How to Get Through the Season While Struggling With Infertility
Each year, the holiday season comes and goes, and as much joy as it can bring, for couples who are facing infertility, this time of year can be especially hard to get through. Families celebrating, cards featuring new babies and growing children, and questions from friends and family members about when they can start buying gifts for your little ones can be incredibly hard to put on a happy face for.
You may be remembering last season when resolutions were made and you imagined this would be the last year you would have to struggle with infertility issues. It can be frustrating to accept when life doesn’t always go the way we plan. We have found that to be especially true throughout 2020, as we have been thrown many curveballs throughout the year that have made this holiday season that much more difficult to get through. COVID-19 has completely changed our world, and coping with infertility and COVID at the same time has exacerbated the already tumultuous process of infertility treatments. For many, increases or decreases in workload has shifted their ability to fund or make time for family planning, and the financial hardships or change in work schedules that COVID has put on so many people has significantly impacted the ability for couples to access fertility treatment options.
As a result, the normal stresses of the infertility treatment process are magnified. The relief many would find with their close friends or families, through travel, or just getting out to get their mind off of things, has been temporarily taken from us. But just because things are not as we need them to be at the moment doesn’t mean there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel, and things you can do to help overcome the stress of the season and turn the end of this year into a positive experience.
Even as you feel the stress of not yet getting pregnant with infertility treatments, you may also find certain exercises, activities, and projects you can do that can help make this time of year extra special for you.
Taking care of your mental health should be the top priority this year. This is true for everyone as we navigate our way through COVID restrictions, but it is especially true for those facing the hardships infertility presents.
Reproductive Health and Wellness Center works closely with Marlene Cuevas, a licensed clinical social worker from the Fertility Counseling Center that provides counseling services to our fertility patients. Her professional experience and intimate knowledge of the unique challenges infertility causes patients to experience has given her the tools that might help you find ways to feel a bit better this season.
“It is important to be compassionate with self and know that it is ok to not feel ok.”
Marlene encourages patients not to deny their feelings and experience. Through all of the hardships this year has presented us with, we often look around and put pressure on ourselves to stay positive and be strong. But it’s important to recognize your own struggles, and give yourself the space to feel those struggles and accept that you are having a difficult time. Accepting yourself, including the pain you might be feeling, is one of the first steps toward loving yourself and healing. For those who might struggle with self-love, it sometimes helps to treat yourself as you would a loved one or dear friend, to support yourself with messages you would give to someone else going through what you are going through, and remind yourself that you deserve to be loved and supported just as your loved ones and friends do.
Marlene suggests some of the ways you can begin doing this during the holiday season are by “making it a holiday of gratitude, a day of taking care of yourself, pampering themselves/gifting themselves, rejoice in love for self and for each other, if in a partnership.”. COVID has put many restrictions on what we can do, but there are also new possibilities it presents as well. With the extra time at home, you have the space to give yourself a soothing bubble bath, start a new hobby or project around the house, or just cozy up and enjoy a good book. Even if you pursue these things, managing your mental health around them is also important. Marlene emphasizes that it is okay to take the time to do this, and outlines some options to help lessen the stress of some of the hardships the holiday presents.
“Take a hiatus from social media that is filled with baby pictures and pregnancy.”
The holidays bring on a flurry of posts about excited families, cute kids wrapping and opening gifts, and new babies in Christmas onesies and mittens plastered all over your newsfeed. Letting yourself take a step back and breathe from the overload of it all may do wonders to help you feel less pressure around your infertility struggles. This can also be applicable to holiday cards and messages, as cards often feature new babies or growing kids that can be hard to see one after another. When opening holiday cards it can be a good idea to have someone there with you to support you, make a stack and open them all in one go with a friend, partner, or family member, make playful jokes and maybe have a little celebration or self-care moment with each other once you finish. Crack open a bottle of wine, indulge in some tasty chocolate, or watch a comedy show together to help take your mind off of it and have a little fun with your person.
When talking on the phone or zooming with family members this season, it might be a good idea to “design a script- answers you will say if asked about when are you going to have kids”. This can help you feel more relaxed, prepared, and able to easily respond if the topic comes up with your friends or family. It will also help you mentally prepare for the moment and questions that might be asked, so when the time comes you can let it pass by a bit easier.
Focusing on yourself and your feelings is a good thing
It is important for you to give yourself the space to have moments of self-care. One of the ways you can have that space is by “doing stress reduction/deep breathing.” either through meditation or yoga. Connecting with the body and centering yourself can be especially beneficial for reducing stress. Playing some relaxing music, brewing your favorite tea, or stretching in a warm patch of sunlight can do wonders for putting you in the moment and letting yourself connect with your mind and body. Marlene suggests an aid for this through the apps “Headspace and Calm.” She “personally loves Headspace, but we hear excellent feedback from both”.
For couples, Marlene also recommends taking the time to strengthen the relationship and focus on each other. Making 2021 goals for each other and the partnership, “going on walks together and not use cell phones, having talks with no electronics, having conversations about the valuable lessons 2020 taught us and how to rise from this as a couple, reassessing family-building goals, (and) discussing what that means. Not everyone communicates best verbally, they may get overwhelmed by their feelings and feel like they are not able to express themselves adequately, try writing a letter. It’s ok to not say everything in one sitting.”. This season can be one of becoming closer with your partner and helping each other heal after this difficult year. For so many couples, the hardships of infertility and COVID over the past year have felt like a dominating force, but the holidays can actually offer a little break from it all. Take the time to release the stress around it and just be together, have fun, and do things that allow you to connect and enjoy each other’s company. You can talk about goals for next year and dreams for your family, but also make the time to appreciate each other, to support and take care of each other. Taking this time can help strengthen the relationship, and might make you feel more confident and comfortable as we head into the new year.
Most importantly, understand that it is okay to reach out for help right now. Even though COVID has reduced many services, counseling and therapy are still available and accessible. The Reproductive Health and Wellness Center has worked hard to provide our infertility patients with counseling services even through lockdown restrictions. Marlene and our team care deeply about our patient’s well-being and aim to provide them with counseling options that are COVID safe. Through virtual or on the phone counseling sessions our goal is to make sure no one feels like they have to face this all on their own, not only during the holidays, but year-round. We are here for you. If you need to book a counseling session, we are here to help, just call 949-516-0606 to speak with our office about booking a session, or you can book an online consultation with our founder, Dr. Rosencrantz, to speak about your fertility needs.