Let’s cut to the chase — Infertility stinks! It’s incredibly isolating. It’s lonely. It’s frustrating. It’s angry. And let’s not forget we can’t talk about it. It’s a taboo subject like death and the “C” word – Cancer. In fact, most of us are more comfortable talking about chemo, radiation, mastectomies, and hair loss than we are about infertility – like I said infertility like death is taboo and no one knows what to say.
Why is that? Because it’s frustrating, stressful and so incredibly sad. And we as a society don’t know how to talk about or deal with something so incredibly personal and sad.
We grow up with this idea that we are going to partner and have a baby. We don’t grow up thinking that someday I might not be able to have a baby. Most take for granted their ability to have a child. It’s just how we are programmed, and rightly so.
Did you know that 1 in 7 couples around the world who really want to have a baby for whatever reason can’t? How does that work out to real world statistics? That means for 30 people in your spin or aerobics class 10 of you will have trouble conceiving, or 100 of you standing in line at the Quanta’s check-in counter 33 of you are going to receive the news that you won’t be having a baby the old fashioned way, or 600 of you participating in the Camino of Santiago de Compostela, 200 of you might find that you will need IVF treatment, egg donation, or surrogacy to have a child. That kind of makes you sit up and take notice yes?
For those us who are unable to have children the way we want to it can be incredibly painful and overwhelming – and for those of us who remain childless the reality is infertility is disabling in many ways, for some it’s a lifelong disability with a lifetime of emotional costs.
When the big holidays roll around — especially Christmas, Chanukah, Mother’s Day, Father’s day or other significant personal or religious holidays these are always extremely painful reminders that we our bodies are not doing what millions of other bodies are doing on this plant – those who are fertile and successful we sometimes resent and this my friends is infertility on steroids. It’s normal and natural to want to isolate ourselves, pull the covers up over our heads and hibernate until these wretched holidays pass.
So how do we take care of ourselves during the holidays?
• You don’t have to attend any parties you don’t want to. It’s that simple. Be selective about the invitations you receive. If there’s lots of babies, kids, and noise opt to stay home – guess what you don’t have to accept every invite that comes your way.
• People have this uncanny ability to ask the wrong questions at the wrong time. It’s not that they are purposely being mean – people have this ability to be unthinking. I know it sounds silly but be ready to field those questions. Rehearse with your partner, friend or in front of a mirror. You are not obligated in any way, shape, or form to explain yourself – If asked if you have children a simple “No, we don’t” is fine.
• Surround yourself with those who know what’s going on in your life and will take care of you.
• If you choose to attend any sort of Christmas or religious church or synagogue services during the holidays go late. Kids don’t often go to late services. Avoid all of the family oriented services or family religious bazaars or religious festivals.
• If you have friends or family that are child free spend time with them especially if you find being around family gatherings is too painful during the holidays.
• Take care of yourself – be kind to yourself. Do the things you love to do – going out to dinner with friends, taking hikes, maybe go skiing, take a trip out of town where it’s warm? Go to the theatre, read those books you have always been meaning to. There are many things that you can do to occupy your time.
• Embrace your sadness. Acknowledge and honor how you are feeling. Have a good cry. Take the time to share with your partner or another trusted person in your life how you are feeling. Lean on someone else – and allow yourself to feel sad, angry, depressed, and hurt. Don’t sweep your feelings under the carpet. You are entitled to your feelings and you might be helping your partner through this painful time as well.
• Maybe your friends and family have been extra supportive to you through your infertility trek. Share with them your appreciation of their support. Maybe you have other friends who are infertile like yourself? Checking in on them might help you help yourself.
• Create your own traditions, rituals and customs for the holidays. The important aspect about all of this is to do something that is going to give you peace and joy as well as meaning without creating painful reminders for you about your infertility challenges.
• Don’t forget that you need your partner during the holidays – don’t try to be a super hero and trudge along this path alone.
• You don’t have to pretend there’s nothing wrong either. The whole “business as usual” company line is “b.s” – feel your feelings.
• And while you shouldn’t expect others to understand what you are going through don’t feel you have to suck it up either. If people engage you in a conversation about your infertility tell them clearly and kindly what kind of support you are needing.
Just know that the holidays are about a month long and before you know it a new year will present itself to “start over” and gain clarity.
Between now and then stay busy, keep your mind occupied and take comfort you aren’t alone there are others who are also walking in your shoes.
Online resources for support: