2020 has been a difficult year so far and we are finally in the home stretch. Despite that, if you are someone struggling with infertility or recurrent pregnancy loss there is one more hurdle left – the holidays.
This time of year can be even more difficult for my patients when the pain and anxiety they feel day to day is exacerbated by the reminder that another year has passed without yet reaching their family goals.
Although celebrating this year will look very different for most of us, there will inevitably still be some small or virtual gatherings with family and friends that could lead to awkward questions from well-intentioned loved ones.
Questions like “Are you pregnant yet?” or “When are you going to start your family?” can seem innocent to the person asking the question but can be very hurtful to those who have been through fertility testing and treatment for months or sometimes years.
Another difficult scenario is the family member who tries to give helpful advice like “just relax and it will happen” or shares stories about how other couples achieved success that have nothing to do with your situation.
Despite this, there are ways to manage the stress of infertility during the holidays and make it easier to enjoy this time of year.
First, feel free to pick and choose who you spend time with. You are certainly not obligated to accept every invitation. Avoiding especially insensitive friends or relatives is okay.
Second, skip opening holiday cards with photos of others’ families and consider limiting your time on social media if those activities trigger negative feelings.
Third, take time to grieve if you need to. You may be grieving a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or a failed treatment cycle. The bottom line is, you do not need to pretend to be happy every moment so give yourself space to feel your true feelings and allow your partner to do the same.
Finally, find time to take care of yourself. It might be a small gift for yourself, an experience like spending some time outdoors, or some “me” time like a massage or a virtual yoga class. Don’t forget to take time to do the things that clear your mind and restore your body.
The simple truth is that the holidays can be a struggle for those dealing with the stress and pain of infertility. I hope these tips make your holidays brighter and allow you to find joy as we say farewell to 2020. Hooray for 2021!
Blog post written by Dr. Ellen Hayes.