I distinctly remember sitting through Thanksgiving and Christmas after the loss of my third baby. The sense of hollowness. The sense of having to put on a happy face. Guilt for laughing. Guilt for not laughing. Going through the motions. Pretending to be okay. When I received this short guest post on coping with infertility during the holidays, it brought back those memories of tension, strain, and grief.
Executive Director of The Adoption Consultancy and BeyondInfertility.com Nicole Witt–remembers a personal story of “holiday coping” years ago during the festive holidays:
Early on in Nicole’s marriage, before anyone knew that she and her husband were having fertility struggles, Nicole was at a family holiday gathering. A family member started showing her pictures of a recent get-together she had had with her college girlfriends. As she showed Nicole each picture, the only information she gave to her about each woman was what children she had. Such as, “Here’s Susie. She has a 6 year old boy and a 4 year old girl.” “And here’s Jodie who’s a stay-at-home mom to her 5 year old twin girls….” It seemed to be how she defined each woman and it left Nicole wondering how this family member would define her to others. Was Nicole nothing without kids? This is just one scenario that someone may have to cope with this holiday season.
We all have that crazy cousin, drunk uncle, overly-concerned parent or blunt friend who might say or do something this holiday that will make us cringe, but here are some tips on how to cope from Nicole Witt:
- Think Ahead: Make a plan ahead of time. This can include practicing responses to probing questions that you know you’ll be asked. Or it can be a signal to your partner that it’s time to fake a sickness and leave. It can also be recruiting and educating trusted family members on how & when to redirect inappropriate dinner table conversations so that you don’t have to.
- Take “Me” Time: Step away. This was the most effective tip for me. I would just take a few minutes in the bathroom to myself for some deep breaths and refocusing. Once I had gathered myself, I would have the strength to rejoin the group, at least for a little while.
- It is OK to Say “No!”: Say ‘no’ to invitations that will be too difficult for you. It’s OK to not accept every invitation you get. Even if it’s for your family’s traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe create an urgent trip that you need to go on that week. Although it may be difficult to do, if it’s easier than attending the event, don’t hesitate.
During the holiday season this year, The Adoption Consultancy and BeyondInfertilty.com along with Nicole are inviting others to share their holiday coping stories via @AdoptConsultant and @BeyondIF with the hashtag #holidaycoping. We would love to hear from your readers this holiday season to share their stories, whether they are funny, sad, frustrating or heartwarming. Everybody needs a place to vent to an audience that truly understands.
Happy “Coping” Holidays.