There’s a bitter breeze in the air. The charity bells are ringing outside of supermarkets. You can’t escape Bing Crosby’s crooning or the glare of your neighbor’s light displays no matter how hard you try. In tandem, these can only mean one thing: the winter holidays are here again. Which – for many – doubles as the time for the dreaded question: when are you having a baby!?
For a person or couple experiencing infertility, the holidays add more emotions to an already complex situation. Though infertility struggles last year-round, they seem to be especially intensified during this holiday season. If you are struggling, you’re not the only one.
Infertility makes it easy to feel alone in a crowded room; seeing all the seasonal merriment at gatherings or in greeting cards – with full, happy families in ridiculous hats – can be difficult for those at any stage in their fertility journey. But rather than isolating during the dark winter nights, it is important to gather with loved ones if possible; this is when support is needed the most.
Hearing those tough questions from family and friends is never easy. Navigating through their expectations and unsolicited advice can heighten emotional turmoil. So, to traverse those problematic dinner conversations, we have gathered a list of six ways to deal with those questions during the holidays.
Dodge Questions in Advance
Where’s that baby bump? Have you tried the such-and-such method? Maybe you’re too stressed to get pregnant – have you ever thought about that?
Whoever said the idiom “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” was obviously never asked any of the questions above. To avoid a knockout punch, you dodge the glove. If you feel the rumble of reproductive questions coming, you can dodge those, too.
Family and friends are there to support you on your journey, but no matter what it is still your journey. If you avoid questions in advance, you can put a stop to them before they even start. Request that people refrain from digging for details by simply – and politely – asking them not to ask. You can treat it as a ground rule of sorts.
Try this: “I will let you know if we have any updates, but until then, I would rather not talk about it.”
Change the Topic
As a participant in a conversation, you can steer away from topics you’d rather not speak about. Remember that you are in charge of what you want to share: your body is your business. By changing the topic, you can shift the conversation to be about anything else. This diverts the attention away from the possible hardships of your fertility journey and makes for a more pleasant experience for everyone – most importantly: you.
Try this: “I don’t want to talk about that right now. How’s your grandma doing?”
Or this: “Thank you for asking. What are you doing for your birthday?”
Use a Blanket Response
A Blanket Response doesn’t directly address a question, but rather provides a generic statement to appease the person asking. This a great tool to have in your belt; it can neutralize almost every conversational avenue, leaving their lines of questioning halting at dead ends.
Blanket Responses are one-stop shops for shutting down questions, covering all the bases of a question with a noncommittal answer, thus eliminating the need for a follow-up. Something as simple as I don’t know will make the questioner lose interest in pursuing more information – this really is the best response.
Try this: “I’m kind of wondering the same thing. I wish I knew.”
Or this: “When the time is right, it will happen for us.”
The Blanket Response may seem like a diversion, but that’s because it is. A generalization can be a great way to ignore the original question.
Crack a Joke
Levity is a great way to round the edges of sharper subjects. Cracking a joke at your own expense or of the situation can lighten the mood if the spotlight falls on you. Though it’s imperative to read the room, you will know when the timing is right: you are more cognizant of your limits than anyone else in that room. A solid diversion like belly laughter can redirect the attention elsewhere, making an awkward or uncomfortable situation less so.
Try this: “I already have a child (referring to partner or spouse or pomeranian)!”
Or this: “I don’t know when our time is coming, but I’m starting a list of babysitters and you’re on it!”
When in doubt, approach the subject with sensitivity. Consider that anyone else in the room could have previously suffered from a miscarriage or other reproductive problems, as well. Levity is to lighten the room, not to darken it.
If you don’t have anything to say, you don’t have to say anything at all. If you are in a triggering talk about your fertility struggles, give yourself permission to disengage if you need to. You can simply walk away or move on to another conversation; the dining room is not the only room in the house or apartment.
Leaving the room, of course, is easier said than done. Most people who ask questions like to ask a lot of questions, so when you’re in a vicious cycle of them it can be difficult to break free. However, the person prodding for details of your intimate reproductive health is more at fault than you because you left the room.
Try this: “Sorry, I have to go to the bathroom.”
Or this: “I’m going to go help clean up the kitchen.”
When visiting with friends and family, be aware if the visit becomes difficult or uncomfortable. You’ll know your comfort levels. Your wellness is what’s important, so know that you can leave at any time. And if none of that works, you can always smile and nod. That seems to do the trick most of the time.
Be Honest and Direct
If you’re asked a difficult question, one option is to go with the truth. You can be honest and direct with your answer. But this is not as simple as it sounds. The truth often hurts, especially if your infertility struggles have been months or years in the making. But backing your statements up with fertility facts and your personal experiences will hopefully spark empathy in the person asking. This is not to say that they didn’t originally possess empathy, but rather that their want to ask such personal questions may be stifled.
Try this: “We are having trouble getting pregnant. Did you know one out of six couples of childbearing age has fertility challenges?”
Or this: “I have no idea and it’s upsetting. We are actually looking for a fertility doctor.”
For those dealing with infertility, the holiday season might be full of painful reminders that can add additional emotional stress to an already complicated situation. Preparing dialogue in advance or rehearsing how you’d want to handle potential pregnancy questions is recommended but never required. Questions can arise at any time, anywhere.
Remember: you are in charge of how much you want to share or not to share. When in doubt, always put your or your immediate family’s needs first. Taking time for yourself is important during the holiday season, especially when it feels like everyone else has what you don’t have. As difficult as it might seem, participating in activities that bring meaning to you is an incredibly therapeutic exercise. Taking the time to breathe and enjoying yourself are two of life’s most precious pleasures.
Practice gratitude, and plan adult-oriented activities by yourself, with friends, or with a partner. No matter how it feels sometimes, you are never alone. Support groups are great options if you’re feeling overwhelmed or isolated during this time. There, you can gain knowledge of your infertility situation and validate your emotional response with people going through similar journies. Visit the RESOLVE Support Group Directory to find a support group in your area.
If you have a friend or family member who is struggling to conceive, sometimes being there for them is just as meaningful as having something to say. Empathy – along with warm familial and friendly support – is key during their struggles. Even simple words of encouragement, like “you are doing amazing” or “we understand and support you” can make a world of difference to those in need.
Be there for them. If you think there’s something amiss, allow them to open up to you. Think of them like a gift. You know there’s something special inside of the wrapping, but you don’t want to ruin the surprise by tearing them open before the big day. Their day will come and they’ll let you know when that is. You’ll both be glad you waited.
From everyone at SpringCreek Fertility, we hope you all enjoy the holiday season. We wish everyone exceptional health and unbridled happiness, especially those struggling during this time.
For more information or to schedule a consultation with one of our providers, call us at 937-458-5084.