Surviving the festive season when TTC
It is difficult enough to cope with normal day-to-day life when Trying To Conceive (TTC), or dealing with a diagnosis of infertility or undergoing fertility treatment. But when the festive season rolls around, it can seem impossible to survive the festivities and family fun during such a difficult time of your and your partner’s life.
Dr Mandy Rodrigues – resident clinical psychologist at Medfem Fertility Clinic – shares some great tips to empower those who are TTC and may be dreading the upcoming holidays and its many uncomfortable situations and difficult conversations, often with even the most well-intentioned loved ones.
Holidays can be stressful, even at the best of times. But when you are also trying to conceive, or are undergoing fertility treatment, the holidays can be an especially trying time.
In this situation, thoughtless comments and prying questions are guaranteed to push your buttons, as will the seemingly never-ending bombardment of media images of happy families and excited children waiting for Santa.
With the constant reminders of all the kids-centred holiday family fun, and with everyone else receiving much-wanted gifts while you and your partner cope with the possibility of never having the children you want so much, holiday festivities can add significant additional emotional stress to an already complicated situation.
By planning in advance and acknowledging that holidays may be uncomfortable; you can prepare yourself and improve your chances of getting through them.
Here are some great tips that have helped so many of our patients to survive this truly emotional and difficult time.
1. Have compassion for yourself and your partner
Festive season family get-togethers can be emotionally excruciating for childless couples. Many of our patients at Medfem Fertility Clinic say that this time of year, they particularly feel heart-broken, isolated, depressed, pressurised, worthless and angry.
It is important to realise that these feelings are all signs and symptoms of grief – and you have a right to grieve the absence of your children. It is crucial to acknowledge these feelings, to understand they are based on very real conditions, and to make allowances for them with compassion for yourself and your partner.
Give yourself space when you need it. But also don’t deny yourself or your partner the right to let your hair down and have fun with family and friends – it might be exactly what you need to get you through this difficult time.
2. Know yourself
Make a list of triggers that upset you on a daily basis – like pregnant women, babies, baby showers or your period – along with your corresponding reaction.
You will see a pattern emerge, and that will better enable you to manage your reactions or to avoid certain situations.
3. Have a support system
You may also find it helpful to develop a network of supportive friends and family who are sympathetic to your situation.
You may need space and want to avoid family-oriented holiday celebrations, but remember that your loved ones do want to be there for you. Even so, at times, even our nearest and dearest loved ones will say the most inappropriate things. Try to remember that they are probably speaking from a place of deep love, but are not educated enough on the subject to know how to act/respond appropriately. It could be the ideal opportunity to educate them.
Often our patients find great support among other couples who have also struggled with infertility, even if they now have children. For certain, they understand exactly how you feel and are often the most loving, understanding and tolerant couples.
4. Be prepared
You and your partner know that you will be facing many uncomfortable questions and difficult conversations. Expectations are at a peak during the holidays, with pressure both from the outside and within.
Decide in advance how you and your partner will handle difficult and insensitive questions. You may even want to practice your answers.
You might decide to be honest with friends and relatives, or you may feel that your fertility is a private matter, or that it’s just too painful to talk about right now. Either way, you don’t have to disclose all the details of your situation.
Also, don’t hesitate to tell people that this is a very hard and emotional conversation for you.
5. Be selective
You and your partner don’t have to say yes to every invitation. Be selective about accepting invitations, especially those where there will be many children or pregnant women.
Give preference to dates and celebrations with couples or friends who don’t have children, as this is often easier to handle. If it is not possible to decline an invitation, keep your visit short by, for example, arriving just in time for the meal.
Don’t feel guilty – this is a difficult time, and you need to focus on helping yourself and your partner get through the holidays.
6. Stick together
It is important to work as a couple during these festive days. You will need each other’s comfort more than ever.
Set aside time to share your feelings with each other and be supportive of each other. Talk with each other about your feelings. Allow yourself – and your partner – to feel what you feel, even if that is sad, deprived or depressed. Infertility is a major life crisis, and you are entitled to those feelings. Your partner may be able to help you through the rough times.
7. Have other interests too
While pursuing your fertility, also allow space for the rest of your life. A fertility journey can become all-consuming, and many people put off their other goals, including simple things like travel and exercise.
Make time to do things you like best. Prepare a delicious meal, take long walks, go horse-back riding or cycling, or read a book by a cosy fire. Plan a special outing just for you and your partner: a weekend away, a day trip or even just a night on the town. Begin your own family traditions – a special ceremony or ritual that says that you and your partner are already a family.
Also spend time on your other short-, medium- and long-term goals again, and keep other interests and hobbies alive.
8. Reach out for assistance
Even with all the best intentions, you and your partner might need support from an outside counsellor to help you overcome the challenges and hurdles that arise when dealing with infertility and fertility treatment.
Counselling will reveal ways to address the emotional needs you will have as a couple during your fertility journey, as well as help you learn skills to cope better with the stress and to make good decisions in difficult situations.
At Medfem we believe in helping you reach your family dream through world-class fertility treatments, delivered with empathy and caring. It is our joy and commitment to give you a positive outcome to your fertility journey.
If you would like to meet one of our fertility specialists at Medfem Fertility Clinic, simply click here to book an initial consultation or contact us telephonically on +27 (11) 463 2244.
Our Fertility Specialists can also meet with You During a Virtual Consultation Via Zoom or Skype. Click here to book a virtual consultation now.
We look forward to meeting you at Medfem Fertility Clinic!