The shops are dressed in red and green; festive music fills the air; celebrations are planned and jolly Santas are in full force. Christmas is the season to be joyous and celebrate, right?
If you're dealing with infertility, you'd love to embrace Christmas and all its happiness, but frankly, it may feel like it's overwhelming and compounding your sadness.
Christmas is focussed on children and families. The event itself marks the birth of a baby. Family events and gatherings are often centered around excited children.
Perhaps this isn't the first Christmas that you've hoped to be a parent. Or maybe you'd expected to be pregnant by now. Either way, Christmas and the New Year are reminders that the year has passed and you are still trying for the baby you yearn for.
Added to this is the looming possibility of awkward questions from well-meaning family members about your plans to become a parent.
If you're going through fertility treatment, your clinic will probably close over the Christmas period, which may mean a break in your treatment. For people who already have a child and are experiencing secondary infertility, it can be heart wrenching if your child asks for a sibling for Christmas.
The season can be both trying and a time of sadness.
Put a little thought into it, though, and you may find that you can survive – and thrive – during the holiday season. Here are our tips on dealing with Christmas during infertility:
• Don't be afraid to reinvent the way that you celebrate Christmas. Perhaps you want to see your parents / significant family members beforehand, and spend Christmas Day quietly.
• Don't feel that you need to accept every invitation – you may choose to avoid events where you know there will be a lot of children or pregnant women, or perhaps go along for a short amount of time and then have an exit plan. Don't feel guilty about this!
• If those close to you know about your journey, you may like to explain that this time of year is difficult, so they understand why you may not wish to participate fully.
• Consider doing something different, like getting away from it all.
• If you have a partner, spend time together and acknowledge the feelings that each of you are experiencing; and recognise the hurdles that you've overcome together.
• If you're single, involve your key support person/people in the challenges you are likely to face over this time and how you'd like them to help you. You may like to recognise and thank them for the support that they've given you this year.
• Spend time with others who don't have children.
• Keep the Christmas tradition of over-indulgence in food, alcohol in balance.
• Be prepared for difficult questions about your plans for having a family (or another child) – have some responses in mind, and don't feel that you have to share every detail. Expect that many people will not appreciate or understand your grief. Ask that people support you by respecting your choices.
• Prioritise self-care and enjoyment. You've had a tough year and you deserve time spent on things you enjoy. Read a good book, walk down the beach, enjoy preparing a great meal, get outdoors.
Prepare in advance for Christmas, and acknowledge that some days will be difficult. Prioritise looking after yourself and just doing what you feel you can manage. Remember that a new year is just around the corner…
Nicola Bitossi is the CEO of Fertility NZ, a registered charity dedicated to providing information, support and advocacy to people experiencing fertility issues. To find out more about how they can support you, go to fertilitynz.org.nz