The holiday season can be a difficult time for those struggling with infertility. However, with some simple tips, you can plan for the unknowns and take care of your heart.
Make a Game Plan- If you are dreading holiday visits and parties because you already know there will be at least one family member or friend that badgers you about having kids, now is a great time to set up a plan with your partner to prepare for these moments.
Mentally prepare what details you both are comfortable sharing in advance to reduce feeling caught off-guard when the questions come up.
Create code words with your partner when you need help. These can be used in texts to each other when you’re in separate conversations, a phrase that’s easy to work into the current conversation, or even subtle gestures that aren’t out of the norm but will get your partner’s attention, like a cough. Being able to alert your partner when you need a break, whatever the reason, is a great way to support each other and reduce anxiety or social-burnout.
Plan how you will enforce these boundaries. You may choose to handle your 5 year old niece or nephew asking about kids differently than your aunt or uncle. Sometimes, we need to look at the intent behind the question and how they respond when we enforce our boundaries. Those who are intentionally disregarding the boundary after it’s been presented will likely need a firmer stance than someone who was curious but not ill-meaning.
Be Selective with Your Time and Energy- You and your partner absolutely deserve the warmth and joy of the season, be sure to plan and prioritize times that you can feel that without being anxious or triggered.
Start a new tradition together, which could be holiday related or ‘just for fun.’ Don’t be afraid to break traditions either if they are too difficult during this time. Maybe this is the year you plan a getaway (small or big) with your partner instead of going to the grandparents house for Christmas morning.
Choose your engagements carefully. It’s okay to say no to some parties and yes to others. It may also help to plan for only selective amounts of time at an activity. Remember to be flexible with your partner as well. If you get to an event that is causing hurt and anxiety, it’s okay to leave earlier than planned. It’s okay to leave after only 5 minutes, the point is to not bend yourself to the point of burnout.
Communicate, communicate, communicate-
Frequent check-ins before, during, and after family gatherings or holiday parties helps to eliminate the feelings of being alone in your journey.
Give both you and your partner a safe space for these check-ins and impromptu moments when you need to talk by honoring and respecting each other’s thoughts, emotions, and experiences.
Keep in mind that you may not feel the same way all the time, but that you should be there for each other during the difficult times. Some things may be easier for you than they are for your partner, and vice versa, and being able to acknowledge these helps us to create better game plans to support each other. The more we talk to each other, the more we give ourselves grace for how we’re feeling and better support each other for those tough moments.
At UIRC, we recognize the unique challenges that come with this journey and we want you to know that you are not alone. We offer a variety of support services, including monthly support groups, free mentoring, and therapist-led support groups. Our new therapist-led support group will have its third meeting on December 20th and we'd love to have you join us! We also have a list of local and national fertility resources available on our website. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need support or have any questions.
We are here for you now, and throughout any time of the year.