These tips have proven helpful for myself and other women I know during the holidays. Some of these ideas I learned from other women on infertility forums that I found to be really useful. They may not be the best option for you, so consider your own life circumstances and decide what is right for you. Consider the pros and cons if you were to do the following tips. Above all else, consider what is best for your own physical and emotional health.
1) Declining a Holiday Party Invitation is Okay
I had to do this a few times when I knew there would be pregnant women and small children. I seem to be a magnet for little kids. As much as I love kids, after having a miscarriage so close to a holiday it was just too much to bear. So I made the decision for my own mental health take a step back and take care of myself. Other people may be confused or irritated by your decision but it’s so important to take care of yourself if you feel like it will be too difficult.
2) Ask for Your Partner’s Help
During one holiday gathering of just a small group of my husband’s family, I requested he speak to his family on my behalf and that they please not ask questions related to my miscarriage or infertility. I wanted to be able to go to the holiday event, enjoy myself, and not deal with any questions regarding my infertility. I only recommend doing this for very small gatherings where you feel people would be understanding and respectful of this wish. It was nice to be able to go out and not have to deal with the questions when my heart was still hurting from a recent loss.
3) Address Potential Questions Ahead of Time
Sometimes you want to share what you are going through but you may not want to do it during Thanksgiving or Christmas when there’s a whole room of people you may not want to hear your story. So if you know there are certain people who are curious by nature, try chatting with them before the party if you feel comfortable doing this. You can share what you are going through if you feel like doing so. You can even ask them “Please don’t share this with anyone.” Don’t forget to thank them for letting you share. But also keep in mind whether they have a track record of having loose lips if they have a few drinks. In that case it might be best to avoid talking with them before the party, because they may accidentally talk about what you said to them.
4) Be Vague
Sometimes the best response is a vague one. I’ve had some people in my life ask me “When are you going to have kids?” and when I say, “Hopefully soon” I get a slew of not so savory responses. Some of those responses include, “What are you waiting for?” or “You’re not getting any younger” and the all-time most detestable one… “You better get on that” with the emphasis on “that” being a purposeful innuendo. Really people?! So rather than leaving the door open for a plethora of insulting comments, I’ve decided to have a canned response that not a single person felt compelled to push the subject or make stupid comments. My go-to response to the question of “When are you going to have kids?” is now “Whenever God lets it happen.” So far not a single person has pressed the subject or made any demeaning remarks to me when I use that line. In my experience, this is a polite response that shifts people’s attention to God as opposed to anything I’m personally doing. Because you can’t argue with God.
5) Be Honest
Most people do not intend to be hurtful with the questions they ask. I’ve found that people are just curious or are trying to be helpful. With that in mind, you can choose to speak up about how you really feel. For the people who continually ask questions you really don’t want to answer you can simply say, “I appreciate your concern and that you care enough to ask, but I’m not ready to talk about it yet. If I do want to talk about it I will let you know. Thank you for understanding.” For the people who truly care about your feelings they will understand. I told a coworker years ago that line and they gave me an angry look and left the room. In that situation I knew that person loved to gossip and I believe she was hurt that I didn’t give her information she wanted to spread to the office. As I said, if they truly cared and respected your emotional well-being they would most likely not respond that way. You are not obligated to share your story if you don’t want to, nor do you need to justify your reason for not sharing.
6) Change the Subject
This one is probably one of the easiest tricks in the book when you sense the conversation is turning towards your fertility. If you are chatting with a group of women who are all mothers and they are talking about raising children and pregnancy, it’s possible they will begin to ask you questions about your experience or lack thereof. Sometimes you can change the subject in a subtle way without completely diverting the conversation on another tangent. For example, you can ask questions about their children. You can learn a lot of good parenting advice this way too without the focus being on you and instead focus on them and what they’ve learned over the years.
7) Relate in Other Ways
People love to be heard and understood. Just because you don’t have kids does not mean you can’t relate on any level. When people share some of their parenting stories they might remind you of your experience with your nieces or nephews or if you’ve worked with children. You can find ways to talk about children without being a parent. For the most part I find it incredibly rare that someone makes the comment, “You don’t understand because you’re not a parent.” Sometimes people say this because they feel like you cannot relate or understand. You can deflect this comment with something like, “What do you normally do that helps in that situation?” this way you sidestep their comment, get them to focus on a solution, and you can possibly learn from them.
8) Have an Exit Strategy
I remember years ago after my first miscarriage my husband thought it might be good for me to get out of the house and enjoy the holidays. I went to a Christmas event with him. I realized it was not a good idea after having several parents hand me their infants while they got something to eat, toddlers insisted I play with them, and people were asking me, “Why don’t you have any kids yet? You are so good with them.” I ended up crying in the bathroom multiple times. I asked my husband if we could leave but he told me we couldn’t because we had been parked in by four different cars. There was no escaping. So I continued to cry in the bathroom off and on until it was time to go. It was horrible. The following year I decided to ask him to park away a bit so if I needed a break or if I wanted to leave early we could. One time we went for a brief walk and that helped too.
The holidays were meant to be enjoyed. Don’t be afraid to speak up for your needs, because oftentimes people will not understand your perspective unless you say something. It’s possible to still have a good time if you plan ahead and anticipate certain scenarios and what you can do about it. From our family to yours, Happy Holidays!
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