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An Infertile Woman’s Guide to the Holidays

An Infertile Woman's Guide to the HolidaysEvery holiday season for the last five years my heart has told my head that this time next year everything would be different. An extra person would be added to our Christmas card photo. An extra stocking hung by the fireplace. An extra reason to smile and give thanks. But as “this time next year” rolls around and nothing is different, and everything remains the same, my heart hurts more. My empty womb aches deeper. Because for the last several years my Christmas list has only consisted of one wish: A baby.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are some of the hardest holidays for those who long to grow their family but can’t. And it’s not because they are bitter or angry, but because it reminds them of loss. The loss of the family they once hoped to have by now. The loss of the child they thought would be in their arms. The loss of a million dreams they had been dreaming since they were little. And all of these losses hurt. They cause hopelessness and fear.

If you are feeling the painful emotions that often come with infertility during this holiday season, I want you to keep allowing your heart to tell your head that “this time next year “ things can be different. Allow yourself to keep believing that at a moment’s notice your circumstances can change. Doors can open. And the sorrow you feel now, will be replaced with joy later. But until then–until you are hanging an extra Christmas stocking on the fireplace mantle–here are a few tips I hope will help you not only survive the holidays, but thrive in them.

 Just Say No

Make it a habit to just say no this holiday season to those triggers that will destroy your joy, steal your peace and ultimately drag you down into a pit of bitterness and despair. This might mean saying no to certain social engagements, or going to the mall. It might mean saying no to logging into your Facebook or Instagram account. It might mean saying no to holding your sister’s baby or attending the children’s Christmas program at church. And those holiday cards with the cute family’s decked out in their color coordinated outfits that make you smile, yet at the same time cause your soul to cave? It’s okay to set them aside and look at them later when you are ready. Even if “later” means waiting until January…or even Easter…

Don’t go into hiding—at least not completely.

I know what some of you might be thinking…if you can just close the curtains and hide underneath the covers until after the holidays are over, then all will be okay. But trust me, it won’t work. Isolating yourself completely from those you love and who have loved you since you were in diapers will only cause you to dwell on what you are missing and focus on what you don’t have. But with that being said, know that it is okay to revert back to #1 and just say no to those holiday invitations. Because there will be days when you will not be able to handle seeing babies, children and pregnant women. Or be able to deal with the well intention inquiries about when you are going to start your own family. Or cope with the loss you might have just experienced. However, if by some chance you can’t decline the invitation, set boundaries and have an exit plan in place before arriving. For instance, possibly go to the family gathering late if you know children will be opening their presents first. Or maybe make arrangements to leave early before you get too overwhelmed with your emotions.

Be prepared

Be prepared for nosey questions. Be prepared for unsolicited advice. And be prepared for the surprise pregnancy announcements. Because THEY. WILL. HAPPEN. Aunt Judy will ask you when you are going to have a baby and Uncle Matt will yell from the living room that you are not getting any younger. And before you know it, your extremely fertile cousin will start telling you to “just relax” while your sister will jump up from her seat to “make an announcement.” And if you are not prepared, things could get ugly. And fast.

Therefore before you attend your next social gathering, prepare a short and simple answer to their nosey questions…“when we have news to share we will let you know.” Or my personal favorite, “We are trying and having lots of fun doing it (then end it with a wink)”And just in case your cousin does give you advice you have heard a million times over, go ahead and smile and try to keep in mind how it was offered. Chances are they just want to help. And for the surprise bun in the oven? Don’t forget to handle yourself with grace as you quietly use your emergency exit plan to the bathroom. Because while you are happy for them, sometimes you just can’t hold back the tears. And it’s okay. It doesn’t make you a horrible person. It just makes you human.

{To help you answer the question, “Why don’t you just adopt?”, check out my friends blog post, “Why We’re Not Just Adopting”}

Don’t Pretend

Allow yourself to feel the way you feel.  Experiencing grief is like swimming in the ocean.  You can’t turn your back on the wave or else it will knock you down.  The same holds true with dealing with grief; you can’t turn your back on it either.  Instead you must face it if you want to get to the other side.  A few tips to remember when dealing with grief…

  1. Know that it’s okay to have a meltdown. Just don’t unpack and live there.
  2. Be a friend to yourself. Instead of berating yourself for your feelings, give yourself grace because what you are going through is painful. If you had a cut you wouldn’t be mad at yourself for hurting.  Therefore don’t be mad at yourself for the feelings you feel from this type of cut to your heart.
  3. Bring your thoughts and feelings to the Lord. Lay them out before Him.  And then choose to leave them there.
  4. Remember that your feelings are real, but they are not the whole truth.

Don’t wait to start your holiday bucket list

We all have it. It’s a bucket list of everything we will do when we have children, am I right? We may even say, “Someday, when I have children…” and then rattle off all the fun holiday traditions we hope to one day fulfill… Elf on the Shelf, baking Christmas cookies to take to the neighbors, or putting out carrots for the reindeer… but don’t! Nothing kills joy faster than wishing for something other than what you have. Instead, invent traditions you can enjoy with your spouse now. Because whether you believe it or not, you two are already a family. Besides, who says you need to wait until you have children before you can do Elf on the Shelf? I don’t see it in the rule book anywhere. So go ahead! Buy the Elf and take turns moving it around the house with your husband. I did this a couple of years ago with mine and the laughs we both had are now some of my favorite memories with him.

Sock someone with kindness

Anytime I want to get out of my Grinch-like mood, I do something to bless someone else. Why? Because it works. One of my new favorite traditions with my husband is to buy Christmas stockings and place candy and $5 gift cards inside with a note pinned to the top that says, “You’ve been socked!” It’s so much fun trying to tie one to a friend or family member’s front door before getting caught. And sometimes, if I am feeling really brave, I’ll tie one to the door handle of a car parked at Target or the mall. Talk about an adrenaline rush! (You can read more about this idea here.) But if this isn’t your thing, perhaps you can do one (or more) of the following:

  • Bless an unfortunate child placed in foster care
  • Visit a nursing home (holidays are lonely and heartbreaking for them also)
  • Invite your friends over for pizza and a board game (If they have kids, pay for their babysitter)
  • Have a gingerbread-making contest with your nieces and nephews while their parents go Christmas shopping
  • Bring gifts to a children’s hospital and read Christmas stories to them

Write it out

Over the course of my journey through infertility, I have found writing to be a surprising outlet. It helps me process my thoughts, vent my frustrations, and express my emotions. And sometimes it has even helped me work through and solve my problems. So go grab a pen and a cute notebook and when a particular event causes your heart to ache or your blood pressure to rise, write about it. It’s so good for the soul.

Keep Hope Alive

Some days I think I am doing okay with this whole infertility thing. I think I have my grief under control. My bitterness in check. My doubts erased. And my plans surrendered. But then there are days when it hits me like a freight train and all it takes is walking past this display of “Baby’s First Christmas” outfits to make me crumble. Or seeing a photo on Facebook of a sweet baby sitting on Santa’s lap to make me ugly cry for hours…maybe off and on for days. The Christmas season can be hard. Oh so hard. And if I am not careful, and if I dwell too long on my shattered dreams and unanswered prayers, I will sink below the weight of them. So what do I do in these moments when my soul feels crushed and my heart aches?

I remember Hope.

Because Christmas isn’t all about Santa, or the children, or the stockings and tinsel. It’s not about having the perfect life that imitates a Norman Rockwell painting. No. Instead it is about Jesus. It’s about His humble birth. His life of Truth. And His ultimate sacrifice so that I may have hope. • Hope for a better tomorrow • Hope for healing • Hope for dreams fulfilled and prayers answered • Hope that the plans He has for my life far exceed the circumstances of my day…my month…or my year. And hope that one day I will be able to experience my baby sitting on Santa’s lap for their first Christmas.

Treat yourself

Do what you like whether it is shopping, cooking, going horseback riding, reading a good book, or simply curling up and watching sappy movies. And don’t feel guilty about it. Especially if what you like is taking a relaxing bath!  Because did you know soaking in a hot bath 2-3 times a week with Epsom salt will help draw out the toxins, as well as lower stress-related hormones and balance your pH levels? Therefore making Epsom salt baths especially beneficial for woman suffering from infertility and PCOS? So what are you waiting for!  Go treat yourself!

Listen to worship music

Singing praises to God irritates and causes the enemy to flee. Why? Because he was created for worship and so when you sing and give praises, you are not only doing his job, but pleasing the Father when you do. In Acts 16:16-40, Paul and Silas praised God despite being brutally beaten and placed in the stocks of a prison cell.  Life can snatch the hallelujah from your lips. Bitterness and despair can easily take over. But don’t let it stop you! Praise has a way of freeing the mind from toxic thoughts, allowing gratitude and peace to overflow. In Paul and Silas’ case, praise literally broke the chains off of everyone in the jail and even influenced a man to get baptized. Strong praise creates miracles and changes lives.  Have you lost your praise this holiday season?  Get your praise back!

Take comfort in the knowledge that Holiday blues are time limited

Never forget…“and this too shall pass…” Because it will.  And just think?  Next year, everything could be different as this might be your last Christmas without the desires of your heart fulfilled.

I realize that no matter if you follow one or all ten of these tips, there will come a day when the tears will flow, your womb will ache, and all you can do is say “Bah humbug.” Know that this is not only okay, but normal. Coping with infertility is difficult. So give yourself the gift of grace. You are not a bad person if you need to cry in the bathroom at a social gathering or pass on holding your cousin’s baby. You are not weak if you spend an entire day on the couch in your pajamas, eating a pint of ice cream, and a large pizza. You are human, with real emotions. But with that being said, don’t get stuck in your emotions. Don’t camp out on the couch of despair, or you might miss the moments of beauty…the moments of laughter…and the moments of love this holiday season can bring you.

With Love

I would love to connect with you on a personal level, so if you liked this post, pass it on.Then come find Waiting for Baby Bird on the public Facebook page or join me on Instagram @waitingforbabybird. I can’t wait to “meet” you!If you are looking for a faith-based infertility community of other women who just “get it”, then head over to the *PRIVATE* Waiting for Baby Bird Support group for hope + encouragement. There you will find opportunities to ask for prayer, watch *LIVE* encouragement videos from me, author of “Waiting for Baby Bird,” enter into exclusive giveaways, as well as be able to share your heart with others on the same path, and so much more! So what are you waiting for? Find us here!


12 thoughts on “An Infertile Woman’s Guide to the Holidays”

  1. These tips were SO practical and so, so good. I love how you communicate with those struggling with infertility and by doing so, you are gently, gracefully communicating with those who don’t struggle with infertility. I feel like this post was helpful on so many levels. I’ll be book-marking this one–thank you!

  2. Very well put! Last Christmas was really hard for me. This year I decided to make lots of homemade gifts and bake 8 gingerbread houses from scratch for my nieces and nephews to decorate. It took so much of my free time I completely forgot to be sad and those few facebook pregnancy announcements on Christmas Day barely got me down. We all still have time for this to be the last year waiting. 🙂

  3. Love this! Infertility is incredibly hard, and this year even more so because my sister is having her first baby in February . I’m so excited for her but so sad for myself at the same time. In October I hosted her baby shower which was so hard and so fun at the same time. The tears flow a lot in private lately…

  4. Thank you for this! Our first IVF cycle failed in August- I thought for sure I’d be “over it” before now instead of constantly feeling like I’ve been hit by a Mack truck.
    Giving myself the freedom to dream about next year and prepare for any surprise announcements might just save me this year! Thank you again!

  5. I read this last year and am reading it again. You so clearly put into words what I feel during the holidays and other times as well. Thank you for writing this. You’re a blessing!

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