Surviving and Thriving This Christmas
Think & Share, December 2009
Oh, how dreaded the holidays can be when you are dealing with infertility! As extended families gather, someone else will be pregnant, questions about your family building will be inevitable, and traditions that are usually focused on and generated because of children will seem to be a part of every celebration. The holidays are about family, and the traditional family (the ones you see in advertisements, the ones you see at the stores, and the ones you will see on Christmas Day as you gather with extended family) seems to include children. It is just plain difficult to be a part of a world where you feel you don’t belong. Along with Christmas trees, egg nog, and carolers come twinges of heartache.
There are many articles, books, and websites which have focused their energies providing ideas about how to survive the holidays. I even recently saw an online course devoted to ways to cope with the stress of the holidays and infertility. It is a HOT topic!!
I asked to hear about why you think the holidays are so difficult AND I asked for specific suggestions for finding joy, excitement, and a place in Christmas celebrations this year. Here is what some members of our community have been thinking about this topic–what great insights and ideas. Thanks for sharing!!
Unopened Christmas Cards. Every holiday season I find myself dreading the Christmas cards. As much as I love to hear about my friends and to keep in touch, the photos of families remind me that I am “behind,” that my friends are having multiple children while I am so grateful to have one child. For me the solution has two parts. Sometimes I just have to leave the Christmas cards unopened until I feel like I can be happy for my friends instead of covetous. With our busy schedules during the holiday season, I’m not always in the best emotional state to do that. So sometimes I wait until after Christmas, when everything has settled down. I’ve also discovered over and over that when I look to help someone else, I worry less about myself. Christmas is a wonderful time to think of others and to find ways to serve them, whether it’s by making candy and delivering it or participating in a Sub for Santa program or a similar program. Now that I finally have my baby, I love telling her the Christmas story and remembering that we celebrate Christ’s birth because He atoned for us (Alma 7:11-12). Because Christ suffered for me and can succor me, I know that with His help, I can be healed of my hurt and be happy for my friends and their families. And that hope in His healing is what most helps me during Christmas.
A Work in Progress. Christmas is still a work in progress for me. I think as the years go by, I will hopefully learn more ways to cope and deal with the sadness and depression that comes every year for me. Here are some of the things that I have found have helped me.
Focus on the real reason for the celebration. Of course we all know what this means, the birth of the Savior. I try to find any way to bring the focus back on to Him. 3 years ago I took some little boxes and made “gifts” that we hang on the tree. One of them says Wish and the other says Gift. Every December we write a new Wish for the New Year, and a Gift we are going to give the Savior next year. We then write the year on it, punch a hole in it, and tie a piece of tinsel through the hole. Then the next year we open them to do it again, and read the last year’s Wish and Gift. It’s a good way for me to evaluate how I did in the year and what I need to work on next year.
Find joy in being with Family. This one is hard for me at times. My family is still growing, so at times it’s hard not to see my child under the Christmas tree opening a gift. But I really try, at least for Christmas Day, to shelf my infertility status and let myself have a day of just joy. I try to forget being childless and sad, and give myself a break.
Make it romantic and special for you and your husband. We usually try to make it special for each other by having a glass of sparkling cider and having a quiet evening. Some hotels/inns offer specials that day because of how slow they are, so even a little get-away that evening might be fun.
Don’t push away emotion. This is something I am trying to learn myself throughout the whole year. I have trained myself to not to cry. I have learned how to turn off the waterworks when they come pushing through, and it’s so unhealthy. If you are having a sad day give yourself time to cry. Then dust yourself off and move on.
Be excited about the New Year. Think of it as a fresh start, a new year full of wonderful memories and new opportunities. Let yourself dream about things you would like to see happen in the New Year. Think of stuff not related to infertility, but things like a vacation, your anniversary, family times. It helps me to be excited about the future.
Send out Christmas cards and celebrate being a family. This is my personal preference, but we just send one of those photo cards out. We don’t send a letter with it, because honestly I can’t stand those letters. All the ones I have read sound like people bragging, and I’m just not like that. I sent one out one or two years and I hated the way it made me feel. Include your pets in your picture, if you have any. I consider them to be family.
A Different Plan. In response to the topic this month, at first, the holidays are hard but my husband and I have found peace with the extended family coming over and sharing the kids. The only thing I think I miss is the absence of Santa Claus coming Christmas morning. That is one thing growing up I was very excited too have the opportunity to play, but, as I have told people in the past, my husband and I have come to the conclusion that the Lord must have a better plan for us. One thing that we do every year is have the opportunity to buy gifts for our nieces and nephews. We have also been blessed to have been asked to be Godparents to our friend’s daughters and we were very happy to accept (that was three almost four years ago). So, having all that really helps with the holidays. We also put our trust and love in the Lord and continuously ask for his guidance for the plan that He has for us. Merry Christmas to everyone!