22 December 2014

For those who are dealing with infertility, the holiday season can seem more like a massive unwelcome migraine than a time of joy and celebration, and can prove especially difficult for those who long for a child.

It may help you though to know that you are not alone. Infertility is often referred to as ‘the invisible disease’ as it has no outward physical symptoms that others can relate to. Yet, according to the World Health Organisation more than one in six couples of reproductive age have a fertility problem. Such is the pandemic; infertility is now recognised as a disease.

The holiday season often loses its meaning for those dealing with infertility. Another child free year and a likelihood that you have suffered a tragic miscarriage or failed fertility treatments. Such travesties make us all question if we will ever overcome the pain of paralysing grief. Will we survive this loss of our dreams? Will we ever feel happy again? Will we make it through the holidays without decapitating those who question our childless state?


And so enjoying the holiday season at a time when all you feel like doing is hiding away from the world can seem cruel and unfair. But sometimes enjoying ourselves gives us the necessary energy and help we need to keep moving forward.

As overwhelming as your situation may seem there are ways to reduce your anxiety. Coping is not easy and because the emotional responses to infertility are complex and extend over a lengthy period of time, it is important to recognise that you and your partner may cope differently, expressing feelings differently and at different times. The following are some coping strategies to help you to focus and cope with all that you have to contend with, while bringing a calmer perspective to your life.

• Acknowledge how you feel. It is vital to understand that what you are feeling is completely normal. The diagnosis of infertility and subsequent months of tests and procedures can be emotionally, physically and financially draining. The lack of control you may experience may feel unbearable. Acknowledging it’s ok to feel sad is a good start.
• Express your feelings. The more you express yourself the easier it can become. Express yourself in words, tears, or write your feelings down. Acknowledging your losses, disappointments and fears is a huge step towards healing, and is crucial to your journey through grief and sorrow.
• Seek support from loved ones. As you deal with the impact that infertility can have on your life it will help to have a support structure who appreciate what you are going through, and can listen to and understand your fears and concerns. Regardless of your pain and sorrow your friends and family love you and want to spend time with you.
• Allow yourself to grieve your dream. Normally when we grieve others are there for us, to validate our feelings and confirm our continued self-worth. You may need to explain your hidden grief, if it is important for you to be validated by others. Since unresolved grief can be a major source of anxiety, you’ll have to go through a period of mourning in order to feel better again.
• Communicate with your partner. Infertility and the treatments involved can take a huge toll on a marriage, often causing unspoken resentment or feelings of inadequacy, tension, and sexual pressure. Use this downtime to spend quality time together doing things you enjoy and make you happy. And if you have forgotten what makes you happy, think back to what you used to do before trying to conceive. If you and your partner can survive this crisis together, you can handle just about anything.
• Keep sex fun. Sexual intercourse can quickly become more like a chore when you ‘have’ to do it, rather than a beautiful way to express love for each other. Try to use the holidays to initiate loving and intimate moments with your partner. It will bring you closer together and help to remind one another of the love you have for each other. Light candles, plan fun music, give each other a massage – whatever makes you both feel good.
• Take Care of Yourself. Be gentle and kind to yourself. Don’t neglect your overall health; be sure to eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep. Indulge yourself occasionally. Give yourself permission to take a break, to look after yourself. Find time to have fun, read books, do nice things for yourself, buy things, meet new people, take exciting classes.
• Say no to baby-focused activities. You have every right to give yourself permission to decline invitations to events focused on children if these gatherings are too painful for you. Organise an adults-only party or weekend away instead of doing what you usually do for the holidays – it’s perfectly OK to redefine ‘normal’. You have a right to take care of yourself.
• Remember, this is temporary. Infertility, just like the holidays, will pass. Around the corner is a new year, filled with new possibilities. Take care of yourself while making the most of the holiday season with your loved ones. You will be okay.
• Move forward. Make a conscious decision to move forward into the New Year. Keep your eye on the ball and don’t give up. Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. Make list of all that you want to achieve in 2015. Start a vision board using images of that all you desire and that is important to you. Take the time to work on creating the life you want!

And remember as Waldo Emerson put it “When it’s dark enough, you can see the stars”.

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