Every year, my family starts asking each other what we want for Christmas in November.
I usually look forward to this time of year, but this year I want to hide away in a hole until it is over.
What do I want for Christmas? Hmm…maybe not to be infertile?
Lately I have been feeling like I am sitting in Oprah’s audience for her holiday special hearing her announcing gifts: “You get a baby, and you get a baby, and you get a baby,” only to realize I wasn’t in the live recording that day so no, I do not get a baby.
You see, just in the last month, three people have told me they are pregnant and three of my friends have had children. Let’s not even get into counting how many it’s been this whole past year. For myself, and many women who are childless not by choice, every time I hear a pregnancy announcement or see a birth announcement I am triggered into feelings of sadness, anxiety, envy, and bitterness. None of these feelings are directed to the moms or moms-to-be. They are directed to myself and the universe at large.
With the holidays quickly approaching, I already feel myself getting anxious about family gatherings, hearing discussions about children, and seeing the typical “happy” family holiday commercials and movies all over TV.
So what can we do to survive this holiday season if we are childless not by choice?
1. Put yourself first. This means listening to yourself and how you feel. Taking space as needed from anything that is causing you anxiety, depression, feelings of envy, shame, or self-doubt. Say no to anything you are already dreading that is coming up. If you want to skip the holidays this year, go for it. You have been in a war with being childless not by choice and there is no rule book saying you must show up at a holiday dinner.
2. Get your support team ready. Book your therapy appointments, let your close loved ones know what you are going through, and let them know how they can help you; it could also be beneficial to join a childless not by choice support group. Schedule all your preferred self-care activities early so you don’t have to think about planning them as we get deeper into the holiday season.
3. Have an emergency exit plan readily available. Maybe you can’t get out of going to some holiday social events. If you are going and already know you may be triggered, make sure you have an escape route ready. This could look like:
>> Creating a time you know you need to leave by and letting the hosts know ahead of time.
>> Making sure someone at the event is aware of your situation and can serve as your partner-in-crime to check on you and offer support.
>> Prepping some comfort items that are ready for you when you get home, such as your favorite dessert, movie, warm blanket, or journal.
4. Create your own traditions. Maybe this year you don’t feel like putting up your usual holiday decorations, baking your usual cookies, or buying your usual gifts. Change it up. Do what fills you up, gives you some joy, and makes you smile. Create new traditions with yourself or your partner. Maybe ask your family to try something new as well.
5. Practice self-compassion. Going through infertility and having failed treatments and losses can create an inner dialogue with yourself that is filled with negative thoughts, negative self-talk, and beating oneself up. Try to practice being compassionate to yourself. Practice saying kind things, noticing when you are in a negative thought spiral, and interrupting it with positive affirmations and self-talk. While it’s important to feel your bad feelings and sit with them, it’s just as important to talk kindly to yourself and treat yourself as you would your best friend. For some ideas on self-compassion exercises try these from Dr. Kristin Neff.
While these ideas won’t take away our pain and grief about our situations, I am hopeful they can help to ease it just a tiny bit this holiday season. I am with you on this path and sending you strength, love, support, and the power to get through it.