Coping with infertility at Christmas can be tough: anyone who is struggling to conceive, going through fertility treatment or has experienced an unsuccessful treatment will know this all too well. Another year has gone past, and your family is not yet complete. Christmas is a time of year closely tied to children. Therefore, it can be a painful reminder for many couples of what they long for but still do not have. With businesses advertising Christmas earlier and earlier each year, adverts with children, toys and families, it can feel like there is no getting away from it.
It is important to recognise that these feelings are completely normal, and valid. Sadness and isolation are common emotions when dealing with infertility, but you are not alone.
You may feel like packing up and going away until January, when it’s all blown over. However, if that is not possible, there are several useful ways to prepare for the challenging few weeks ahead.
Everyone at IVI London is here for you and understands how tough the journey can be. We’ve pulled together some valuable tips to help you through the festive period.
Remember it’s okay to not be okay
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines infertility as a disease, and it is a disease with a huge emotional impact. The distress you feel is likely to be significant. The best thing you can do is be honest about how you feel. Put yourself first, speak to those around you and help them understand why you’re struggling to get into the Christmas spirit this year.
Set boundaries with family
Christmas is a time for family, so if you find comfort in being around relatives, you should embrace this and try to take strength from this period of respite. However, you are allowed to say ‘no’ if you feel unready. Be clear with your loved ones about what you can manage, and try not to feel guilty for missing a few gatherings. It’s okay to catch up with your family at different times, and there is no shame in taking a step back this year.
Prepare responses in advance
Christmas can cause family pressures at the best of times. Catching up with relatives you see once a year, listening to that uncle you’ve never really liked. But when you are struggling to conceive, those pressures are only heightened in anticipation of the subject of children. Although usually well-meant, unsolicited questions like, ‘When are you having a baby?’ can feel rude, invasive and, at worst, triggering. Preparing some responses in advance is a good idea so you can divert the conversation if you need to.
If you’re a friend or relative of someone who is trying to conceive, take a read of our Language of Fertility guide for some conversational “do’s and don’ts”, plus sensitive ways to support your loved one through this experience.
Break those old traditions and make new ones
Christmas doesn’t need to be traditional this year. Make new traditions, like going away somewhere warm for Christmas or having an adults-only day for you and your partner. Use this time as an opportunity to relax, recharge and prepare yourself for the next step of your journey in the new year.
When you are going through a tough time, it is sometimes easy to forget about yourself and your own wellbeing. This Christmas, take some time off, plan some activities that make you happy, catch up with loved ones who understand your situation and plan some ‘you’ time. Remember to do what feels right for you and your partner. Know your limits and don’t agree to do anything that might make it harder for you. This includes unplugging from social media, too.
It is going to be tough, but so are you!
Look after your health and well-being
On a fertility journey, it’s important to keep as healthy as possible – mentally and physically. With weeks of Christmas parties and festive drinks, it can be challenging to stay on track. Drinking too much alcohol can significantly hamper your efforts to conceive, contributing to irregular menstrual cycles in women and reduced sperm quality in men. Try to reduce alcohol consumption by opting for mocktails or offering to be the designated driver. Make sure you’re meeting your 5-a-day of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables and keeping your diet balanced with healthy fats, like raw almonds, and whole grains, like brown rice. Try to schedule 30 to 1 hour of gentle exercise everyday, whether that’s a walk or a jog, to stay active in between curling up to watch Christmas movies.
Visit your counsellor
IVI have in-house counsellors to support you on every step of your fertility journey. If you are struggling to cope with infertility at Christmas, we are here for you. We can book you in for a virtual session, or feel free to come into the clinic – we’ll be open to welcome you throughout the festive season minus public holidays.
Whatever you decide to do this Christmas, everyone at IVI wishes you a lovely day and a fresh start for the New Year.