Christmas! The most wonderful time of year! – For some.
For many people struggling with infertility, Christmas can feel anything but ‘The most wonderful time of the year’. In fact, the thought of another Christmas without a ‘longed for’ child or ‘the family we’d always imagined’ can be extremely triggering and fill you with anxiety. Enveloped in loss and grief for the ‘Christmas you thought you would always have’ – how do you survive the day, the expectations and dealing with family members?
The dread of Christmas
If you’ve agreed to attend the family festivities, you may already be dreading the “When are you planning to have children, dear?” question. And, if you’ve been more open about your journey, your stomach may already by churning at the thought of family members looking at you with pity – as you say “it’s still not happened.”
So how do you begin to answer? How do you start to explain this ‘all-consuming’ process is taking over your life and you’re not sure how much longer you can keep going? That you feel like a failure, alone and ashamed…
More often than not we simply smile and put on our ‘brave face’ mask - pretending that it’s ok when in fact we are slowly dying inside and want to breakdown. It sometimes feels like living two lives. One is where you pretend that everything is alright, and the other is where your heart silently screams in pain.
So how can you prepare and respond?
Before you head out for Christmas lunch or your relatives descend on you, take a little time to think about how you’d like to respond to any potentially difficult questions during the day:
- It’s useful to have some responses to these sorts of questions already thought out and prepared – particularly if you have a difficult or nosey family member. Pre-empting these questions is a useful way of protecting yourself and emotions.
- Be brave enough to change the subject to something more light-hearted or simply say it’s not something you wish to talk about.
- Set yourself healthy, personal boundaries for the day – decide what you’re happy to talk about, what a non-negotiable.
- Talk about your feelings, anxieties and fears for the day – if possible be honest with your partner about how you’re feeling about the festive period and agree on a sign when you both feel ready to leave.
- Do whatever feels right. If you’re really not feeling up to it – don’t put yourself in a potentially vulnerable position. If you really don’t want to go – make your excuses and don’t go!
- Practice self-care. Indulging yourself and having an ‘adults only’ Christmas is absolutely fine. Whilst it may not be the Christmas you had always imagined – it can be a beautiful opportunity to create your own traditions or simply do something completely different.
There is no getting away from it - family, children and motherhood are all around us. And whilst it can feel extra intense at this time of year, it is possible to find joy by practicing gratitude for the things and opportunities we have in our lives. It may not be how we imagined ‘just yet’ but know these feeling will pass.
Ultimately, it’s about doing whatever feels best for you - and your partner. In a world full of potential grief triggers every single day, from social media, pictures of Christmas school performances and Christmas adverts, we have to navigate our difficult feelings in order to protect ourselves. It’s not selfish but ‘necessary’ to say no to things that you know you’re going to find heart-breaking until you feel strong enough.
Wishing you a peaceful Christmas x