It’s Christmas and You are at the Infertility Clinic

The holiday lights are shining and Christmas carols drift through the air.  Everyone seems so happy. But it’s Christmas and you are at the infertility clinic.  Not so happy.  Maybe not so happy at all.

Infertility and its treatment can be confusing and particularly difficult at holiday time.  The fact that another year has passed without a pregnancy or another child can be very disheartening.  When the dreaded phone call about the latest unsuccessful treatment cycles comes at holiday time, feelings can feel even bigger and worse than usual.  Seeing others’s happiness may bring resentment or despair.  Even the simple act of shopping for gifts for others can be a trial.

Many families have many expectations about holiday traditions and rituals.  You get to exchange gifts with loved ones.  ‘Tis the season, put a smile on your face!  In the past, you might have loved the holiday traditions.  Maybe not this year.  This is even harder when there are children in the family but not in your house.  And Christmas tends to focus on children’s excitement and happiness.

Many of my patients feel overwhelmed by mandatory attendance at holiday events.  Not only is physical presence mandatory but emotional presence seems to be required as well. It is at holiday time that my patients come to me in tears.

“I don’t want to ruin the holidays for my family.  But I’m resentful and I feel left out because I don’t have children.  I don’t have it in me to pretend to be happy when my heart is breaking.”  


At the annual Midwest Resolve conference in the fall of 2014 in Minneapolis in, I gave a talk on depression, anxiety and infertility.  There was a lot of discussion among participants about how to handle the holidays.  You know what happened?  The fifty people in the room all said that they wanted to take a trip to somewhere, anywhere during the holidays. You can consider doing the same. Something different can help your relationship.  And it sure as heck can help you.

And what if you just don’t feel that you can attend holiday events but your partner feels just fine?  It is important to negotiate with your partner about what you can and cannot do.  Maybe you limit the amount of time spent at events.  Maybe you stay in a hotel. Maybe you have a secret signal between you and your partner that says, “Time out” or “Gotta go!” Maybe you spend a lot of time in the bathroom; people don’t follow you in there.  If you decline to attend, be as honest as you can with your family and your in-laws about why you are staying home this year.  Tell them that grieving people aren’t the best party goers and that your doctor gave you permission to take care of yourself.  Here’s an important tip for now and other times of the year:



If you can go to holiday events and you can enjoy something about them, by all means go.  Sometimes acting like things are okay makes it so.   It offers the opportunity to be a part of a treasured group. Maybe it would be feel good to do something that has brought you joy and peace in the past.  You could get the support you have needed. You could teach others about the infertility journey.  Maybe you can take some time off from infertility for an hour or two and just be yourself.

You don’t have much control about infertility.  You do have control over what you do with your time.  You can do what you want–or need–to do during the holidays.  However you do it, use this season as a time to recharge and heal a little.  You and your partner might come up with a new ritual that is just for the two of you.  It is important and even necessary to put yourself first sometimes.  You are always number one to me.


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