The isolating and painful experience of infertility can turn Christmas into a time of sadness. The season itself is founded on the celebration of a special birth in history. It is traditionally a time focused on families and children. For infertile people, it becomes yet another reminder of the longing for child, or of a child lost.
For many, it is the thought of facing all the relatives that makes Christmas so trying. How can you best handle the people with all the intrusive questions and the ones with all the children around them? Who needs to know of your difficulties in conceiving? Who will give you appropriate support? How do you say it anyway?
Some people tell no one, others carefully select some close friends and relatives who they trust, and yet others tell almost anyone who is interested. When (or if) you do decide to tell others, it helps to be clear about what support you would like them to give you. You may prefer to be the one who makes the contact when you feel in need of support, rather than cope with well-meaning concern from others at a time that is not right for you.
- See your parents and other family members a week or two beforehand so they know you care about them. This will leave you free to spend the day quietly.
- Decide which events you feel comfortable attending and which you would rather avoid, especially the ones at which you know there will be a lot of children or pregnant women. Remember that you don’t have to accept every invitation.
- If people know what you are experiencing, it may help to explain that you find this time of year difficult so that they understand why you may not want to participate fully.
- Spend some time with others who also don’t have children.
- Set up another time over the festive season that you can enjoy and perhaps to which only adults are invited.
- Attend a late Christmas Eve church service rather than the family service on Christmas Day.
- Spend time with your partner, sharing how it feels for you both at this time. Allow yourself to acknowledge the sadness, emptiness and loss that you experience with infertility. Recognise the hurdles that you have overcome together.
Choose not to:
- Forget that you need each other, especially during these difficult days.
- Pretend that there is nothing wrong and carry on with ‘business as usual’.
- Be caught off guard by unexpected or embarrassing questions about your plans for having a family
- Feel that you have to disclose all the intimate details of your situation.
- Expect others to understand your pain. Refer to it briefly and ask that they support you by respecting your choices.
- Shop at large shopping centres with Santa’s and hordes of excited children. Try smaller shops and mail-order catalogues if you find it difficult to face the constant holiday cheer.
- Feel guilty about not participating in all the traditional family celebrations.
- Deprive yourselves of all chance of having fun.
For families and friends
- Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and other family-centred celebrations can be difficult times for couples experiencing infertility. Holidays may be painful reminders of their desire to start/add a child to their family and the ‘fertility’ success of others. Birthdays can be another difficult day as not only do they remind you of your own birth but also being unable to celebrate a child’s birthday. Your understanding and support will be appreciated by your family member or friend.
- Your friend or family member may prefer to spend Christmas or other special days alone. Don’t feel rejected. Let them know that you would like to see them, but will understand if they do not feel able to attend. They love you and don’t want to spoil your celebrations with their sadness.
- Don’t feel that you need to ‘fix’ things for them. You can’t. The pain of infertility will not magically disappear. Just being there when they ask you, will be comforting
- Allow them to be sad and upset when they need to be.
- A card letting them know you are thinking of them may be appropriate.
- Acknowledge privately that this is a difficult time. Don’t pretend that nothing is wrong.
With thanks to ‘Fertility New Zealand’ for their tried and trusted holiday support.