Welcome to the second installment of Coping With Infertility during the Holidays. You can find the first installment in a prior post. At this point the holidays are in full swing, and no matter what your take is on them, there is no avoiding them now…houses are covered in lights, stores are filled with kitschy red and green décor, Christmas music is piped into malls, commercials are dominated by images of happy families opening gifts, and Santa is everywhere.
While this can be a joyful time for many, for those who are experiencing infertility it can be a nightmare. I know that for the years I spent longing for a child the holidays were particularly painful since my first pregnancy loss happened in late January and I had found out I was pregnant (and hopeful! and expectant! ) the day after Thanksgiving. I remember being nauseous as I did last-minute shopping at the Cherry Creek Mall in December. I remember getting our first Christmas tree as a couple since we felt more like a family. I remember thinking we’d have baby at Christmas next year. Sadly, that wasn’t the case, so for the next two years the remembrance of that loss hit me full force during the holidays. And it sucked. As much as I probably tried to hide my sadness and feelings of alienation from the joy of the season, I cannot deny that it was there. Luckily, I did find some ways to enjoy myself during that time….so I’ll share what I can about what helped (or kind of helped).
For the first holiday after our loss, we actually moved into a new house (in the midst of one of the decade’s biggest snowstorms and a bout of bronchitis for me) on Christmas eve. I found myself weepy and sad (thinking I had buyers’ remorse but in fact it was the loss and grief of the previous winter bubbling up). So that strategy, while distracting, wasn’t necessarily healing or happy. Which brings me to tip #2 for coping with infertility during the holidays:
2. Take an awesome trip to a tropical adults-only all-inclusive and drink pina coladas in the hot tub as much as possible. Our second Christmas (when we were in the midst of our adoption wait) was spent at an adults-only all-inclusive in Cozumel. Much better choice. If you have the opportunity to get away and go somewhere relaxing, rejuvenating, and fun, by all means scrap the idea of family obligations and get away! You deserve it! I think even earmarking some cash for a vacation is a great plan to have when going through fertility treatments/adoption/hope/fear. While one big struggle of going through infertility is a sense of uncertainty about the future, I’ve found that it’s also a gift in that uncertainty invites us to fully embrace the present moment. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring is a great reason to enjoy today…so take that vacation you have always wanted, even if it’s just to a B&B a few miles away. No doubt you deserve it!
A few more ways to cope during the holidays:
3. Find ways to give back. I like to spend some time during the holidays giving back to worthy charitable organizations, especially those that support causes close to my heart. Becoming aware of someone else’s suffering is always a good way to open your heart to the universal connections we share and enlarge your perspective. It’s also a great way to really change the world and give birth to goodness, hope and empowerment. I would recommend checking Charity Navigator to find a good non-profit. If you cannot give money, consider volunteering your time to a soup kitchen, shelter, battered women’s home, food drive, etc. There is always a need for service as well as funding at most non-profits. Again, personally I have found that being mindful of the needs of others has always kept my own suffering in perspective. Not that it precludes the need to nurture ourselves, but it can open our hearts in ways that are unexpected and empower us to make a positive impact in the world. You can also find some great non-profits on our Giving Back page.
4. Treat YO-SELF! Similar to the idea of taking an indulgent vacation, just taking time out for pampering (like getting a massage, pedicure, spa service, haircut) can bring much-needed joy and happiness in times of sadness and grief. None of us (women especially) take much time for ourselves or even feel we deserve to treat ourselves. So during this holiday season, make a commitment to taking some time just for you. Not to shop for gifts, not to get fertility treatments or google about your condition, but just to do something that makes you feel beautiful, happy, relaxed, pampered, and worthy. Even consider getting yourself a gift only you know you really want. Something you wouldn’t normally buy for yourself because it seems like too much. You are worth it!
Wow. All of this is starting to sound materialistic! But the point I am trying to make is that it’s OK to escape a little bit, over-indulge yourself a little bit, and put yourself first a little bit. After all, not getting what you really want (a baby) month after month or year after year is really a drain on the body, mind, and spirit. So take some time to re-fill yourself this holiday season. And if you do have to spend lots of family time, I would highly suggest setting boundaries around how much you want to share with family and friends in order to maintain your sanity. For those you are closest too, I would recommend sharing Jody Earle’s incomparable piece: Helping Friends and Family Understand Infertility. It’s one of the most articulate, right-on examples of speaking from the heart I have ever read. It is a great way to educate friends and family about your feelings in a way that will help them support you.
So while these simple tips won't be a cure-all for everyone or necessarily make your holiday season merry and bright, hopefully they will give you some ideas about how you can take care of yourself and ease the pain of infertility during a time when it's easy to feel isolated, misunderstood, and alone. Please feel free to contact me if you need a few extra words of support this year and know all of us at Acupuncture Denver are here for you (acupuncture is also pampering!) and wish you love, happiness, health, prosperity, peace and joy in this holiday season.