her pain and her frustration. She probably needs a hug and a shoulder to cry on.

9. Coping with Loss Around the Holidays

Source: Remembering Molly (8 Months), from Kathy at Bereaved & Blessed.

Whether I was conscious of it at the time or not, gratitude was a huge factor in my being able to be positive and optimistic for so much of our journey with Molly. I intend to keep that concept and attitude in mind in the days and weeks to come. Bob, Sean and I do have so much to be grateful for. It is really sad that Molly died and unfortunate that we don’t get to celebrate Molly’s first Christmas here with our family on earth, as we hoped and dreamed we would get to this year. However, we learned so much from having our baby girl in our lives this year and I believe we are all better for it.

What advice do you have for coping with the holidays? What works and doesn’t work for you? Share your coping lifesaver tips in the comments.

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Comments

  1. says

    Great post Keiko! So many helpful tips and resources for those trying to make it through the holidays, which can be so bittersweet for those dealing with infertility and loss. Thank you for including an excerpt from and linking to one of my posts about coping with loss around the holidays.

    It is surreal that I wrote that four years ago, but reading it brings me right back to that time and those feelings. Even though our journey through secondary infertility and loss has been resolved, the holidays can still be bittersweet at times, remembering how painful they were in years past when we wanted so much to have another child and we were in the early stages of grieving the loss of our baby girl Molly and the other early pregnancy losses we experienced.

  2. Anna Esperanza says

    Thank you for this post! Lots of great tidbits, and I have some great posts stocked up in my reader to check out later.

  3. says

    Such a great roundup, Keiko! I’m finding, too, that it’s been helpful to surround myself with people who DO get me, so that it’s easier to deal with the ones that don’t. XO

    • says

      “I’m finding, too, it’s been helpful to surround myself with people who DO get me, so that it’s easier to deal with the ones that don’t.”

      Yes, Justine, you are so right. I needed to read your comment/be reminded of that tonight, when I was feeling caught between those who DO get me and those who don’t. I love love the idea of soaking up being with those who DO get us when and while we can to prepare ourselves for the times we are with those who don’t. xoxo

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