You’re sitting at your family’s Christmas Eve dinner. Your red sweater covers your flat belly as you sip on a festive cocktail. Your nieces and nephews run past in their little tights and dress pants, laughing and fighting over one of their newest toys. You smile at their joy.
Enter your nosy aunt.
“So when are you going to have one of those? You’re not getting any younger, you know!”
Your stomach drops.
It’s inevitable. It’s well-meaning. But it hurts nonetheless.
What your aunt doesn’t know is that you would love for your red sweater to be sporting a baby bump, but you took a test this morning and it was negative. Again.
What your aunt doesn’t know is that even though cocktails and the holidays go together like…well…cocktails and the holidays, you would give anything for the cocktail to be a ginger ale to pair with morning sickness.
What your aunt doesn’t know is that you smiled at your nieces and nephews because you can’t wait for your own baby to join the cousin crew and share the holidays with them.
The holiday season brings so much to those trying to conceive (TTC)*. When you’re waiting for a baby, your feelings may not match the “joy” the commercials, TV specials and light displays are trying to promote.
And that’s okay.
How to survive the holidays when you’re TTC:
When people ask when you’re having a baby/having more kids:
- if you’re feeling honest: “we’re actually trying and could use your support. Here’s how you can help…”
- if you want to give minimal information: “great question! We’ll have to see. This is hard for me to talk about and I’m not sure I feel comfortable sharing more at this time. I’ll let you know if/when I do.”
- if you’re feeling sassy and never want them to ask again: “thanks for asking, Karen. I just took a negative test this morning and this will make the 5th one I’ve taken so who the f*%& knows!”
NOTE: this one isn’t recommended, but will definitely add some dramatic flair to your yuletide evening.
When you’re exhausted from the parties, gift-buying, gift-wrapping, social interactions, school parties for living children and you somehow still need to find time to do the whole “trying to conceive” part:
- talk to your partner: set boundaries for yourself if you feel it’s all too much.
- share the load: give your partner a list of holiday chores to take on so that you have more time to focus on your time together. Maybe he is in charge of gifts for his family or maybe he preps the Christmas cookie dough this year. Being specific can go a long way.
- go on a date: “what?! Who has time for dates, lady?! You literally just listed everything going on and then some!”
Right. Sounds like you deserve a date more than anyone, no?
Drive around with hot chocolate and look at lights. Get the good movie theater popcorn and watch a movie. Go out to dinner if possible. Hold hands. Whatever! Scheduling time together and prioritizing time together makes it easier to think about baby dancing together.
- take this month off: let me explain.
If it makes you more anxious to temporarily take time off of TTC or treatments, don’t do it. Doing what makes you feel the most comfortable is what will work best for you, your relationship and your family, period.
This is simply for anyone who hasn’t been told that it’s okay to take a break if it’s too much:
It’s okay to take a break if it’s too much!
When you thought you’d be pregnant by now:
I know. It hurts.
For some reason, Christmas and the holidays carry so much. Nostalgia, hope, and as I grow older, even prior to my miscarriage, I noticed another guest that showed up:
The holidays of your childhood get further and further away every year. People come and go and traditions change. This is heartbreaking and difficult and can show up in many different ways. Maybe you’re grieving the family dynamic you wish you had or the fact that you have to go to four Christmases because of step-families. Maybe the holidays haven’t felt the same since your grandmother got sick a few years ago, or maybe it hasn’t felt the same since you were 12.
Whatever it may be, grief already has a seat at Christmas dinner. However, you control how much or how little they get to speak up.
If you are sad because all you want is a baby for Christmas, that’s okay.
If you are hopeful because a new year is starting and it’s a clean slate, that’s okay.
If you are mourning the fact that you thought this would be “your year” for a baby, that’s okay.
Acknowledge all your feelings and hold space for them.
Make a plan to step out if something triggers you. Tell your partner in advance that you might need to take 5 minutes on the porch to breathe or skip the work party all-together.
Then, picture that bump in your red sweater, the ginger ale in hand or the sight of your little baby chasing after their cousins in years to come. And remind yourself that you are already a fantastic parent, even if you are still “in waiting.”
You can also picture yourself telling your nosy aunt to take a hike, if that makes you feel better.
May the holidays land gently for you as you wait for that “big, fat positive” under the tree.
*While TTC itself isn’t necessarily directly affiliated with pregnancy loss, I like to keep in mind the grief and waiting associated with TTC and infertility treatments. I will be sharing another post soon on navigating the holidays after loss.