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How to survive the holidays when you have infertility….

An excellent article, “Coping with the Holidays…again.” was published by Resolve back in 2009. Written by Linda Cimarusti, it still rings true…

Coping with the Holidays — Again

By Linda J. Cimarusti, PhD
Published in Resolve, for the journey and beyond, Winter 2009

It’s that time of year again—filled with cheer, shopping, baking, and attending holiday celebrations. Yet it is difficult to feel goodwill when the past twelve months have been filled with the pain of infertility and the acute awareness of the passage of another year passing without fulfillment of your family building goals. Everywhere you look there are bright lights, decorating ideas, appealing goodies to bake and handmade gifts to make that are sure to delight the recipient. All are indeed delightful, yet once again you feel little delight or enthusiasm.

Although the message at the holidays is to be with family and friends and to give to others, it is crucial that you take care of yourself if you are to survive this not always merry time of year. Here are some suggestions to make the holidays a little easier. Some of the suggestions may even bring you some respite and pleasure. Please take and use these suggestions as YOUR gift to YOU!

It is okay to say NO to some invitations.

You may not be able to handle too many babies, children and pregnant women, too much effort to dress up, too many wellintentioned queries about your own “status” can all equal too much pain! True friends and close family will understand. Acquaintances will not notice or care. If it is a command performance and you MUST attend the event, or an event you are ambivalent about as you truly think you will enjoy yourself , it is always helpful to make a safety-net plan. If you make a safety-net plan, you will be less likely to be blindsided by that unexpected sense of envy or depression that can come out of seemingly nowhere. Enlist your partner or a friend to stay by your side to whisk you away from painful conversations, take you home early, give you a shoulder to lean on or talk openly to for a minute during the event. These helpful hints can be a welcome respite from “pretending” and smiling. It can give your emotions and facial muscles a much needed short break.

Give yourself permission to do what soothes you

We tend to know what we need but still try to live up to others’ expectations. Even harder to change is our habit of trying to meet our own expectations of our “pre-crisis” selves. It’s essential to believe that, once the infertility issues are RESOLVEd, you will return to your previous level of social, professional and emotional functioning. But this is true only if you allow yourself the medicine of lowering your expectations of yourself right now when in the midst of this stressful time.

Yes, you’ve heard it a million times, but pampering yourself really does help.

It does not remedy the situation, but it helps you through it. Here are some great ways to pamper yourself: Get a massage or facial (or both!); buy a new purse or hardcover novel; or spend an entire day watching movies in bed!

Reaffirm your commitment to your partner or your friends.

During this time of year, do some special activities with them. Quality time has become a trite phrase, but it does have value. It is important to remember when we feel isolated by our pain and longing for a child that we are connected to a few others who love us and who enrich our lives. We used to look with anticipation at the prospect of some time with these folks or doing these specific activities. Take a moment and try to mentally recapture an image of yourself laughing and having fun. Through this “self-instruction” you might boost your chances of feeling some anticipatory pleasure and enjoying the event.

Make a plan for your family building approach for the future, even if you have to first make a few calls to adoption agencies, counselors, clinics and insurance carriers to line up your schedule.

Make sure you talk with your partner to be sure you are on the same page. Agree on what you can, and remember that you are committed to resolving this together. The next step is to write down as much as you know of your plan. It is your promise to yourself. Then literally wrap the printed page in holiday paper and put it in a drawer—to be taken out after the New Year. Try not to think about it. Your gift to yourself is to know you will get back to the work of family building, resolving grief and meeting social expectations after January 1.

Do not be swayed by voices (yours and others) telling you that you are overreacting or being self-indulgent!

You are being self-protective and self-caring in a healthy way, and it is what you need to do to have the energy to pick yourself up after the holidays and continue your quest to build your family.

Linda J. Cimarusti, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist with more than 25 years of experience in working with individuals and couples dealing with infertility and family building. Dr. Cimarusti practices in Bethesda, MD, and can be reached or 301.509.8592.

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