When you are in the midst of infertility, the holiday season can be filled with dread instead of joyful anticipation. Because with the holiday parties and family gatherings, comes questions and comments that can be triggering.
“So, is there a little one on the way?”
“When are you planning on having kids?”
“Timmy needs a brother or sister!”
“Your biological clock is ticking…”
While these questions and comments are made with no intent to harm, being on the receiving end of them can feel like a knife to the heart. If you find yourself with having to attend a family gathering or holiday party this season (even if it is via Zoom!), it is always good to prepare yourself and brace for the different questions you may receive.
While there is no way to completely plan for everything, knowing what you might do to handle an awkward situation can calm anxiety and help you feel prepared to take on the festivities.
Know your Limits
First, you must establish with yourself and your partner if you are able to emotionally handle the party or gathering. It is important to not let your anticipated interactions keep you from partaking in the fun. Maybe you can make a plan to arrive a bit later, or leave earlier, or maybe bring a close friend if that would make things easier.
At the same time, it is okay to not have the energy for every event. Practicing self-care by skipping out on an event it okay, too. And do not feel guilty for putting your needs first!
Plan your answers
The “dodge-every-question plan” might seem like the easiest way to handle things. However, while it may seem daunting, consider explaining your situation and journey. You may be surprised to learn there are others in your family or friend group who are going through or have previously gone through something similar!
Knowing how you are going to respond can help you feel prepared for the questions. Role play scenarios with your partner or a friend. How will you answer if you are asked an uncomfortable question? Plan how much you would like to share, if anything. Rehearse and have them at the ready, just in case someone does ask.
This is also an opportunity to correct the many misconceptions people have. Those who offer advice such as, “You just need to relax,” may not realize that it is an upsetting, disheartening, and unhelpful thing to say.
Have a trusted partner or friend on standby
A partner or friend who is either going through this experience with you, or knows your situation very well, is very helpful to have at these events. Whether they are deflecting personal questions, covering for you if you need to skip out early, or just getting you another glass of wine, they can make all the difference.
Sometimes this person cannot be with you at every holiday function, so you may want to have a text or call plan in place, just in case you need to vent or cry after a triggering exchange.
Give them a break…
While some family and friend’s comments may be taken as insensitive and thoughtless, rarely is there any malicious intent. Most questions come from a place of genuine interest and even love. It may be best to answer honestly and graciously, or deflect the question altogether rather than with a harsh or response made out of anger. Escalating a comment into a conflict might cause something to happen that you regret later. The momentary satisfaction of the perfect comeback might not be worth it.
Giving others grace when they say something awkward may be a benefit to you. Again, you may be surprised to learn there are others in your family or friend group who are going through or have previously gone through something similar!
And give yourself a break, too!
Like we stated above, it is okay to turn down an invite if you know you will be confronted with one too many awkward situations or you are just not feeling up for it. But if you decide to skip out, don’t browse through social media looking for updates or photos of the event. This can induce feelings of anxiety, depression, jealously, and resentment.
Instead, turn off your phone and stream a cheesy Hallmark Christmas movie. Read that book that has been sitting on your nightstand for forever. Go on a nighttime walk to look at the Christmas lights. Or have a date night with your partner! You can look at Instagram tomorrow.
Many families this holiday season are going to be telling their friends and family about their decision to pursue embryo adoption! Or they will be making their pregnancy announcements about their first ‘snowflake’ baby! To learn if embryo donation or adoption is right for you, visit EmbryoAdoption.org.