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Coping with Infertility During Family Holiday Gatherings

Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving, Christmas, Passover, and Other Holiday Meals

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Updated April 06, 2009

Coping with Infertility During Family Holiday Gatherings

Especially on the holidays, infertility can lead to feelings of loneliness and loss.

Photo: B2M Productions / Getty Images

How do you cope with infertility during the holidays? Share your tips and stories here.

Whatever the time of year may be, family holiday gatherings can be emotionally difficult when you're coping with infertility. The holidays tend to remind us that our family building has not gone the way we imagined. Seeing your siblings and cousins with their children can remind you of what you don't have. That's never easy.

If you're feeling stressed out just thinking about your next holiday get-together, here are some coping tips that may help:

Don't Go.

You're probably thinking that is the most negative tip to start with, but it's an important one. So important, that I wanted to list it first.

When it comes to family, saying no can feel impossible. If you don't go to the holiday dinner, your parents and family may protest — loudly, in fact. They can't make you go, though, and you should do what is best for you.

Maybe you've had a really difficult year, and being around babies and children is the last thing you need for your mental health. Maybe that means skipping Thanksgiving or Passover at your parent's this year.

Instead, you can make dinner at home, get together with some adult friends (without children) or even take vacation days and spend them with your partner on a short getaway. Your family may get upset, but they'll eventually get over it, and most importantly, you'll be calmer in the long run.

Don't Feel Like You Have to Hold Any Babies.

Being around children can be difficult when you're trying to get pregnant, and sometimes, especially if your arms are empty, family members will plop a baby on to your lap while they attend to other matters.

For some, holding babies reminds them of what they don't have. Don't be afraid to say no. You can quickly pass off the baby to another pair of empty arms, make yourself busy or just be honest and let your family member know that holding babies is too painful for you right now. (This can be a sticky area, though. It depends on how understanding of a family you have.)

Alternatively, Soak Up the Baby Love.

On the other hand, not every woman with infertility struggles with holding babies. I fit in to this category. When I last visited my sister, she had just given birth to a baby girl. I told my sister from the beginning, Any time you want someone to hold the baby, give her to me. I want to get in all the baby love I can.

If this sounds like your style, take advantage of the abundance of children at the holiday dinner. Live vicariously through others, and take the time to get down on the floor and play with your nieces, nephews and cousins. Volunteer to burp the baby or change a diaper.

Sure, you may cry when you leave, knowing you can't take the baby home with you, but it still can feel good to soak up all the baby love while you can.

Be Ready for When Are You Having Kids Questions.

Especially if others don't know about your infertility or trying to conceive efforts, questions about why you don't have kids (or why you haven't had another) are bound to come up. It can help to be prepared to answer this question.

Consider Whether to Tell Your Family or Not About Your Infertility.

This brings up another sticky topic – should you, or should you not, tell your family about your infertility. There are many pros and cons to outing yourself, and I go over them in this article:

If you do decide to tell your family, you may want to think twice about doing so at a holiday dinner. On the one hand, you have everyone together, which may make it easier. On the other, if you don't want it to be the topic of the night, you'll want to bring it up at the very end or work hard at establishing boundaries right up front. (In other words, saying, "I want you all to know, but I really do not want to talk about it now.")

Continue to Page Two for more holiday coping tips.

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