pregnancy

"People love to ask about baby plans": My 5 steps for surviving infertility at Christmas.

I remember my first Christmas after our infertility diagnosis like it was yesterday. 

I dreaded seeing people, let alone a group of them. I walked into Christmas functions feeling as small as an ant. It’s amazing how lonely you can feel in a room full of people. 

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I had a permanent lump in my throat. I was so fearful about what questions I would be asked about our baby plans. At that point, I had absolutely no idea if or when I was going to have a baby. Does anyone really know?

All I knew was that I was broken, overwhelmed, lonely, hurting and scared. I wanted to hide under a rock for the whole of December. 

It’s so easy to let a diagnosis take over your life. As much as Christmas is about being together with family and friends, it can also enhance the feeling of being alone, like you’re the only one hurting. 

Maybe you thought you’d be pregnant by Christmas. Maybe you thought you’d have a new baby. Maybe you thought you would have started your first round of IVF. Christmas is an easy milestone to set.

I don’t want anyone to feel the way I did that festive season, so here are my top five tips for surviving Christmas this year.

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1. Be prepared.

People love to ask about baby plans. They are annoyingly common and uncomfortable questions for someone going through a fertility struggle. 

It’s difficult to respond to this when you are trying to have children unsuccessfully or you’ve been diagnosed with infertility. 

Remember that most people don’t mean anything by the question and are usually just trying to make conversation. 

Well, apart from Aunt Mary who is just being nosy again. People certainly don’t realise how painful this question is, so it’s best to have some answers up your sleeve so you don’t get caught off guard. 

Take a deep breath and try these:

'That’s a really good question, and I’d love to know the answer.'

'I’d rather not talk about it, thanks.'

'Not sure, how are you going with everything?'

'We’ve been trying for a while so I’ll update you when I know more...'

'We’re getting help and hopefully 2021 is our year.'

Choose one that resonates with you and run with it this Christmas.

2. Be selective.

Triage your social engagements. You can be a good person with a kind heart and still say no. If you don’t want to go, don’t go. If people don’t get it, too bad. It’s okay to not do it all and not feel guilty. 

Choose the invitations you are okay to accept and say no to ones that will cause you too much stress. 

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3. Gather your support team.

Human connection and support is so important this Christmas. It’s crucial to have positive people around you who are looking after you. This could come from a family member, friend, colleague, coach, IVF buddy, yoga instructor, acupuncturist, dry cleaner or hairdresser. 

Choose people that make you feel good and are good for you. 

Find a wingman for difficult social situations who can be by your side for any awkward conversations. Give people in your support team the heads up that you’re particularly fragile at this time of year and you could burst into tears at any moment.

You don’t have to go through this alone. Try to spend as much time as you can with people you love. 

4. Practice self care (really).

When I talk about self care, I don’t mean massages and facials. I mean caring for your mental health. Mental health is so important and can be severely compromised during a fertility struggle, especially this time of year. 

Turn off social media. Breathe. Sleep. Exercise. Breathe. Eat well. Meditate. Breathe. Repeat. It is okay to not be okay. And it is okay to slow down and even pause. Make it a non-negotiable this Christmas.

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5. Don't be sorry.

Don’t be sorry for leaving early, arriving late, forgetting to go or just being quieter than usual. 

It is a much bigger deal to you than it is to others. Most people care more about what they’re doing and saying than what you’re doing and saying, so give yourself permission to not be 'in great form' this Christmas.

Infertility is a major life crisis and your feelings are valid. Sometimes all you can do is smile, hold back the tears and pretend you’re okay. 

Please be kind to yourself this Christmas.

Ceci Jeffries is a mother of three and founder of Fertility Hand; a coaching service which offers independent support, mentoring and guidance to women and men confronted with fertility issues. After experiencing infertility firsthand, Ceci is passionate about giving the emotional impact of fertility issues and treatments the attention they deserve. 

Feature Image: Instagram / @fertility_hand

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