Infertility and the Holidays: A Survival Guide

by sockii

Infertility can be difficult to deal with any time of the year, but the holidays can be especially challenging.

When you're dealing with infertility, every day can present challenges to your mental health and well-being. Even so, the holiday season can be especially difficult for the infertile woman, man or couple. So much emphasis is placed on children and family during the holidays that someone affected by infertility can feel particularly isolated, depressed and emotionally distraught. Everything from shopping at the Mall and seeing so many young children sitting on Santa's knee, to family gatherings where nosy relatives ask personal questions about when you'll be getting pregnant and giving them grandkids, is a challenge to an infertile individual or couple at this time of the year.

And let's not forget that for Christians, the very heart and reason behind the holiday celebrations is marking the birth of a child, Jesus - what a way to drive home the pain of being infertile!

On this page I've put together some tips and resources for helping to get through the holiday season when infertility is a factor in your life. I hope these suggestions and ideas will help make the holidays less difficult and more peaceful to you, no matter where you may be on your fertility journey. You'll also find links to many more articles on the subject of infertility and the Christmas season, as well as resources for helping you survive infertility all year long.

Rhetoric, Christmas Cards, and Infertility: A Season of Silence

A Wonderful Video Essay on Infertility and Family

This is an amazing YouTube video I wish I could share with all of my fertile friends and relatives. It takes a look at the way society seems to define what a "family" is, and how that can be painful to the infertile couple or individual whose own family structure can be devalued, especially during the holiday season. Watch it and first feel angry, then inspired.

Has Infertility Been a Factor in Your Life During the Holidays?

Have you had to deal with infertility during the holiday season before?

My Advice to Anyone Dealing with Infertily During the Holidays

Do's and Don'ts - From Someone Who's Been There

These are just my personal suggestions on how to try to make the holiday season a little less painful and a bit more joyous this holiday season. While nothing can take away the pain of infertility, there are many things you can do to celebrate the positive parts of your life - and try to minimize the situations that will cause you stress and upset.

Can't bear to shop for gifts for your young or infant nieces and nephews, or good friends' children? Buy gift cards for them instead.

toy shoppingWhile kids love ripping in to lots of presents on Christmas morning, there's something to be said for a gift card that they can use to buy whatever Santa "forgot" to get for them from their Christmas wishlist. And you can save yourself the pain of having to go shopping at Toys R Us or similar kids-heavy stores. Alternatively, shop from home and order presents on-line, to be delivered to the recipients' house already gift-wrapped! It'll be easier for you both time-wise and emotionally.

Of course, on the other end of the spectrum you may enjoy buying those gifts for others' children, and if so, revel in it! Maybe you can have fun considering it a "practice run" for the hopeful "Christmas Future" when you will be able to buy presents for your own kids. Only you know what's right for you when it comes to such matters, and how well you're able to deal with anything child-related during the holidays. Don't let friends and family drag you shopping at the mall or toy store with them if you can't handle it.

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Don't open Christmas cards from people you know will include photos of their happy, smiling family - multiple kids included.

Or, even worse, those custom "family" cards which may show just the baby/child itself in a festive holiday costume in lieu of the adults you actually know and consider your friends. No offense to my own friends who send such cards, but they usually end up tucked away in a drawer or face-down as soon as opened; I don't need to have cheery festive babies giving me a pang in the heart every time I look at my Christmas card display.

Throwing a holiday party? Consider making it "adults-only."

pouring wineNo, I don't mean making it R-rated, but instead intended for your adult family members and friends - children to be left at home with a babysitter. Promote it as a chance for the parents in your circles to enjoy a holiday night out not about Santa, toys and gifts but festive spirits and perhaps a viewing of "Bad Santa." Or politely note that your house is not childproof and not suitable for young children to be running about. Another option is holding your party at a restaurant or other location, later in the evening, where young children would absolutely not be appropriate. Let invited guests know seating is limited and it's not suitable for children, then let them decide to attend or not.

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Limit how many holiday events you will attend that you know will be full of children and/or baby talk.

Christmas magicIf you know family events are going to be difficult for you with nosy relatives asking personal questions about your lack of children, too many pregnant relatives or too much focus on the children, make firm decisions about how much you can deal with subjecting yourself to - and stick to it. Same thing with parties held by friends or co-workers, if you know most of them have children who will be in attendance with them, or if all of the talk is going to be more "mom-talk" than "single-girl/new-couples talk" this year. Don't isolate yourself, but know your personal, emotional limits.

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Try to avoid being seated next to the new or expectant moms at the holiday dinner.

christmas dinnerThere's no faster way to have your holiday dinner turn into an upset stomach than being seated next to the newest mom or mom-to-be in the family, who everyone else is oohing and aahing over and telling gleefully how much they are going to enjoy motherhood and holidays with their children. If possible, try to sit by the older relatives in the family, or younger single individuals who might rather be talking about everything other than changing diapers and Santa Claus.

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Have an answer ready to go for all of those nosy questions about your lack of parenthood during the holidays.

Christmas treeIs there someone who always asks you about when you and your spouse are going to have a child? Or "give them a grandchild/niece/nephew/cousin/continue the family name/give little Joey a playmate/etc?" If so, be ready and prepared for how you are going to answer them. You can do so honestly while still being polite, and perhaps giving a subtle suggestion that it's really not any of their business. Some possible things to consider saying, depending on how you personally want to address the matter and what you feel comfortable sharing:

  • "We'd be happy to be parents, when and if the time is right."
  • "I'm so happy you think we'd make great parents. So do we. If and when it happens you'll surely be one of the first to know!"
  • "As soon as we figure out the meantime we're certainly having fun trying!"
  • "Actually we've been trying for some time and are having some problems with fertility. This is a sensitive subject to me and I would rather not discuss it."
  • "Would love to, but can't. I'm/we're infertile."

You can be as direct or indirect as you feel comfortable, from just trying to deflect the question by talking about something else to being honest and blunt. Metafilter has a hilarious list of possible responses to the question, although some may not be appropriate for all relatives and friends! And you should also talk with your partner about how comfortable he or she is with discussing your infertility issues with other family members. Be sure you're on the same page on the matter, to avoid conflict and strife, but let your partner know that this is an issue that brings you discomfort and pain and that you do need to deal with the issue - not simply avoid it indefinitely.

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Volunteer somewhere on Christmas day.

Another way to shake up the holiday routine, and help people in need at the same time, is to offer to volunteer at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, animal shelter, hospital, or nursing home on Christmas day. Many such facilities are short on staff at such times, and the holidays can be difficult on others who have no home or no one these to share the day with. So do something positive and helpful and uplifting by volunteering and make someone else's holiday a little brighter.

Plan a trip somewhere exotic over the holidays - away from the rest of your family.

Christmas in New YorkAn extreme change of scenery can bring a whole new sense of excitement and pleasure to the holidays, although it can be cause for upset and confusion from family members who don't understand why you won't be spending Christmas or Hanukkah with them. But maybe you've always wanted to get away from the winter chill and experience Christmas on a Caribbean island - believe me, it can be wonderful and exciting, with Christmas Carnival celebrations, and the uniqueness of spending Christmas morning on the beach. Or perhaps you've always wanted to go to Midnight Mass at the Vatican, visit the Holy Land during one of the most sacred times of the year...or even go sightseeing in New York City! Spend the holidays with your partner somewhere exotic and special, and make holiday memories which will last a lifetime without having to have anything to do with reminders of your fertility struggles.

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Make holiday traditions that revolve happily around you and your spouse.

Christmas heartMaybe you can't plan an exotic Christmas getaway trip, but you can still make the holidays special for you and your partner by enjoying activities that celebrate the two of you. Christmas week, plan a romantic dinner out at one of your favorite restaurants, and then go window shopping or enjoy a neighborhood candlelight walk. Go to a holiday concert featuring traditional Christmas carols, classical favorites, or maybe even a rock music jam. Go nuts decorating the house - without having to worry if those decorations are childproof! Enjoy a quiet, peaceful Christmas morning together before having to join the rest of the family for the main meal and celebrations. Prove to yourselves that your "family of two" is just as meaningful and precious as any family with children.

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What's the Hardest Part of Dealing with Infertility During the Holidays?

Great Articles on Infertility and the Holidays

Resources and Stories from Others

If you're looking for more great advice and references on getting through the holiday season, here are some articles I recommend as wonderful resources. Read them and find hope, inspiration and the comfort in knowing that you are not alone in going through these difficult times!

Do Infertile People Complain Too Much About The Holiday Season?

Do You Think It's Really an Issue, Or Not?


Has infertility been a factor in your life during the holiday season? Do you have any advice, tips or stories to share with readers here? If so, please let a comment, or just let me know what you thought of this page. Thank you for reading!

Updated: 04/24/2015, sockii
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