Wishing for something or someone absent from your life is always a feeling that’s hard to accept. As the holidays approach, the longing may become more intense making it an especially difficult time for individuals and couples who yearn for a baby and struggle with infertility. The holidays—leading to the New Year—are seen as a marker of time, a measure of what we’ve achieved over the past year, and a time to reassess goals and dreams both internal and external.

The feeling of sadness that can come with infertility can feel bad enough without the forced merriment of the holidays. Anticipating this time can become overwhelming both emotionally and physically—even more so if you are already feeling worn down from treatment.

With each gathering attended, it’s easy to feel lost and let extreme pessimism quickly set in, leading to anger, sadness, disappointment, and, of course, envy toward those who are about to have or already have a baby or multiple children. Although quite normal, these feelings may be unbearable. You may wish for invisibility because you just can’t imagine how you’ll make it to January.

Coping with Infertility This Holiday Season
So, what can you do to better cope with infertility and the holidays?
Take control…

Taking control  does not mean you become controlling, it means that you will be the director of your activities, such as:

  1. Choose carefully the open houses and gatherings you will attend and then plan, plan, plan. For example, have a sign with your partner, spouse, or trusted friend, letting him or her know if you are in need of a time out or to be rescued from a conversation.
  2. Arrange your own transportation, allowing yourself to leave events after a short time if necessary. Depending on someone else may keep you there longer than you want to be.
  3. Plan what you may say if you are asked specific questions about having children; remember it’s your information, not every question asked requires an answer.
  4. If you find yourself becoming emotional during a gathering, try to step away—go outside, to the restroom, or to another room. If others notice, it’s ok.
  5. Traditions are wonderful, but it’s fine to depart from them when necessary. Saying no to a gathering that you’ve attended for a decade does not mean that you will never go again. If people ask questions you can say, “I can’t make it this year. I hope to come next year.” Or tell your aunt that it’s just too hard to see your cousin with her newborn when you’ve been trying so hard. Or just say whatever feels most comfortable. The decision is yours, while at the same time reactions of others belong to them and need not impact you.
  6. Plan how you will spend your time. You may want to be the one to cover the office, then reward yourself with a week off when everyone else is back to work.
  7. Do something you never have time to do.
  8. Go to a non-holiday-related event in a part of town where the parking is usually difficult. Plan to avoid the mall.
  9. Perhaps it’s the year to make donations in honor of those to whom you usually give gifts.
  10. Take care of yourself. Eating well and sleeping enough are obvious ways.
  11. Indulge in a enjoyable non-holiday-related activity that’s different, such as an activity you’ve been away from but you still enjoy.
  12. You can also join a support group or speak to a professional who understands the unique nature of your sadness.
  13. Most importantly, allow yourself to have your thoughts and feelings, they are part of you. Try to judge them less and embrace them more. If you believe that the holidays are about being generous and kind, then why not extend generosity and kindness to yourself?

If you would like to find more support for coping with infertility this holiday season or would like to learn more about our individual or couple’s psychological support services offered through Shady Grove Fertility call 301-279-9030 or sign up for a support group.

To schedule a new patient consultation at Shady Grove Fertility, please call 877-971-7755 or schedule an appointment online.

Editors Note: This post was originally published in December 2017.
Ellen Eule, LSSW-C

About the Author:
Mrs. Eule has extensive experience as a licensed and board certified Clinical Social Worker in Maryland and Washington D.C. She’s worked with individuals, couples, families, and groups in many settings including HMOs, agencies and private practice. She has a special interest in assessment, issues related to grief and loss, infertility counseling, postpartum depression, and adoption. Mrs. Eule sees patients in the Rockville and Frederick offices, as well as her office in Bethesda.