Gearing Up For Family Gatherings When You Are Coping With Infertility
The days are shorter and darker. Store fronts slowly transform into sparkly and seemingly mocking displays of joy and good tidings. Emails and phones buzz as family gatherings are organized. The end of another calendar year begins to draw near. It is the holiday season. A time of year filled with emotion; for many those emotions are heavy, complex and hard to understand. Sliding into this season while you face the uncertainty intrinsic to infertility is difficult. Being mindful of how you prepare for a busy social calendar or protect yourself from particularly tender moments may help you not only find your way through the hustle and bustle, but care for yourself along the way.
Decide, in advance, how to handle sensitive moments.
For many, the holidays are defined by little rosy cheeks or bursting with children giggling in anticipatory glee. The longing for a child can be extra heavy when you feel surrounded by overtones of this child driven focus. Protect yourself by finding ways to celebrate the season with other adults or by doing activities which are not meant for children. If you can’t avoid an event that has the potential to leave you feeling vulnerable, limit the amount of time you are there or plan to take breaks when you can step outside or into a private space to give yourself a moment.
Identify one or two “others” who best understand you and support you.
When you have an ally at the dinner table, someone who knows your story and supports you in meaningful ways, use them to help navigate difficult moments. Decide in advance how you might look to them to help shift conversations or give one another a sideways glance as a lifeline of nonverbal support and help you find your way through intense gatherings.
Figure out and rehearse how you will respond to awkward statements and also what you can do to shift the conversation to topics that direct focus away from you.
“When do you want to have kids?” or “Would you ever consider adoption?” Can be challenging questions to face, especially if you feel completely unprepared on how to respond. Crafting a quick reply that feels comfortable to you and leaves no room for ongoing banter can help you navigate these tricky moments. Often this means have a two part response. First, respond to their statement succinctly. Next, follow that statement with a comment or question of your own that shifts the topic to something completely different. “Yes, I think my husband and I would love children someday. Now, didn’t you tell me you just moved. Where is your new apartment?” Stop the conversation and then shift it away from you.
Express appreciation to others who DO support you in meaningful ways.
Remember this can be a time of year to celebrate the relationships in our lives that are meaningful and significant. Taking time to acknowledge those who have listened and been interested, who are available or have helped you maintain some sense of normalcy at times when everything felt upside can be good to do. Expressing gratitude and appreciation has a fantastic way of leaving you feeling just a bit better too. Give it a try!
Acknowledge your ability to make it through a day or an event resisting the temptation to judge how you made it through.
Some days are easier than others. Critiquing the way in which we handle harder days does nothing but make that day even harder. Resist the temptation to judge yourself or feel guilty for not being “at your best”. On these harder days give yourself permission to simply acknowledge you made it through, go to bed and trust in tomorrow to feel new again.
Allow for all your feelings and protect time for you to feel safe enough to have the range of feelings that are natural to feel.
Where do you feel safe enough to be sad? What do you do with the energy of anger? Learning what you need to allow for all the natural and important feelings that are normal to feel is a big part of taking good care of you. Sometimes talking things out with someone (a good friend, your partner or a therapist) can help you craft new ways of coping and fine tune the things you have always done to care for yourself along the way.