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Infertility during the Holidays: The Do’s and Don’ts

It’s that time of year again. The time of year that is the happiest but also the hardest times for those who struggle to get pregnant and grow their families. This is something a lot of people don’t think twice about when they think about or start to grow their families, but for 10% (6.1 million) of women, they struggle getting and staying pregnant.

The holidays is such a wonderful time to celebrate the birth of Christ and to be with family. But it can also be a reminder of what you don’t have. Which I know, aside from infertility that can go for anyone. You may have wanted a certain car for years and your buddy gets it and you’re just like “man I wish I had that”, but with infertility it is more of an internal longing for a family of your own while you watch so many others around you getting that blessing that you so badly want.

This includes insensitive comments (although they may not feel insensitive coming from the person saying them) as far as:

“so when are y’all going to have some kids?”

“what is taking y’all so long?”

or maybe on the other side of this you hear:

“maybe if you stopped trying so hard and just let it happen…”

or “well you’re young, you have time for all that, enjoy life while you can”…

We all have heard these That pushy parent, the grandma who is a little too nosey. It is hard to hear these when deep down, you may be trying or have been trying. You may have lost a baby that no one knew about but you and your spouse. You may have been trying for months or even years and are already doing everything you can. These questions can cut deep without people realizing so it’s best not to ask, even if you are curious. Everyone loves babies, just be conscious of how you ask. If you really want to know you could ask one of the couples parents and that way you can get your question out without hurting the couple themselves. This is something that a lot of couples struggle with and just aren’t ready to share their story or struggles year or maybe are hoping it will happen before they have to. These may seem like logical and innocent questions but to them, it hurts.

As for us, we have had 6 wonderful years of marriage. We have built a foundation for ourselves to where we feel comfortable to welcome children. Women who get pregnant immediately (and there’s nothing wrong with that) may not have had those years with their spouse just the two of them, they may have thrown kids into the mix so soon that outside of those children, they don’t know who they are as a couple anymore without them. We are very thankful that we have had years to be intentional. To have one date night a week, to prioritize each other, to have those hard conversations about how we want our children raised and brought up along with what their names will be (which are already chosen). There aren’t many pro’s to infertility but that is one. Making every conscious decision, not in the interest of ourselves, but in the interest of our future family and how we want it to be. We have been very open about our struggles, which everyone can do on their own time but being open about it helps us avoid getting those questions because we are an open book about this topic. It has helped us a lot when we get these questions so we aren’t a deer in headlights although it still happens but we have seen that being open about it has helped more than it’s hurt and has allowed so many to know how to pray for us specifically and those will be the same people who celebrate when it does happen again.

Christmas and even Thanksgiving can be an emotional time. You are surrounded by family, little ones running around and baby bumps. I honestly believe that to get through it you just have to pray and work on how you handle it when it does happen. I 100% am an advocate for doing what’s best for you. If you think a baby shower will be triggering, a family gathering, a birthday party, that you should do what’s best for you and respectfully send a gift, and stay home. There is nothing worse than being at an event for someone else celebrating something and you end up crying in your own little corner. Trust me, I’ve been there. This has nothing to do with the person, but with how you deal with things internally. I think with the Holidays it can be a very tough time for those who are struggling with infertility or are ttc for that reason. You never know when something is going to trigger you. A family member holding a new baby, a couple talking about how great life before kids were, or even something as simple as a little one running around.

I know for us last year was very hard. Finding out we were pregnant in August and planning to tell our family at Christmas which has always been my dream to announce at Christmas, last year it felt like it was finally happening. With miscarrying days later its like our dream came crashing down. Thanksgiving was hard thinking “I should have a growing bump” and “I should be eating for two”, having those jokes about ” a turkey isn’ the only thing in this oven” etc. And then going into Christmas, all of our announcement boxes had come in the mail saying “Baby Ratledge coming April 2020” and instead of giving them out we placed them at the top of the closet in what was supposed to be the nursery.

Christmas was very hard on us seeing all the announcements because as happy as we were for those who announce, it should’ve been us too. It should have been “bumps first Christmas”. But instead it was filled with announcements of what could have been but wasn’t. It was a good time for me to get off of social media during that time and I’m glad that I did. It is so therapeutic to take a cleanse from everything. Pregnancy announcements are unavoidable, you can’t change what happens around you, but you can handle how you react to it.

I am preaching to the choir because I know this year may very well be the same. This is the year we were supposed to have a newborn. It would be Hartley’s first Christmas but instead there is just an on ornament on the tree and we carry her in our hearts instead of in our arms. I know that Hartley was always destined for heaven, I know that now but it doesn’t mean that we don’t wish she was here with us instead, celebrating her first Christmas. But hey, spending it in heaven is pretty spectacular to get to spend it with Jesus himself as we celebrate his birthday here on earth but she gets to spend it with him.

What helped me and still helps me is the quote that says “her win does not mean you lose, cheer for her, you’re not even in the same race”. Which is so true but definitely something I keep in front of me as a constant reminder. With how common abortion is in this day and time, I am over the moon when anyone chooses life, surprise pregnancy or planned. I think every pregnancy should be celebrated, no matter how early, late or how long it lasts whether that is full term or not. Babies are a gift from God and in the world we are in right now I think it’s so important to raise disciples of Christ to populate this earth. Lord knows we need it. Announcements are hard but it cuts deeper if it’s a family member like a sibling. But please hear me when I say, when reactions like this happen, it isn’t at the fault of the person announcement, it is 100% the person who is struggling. They may even try to make it about the couple but it isn’t, it is only about yourself, your insecurities and how you handle things as far as comparison goes. Which is so easy to do.

I will say, that if you are announcing to someone who does struggle with infertility, please try to be sensitive. That is something that would have made a world of difference were it approached that way when my brother told me about my niece. You can’t tell someone who struggles with infertility that you are pregnant and expect them to jump for joy. You need to ease them into it, otherwise the reaction you get, you won’t like. If you know this person struggles with ttc, give them a heads up before you put it on fb. Tell them “I know this may be hard for you to hear but I wanted to let you know that…..”. I promise that will mean more to them than you realize. And you may feel, no, it’s my announcement, I shouldn’t have to cater to anyone, yes, and if you feel that way that is fine but for the sake of your friend or loved one, doing this small act will make a world of difference.

My niece is amazing. She is the most precious gift to our family and it has been so amazing watching my brother and sister in law blossom into parents. But full transparency, sometimes it can be hard. Aria came very soon after they got married. My reaction was very negative as we were in the middle of fertility treatments at the time and were right at the 3 year ttc mark. I know that my reaction hurt my brother and his wife and that is something that I have to live with, and they may never forgive me for. But I will say, had they approached it in a more sensitive way, because they knew our situation, the reaction would have been totally different. So please hear me when I say be sensitive, and if you aren’t sensitive you may hear a reaction that may hurt you, just know that isn’t the persons intention, they are just hurting and lashing out. But this can all be avoided If you treat the situation delicately like it should be treated that way no one gets hurt and after they process the news they can be as supportive as they can be whether that be close up or at a distance.

The Holidays are a magical time, sadly that time can be stolen depending on how you handle things. So if you struggle with this, and this time of year is hard on you. I have some tips that helped me:

1. Stay in your bible and in prayer, even throughout the day if you need.

2. Try to be understanding, if they don’t struggle with what you struggle with, they aren’t going to know to be sensitive but hopefully their love for you will cause them to be

3. There will always be announcements, you can only control how you react to them. Smile, congratulate her, then go talk to God. He is the only one who can heal and comfort and just know, he is working on your story it just isn’t ready yet but trust him, it’s coming

4. It’s ok to say not family and events if it’s something that will make you upset. Stay home, stay safe and stay hopeful. Don’t let anything steal your joy.

I am praying for all of you ladies who are having a hard time this holiday season. You are in my prayers and I am praying peace, comfort, healing and fruitfulness over your lives and that 2021 holds many miracles.

another great link by Baby Bird

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