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7 Tips on Holiday Survival for the Infertile

By Tracey Minella

December 1st, 2017 at 6:17 am

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How will we make it through this month?


The 2017 winter holiday season has officially kicked off with turkey day–where many a tongue was likely bitten to avoid lashing out at insensitive clods.


So, who needs to vent already?


The winter holidays bring about a whole different kind of stress. First of all, there are waaaaay too many events back-to-back that bring large groups of family (including waaaay too many kids) together for waaaaay too many hours. Depending on your holiday customs, you could be with these people up to 10 times between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Each holiday can inflict a unique pain for the infertile heart to bear.


Thanksgiving is a fun kick-off event. Really, who doesn’t love being forced to feel thankful. Some of us have suffered losses this year or had to delay treatment and may not be feeling very grateful right now. Plus, it’s hard to feel thankful when the thing you want most of all is not yet in reach…and you’re worried if it ever will be. And you may be keeping your struggle a secret from friends and family—which not only gets you no support but makes you a sitting duck during all those hours gathered around the table talking about so many things– like are you guys ever going to have a baby.


Like anyone, we tend to take the good things for granted and focus on what we don’t have. But infertility makes us focus on what we don’t have 24/7, especially if we are in a treatment cycle—so it’s easy to be down…and even bitter. And the assault of nosy questions is draining. Wishing on a wishbone gets old…and using it as a make-shift mashed potato sling-shot for a nagging relative is apparently not socially acceptable behavior. Go figure.


Speaking of wish lists…Christmas and Chanukah and the focus on children are understandably unbearable when waiting for a baby. Can I get a Bah-Humbug? Look, sometimes it’s hard to just be the aunt and uncle–especially if the rest of your overly-fertile family keeps effortlessly popping out babies. It doesn’t mean you don’t adore the little devils, it just means part of your heart is still empty, waiting for your own child to fill it. That’s normal.


New Year’s Eve and Day are also weirdly stressful. But at least you can generally be alone if you prefer to without too much protesting from family or friends. Looking back on the year is hard, especially if there have been failed cycles or painful losses to bear. Looking forward with hope—yet again– can also be hard if the journey is taking years. Like I said, it’s weird. For those who don’t want to party hardy, huge celebrations with champagne toasts may feel frivolous and fake as you battle the lure of the comfortable den couch. Don’t fight it—stay home. Reconnect. Celebrate your strength as a couple and that you made it through the dreaded holiday season. Or just go to bed early. That’s normal, too.


Do anything to protect the heart this season such as:


  • Shop online instead of in toy stores for those kids on your list. Or consider a gift that’s an experience you can share if that would make you both happy—like a concert or outing. Nothing says “I love you” like Bieber tickets.
  • Pamper yourself this season by getting rest and making time for things that you love—like a massage, facial, brunch, or a movie.
  • Buy yourself something. Who says the season of giving can’t include a gift to ourselves?
  • Keep within (and possibly reduce) your budget on gifts for others so as not to overburden yourself with debt or impact your own treatment needs. Suggest a family grab-bag if the extended family has grown faster than your wallet.
  • Consider opening up about your infertility struggle if the stress of the secret is too much. Long Island IVF’s infertility specialist, Bina Benisch, MS, RN can help.
  • Volunteer with a charity.
  • Adopt a family that can’t afford presents or drop off a toy in a Toys for Tots box. You may feel better about yourself if you help others.


And I know you love unsolicited advice, so on a personal note: Year after miserable year, I was pretty bitter and completely overlooked anything good in my life during the holidays…unable to focus on anything at all other than my infertility struggle. My mind was jam-packed with cycle info, drug inventories, numbers of follicles or embryos, hormone levels, and the ever present mental calculation of “if I get pregnant this cycle, the baby will be born in [insert month]”. There was nothing else that mattered. Nothing.


And then, against all odds, after what felt like an eternity, it finally worked out for me– as it eventually does for many. Suddenly, like flipping a switch, the pain was gone—the void was filled. But in hindsight I looked back and realized all the years I lived consumed by sadness. All those years I couldn’t get back. All those holidays I didn’t enjoy…like this year’s holidays may be for you.


So, I get it. I feel your misery and remember. I know it’s hard to fake it ‘til you make it and you shouldn’t have to do that for anybody—except yourself. So, I’m asking you for your own sake, to just try to find some part of each holiday that makes you feel good—or at least willing to get out of bed to face that day. Maybe a family tradition that brings a smile to your face, a present you’re dying to give someone, a favorite dish that will be served, a holiday movie or cookie exchange. Or do something different and make a new tradition—maybe something you plan to continue even after your journey is done.


Because as much as you may be wishing these seemingly dark days away now, you can’t get these days back. And the loved ones here today may not be well or even be here at all next year. So, try to enjoy them. Keep making memories. Snap those selfies even though your heart may not be into it. How I wish I had been better with that.


But keep that wishbone in hand. And make that wish again. Believe and hope. But also remember it makes a great slingshot.


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What are your tips for getting through the holidays?

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