While the holidays can be a special time of year filled with joy and celebration with loved ones, it can prove especially difficult for those who long for a child.
Since the holidays are often centered on family, it can be difficult to avoid the painful reminders that can surface during this time of year.
If you are trying to conceive and feel unsure about how to handle the holidays, here are nine helpful tips that can make the season easier.
1. Prepare answers to questions ahead of time.
It's possible that someone will ask a question that will make you uncomfortable. Don't be caught off guard -- think of an answer you are comfortable with in advance. Answers to prying questions can range from vague ("I don't know, we'll see, I'm not sure") to simple and direct ("My husband and I have decided to keep this topic private but thanks for asking").
2. Don't be afraid to say no.
This is the time to take an inventory of your social calendar and holiday obligations, and do an honest assessment of what you can handle. Forcing yourself to attend something that makes you sad can be emotionally taxing and not worth it, so don't be afraid to say no. If you're not up for it, don't attend the party
3. Avoid emotional triggers.
If you foresee something that may upset you, steer clear. At times, certain things may trigger a wave of emotions that usually makes us happy but during this time may fill you with tears. If that is the case, staying away from the mall when Santa is there or staying out of children's stores when buying presents (gift cards are great and you can avoid the store) might avoid the anguish. If you know that a holiday card will have a family photo that will cause distress, don't open it. You can acknowledge the card to a sender without discussing the contents (I received your card, thank you.)
4. Adults only.
If you feel that a family party is too much, opt to spend time alone with your partner instead. Your family will miss you, but remember, there is always next year. You need to listen to what you need. If it's best for you to apply an "adults only" rule to your holiday celebrations, then go for it. If you know other couples without kids, you can celebrate the holiday with them as well.
5. It is okay to feel what you're feeling.
The wide range of emotions that result from infertility can feel overwhelming, but they are common -- and each one of them is okay. Give yourself permission to take care of you. It's normal and okay to feel sadness, grief, and the urge to cry. You can't change your emotions and feelings, but you can acknowledge them, and allow yourself to feel them. When you do, you will feel better.
6. Get support from a person or community you trust.
Holding things in doesn't feel good. Sharing what's inside can reduce stress, alleviate anxiety, and lift your spirits. There is always a community available to you -- whether that is a partner, close friend, family member, fertility counselor or online forum or social media outlet. With your special people, celebrate and do things that bring you joy this season! And, with the New Year, you will regroup about your efforts to build your family.
7. Make your health and happiness a priority.
Now, more than ever, is the time to take care of yourself. This can come in a variety of ways, and the more you do, the better. Be sure to get enough sleep, meditate and deep breathe to calm the mind, exercise to reduce stress and anxiety, and do things that make you happy and relaxed. Many women find yoga, massage or a trip to the nail salon a nice pick-me-up.
8. Shift your focus.
The holidays are busy, but if you find your mind wandering to infertility too often, it's time to shift your mental focus. Start a book series, take up a new craft, or practice cooking new dishes in the kitchen. Focusing on something you enjoy will give your mind the breathing room it needs. It also does not mean that trying for pregnancy is less important but it gives balance in your mind to stay positive and live.
9. Remember, this is temporary.
Know that it is not a question of "if" you will become a parent, but "when." Infertility, just like the holidays, will pass. Around the corner is a new year, filled with new possibilities. Take care of yourself while making the most of the holiday season with your loved ones. You will be okay.