Traditionally, Christmas is a time for celebration, joy and for creating memories. For many of us, some of our favourite childhood memories centre around the Christmas tree, opening presents, family gatherings and of course, time off school!
Yet for those who are struggling with infertility, have recently miscarried, or who are experiencing recurrent miscarriage, next to Mother’s Day, Christmas would have to be the toughest time of year to endure. After all, so much of it is about children! The media is full of happy families, the shopping centres are full of parents buying presents for their children and our social media feeds are full of Santa photos and preschool/school concerts.
So for many of us, Christmas is a representation of what we don’t have or what we have lost. It can also mark a year since the last time we felt this way…a year since we hoped and prayed and wished that THIS year would be the year we would fall pregnant. You may have been pregnant during this year and this Christmas would have been the first with your new baby. Whatever your situation, the hard truth is that these next couple of weeks are going to be tough.
Here are some tips that will hopefully make it a little easier for you to get through the Christmas/New Year period with your emotional well-being (for the most part), still in tact.
It’s OK to Say No
This time of year generally brings with it a lot of social gatherings. Between friends and family, you can often have something on every weekend, if not several nights a week, which can be exhausting for anyone, let alone someone who is suffering the heartbreak of infertility or miscarriage. Continually having to put on a brave face and force a smile is not only emotionally draining, it can leave you feeling even more miserable.
If you think something is going to cause you more stress than enjoyment, don’t be afraid to say no. We’re not suggesting that you lock yourself away and hibernate for the next few weeks (even though that may be exactly what you feel like doing). Rather, pick and choose which events you will attend and politely decline the rest. This is obviously harder to do for the Christmas Eve/Day family lunch or dinner, but if you’re able to arrive late and leave early to make the day easier on yourself, then that could be a good compromise.
GO AWAY FOR CHRISTMAS
If you’ve had a particularly hard year and just can’t face the festive season and all it entails, why not go away with your husband/partner and avoid it altogether. If money’s tight it doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, but aside from saving yourself the grief of facing the celebrations at home, it could also be beneficial for the two of you to have some time together and reconnect away from your everyday lives.
If you do attend Christmas functions, particularly those of the family variety, it is almost a given that you will be asked when you’re going to have a baby. Of course it is never meant in a malicious way, great aunt Mary is genuinely interested and it seems like a perfectly reasonable question to ask you. After all, you’ve been married for three years, and she’s just making sure that you haven’t forgotten.
In all seriousness, you should have a reply prepared before you go, so that you can answer quickly, politely and then change the subject. Something like, ‘We’ll be sure and let you know when we have news to share. Now, can I get you something to eat/drink?’
Something else to bear in mind is that Christmas is often the time for pregnancy announcements, and when you’re not expecting them (or even if you are), they can be a huge shock and leave you feeling like you’ve been winded or kicked in the stomach. Of course there will be a lot of excitement around the announcement, and it is perfectly ok if you need to escape to the bathroom and have a little cry, or compose yourself before you offer your congratulations.
disconnect from Social Media
This time of year will see your social media feeds absolutely flooded with family photos, babies in Santa hats, children’s Santa photos, pregnancy announcements, birth announcements etc. Trust us, take a self imposed social media break. Not only will it protect you emotionally, unplugging occasionally is extremely good for the soul.
have a break and treat yourself
When going through IVF or trying to conceive after a loss, we are generally focussed on being healthy, restricting our caffeine/alcohol/sweets/unhealthy foods. We suggest during this time to give yourself a break from all that and enjoy the things that make you happy or bring you comfort. Have that drink. Order that coffee. Polish off that delicious brownie laced with Baileys and topped with a big scoop of ice-cream. Eat all the seafood, the sushi and the soft cheeses. You can go back to being healthy later, but for now, just enjoy.
Make some time for yourself too. Go for long walks, have a relaxing bubble bath, get a pedicure, have a massage, read a whole book in one weekend or binge on your favourite Netflix series. Whatever it is that you love to do that gives you a sense of peace and nurturing, make sure you allocate the time to do so – guilt free!
let yourself feel
Rather than berating yourself for feeling sad/angry/jealous/hopeless/bitter, know that they are all normal reactions to what you’ve been through or are going through. It doesn’t make you a bad or horrible person AT ALL. It’s normal and it’s ok. Just acknowledge them, feel them, cry if you need to, and know that you won’t feel like this forever. If it all gets too much for you, and you’re worried that you’re just not coping, speak to your partner, a close friend, an online support group or see your doctor.
(also refer to our Emotional Wellbeing resource and our It’s OK brochure)
allow yourself to hope
Lastly, it’s ok to let yourself hope that next year, things may be different. It will not necessarily change the outcome for you, but it’s that little spark of hope within our hearts that helps us to keep going even when we don’t know if we can.
All of us at Pink Elephants are hoping that this time next year you will be celebrating your own pregnancy or brand new baby. xx