I underwent my first IVF cycle just before Christmas, hopeful in the joy of Christmas and the possibility of receiving good news. While I was at a New Year’s Eve party, surrounded by pregnant friends and their bright-eyed toddlers, that cycle failed. I was devastated.
If you’re in the midst of struggling with infertility, the holidays can be a difficult time, especially if you’ve been trying to conceive for a long time or have miscarried.
You may be gearing up for holiday celebrations with friends or family members who have children, and this can remind you of the life you long for. Your heart may be breaking and you may feel worn out. It’s easy to be flooded with gloomy thoughts when you desperately want a baby and can’t get pregnant. Here are five suggestions for helping you to cope with infertility during the holidays.
The power of positive thinking
Have you ever stopped to consider the power of your thoughts? Is your inner voice constructive and positive or do you tend to spiral down the path of despair and gloom? It takes a conscious act of restructuring your thought process to replace constant negativity —I’ll never have a baby, this cycle probably won’t work either, my body is a failing me— with positive thoughts that allow you to acknowledge the good in your life. Your negative thoughts are often learned behavior, perhaps from beliefs that you carry from your childhood. For example, “I’m not good enough” is a common negative thought—a habit of thinking. Practice recognizing these negative loops and replace them with honest, positive thoughts. This small act can create such a change in your outlook!
Don’t let infertility define you
Connecting to your inner joy can help you restructure your thoughts and self-beliefs. What brings you deep joy, what makes your spirit leap and causes you to feel wholly connected to the world? Who are you? This may be a difficult question to answer, either because you never thought about it or infertility overshadows part of your identity. If you feel like you’re in the infertility trenches you need to quench your soul. Are you a gardener, a baker or an artist? What are your talents? Create time during the holidays to reconnect to activities that will uplift you and remind you of your greater identity.
Plan your answer to difficult questions
It’s a challenge at times to prevent infertility from defining you. Perhaps it’s a secret between you and your partner alone. During the holidays, in gatherings of extended family, it seems inevitable that some well-meaning relative will ask you, “so, when are you having kids?” It’s a painful question that takes you aback. Discuss with your partner an answer to have on hand so that the question doesn’t catch you by surprise.
Infertility support groups
While you and your partner may provide support for one another, sometimes it’s helpful to reach out to others to support you through infertility. The holidays can be a lonely time if you have experienced loss —TV shows and holiday cards depict happy families, there are parties and family dinners. I encourage you to explore infertility support groups in your area. Resolve is a nationwide organization with support groups for a variety of issues including adoption, pregnancy after loss and donor egg support to name a few. Joining a support group can help to decrease your stress and prevent you from feeling isolated.
Finally, giving of yourself this holiday season —volunteering at a shelter, going caroling at a nursing home or sending holiday cards to military overseas—will help to connect you to community and fill you with joy. The act of giving will help you to focus beyond your own problems. Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”