For me, the sting of being childless and struggling with infertility and endometriosis hits the hardest during the holiday season. I’ve always envisioned experiencing the wonder and magic of the holidays with my own children. From dancing snowmen, reindeer that fly and a jolly old man in a red suit that delivers presents to good little girls and boys. There’s just so much that’s so much more fun when you have a little one to share it with. I thought that by now my husband and I would have little ones to share this wonder with. That we would be busy creating new holiday traditions of our own. But, it’s not meant to be for us, at least right now. And, it’s so easy to let this become an area of grief and disappointment during this time of year.
This is especially true when you have to deal with family and friends that pry and ask a lot of questions. Or the triggers unrelated to social situations and family that remind you of what you’re missing. Nevertheless, finding ways to navigate the holidays childless and maintain peace and happiness can be done. So, if you’re like me and struggling with infertility as well as married and childless during this holiday season this blog is for you.
Establish Boundaries with Your Spouse in Advance
The best defense is a solid offense. Discuss with your spouse in advance how much you want to share about your infertility journey. Are there specific people you want to share this information with as opposed to others? Also, knowing when and where to share this information can eliminate awkward conversations. For instance, it’s probably not a good idea to try and pull someone aside and share information at the big family dinner. This can lead to someone feeling left out. Or, someone that you’re not intending to discuss your infertility journey with may overhear and interject into the conversation. Instead, try to have a phone conversation or meet beforehand so you can have a proper conversation without distractions.
Once you have these boundaries set don’t be scared to enforce them. If someone is crossing that boundary you can just tell them “No, I’m not going to discuss that. Let’s talk about something else.” And, if they can’t take the hint have an escape plan, whether it’s excusing yourself and walking away or becoming more firm with your no. The important thing to remember is that your journey with being childless is between you and your partner only. It’s up to you and your spouse to decide who, when and how much you share. If you choose to do so it should be on YOUR terms. Furthermore, if you’re not comfortable opening up about it guess what, you DON’T have to. No one is entitled to the private and intimate details of your life. Not even family.
Handling Uncomfortable Social Situations Like A Boss
Another benefit of knowing your boundaries is it gives you some insight into how to handle awkward and uncomfortable social situations. These situations mostly arise when you’re dealing with people that may not be familiar with your infertility struggles. Or, it could be that they’re insensitive regarding your situation. Knowing how to quickly nip these interactions in the bud will help ease tense conversations.
Situations with Co-Workers, Acquaintances, and New Friends
Chances are that these people don’t have a deep and close relationship with you. So, they most likely have no idea about your infertility struggles. It could be that they are just curious as to why you’re childless and begin asking the usual generic questions. If this is the case, you have two options. One, you can provide very basic, simple answers and progress the conversation to another topic. Or, you can just let them know upfront that you struggle with infertility and you don’t want to go into detail about it and change the conversation. Your response will most likely depend on how close you are with the person as well as how you feel currently. Sometimes you just want to go out and have a normal time without having to explain or discuss your reproductive organs and fertility issues with everyone. And, no, that’s not too much to ask for.
Close Friends and Family
Sometimes the people that hurt and offend us the most are our family and close friends. I don’t believe for one second it’s intentional (in the majority of cases), but it still hurts. I’ve mentioned this before on my Instagram but family and close friends really do come from a place of love and wanting to help. Unfortunately, since they aren’t properly qualified and usually don’t know the full story; their idea of helping is to offer unsolicited advice, backward opinions, and strange recommendations. Letting them know politely, yet firmly, that you love them and appreciate how much they care and want to help, but they can’t. Educate them on how they can best help you by being supportive and loving minus the advice, opinions, and recommendations.
Handling Holiday Triggers
Questions and awkward conversations with family, friends, and acquaintances aren’t the only triggers for childless couples. More often than not, it’s the holiday traditions that those with children take for granted. Like, tree decorating, baking Christmas cookies, going to see the holiday lights in the city, sharing the joy of the holiday season with a child. These are the things that can be the most hurtful. I can’t even begin to explain what that emptiness and longing feels like. And, the more you allow yourself to wallow in these feelings the worse they become and can make the holidays a living hell. There are five things I’ve found to be helpful at handling these childless holiday blues.
Create New Traditions Right Now
For starters, realize that you don’t need to “wait” to have a child in order to create new holiday traditions. I never thought about it but my hubby and two dogs are my family. Indeed, it’s a small little family but it’s still a family. Being appreciative of the little family unit that I do have and finding ways to create fun meaningful traditions with them right now helps increase my holiday spirit. And, adapting this mindset to your idea about what a family is can be helpful in encouraging you to celebrate the family you have right now.
Deal with Negative Emotions as They Come Up
I still get frustrated that it’s yet another year that I’m childless. I still get upset that I’m not pregnant, and I’m not even close to being pregnant. I still yearn to be a mother and for the opportunity to pour into the life of a tiny human. I desire to be apart of that process and that bond so bad. And, seeing so many pregnancy announcements, new moms, and families feels like a knife to the heart. But, I’ve discovered that when I deal with these emotions right away it helps me and doesn’t allow them to fester. Some of the ways that I deal with these emotions include talking to my spouse about my feelings, crying, journaling, and praying. The more I’m honest with myself and my spouse about what I’m feeling the easier it is for me to handle and let it go. And, I’d advise you to do the same. Don’t try to stuff all these feelings in or hide them. Deal with them. Because that’s the only way you’re going to be able to heal from them and get peace.
I’m a big believer in spreading love, cheer, and good tidings during the Christmas season. I mean that’s what it’s all about. I love pouring into other people and helping those in need. I believe this is one of the biggest reasons why I want to be a mom is so I can help mentor and love on someone. And, it’s possible you feel something similar as well. Nevertheless, not having children shouldn’t prevent me or you from being able to do this. There are so many non-profit organizations, families, and people that are in need. All this love that we have in our heart, and the desire to pour into someone else can be accomplished by volunteering. Whether it’s spending some time helping out at a homeless shelter, participating in a toy drive, or adopting a family in need. I guarantee you will feel less empty when you fulfill the needs of someone who’s down and out. Matter of fact I can’t think of any greater feeling.
Prepare for the New Year
A startling truth that I’ve discovered as an adult is that December flys by. You blink once and it’s already a new year. And, I swear I’m never prepared. Hence, why taking the time during the holiday season to get ready for the new year is helpful. Whether you’re a fan of New Year’s resolutions, or you just want to get your house organized and decluttered. Setting aside time to prepare for the new year mentally, emotionally and within your environment is a great way to shake the holiday blues.
Take the Time to Travel
I’m going, to be honest, I haven’t taken this piece of advice yet. But, it’s for sure at the top of my list of things to do. Especially, before my husband and I have children. But it’s a dream of ours to experience the holidays in someplace different. Can you imagine waking up on Christmas morning in a dazzling snowy wonderland in Norway? Or walking the streets of London on New Year’s Eve? Or maybe a tropical holiday spent in Bora Bora or Hawaii? I bet it’s an absolutely magical feeling. If the very thought of spending the idea with family is causing you to have a level 10 panic attack maybe this year it’s ok to prioritize your mental and emotional health and escape from it all. Enjoy some quality time with your spouse and experience a new side of Christmas that you’ve never thought to experience before.
Choose The Traditions You Can Handle
Confession: I prefer a low-key holiday with just myself, my husband and two dogs. I don’t like spending the holidays with my family (sorry I love you!). It’s not for any negative reasons my family is great. They’re fantastic people and I love them from the bottom of my heart. I just prefer quiet holidays with my husband. And, I want to enjoy this quality time together while we’re childless. I know that spending holidays with my semi-large family will be a lot for me. And, it usually triggers me to feel more empty over being childless and not being able to start my own traditions the way I’d like. If I’m being honest I know that I’m pretty sensitive during this time of year. Couple my extra sensitivity with me being an introverted homebody it’s just not a good idea for me to try and make a big family holiday a thing for me. What always works best for me is a cozy, intimate Christmas holiday with my husband and dogs. It’s low key and doesn’t trigger any negative emotions.
In your case, this will require some honest self-reflection. If there are specific events that you can’t handle or find triggering. Omit them. Don’t feel as though you need to do all of the holiday things if they bring you down. For instance, if you prefer to have a low-key holiday that’s okay. Does putting up a Christmas tree and decorations just not feel right to you? Then don’t. And, most importantly if going home for the holidays is too much for you right now don’t do it. Stay home and spend some quality time with your spouse. No need to feel guilty about it. Maybe you can visit with family before Christmas or after the holidays sometime in the New Year. Whatever you decide just do what feels right for you.
Being childless and dealing with infertility during the holiday season is stressful. And, there have been many holiday seasons that it became too much for me. On the off chance that maybe you’re struggling right now, I want you to know that you’re not alone. There are so many others that are going through exactly what you are going through. I’m one of them. I’ve been there and I get it. That’s why I’m telling you it’s important that you seek the support that you need. From your spouse, a therapist, or a support group with others that are going through what you’re going through. There’s no need for you to go through this alone. You don’t have to carry the burden and the pain of infertility and going through the holidays childless by yourself. Don’t hide and isolate yourself. Prioritize your mental and emotional health. Do the things that you need to do to heal and get to a good place. And, don’t be ashamed. The journey through infertility is not an easy one at all. Sometimes you reach your breaking point and need someone to turn to when the storm reaches its peak. Your feelings are valid. Just don’t go it alone.
This Too Shall Pass
Keep in mind that the holiday season will be over with soon. Yet, I hope that knowing you and your spouse are in control of your infertility story this holiday season will empower you. Whether, you’re empowered to take time for yourself this holiday season, create new traditions, or let people into your journey. The choice is yours, no one else’s. Regardless if someone guilts you, or feels as though they are entitled to you, your story or your time. You have the last say. Stand firm in your truth and enforce those boundaries and take care of you this holiday season.
About the Author
Hi, my name is Kathleen but you can call me Kat. I’m a health and wellness professional turned freelance writer and content creator. My personal struggle with infertility, endometriosis and ovarian cysts made me realize that there just isn’t enough information out there available to women to help them learn more about PCOS, endometriosis, adenomyosis, or fibroids. Basically, there’s a serious lack of information concerning a variety of women’s health topics and issues and well I got fed up. I decided to be the change and created this blog in an effort to spread awareness and advocate for women’s health issues. It has now become my passion to educate and empower women to redefine their health and be their own advocate. You can find me on YouTube and Instagram. If you take the opportunity to visit me on my other platforms don’t hesitate to leave a message, I would love to hear from you!