The holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy—but if you’re struggling with infertility, seeing happy families and children celebrating may bring unexpected feelings of sadness or isolation. When your own dreams of becoming a parent seem elusive, it can be difficult to attend family events, open holiday cards or even scroll past social media posts without feeling a little blue. Fortunately, there are positive ways to cope with these feelings, for a happier holiday season. Here are our Top 10 Holiday Triggers for people experiencing infertility, along with simple strategies to deal with each one.
1. Holiday Cards
Beautiful, smiling couples with cherub-faced children gathered around a Christmas tree are intended to spark joy—but if you’ve been unable to conceive, these images may remind you of the child you wish you had. To improve your mood, why not create your own holiday photo? You could get professional photos taken with your significant other or even a pet, reminding you that your family is already complete. Or, take a selfie dressed in your holiday best, or your funniest Ugly Christmas Sweater. Even better? Find a matching sweater for your pet. It’s hard to feel sad when you’re smiling.
2. Friends with Kids
Holiday gatherings can be a strong emotional trigger, especially when friends or family members bring their children. This year, with COVID-19 limiting gatherings, you may not have to worry about seeing little ones—and if you prefer to avoid these situations, it’s easier than ever to opt out. If you will be around children, one way to cope with potential sadness is to focus on the children you encounter as unique individuals, instead of reminders that you don’t have children. Look for ways to connect with these little people, and you may be surprised how rewarding it can be. Kids love attention, and are usually delighted when an adult takes time to play with them. Whether it’s a game of peek-a-boo with a baby, or an UNO game played over Zoom, spending a little time with a child might brighten your day as much as it does theirs.
3. Holiday Traditions
Photos with Santa, ice skating, or decorating gingerbread houses may seem like holiday traditions made just for families—but there’s no reason you can’t create your own holiday traditions. Schedule a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride through the snow with your significant other. Sip hot cocoa and watch a Hallmark movie. Or drive through your neighborhood looking at Christmas lights. Whatever it is that brings you joy in the holiday season, just do it—and allow yourself to enjoy the moment.
4. Social Media Posts
We’ve all seen those perfect Instagram photos of newborn babies snuggled in fur, families building snowmen, or toddlers reaching milestones. It’s normal to feel envy when witnessing someone else’s life, especially when it’s presented with such polish and flair— but if you find yourself comparing your own life to others’ social media profiles, take a moment to reflect on the reality behind these shots. Few people’s lives are as ideal as they are presented online. By all means, we should be happy for our friends—but we should also remember to take social media profiles with a grain of salt. The easiest way to ease negative feelings from social media is simply to take a break. Delete the app from your phone for a while, or limit your time to just a few minutes per day. You can also hide posts from people who “trigger” you. They’ll never know—and you’ll spare yourself some emotional turmoil.
Speaking of social media, it’s not always about what others post—your posts can trigger stress and anxiety, too. Some people enjoy using Facebook and Instagram to share details of their fertility journey, express their feelings, and read friendly comments. For others, posting too much information can invite unwanted questions and advice, doing more harm than good. Remember that it is up to you what you choose to share with others. Posting less may be wiser in the long run.
6. Nosy Questions
Are you pregnant yet? When are you having a baby? Is there something you want to tell us? Even the most well-meaning friends and family members may ask questions about your fertility that are none of their business, and can leave you feeling anxious or sad. The good news? You can answer them any way you like. It’s OK to tell a nosy questioner that you would prefer not to be asked that question again. Or, if you prefer, it’s OK to give them a vague answer, or tell them why the question bothers you. If you prepare yourself for these questions in advance, and remind yourself that the questioner probably doesn’t realize the hurtful feelings they are causing, it can be easier to deal with them.
7. Feelings of Loneliness
Many people feel alone during the Holiday season—which means, by definition, you aren’t alone at all. This year, even people with large families may feel lonely if they are unable to gather. (Or, conversely, after being in lockdown with the same people for months, they may be desperate for solitude!) If you are feeling lonely, consider joining an infertility support group. There are many such groups online, accessible through social media groups, or your local fertility center. It can be comforting to discuss your feelings with others who are facing the same challenges.
8. General Feelings of Sadness
Sometimes, you don’t need a trigger to feel sad—your feelings alone are enough. If you find yourself unable to focus on the positive, try focusing on someone else instead. This time of year, many people are suffering from loneliness, financial hardship or even hunger. Donate to a local food bank, volunteer at a food pantry, give to an animal shelter, or make virtual visits to nursing home residents. Sometimes doing something kind for someone else can make you feel better, too.
9. Thinking About the Future
If thinking about the future is causing you anxiety, it can be helpful to focus on what you can control—and create a game plan to move forward. Today, there are many options for people struggling with infertility, including adoption, in vitro fertilization, and gestational surrogacy. It’s always a good idea to talk with a fertility specialist, who can help you explore options and create a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C to realize your dreams of building a family.
Make your New Year bright.
If you’re interested in surrogacy, call Newborn Advantage to discuss options and start planning your journey. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have. Happy Holidays!