5 ways to ease the stress of infertility during the holiday season

Christmas holidays can be stressful even in the best of times. The pressure is on to be festive and happy and if you are struggling to conceive, or in the middle of an assisted fertility program it can be tough to find yourself in social situations with the focus on children and extended family news.

So given that there is little room for grief and sadness amid the festive cheer and given that you can’t make the pain of infertility miraculously disappear, what can you do that will actually help you to cope better, even by just a little?

Here are 5 simple strategies that I often recommend to couples dreading the ‘baby’ question at festive gatherings. My hope for you is that they will help give you some extra resourcefulness and inner strength to cope better.

Here goes:

Tip 1: Be selective and practice saying no.

Give yourself permission to decline invitations to festivities where you are likely to be in the company of pregnant women or young children. Be selective and only accept those invitations that genuinely lift your heart at thought of going. If you can’t say no, consider how you could modify the invitation. For example, by arriving late and leaving early, or by preparing your responses for challenging conversations ahead of time.

Saying no can be a hard thing to do. It’s as if we have remnants of childhood memories that to say no is to be bad and to be bad is to be unloved and who wants to be unloved at Christmas time. Let it be alright to be a little selfish if that will give you protection from an upsetting situation. Trust in the messages from your heart about what is best for you and don’t let other people guilt you into doing things that don’t feel good.

Tip 2: Intensify your self-care regime

This is the one time of year when it’s even more important than usual to take good care of yourself. Think about this for a moment. What would really nourish and replenish you during the holidays?

Make a list of those special things that you don’t normally get to do during the rest of the year, include some things that are just for you and some that are for you and your partner to do together. Then share your list with your partner and see if you can pick something special to do together that will help you both feel rested and relaxed. It’s often the simple things that can end up being the most meaningful.

Tip 3: Don’t bottle up your feelings

Sharing your feelings is important throughout the year but Christmas can bring its own challenges as the pressure is on to be cheerful and upbeat no matter what is going on in your heart and mind. For many couples the stress of trying to conceive can be overwhelming and it’s natural to feel sad and low at times. But bottled up emotions can soon lead to high stress levels and that’s the last thing you need if you are trying to get pregnant. So taking some time to share your innermost feelings with your partner, with a trusted relative or therapist, is hugely important.

Tip 4: Prepare your answers for the dreaded ‘kids’ question.

Deciding in advance how you want to handle difficult questions can be oh so valuable, especially if you are faced with those dreaded question from well-meaning relatives about the patter of tiny feet. Choose your strategy, chose the words you are comfortable with and then practice saying those words out loud in front of the mirror a few times so that when you actually need to use them your voice will be strong and clear and you can feel proud of yourself for handling the situation so well.

Tip 5: Take good care of each other

Taking good care of each other is perhaps the most important tip of all. The very word ‘infertile’ carries such a potent emotional charge it can be hard to speak it out loud and it can leave you feeling isolated and cut off from others. This makes it all the more important to take good care of each other and share your feelings. This is one of those times when you need each other’s comfort more than ever.

The Christmas holidays are based on family and re-connecting with people and it’s almost impossible to avoid that. You may feel upbeat and strong one day and overwhelmed with sadness and doubt the next. Please know that these feelings are normal. You don’t need to suppress them for the sake of other people and you don’t need to put on a show of festive cheer if that doesn’t feel right for you.

Preparation and some positive thinking can go a long way to helping you enjoy the light and warmth of Christmas in your own way and on your own terms.

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Annie Watkins is the founder of Be Baby Be. She works with both men and women who are struggling with infertility, or who have an interest in pre-birth communication with their baby to be. You can read more about her work at www.BeBabyBe.com