Three holidays in quick succession all focusing on family, babies, and time--the salt in the open wound of infertility, when we are desperately trying to get a respite from thinking about family building, babies, and the passing of time. It's not like you can ignore the holidays--not with the constant barrage of commercials featuring people in turkey costumes, houses draped in sparkle lights, and renditions of "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" coming over the loudspeaker (always sung by a choir of children so you get that extra knife in the heart while you try to navigate the clogged aisles at your local food store). Your options are either to hide out, alienate your friends and family, or fake it until you make it (or to legitimately have no problem with this time period in which you should probably click away from this survival guide).
I'm going to recommend going with the Fake It Until You Make It route and have compiled this handy guide of ideas to help you keep grinning and nodding while your Aunt Jane asks you once again when you're going to start having children:
- Create your own incentives and treat getting through the holiday season as your job. Pay yourself in whatever will make you happy. For instance, after a trip to the local mall to have your picture taken with your niece and Santa, pay yourself with a manicure. Attending the holiday party from hell may win you an entire bar of chocolate. It's worth setting up small incentives and budgeting for your own happiness because it can be something to focus on during the task at hand.
- You know the idea that you can take a large school and make it small but you can't go the other way around? Flip that concept when it comes to the holidays: take a small part of the holiday and make it big. Focus on something that you can do and make it your contribution to the holiday season. If you know celebrating Christmas will be too much, make sure you throw yourself wholeheartedly into helping prepare Thanksgiving (and then develop an unfortunate case of the stomach flu on December 24th). If you can organize the family gift but can't fathom how you'll do Christmas dinner, make sure you send out an email to your siblings early asking for photos of your nieces and nephews so you can design a great picture calendar for your parents. And then skip the ham.
- Do all your shopping online instead of subjecting yourself to walking past the displays of toys and Christmas baby clothes at the store. Keep it simple this year--you have a lifetime to plot out the most fantastic gifts of all time. This may be the year that you need to buy a DVD or book for each person your list and be done.
- Leave a note in your pocket: write a note to yourself, ask a friend to jot something down, trade letters with your partner, or simply leave a list of names (therapist, fellow bloggers, the friend you'll drink with the moment you get home) in your pocket to touch as a reminder that someone has your back when you begin to feel overwhelmed at the holiday table. I can't be with you at your Christmas dinner (the whole Jew and vegetarian thing aside, I just don't think your family is going to be cool if you drag along a random infertility blogger), but I can give you a note right now to keep in your pocket. Simply print this out and whenever you get overwhelmed, touch it and remember that there are people out there who get you. And change the line about mini hot dogs if you're a vegetarian:
I know it was really hard to come to this party/dinner/get together but now that you're here, you're even closer to it being over. Try to enjoy yourself, but if you can't, nip into the bathroom for a cry or bury yourself at the buffet table and do nothing but eat mini hot dogs for the rest of the night. There is no shame in enduring rather than enjoying and you need to do whatever you need to do to get through this without ruining any relationships. Make sure you take time for yourself today/tonight after you get home. I'm here on the other end of the computer if you need me.
- Pick and Choose: there is no rule that says you must attend every event during the holiday season--even if you've gone to everything in the past. If it's going to cause more grief than its worth, just attend the event. But if you can get your partner to "surprise" you with a holiday trip, all the better.
I'm moving up these suggestions from the comment section below:
- I will tell you the only trick I have up my sleeve: the holiday card. Most holiday cards we receive are either generic package-of-12 types or pictures of kids/families. We send out cards every year that routinely get responses that it was the best card they've gotten all year, or sometimes the best card ever. Sometimes one fabulous photo of us in some fabulous locale; sometimes a whole series around the world (which it will have to be again this year). We used to just have a normal photo card, but now we include a newsy update of career progress and travels. The people with kids (or limited funds, or limited outlook) say, "Wow, your life is amazing. I'm stuck here at home." I'm not trying to make them feel envious of us, but envy is way better than pity. --Baby Smiling in Back Seat
- All of our friends have been sending photo X-mas cards in the past years. In previous years, we'd send an awesome vacation photo. Like- heh!- we still had fun this year!--Mrs. Spock
- One tip I figured out early on: If you can't shop online & have to go to the mall, find out what hours Santa will be there -- & then go when he's not around. There won't be as many kids & babies around to deal with then. --The Road Less Travelled
- I manage to work in a reference to Katie in every edition of our Christmas letter... usually in relation to our volunteer work. But I like being able to remind people that she was real & is still a part of our lives. My Christmas card itself usually has either an angel or Classic Pooh theme (which was also the theme of her nursery). I know other people who use angel stamps on their cards as a subtle reminder of their lost baby(s). --The Road Less Travelled
- This year I solved my problem in the cowardly fashion... I offered to work. I work at a domestic violence shelter, which is open 24/7... So I figure I might as well. I can get paid double time as well, so it's all sorts of awesome. --An Unwanted Path
- I started listening to holiday music in August this year. I'm using it as my own private technique for connecting with the joy of the season early enough that I won't suddenly get trampled in the crush of child-centric images, events, and conversations coming my way during the *actual* season. I want this year to be different! --Lisa
Click here to Kirtsy this Survival Guide.