The holiday season is decidedly upon us. Tomorrow is Dec 1st and so commences a month of joy and heartbreak in the infertility community. Much of the holiday hubbub seems specifically designed to hurt those of us in the TTC trenches struggling to build our families- commercials about the joy you bring to your kids by buying whatever they are marketing, holiday snuggles and family outings with your time off, a group of gorgeous babies toddling down the stairs to revel in the magic of the moment … on and on and on. But if you don’t have kids? If you don’t feel that fullness of “family” this time of year? It can be a painful reminder of all that you are missing.
Everywhere you turn you can prepare to be assaulted by family joy and asked probing questions about your own family building efforts. Nowhere is as offensive or inescapable, in my opinion, than the dreaded holiday gathering. There are so many of them! Friends holiday parties, the office gathering, family Christmas dinner, New Years… all packed into ONE month of the year. What makes all of these so horrendous?
The comments. Oh god, the comments.
One way around dealing with the nosy comments and inflammatory suggestions is to full on ditch the holiday season’s merriment and hole up until the whole blessed thing is done. But that isn’t always a viable option. So what does an infertile badass do when forced to sit through your Aunt Sue noisily complaining about her demon children and telling you how LUCKY you are to be infertile? I’m glad you asked. Here are some ways you can address these comments while hopefully maintaining your sanity over the next month. Preparation is key!
- Have an ally: don’t venture into the fray on your own! Make sure you have a partner in crime to help head off comments. This can be your spouse/partner but it doesn’t have to be. Have a sassy sister? An amazing mom? Has your dad got your back? Find your person and talk to them ahead of time about how you really don’t want to talk about your efforts to have children this year and ask them to help you out. If they overhear the conversation turning “… so Marg, you guys really are getting up there, have you given any thought to…” have them swoop in to rescue you “ Oh Marg! I really need your help with the bird! Excuse us Uncle Nosey.” or “Ted! How about that grey cup?! What a play…” allowing you to escape without having to discuss such a sensitive topic with, let’s face it, an insensitive ass hat.
- Preplan some things to talk about other than your TTC journey: We all have a lot on our plates nowadays. We are in book clubs, we have hobbies, we work, we draw, hell maybe you even joined a dragon boat team! Find something you WANT to talk about and plan to find ways to discuss that instead. This lets people know that you are so much more than your infertility journey and that there are other things to discuss around the holidays that don’t include Lamaze classes, Timmy’s role in the school play, and how darling so and so’s new baby is. By discussing the things in your life that make you happy you’re more likely to leave the party feeling fulfilled and grateful for all you’ve got going on. Who doesn’t need a little bit more of that in their life?
- Use humour and, when appropriate, cutting/snarky wit: I almost listed this first because, honestly, this is the most my style… but it’s not always appropriate and not everyone feels comfortable heading off comments aggressively lol. If you do want to employ this or find that nothing else is working sometimes the direct approach is best. Make sure you know who you are dealing with. Telling your husband’s bosses boss that your “vagina is not a suitable topic for conversation” is, probably, a bad idea. But if your mother moans to you for the thousandth time how she’s going to “die before you make her a grandma” it might be acceptable to say “one can only hope since you seem to be incapable of leaving the subject of my reproductive misery alone! Maybe then you’ll shut up about it!” … Too far? Your call!
- Have an exit strategy in place before you arrive: Sometimes it all gets to be too overwhelming and you find yourself crying over something Susan said to you in the bathroom of your grandmother’s house… just me?! Sometimes the only acceptable way to deal with the confluence of feelings and rude comments is to gently excuse yourself from the gathering all together. If you can have a quick exit strategy planned with your significant other ahead of time all the better. Him knowing that you saying “The dog got out” means “end your convo now and get your coat” will make for a less awkward exit.
- Plan a fun way to recharge afterwards with people who really do get it: There is nothing more satisfying than crying into your margarita with an infertile friend who also has war stories from last night’s dinner. A perfect way to destress and forget about how your brother insinuated your parents should come to his house over yours because they “have a family” and you don’t is to listen to her tell you of her mother saying that discussing her treatment wasn’t “appropriate table talk for the holidays.” If you don’t have other friends who are dealing with infertility, there is also the option of going to local support groups. Everyone there gets it too.
Oh the holiday cheer! Sounds lovely doesn’t it? Hopefully with these tips in your back pocket any holiday gatherings you are required to attend will feel less daunting. And really… an appropriate response to any inescapable comment is “my family building decisions are really none of your concern. I would appreciate not discussing them further… How ‘bout that turkey, man, looks good!” then mic drop and walk away.
Best of luck out there everyone!
By Kaeleigh, unpregnantchicken.com