The Holidays. When you were a child, those words probably inspired a flurry of butterflies, an accelerated heartbeat and excitement. Countdowns began, the house was decorated and plans were made for who was going where this year for which gathering(s). Now, that flurry of butterflies and accelerated heartbeat my lack the same cheerful remnants of your youth.
As part of a couple who is struggling with infertility, the holidays can bring up anxiety, dread and a heart-sick feeling as you prepare to answer the same questions over and over again, or listen to the latest list of things to “do-try-eat-relax” that well-meaning aunts have to offer you.
10 Tips to Make This Holiday Season a Little Easier
To help make things easier, we’ve organized this list of things you can do to get through the holidays as peacefully and joyfully as possible.
- Ask yourself how you really feel. This may seem obtuse but in all the hubbub of your own appointments and hectic life, combined with the anticipation/dread of the holidays – you may be feeling what you think or predict you’ll feel, rather than your actual feelings. Try to find time to sit quietly with yourself and check in. Ask yourself, “How are we feeling in there…?” Then, remain silent and just wait for the answers. You might be surprised at what shows up. Things may actually be better than you thought, or worse than you thought, but knowing helps you to prepare for the next few months.
- Bail out. Seriously. You and your mate have faithfully attended or hosted how many holiday meals and parties thus far? What’s wrong with taking one year off to do your own thing and escape the crowds? Not only do you avoid a tremendous amount of stress, you can enjoy serious last-minute holiday discounts to enjoy a tropical paradise, far away from nosy people.
- Pamper yourself. Take the time to take care of yourself. Get enough sleep every night, eat well, go ahead and blow the budget a bit for a mani/pedi or massage – or ask for them as your holiday gifts. Schedule time for yourself so you can continue to check in and be present with your feelings and your process.
- Warn everyone ahead of time. Call up the hosts and let them know that you don’t want to hear a single question regarding your fertility attempts or anything at all related to your pursuits to add a baby to the bunch. Letting people know early can let you off the hook.
- Develop a code word. You and your partner should come up with a code word or signal that means, “We’re out of here – NOW!” no questions asked. It may be necessary in moments where uncontrollable emotions catch you unaware.
- Throw an adults-only party. It can be difficult to understand when all you want is a little baby of your own to hold, but most parents are dying to get a night away from their kids to spend with other adults. Throw an adults-only holiday party so you don’t even have to look at a single baby or child.
- Beat them to the punch. In lieu of asking people NOT to ask or say anything about your fertility situation, beat them to the punch. Send a newsletter letting people know where you are at, what you have learned, what you’re tired of hearing and honestly admitting how difficult it is to talk about it at social events. This gives everyone who cares about you accurate information and lets them know to talk about other things when they see you in a social setting.
- Have a sense of humor. If you have a good sense of humor and enjoy a little sarcasm, try printing off a “FAQs & As” card that you can just smile and hand out when anyone tries to talk about things or ask questions in an inappropriate moment, or a time when you don’t feel like answering. This can be extremely gratifying. Just the writing of the cards will make you and your partner enjoy a little stress-relief together.
- Review your own Top 5 Holiday Stressors. What aspects of the holidays stress you out? What triggered you last year? Or the year before that? You may not have realized that there are specific people, settings, events, or behaviors that set you off. Identifying them can help you plan for a more stress-free holiday season this year, i.e. no more than three cranberry martinis, don’t sit next to Uncle Bob, RSVP “No” to Cousin Janie’s Caroling party, etc.
- Choose your Joy. Children or no children, there are probably a few aspects of the holiday season you have always loved. Maybe it’s strolling certain neighborhoods with hot chocolate while you look at all the lights, enjoying early candlelit dinners, planning those extra-perfect gifts for your favorite people…don’t let infertility rob you of these joys.
Have the holidays been a stressful time for you and your partner? What has worked for you? Share your ideas and suggestions in the RRC comment box below.