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The holidays are typically a time for gatherings with family members, spending time with those you love, and celebrating family traditions. For couples struggling with infertility, the holidays and spending time with family may not hold the same joy and excitement as years past. During the holidays, couples struggling with infertility may get asked questions they don’t have answers to or don’t want to discuss with others.  This can bring about feelings of shame, guilt, inadequacy or a sense of loss. 

Oftentimes, family members have the best of intentions, not realizing how a couple experiencing infertility may be struggling in that moment.  It is common for couples to feel pressure from family members about their infertility journey, conceiving, and upholding family traditions. Couples who are experiencing infertility may get asked questions like “when are you going to have children” or “how are fertility treatments going?” Family members may try to place blame on one partner for not having a child, or struggling to have one. The couple may feel attacked, ashamed they are not “performing” or meeting their families expectations.  Feelings of guilt, loneliness, and sadness may increase and compound difficult emotions that are already present during a fertility journey. 

There are a few ways a couple can prepare when attending the holidays with family. The important thing is to build a support system amongst each other so they know how to reply to the family, and when it’s a good time to leave the holiday gathering or not attend at all.  

  1. Couples can gauge whether it’s mentally and emotionally healthy for them to attend these holiday gatherings.  It’s important they remember that it is not worth their mental and emotional wellness attending holiday gatherings that may cause anxiety, feelings of guilt and shame or place more pressure on them. 
  2. Next, the couple can create clear boundaries to assist them with how much information they will share about their infertility journey with their family members.  They can determine certain details that they will choose not to share.  The couple can discuss what their responses will be depending on who asks questions.
  3. The couple can communicate clearly by letting family members know their infertility journey is not up for discussion. The couple can let the family know what is up for discussion and what is not. 
  4. Couples can let family members know to keep their story private.
  5. The couple can create a sign or gesture they will make to one another when it’s time for them to leave or when someone needs to go assist the other.  

Couples struggling with infertility may experience change in their family dynamics, especially during the holidays. Their feelings can take over making it difficult to communicate what they need or want from others.  

Couples may feel that family members are intrusive, or invading their space and privacy with inappropriate questions.  The couple can simply say no to the gatherings that they do not want to be a part of or to those being intrusive and invading their space.

Self-care is important for couples experiencing infertility.  They need to be able to recharge and rest when needed. A couple should create a plan around self-care they can establish, if needed, after attending a gathering that leaves them emotionally and mentally drained. For example, a night home alone watching movies, a hike, a walk to breathe some fresh air, visiting family or friends that are supportive or simply creating new family traditions that bring them peace and joy.

Struggling with infertility is challenging and the holidays may make things feel more intense. Finding effective communication, boundaries, and a self-care plan can help couples to maintain their emotional wellbeing through the holiday season.  

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