Unbearable: A Holiday Guide For Awkward Discussions About Your Infertility

holiday partyHaving a child is usually a happy time in a woman’s life. Unfortunately, as we wait longer to have children, infertility and trouble conceiving can become a part of the family making process. Unbearable addresses these difficulties.

The holidays are here. The eggnog is flowing and the party season is starting. In the next few weekends, your going to see college friends that you ignore 11 months out of the year. You’re going to see extended relatives that can never remember where you work or what you want to college for or if you even graduated. You’re going to see lots of people who will ask how life is going and if you’re thinking about having any kids in the near future.

Those conversations can be difficult. They can be emotional, if you aren’t prepared. They can be emotional, even if you’ve been practicing your answer in the mirror for weeks now. And what begins as innocent chit chat can get really awkward, really quick.

Here’s just a few tips to make it through your annual holiday gatherings with the least amount of uncomfortableness and frustration. After two and a half years of fumbling through these talks, I like to think I’ve learned a few things.

  • Present a united front. You and your spouse should figure out how much you want to say and to whom before you arrive. If you want to say something along the lines of, “Yes, we’re trying,” but then leave off any further details, make sure you communicate that with him. Nosy aunts might try to play you off one another like a child trying to find out where the Christmas presents are hidden.
  • Vagueness is key. When someone asks if you’re planning on having any more little ones and your only response is, “We’d like that,” there’s no easy follow-up. it’s vague enough that people feel odd pressing for more information. It could mean you’re trying now or that you might try in the future. If you respond with, “We’ve been trying for a while now,” that opens the door to an entire infertility discussion. Then you can get ready to hear, “Well, it’ll happen when the time is right,” or “At least trying is the fun part!”
  • Shut the conversation down. You have every right to enjoy your holidays. So if someone is prying for information and threatening to anger or depress you, feel free to shut the conversation down quickly and efficiently. You can say, “It’s been really hard for us and I’d rather not talk about it here.” You can say, “We’re thankful we have a beautiful family that respects our privacy.” You use the stand by, “If we ever have news, I’ll make sure to share it with you.” Whichever conversation ender you choose, just have one planned in case you get into a difficult situation.
  • It’s okay if you get a little emotional. There are a lot of sweet sentiments going around during the holidays. There are a lot of adorable babies in little red sweaters. There are a lot of happy couples sharing their good news with friends and family. It’s okay if these things get to you. Don’t feel guilty. Just try to accept those emotions and deal with them. It will make it easier for you to move on and enjoy yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to hold the babies! I have the most handsome, most pleasant infant nephew that ever attempted to scoot across the floor. Yes, seeing baby nurseries in a Pottery Barn catalog can make me sad. But that doesn’t mean I should avoid picking up my wonderful nephew in fear of a few tears. I love babies! Avoiding them would be horrible, and way less fun than enjoying and appreciating that these little miracles. They put the wonder and the fun into the holidays. Don’t miss out on it because you’re feeling nervous or vulnerable.

There might be a lot of awkward conversations coming your way. You could have plenty of people asking when you and your husband are finally going to have a baby. These people have no clue how hard things have been for you. They’re just curious and not particularly tactful.

You have a choice. You can let these conversations ruin your holiday. Or you can get through them and enjoy the love and support of the family around you. It’s not always easy, but let’s try to choose the second path.

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    • Carm

      Lindsay, I’m reading this after your post on reaching the end of this fertility journey. I just want to thank you for your courage and transparency through this series. I’ve actually been following you because we seem to have new friends fighting this battle (war?) all the time and I wanted a look into their hearts. I have a six month old daughter and I want to be able to speak with my friends without hurting them. You’ve saved me from many of the lines we “well-wishers” lean on and also saved my friends from having to expose how hurtful little comments can be.

      I hope you find the comfort you need while you grieve. And one day you’ll see a path to whatever is next for your beautiful family. You remain a talented writer and mother. We’d be fortunate to hear from you again.

      Prayers and condolences.