A few ideas for navigating the season of joy (and stress) when everyone knows you don’t have a baby yet.
Trying to conceive is not always a bottle of wine and a bouquet of roses. For some, the process can be arduous and emotional. As supportive as family and friends are trying to be, their well-intentioned comments and persistent questions can add to the stress of the situation. And holidays often add even more pressure when you’re spending extra time with those same family and friends who, in their joyful and cheery holiday spirit, can’t help but remind you of what you don’t yet have.
Know that big emotions around the holidays are normal, and that there are a few strategies you might employ to sidestep Aunt Sarah’s there, there pat on the back while making sure you’re finding the support you need through the season.
Take Time for You and Your Partner
During the holiday season, we can get caught in the bustle of buying gifts, baking treats, and hosting or attending gatherings. Throughout this process, your ultimate supporter and co-adventurer is still and always your partner, so make sure to prioritize time with just them. You might schedule in a date night or a night to sit on the couch together once a week.
A 2013 study found that the men in couples experiencing infertility felt more stress when they had lower support from their partners. While family and social support is instrumental in maintaining your emotional wellbeing, partner support is also very important and can sometimes fall by the wayside.
Know that some of this dedicated partner time may be needed for space to vent and express frustrations of the season, or to grieve the losses and not-yets you have experienced together. This may also be time to build or continue holiday traditions you want as a couple. Enjoy this time for what it is while acknowledging the feelings you have around what it isn’t.
Pick an Answer
Everyone asks. How’s it going with the, you know, trying to conceive? Instead of dreading the question, you might choose ahead of time how you want to address it.
You might have different levels of answers or pre-formed statements, one for people you’ve confided more in and one for people who only know the basics of your situation. Maybe you want to talk about where you are in the process, or maybe you want to kindly deflect their interest. It’s up to you what you want to say, but having something ready and not feeling put on the spot can ease some of the anxiety and stress of being at social events.
Lean on Your Top Supporters
Whoever your go-to person is for a quick rescue text or an escape for tea or a walk, let them know that the holidays might be harder for you and you appreciate all their support. Experts agree that social support positively impacts stress around health issues, including infertility. In a 2015 study, researchers found that directly disclosing information around infertility resulted in better support from the network a woman chose to share that information with. This means that instead of giving bits and pieces of information to your chosen supporters, or allowing someone else to give them the latest news about your situation, it is beneficial for you to share the majority of the information directly and openly to people you choose for your support. That way, with your friend or family supporters having such a good understanding, you will probably feel better supported by them later.
Consider Talking with a Counselor
There’s a reason experts recommend talking with a counselor when you’re feeling out of sorts, or even as a preventative measure during a season that’s known to be challenging. Studies show that psychotherapy is effective in treating and helping to prevent depression. Especially if you begin to feel reclusive or continually upset or downtrodden, talking with a professional can help offer the lift you might need to feel like you can navigate challenges (whether seasonal or long-term) with adequate support.
If you need help getting through the holidays, a psychologist with experience in infertility and pregnancy loss can help. Call Dr.Irena at (281)-267-1742 for a free 10 min phone consultation.
Dr. Irena offers online therapy for women and couples in Texas and New York City. She uses research-proven method, known as Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) to help couples develop and maintain the emotional connection and support each other through stressful times. She has helped highly distressed couples be available and responsive to each other, access their resiliency, and strengthen their relationships.
If you would like to schedule a session, email Dr. Irena for a free 10-minute video consultation: [email protected] or call (281)-267-1742.