Holidays are a marker in time that so many of us trying to conceive use. Saying things like, this time next year I will be… Fill in the blank… (pregnant, about to be due, have an infant, etc). For many of us, we find ourselves not where we thought we would be. We find ourselves saying, I thought I would be pregnant but instead I am…. Again, fill in the blank… (Recovering from a miscarriage, giving myself injections, waiting to hear from the embryologist, grieving another failed cycle).
It’s a great paradox, reflecting back on last holiday season, it can feel like we were just here, full of hope and excitement for the year to come, and also like it has been the longest 12 months. How can so much (injections, appointments, blood labs, procedures, repeat) have happened, and at the same time have nothing to show for it?! Only left to wonder, when is it my turn? Will I be here again in 365 days? Or will I finally have my baby?
Babies dressed in little holiday onesies, toddlers unwrapping presents, pregnant momma’s bellies wrapped in bows…. The holidays are filled with joy of new life, growing families, and just pure baby adorable-ness! It’s a time to reconnect with old friends and family and meet everyone’s new family members. This once seemingly innocent and only joyous encounter can elicit a different emotion for those struggling with conception. It is entirely possible to feel elated for the joy of family and friends, while simultaneously experiencing immense sadness and feeling cheated by life for yourself. You CAN feel both at the same time. One does not take away from the other. Theodore Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy”, and while that may be true, it can become an automatic response we have no control over.
So what can we do? What advice do I have? I am currently in the throws of an IVF cycle after suffering 4 miscarriages this year. One of my due dates was over the holidays. I will be carrying injections on the plane, I will be bringing pills and and an ice pack for my suppositories. I’m not on the other side. I’m in the thick of it. I’m in the weeds.
I am heading to visit family and meet 4 of my closest friend’s babies who I love dearly and can not wait to snuggle and sniff in their new baby scent! While knowing that I will be 110% in love with each of them (I am and haven’t even met them!) I know I will also feel the ache in my heart that it is not me as well. I will be fielding the question of “when are you going to have a baby” on repeat and hear more unsolicited advice than I can count (telling me to relax more and offering me your eggs?! are not helpful!).
I share this because I am no expert. But if you resonate with any of this, you are not alone. If you are struggling with fertility issues as well, I’m there with you. I am with you, sister, and so are millions others.
1. Permission – I have permission to take care of me. I have permission to put me first. If that means leaving early, see ya! If that means putting in headphones and walking around the block, turn up the volume! If that means taking myself out for a drink by myself, cheers!
2. Prepare – It sucks, and I wish I didn’t have to, but to protect myself from being caught off guard I will be prepared to answer questions I don’t want to answer. Remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation, ever, if you don’t want to! Here are some of my go to phrases, feel free to borrow!
• “When are you having a baby?”
• It’s a personal question that I’d rather not talk about it.
• Not sure, how’s your brother/job/new house? (deflect, deflect, deflect)
• It’s not an easy process for everyone and everyone’s journey looks different.
• “How’s all the fertility treatment going? Where are you in your process?”
• Thank you for asking but I’m not ready to share right now.
• You know, it’s really tough, but we’re strong and will get through it.
• When we have good news to share, you will be sure to hear it.
• “Why aren’t you drinking?” (this not only works if you are pregnant but also works if you are in the “TWW” or Two Week Wait, choosing to not drink due to meds, etc.)
• I don’t feel like it.
• I’m not feeling well.
• I’d rather have extra dessert than a glass of wine.
3. Boundaries – While I don’t know the future, it can help to anticipate times that will be particularly tough, and set boundaries. For example, if you know that your Aunt Sue always asks you about having kids, you can recruit your partner to intervene anytime she or he sees Aunt Sue walking your way! If you know that being around babies will be tough, you can plan something right before or after so that there is a specific time to see them and you have an out if it gets too tough.
4. People – Who are your people who get you? Who make you feel less alone? I am so lucky to have a great support system and give myself permission to rely on them, and them to rely on me when things are hard (and when things are great)!
5. Kindness – I will be kind to myself. I will be as kind to myself as I would be to my best friend, my mom, my sister. All of my feelings are valid. It’s ok if the holidays don’t feel like they used to. It’s okay if they are hard. It’s okay if I have to take a break to cry. It’s okay if I don’t. It’s okay if I share nothing. It’s okay if I share everything. It’s okay to take breaks. It’s okay if fertility is all I think about. It’s okay if I don’t think about it at all. It’s okay to take care of me.
Struggling with fertility issues is never easy. Be kind to yourself. I know you may feel alone, I know you may feel sad, but you are not alone, sister. Your feelings matter and are valid, whatever they are. Take care of yourself. That’s the greatest gift you can give yourself this season.