There used to be a time when the holidays weren’t triggering.
When the family bursting through doors, singing out hellos, hugging and laughing didn’t cause an extra ache in your heart.
A pinched smile as you picture how things could be – should be – if your last cycle had worked.
You want to enjoy these special times. As cousins and uncles and grandmas and sisters cook together, and eat together, and remember memories of years gone by.
It’s not perfect, of course. There’s still the awkward political or religious conversations that we all dance around. Or the questions that go unasked to be sensitive to old hurts.
I don’t know what your family is like, but we’re all just human. We love and we argue and we put on our dressy clothes and bring all our messy stuff to the (expanded) dinner table.
But when you’re in the middle of infertility, it all feels just a little tainted with the question of what could be. What should be. What may be, someday, maybe. We hope.
Whether you’ve told your family about your struggle, or not. Or told some of them and sworn them to secrecy so you won’t have to hear (again) your Aunt’s stories about her miscarriage in between your two younger cousins, or explain what an FET is to your great uncle (who is bafflingly unaware of anything related to women’s bodies).
No matter whether they know or not, it still feels lonely.
Unless they’re going through the same struggle, it still feels lonely.
They sympathize and love and squeeze your hand an extra moment longer than usual, but they don’t understand it all. Not really.
So you find yourself sitting alone, after the table has cleared and the party has moved to the couches in the living room. Staring into the empty space and feeling the absence. Fearing what might not happen. Feeling a little sorry for yourself. Wishing you could just be you and feel normal. Not feel so alone. Not feel so focused on this one part of your life. But there’s not much you can do to change it – it is what it is.
So here’s something to consider these holidays:
It’s ok not to feel merry.
It’s ok to take some time to yourself. To opt out of the loud, laughing conversation after the big meal.
Take a walk. Get some air. Take a moment to yourself.
Tell someone, if you want. Release your feelings. Cry. Let them hold you. You’re not taking away from their holiday happiness – you’re letting them love you. And that is a gift.
Text a friend who’s in the same boat. A fellow infertile. Complain about how much this season sucks. Swear a little (or a lot). Hide out in a dark, quiet room and tap away on your phone, being totally antisocial, and don’t feel guilty.
Take in the small comforts. The warmth of a fireplace at your back. The familiarity of the same movie you watch every year. An extra bite (or six) of your favorite family recipe. Your brother who never asks questions but gives you an extra long bear hug. The cool air on your face when you step outside. They don’t fix anything, but they can feel good nonetheless.
Pop in to an online group and check-in. Vent. Or introduce yourself for the very first time. Remind yourself that there are lots and lots of other people out there going through the same kinds of things. They’re feeling lonely, too. Be a touchpoint for each other. Know that you’re not alone, no matter how lonely it feels.
Lose yourself in someone else’s story. Read something that will remind you that someday you’ll get to the other side of all this. (Even if you don’t know what that other side will look like.) Like this one. Or this one. Or this.
This season is what it is. It isn’t great. It’s not how you want it to be. It feels full of wanting and hurt and tentative hope. But that’s ok.
It’s ok to feel, well, exactly how you feel.
With love and gratitude,