By Iréné Celcer, MA, LCSW
Infertility, like a curse, strikes all kinds of people regardless of marital status or sexual orientation catapulting them in what may seem a never-ending maze of medical treatments. Couples and individuals may find themselves immersed in a different reality that
what they had anticipated for this stage in their lives. This is incredibly stressful and to many, a surprise which makes the whole situation exponentially more stressful!
Humans have the biological and psychological need to procreate and to belong. Creating a family gives expression to those needs. When such creation must be postponed due to infertility and takes twists and turns, humans must accommodate to their new reality: Change is never easy.
The predicament of infertility is excruciatingly painful especially during the holidays, which unfortunately, seem to be a time designed for people with children.
To people dealing with infertility, the holidays are an expanse of the Universe from which they have been banished, a slice of time where they do not fit in. Everybody around them seems to have children or to be pregnant; everybody seems to be buying small little-cute outfits and toys.
It also seems that absolutely everybody inquires, “How many children do you have?” or “ When are you getting pregnant?” or “When will you finally start a family?” These untimely and insensitive questions come from everybody around: from Aunt Rosy to the nail technician. How do we survive the holidays? Almost every woman I know, dealing with infertility who has gotten a manicure in the hopes to enjoy and let go, has been jolted out of her relaxation by a sharp knife:
“How many children do you have?” One holiday season, when I was asked such a question, I was chastised on my answer. When I returned the question, I found out that the inquiring person, older than myself, had no children at all!! I learned then, that it was just my perception that the holidays were such a great time for others.
People dealing with infertility perceive that others have a fabulous time during the holidays because their void and pain is heightened by the void of their pain, the lack of understanding of others and by the consumer culture who is at a frenzy to capture customers.
Parents, grandparents, and uncles and aunts are a captive customer, so to speak that would seize this time to pamper the children of their lives with presents.
In order to survive the holidays there are a few tips I would like to pass on…
1) Understand the Holiday Context: Understand that holidays put certain pressures on people that you can rebuff. If going to a party is too painful let the host know you cannot attend this year.
- Very often society views getting married and having children as equal to being an adult. A couple that cannot conform to this mandate may feel as “social pariahs”. You are an adult! You are not a social pariah!
- Remember that, in reality, many people, with or without children have a very hard time during holidays. You are not the only unhappy person.
- Untangle personal beliefs and desires from the social mandate that a couple may be exposed to: You can have a different celebration! Couples only, just you and your husband. You can make it happen as you wish!
- Remember infertility is no one’s fault.
- Ask your family in advance not to ask questions related to your building a family. You can ask a trusted member to pass the request or you can send a family email to all with your request.
- Tell your family which events you will and will not be attending, in advance.
- Remember that many times people do not know how to act during this time and you need to teach them.
- Remember that you are not always willing to teach and that is fine too.
- Find support in one dear person who can understand you.
- Make a list ahead of time of supportive people in your life.
- Find who could have gone through infertility that you do not know about and that can be a light at the end of the tunnel.
- Make a list of people you feel you can ‘train’ to be supportive to you at such a time.
- Remember that infertility is a couple’s matter. Find each other and connect. Do something together. Know that this specific situation is just a slice of time and, it will pass.
- Have a list of books, magazines and movies ready for consumption when you feel down.
- Do not allow yourself to obsess on the topic of infertility: Take a walk, bike, and cook, read
- Plan and freeze a meal that will make you feel better.
- Do not feel obligated to open cards that you know will have children’s pictures on them.
- Join a support group.
KNOW THAT IF WHAT YOU WANT IS A FAMILY, IT WILL HAPPEN!!!