This time of year, everywhere you turn, there are bells ringing, store windows filled with bows, holiday parties and season's greetings. We are constantly being reminded of joy, hope, family, love and good tidings. All of which, I believe, are great things to be reminded of all year round. However, when it comes to the "holidays," whatever your religion may be, if you aren't pregnant and you desperately want to be, this time of year can be particularly challenging. I see it in my clinic -- women who have been trying to conceive, but for whom it just hasn't happened yet. December and January (whatever the year) bring a higher level of emotional charge.
It makes sense. As the year comes to a close, we are reminded of what we've accomplished over the last 12 months, where we were this time last year and what lies ahead. We tend to reflect more around this time and remember holiday seasons that have come before. Similarly, we tend to compare our lives to others (especially all those friends on social media). And, for a woman who has been trying to conceive without success, this type of reflection and comparison can be devastating. Of course, it is always difficult for women dealing with fertility challenges, but this time of year seems to be the worst. In my clinic, I mainly work with women who are eager to get pregnant, and I see my job as being their biggest cheerleader. When they're down or angry or pissed about hearing that yet another friend is pregnant, I tell them it's okay. When they're judging themselves for things they should have done that they didn't do that maybe is causing their current state of health, I point out all the things they have been doing to support their health and fertility. Or, when they tell me they can't handle another family member asking them about when baby is coming, I tell them to just smile and nod. A big part of surviving when you are dealing with fertility challenges -- especially during the holiday season -- is finding ways to manage your emotional space. Here are the survival tools that seem to work the best for all of the women in my clinic:
1. Be Healthy Selfish. This is my way of saying it's okay to say no. It's okay to walk away from a conversation or a situation that doesn't feel good for you. If Aunt Sue or a coworker is asking you for the umpteenth time when are you going to get pregnant, walk away. Pretend you are getting a phone call you have to take. Excuse yourself to the bathroom. Change the subject. Whatever you have to do, do it. And don't feel badly about it.
2. Share Your Story. This is a bit contrary to #1, but intentionally so. Sometimes there are people we want to talk to about our lives and sometimes there aren't. Share your story with someone you feel can listen. Share with them what you've been going through, whether it's that you have been trying to conceive naturally for the last six months, or that you are on your second IVF (in vitro fertilization), or that you just miscarried. Whatever it is, share it in your own comfortable way. It will feel good. And, you really never know the other person's story, as they might have a similar one to share with you. I see it in the clinic that a lot of women have shame over their fertility struggles, and I think that sharing your story lifts that shame, and it allows another person to share a deeply personal story with you.
3. Be Kind To You. When you hear that someone is pregnant, or you see a pregnant women on the street... yes, it is normal to feel sad or mad and want to cry. That is a completely normal reaction. And, I'm not saying to stop having those, rather I want you to -- in that moment -- be kind to yourself. You can do this by saying to yourself: "I love you." Or something like: "You are doing the best you can do right now." Or, better yet, how about saying to yourself, "I know that is going to be me one day." There is power in positive, loving self-talk, and I think most of us don't do enough of it. Tune into that conversation in your head and start saying loving, kind things to yourself. You deserve it.
4. Practice Gratitude. Yes, I know this is the rage these days. And, I say, "WooHoo!" to that! Gratitude goes a ridiculously long way. Regardless of your fertility struggles, find things in your life -- right here, right now -- that you are grateful for. I am sure there are plenty of good things happening that you could focus on. I recommend that you list five things daily that you are grateful for. This could be as simple as being grateful for your comfy pillows to something as deep as being grateful for all those women who went before you who have struggled with getting pregnant. Just be grateful. Practice it daily. It will shift your mindset from one of lack to one of abundance.
5. Make Someone Smile. I know you're feeling like crap, but the easiest way to make yourself happy is to make someone else happy. So give someone a compliment, share a laugh, buy the person behind you their morning coffee, hold a door for someone. You get it. Do something nice for someone else, and fill your heart with more joy.
And most importantly, don't you dare give up. Believe in your body's ability to get and stay pregnant. See it, visualize it, know it in your heart. You too will one day be that pregnant woman walking down the street. For whatever reason, where you are right now is a part of your path, and I know it's not always easy but hang in there. It's going to get better soon.