It’s Thanksgiving Week! I hope you are looking forward to a little break from work, great food, good drinks and loving company. But what if you’re not… exactly? It is possible to look forward to spending time with family and friends and dread it at the same time. If you’ve recently experienced a miscarriage or pregnancy loss, ended a very much wanted pregnancy, or are having difficulty conceiving, the holidays can sometimes have a way of sparking loneliness, sadness and longing, despite our best efforts.
It can be painful to spend time among families with babies or to hear all about an old friend or family member’s pregnancy or birth. And I know just how much you’re looking forward to getting the influx of holiday cards with pregnancy announcements or all those new, tiny humans’ faces looking back at you from the inside of a stocking or gift box under the Christmas tree.
Among the worst of triggers is the inevitable question from a well-meaning family member or old friend, “when are you going to have kids?” or “when are you guys going to have number two!?” The thing is, those who have been out of the fertility game for years or whose journey was different than yours often do not realize how painful these simple questions can be - or how complex the truth really is.
So how do you get through the holidays without drinking a bottle of wine and crying yourself to sleep at night? There are some tools to get you through:
1. PREPARE. People will ask. The cards will come. It’s inevitable and uncontrollable. What you can control is knowing these things are coming your way and deciding ahead of time how you’re going to deal with them, mentally and emotionally.
2. BE COMPASSIONATE WITH YOURSELF. Is it painful? Yes. Do you wish things were different? Wholeheartedly. And the best you can do is talk to and treat yourself as you would anyone else who was experiencing what you are. Do not beat yourself up. For every negative thought you have, make sure to think another one of love and acceptance towards yourself.
3. TRY NOT TO COMPARE. Comparing your journey to someone else’s is the kiss of death. Notice when you find yourself comparing and distract your thoughts with again, self compassion. Remind yourself that you deserve happiness just as much as anyone else, and while your path may be different, you will get there.
As the questions about your intent to have a baby come, you essentially have three options as to how to answer. Options being the keyword here. You are in control of and can choose how you want to react, what you want to share, and who you want to share with. You can either be honest, lie, or throw a bit of a curve ball. Let’s explore these options:
1. BE HONEST. This can take on whatever form you are comfortable with but you do have the option to share your truth, to whatever extent you want. You can explain that you’ve actually recently experienced a loss or that you are in fact trying IVF. Often times when this information is shared, you learn more about the person that you’re sharing with than you would expect. Fertility issues are so incredibly common that it only takes one person to open up to get others to share what they’ve been through. You could be that person. Also, it can feel good to be open about such a big part of your life and not feel like you have to “fake it.”
2. LIE. Yes, here is permission to lie - but there are stipulations. You don’t have to share anything at all. You can easily dodge the conversation with the wave of a hand, say “we’re not ready yet,” and ask a question of the person you’re speaking with that will turn the topic on to them. If you choose to keep your journey personal, that is your right and completely understandable. But - do it because it is your right and it is personal, and not because you feel embarrassed, are disappointed in yourself or where you’re at, or are worried others will be uncomfortable. Here is where the self compassion comes in again. You are doing the very best you can every day. You are stronger than you know. This is your story to own. How others feel about it is their business. What matters is doing and saying what will help you.
3. “WHEN (Life/God/the Universe) FEELS WE ARE READY.” (Use whatever higher power speaks to you.)
It’s out there, right? Hear me out. It’s deep enough to end the conversation with those who can’t understand it, and yet for those who can understand it, it says everything. In one sentence, it sums up that you do want a baby. In fact, if you had complete control you’d have one in your arms right now, but it isn’t nearly that simple.
I’ve actually tried this one a few times and I can attest that it does either shut down the conversation, or elicit a knowing and compassionate nod. In that case, either not much else needs to be said or it leads to support and inspiration from some of the people you’d least expect.
In the end, your journey is an incredibly personal one and you must do what you are most comfortable with. However you prepare and decide to handle these tricky interactions - make sure that, above all else, it feels right for you and that you make your choice and go forward with confidence.