Deck the halls folks, the festive period is upon us! Undoubtedly the most stressful time of year for (almost) everyone, Christmas is the time of year where families all over the world force themselves around one kitchen table and pretend to really laugh when Uncle Derek tells his favourite dirty Christmas jokes.
The Hellish November-to-Christmas-to-New-Year trifecta feels somewhat like an onslaught of events crammed into 6 weeks, where family members feel the need to invade on your personal space.
Of course, I love Christmas. I love spending time with family, friends and I’m all about the joy that comes with this period. Except for the way people like to highlight your failures with their special brand of “kindness”.
That can be across a number of things. When Aunts ask why you’re not married. Family members making you feel guilty for having a glass of wine because you’re not yet pregnant. The forced smiles from siblings while you cuddle your lovely nieces and nephews – you can see it on their faces clear as day “oh they will be great parents one day”. There is no space for grief and sadness typical to these special occasions. You stick your smile on, pull down your mask, and carry on.
The last few years I’ve had this vivid ideal Christmas morning where I can give my partner the best present – a positive pregnancy test. So far, that has not happened.
Last year I was given an extra kick in the uterus, when Aunt flo conveniently dropped in on Christmas eve. Each agonising cramp was a painful reminder that once again, I had failed to get pregnant. I dragged myself out of bed in the morning, put on a smile and spent the day pretending like it was just another day. It didn’t matter. But somewhere between Christmas dinner and the game of 1970’s edition trivial pursuit my mind kept wandering, and I had to remind myself not to cry for no reason at my partners parents house over Christmas, because who does that?
And guess what? Eventually I snapped. At the smallest thing. And I used that as an excuse to sit on the stairs and silently cry to myself.
I hate being infertile and everything that comes with it. The stigma. The looks on people’s faces like you’re dying. The loneliness that keeps getting worse the older I get, because more of my friends are having babies, and especially Christmas time. I avoid certain friends and family over this period because it just gets too much, and it also pisses me off. Everywhere we look, we see friends and loved ones with holiday postcard perfect Christmas families, gathered around a tree, opening presents and dressing our kids up as mini father Christmas, and me? I put my dog in a Santa outfit and call her “Santa Paws”.
Full disclosure – yes, I know I sound jealous and crazy. But put yourself in my shoes for one second, wouldn’t you feel the same?
The holiday season can be one of the most bitter seasons of the year for those of us who are struggling with empty arms. Almost everything is geared toward family and children and the normal feelings of mourning for the things we’ve lost can take a depressing turn if we’re not careful.
So how do we stop ourselves from going full on melancholic and depressed as anything?
As much as I would love to tell you I have the answer, I don’t. But, thanks to some of my amazing friends and contributors, I have some tips to make it a little less shitty.
Get all your feelings out in the open in advance.
You and I know better than anyone how terrible your current state of infertility makes you feel. The predominant unpleasant feelings I experience on a regular basis, include, but are certainly not limited to:
Holidays bring plenty of opportunity to get a regular dose of these feelings as we’re often exposed to extra triggers, such as seeing your younger cousin who you haven’t seen all year with her second newborn since the time you started trying to conceive!
In my quest to make things easier for myself, I’m now learning to let these feelings be. It’s OK to feel sad, or angry or whatever feeling you experience when you’re struggling with infertility. It’s a terrible thing, and you’d have to be a robot to not be affected.
Learning to accept that you’re feeling down, and then treating yourself with warmth and kindness is one of the few great things that infertility can teach us. We can all benefit from being better at this, regardless of what stage in life we are in.
At the very least, acknowledging our current emotional state, and realising that we may feel like this for a while, but that it will eventually pass is an empowering process and a great tool to carry around with us during the holidays.
Let family and friends know what is/isn’t a topic for conversation
Plain and simple, if you don’t want to talk about it, tell your family and friends that.
While you probably get plenty of time to get good at answering questions about your family planning status all year, seeing relatives who you only catch-up with occasionally is often a time when the topic seems to be a regular staple. Some people will prefer to not talk about it at all. Others like to pre-prepare a witty response to questions like “when are you going to have kids?”
Although I know this option is for everyone I generally prefer to be upfront about it. I feel no shame (rationally speaking, most of the time) that I am going through infertility, but sometimes, especially over the holiday and in big family gatherings, I’d rather not talk about it.
However you choose to deal with personal questions you’d rather not be asked, taking the time to think about what you want to share, and what you don’t, with various people over the holidays will see you cruise through the moment, rather than being a Santa’s deer in the headlights.
Hang out with friends, kids not included (Where possible)
We often give our relatives an automatic booking for the holidays either out of habit, choice, or a bit of social obligation, so it’s easy to miss out on spending time with our friends. If you’re lucky enough to have some childless friends, making time to hang-out with these people can be a real relief from whatever negative triggers you might be exposed to with your relatives.
Make time to see your friends and have some time carved out where it’s just you guys, sans kids (Grandparents, now is your time to shine). Nothing beats an adult night in with wine, cheese, and good company.
Create Traditions for you two now
It’s easy to think, “Someday, when I have children…” and list off all the fun holiday traditions you want to do. Don’t. Nothing kills joy faster than wishing for something other than what you have. Celebrate today. Invent traditions that you can enjoy right now. Making a gingerbread house and eating the whole thing with home made mulled wine is a personal favourite.
Shut down social media
Nothing is more triggering than seeing all your friends perfect family Christmas mornings on social media. Turn it off. Focus on what is going on in the here and now with the people around you that you are spending this time with, and enjoy it.
Enjoy the Holidays
This might be one of the only times of the year you get to spend with your 95 year old granny, so enjoy being in your families company. Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you want a glass of wine, have a glass of wine (Unless you are in the middle of a cycle, then try some alcohol free wine?). You have a tradition where you eat a tonne of blue cheese and crackers? Eat them. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect, and give yourself a break. The more you stress out, the more you will stress out. So put that paper crown on, drink your bucks fizz and cut yourself a break.
I hope some of these tips are useful! Please let me know your top tips for getting through the holiday season, and until next time,
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