Christmas and the run up to it can be an extremely stressful and upsetting time for those struggling with infertility as it is a stark reminder of failed cycles and not having yet reached those longed for baby goals. It’s not just the ladies that might be struggling either, read more on the male struggle here.
Infertility and the Christmas hype
It seems impossible to get away from all the Christmas hype. People buying presents for their little ones or talking seemingly endlessly about children’s gifts and nativity plays. The adverts about the ‘perfect’ family Christmas and more questions than usual about ‘do you have kids’/’what do your kids want for Christmas?’ – aaargh!
All this is enough to send anybody under their duvet until January. You may feel jealousy, anger, grief, depression, sadness and isolation during this time. It’s important to be kind to yourself and realise that this is completely normal for people experiencing infertility, you are not going mad and you are certainly not alone.
Infertility is a form of grief. Grief in any form can make celebrations difficult and leave you wondering ‘what’s the point?’ Whatever the reason for your infertility, it hurts, a lot, and I certainly have a constant ache in my heart, BUT it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom and we can regain some control.
There is more to Christmas than TTC and infertility
Christmas is a key time to spend time with those you love, whatever your family unit looks like. It is easy to focus on what we don’t have but don’t lose sight of the people in your life that love and care about you. Focussing on the good times and memories you’ve had with these people can help to take the edge off negative feelings and even bring a little smile to your lips. If people have been super supportive this year, this is your time to show them how much that means to you and that you don’t take them for granted.
What I’ve found helpful
Listening to colleagues and friends talk about buying presents for their little ones, or organising a trip to see Santa can make you feel empty, angry, and begrudgingly jealous. Feeling isolated from the events unfolding is common and people sometimes ask ‘what’s the point?’ What’s the point in decorating the house? What’s the point when we can’t send letters to Santa? What’s the point in Christmas morning when we don’t get to experience the thrill of children finding their presents?
I get it. My response to this that helps me is to channel my inner child. You don’t have to be a child to get excited about opening presents or playing games and spending time with loved ones. I dress up in Christmas dresses, blast the Christmas tunes, make a lovely breakfast and stock up on games to play with family or just with my husband. I look forward to the look on my husband’s face when he opens the presents I have carefully selected for him over the previous 6 weeks or so. The decorations make me feel good and make my house look pretty. Also I get time off work and can have a lie in – awesome! This helps set a positive tone for the ‘big day’ from the start. It might not be able to fix the underlying sadness but it certainly helps me get through.
Something else that helps me keep my emotions in check is to (try to) remember how lucky I am. There are people suffering with cancer and other chronic illnesses, homelessness, loneliness and severe poverty this Christmas time who certainly aren’t as lucky. Volunteering to help others over this period can really help both you and them – it keeps you busy, has been proven to give you a sense of well-being and it also delivers a big dose of perspective.
I’ve recently thrown myself into volunteering at a local hedgehog rescue and am fostering a cute, cheeky little hedgehog over the winter. This, along with a range of other eco activities, is my way of gaining control and finding a purpose. It is effective in taking my mind off the always looming negativity of infertility. In the rescue 4 hours can pass before I’ve even realised and in this time I was completely focussed on our cute spikey little friends and not sad or frustrated about my own struggles.
Tips for a peaceful Christmas when facing infertility
In order to increase your chances of having a peaceful and pleasant Christmas, it’s worth doing some thoughtful planning ahead to help reduce the pressure, stress and sadness that you might feel. Here are some tips:
Remember you are not alone – 1 in 6 couples struggle with infertility so there are plenty of us feeling a similar way. Joining some infertility forums could be a good way of getting some support over this difficult time with others that understand how you’re feeling.
Reach out to others – ask for support and tell your trusted people about any concerns you have around Christmas. Together you can make a plan about how you might want to deal with the things that are concerning you so you can have as peaceful and enjoyable a Christmas as possible. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.
Make time to meet up with someone who makes you laugh and supports you – A hot chocolate, cake and a good old natter with someone you can completely be yourself around can often go a long way to making you feel better.
Volunteer – if you find you have time it is good for the soul to volunteer, helping those less fortunate than yourself. Doing good makes you feel good and helps us get a bit of respite from thinking about our own infertility struggles, for a while at least.
Get outdoors – spending time in nature, wrapped up warm with your companion on a nice long walk finished by a glorious pub meal can do wonders. It is great quality time for re-connecting with each other too.
Schedule in self-care – scheduling in something you enjoy into every day can give you a little slice of something to look forward to as a reward for getting through the day. It could be settling with a hot chocolate and a good book, treating yourself to tasty food, watching a trashy film, having a relaxing bath, snuggles with your dog/cat, or even an early night. Whatever works for you.
Consider going away for Christmas – this isn’t designed as a way to isolate yourself but some people find a break away as a couple or with friends is an effective way to avoid all the Christmas shenanigans you might not really want to be part of. This is a great way to spend quality, relaxing time with those close to you too.
Start a gratitude journal – some people hate these types of activities but this one can actually really help. It’s a popular way to help retrain your brain towards positivity. We know positivity is a good thing for fertility too so it’s worth a shot. This site explains the benefits and gives you some tips for this simple, quick task.
Allow the emotions – allow yourself to feel sad or cry if it’s one of those days. Don’t judge yourself or try to push through, just let it out. It’s ok and it’s normal. Let it out but then let it pass.
Practice mindfulness – mindfulness can be tricky to master but with practice can be a great tool in coping with difficult emotions. Ever had that feeling where you’ve been engrossed in an activity and been surprised at the time, not realising how long you’d been busy? This can be anything that requires your full attention. It can range from breathing practices, a hobby or game, cooking, exercise or reading (for me it’s the hedgehogs J). Whatever works best for you in bringing your focus onto something practical in the here and now, rather than worrying about the future or the past.
Be gentle with yourself this Christmas time, recognise that there may be difficult times but remember to honour your feelings and do what is right for you. Know your limits and try not to set yourself up to fail by expecting too much of yourself. Remember, it’s ok to say no to events that you may find upsetting so ensure you plan your own Christmas that you can manage this year.