'Tis The Season To Be Melancholy: Infertility At Christmasby Ellie Thompson
‘Tis the season to be jolly… Oh, is THAT how the saying goes? If you’re struggling with fertility issues at Christmas, well, then it’s anything but flamin’ jolly. It’s downright THE WORST time of year for so many reasons. Hey, Grinch, we feelin’ ya.
It’s not just about the day itself… It’s so much more than that. It’s the long old run-up, where idyllic pictures are being conjured up and played out everywhere you look. From the local Co-Op to your Facebook feed, to tear-jerking ads on the TV that make you feel even more shit about yourself, the reminders are mostly indirect, but they hit home so forcefully, and they’re all of a sudden, EVERYWHERE. You can’t even go to the garden centre until at least mid-January to buy yourself a house plant to nurture, because everybody knows those places are basically the North Pole at this time of year.
I’m not crying, it’s just the snow falling on my face.
What is it about Christmas that invokes these feelings of dread and downright despair in us infertiles? I suppose it’s because it only comes once a year, and there’s SO much pressure on the whole thing to be movie-perfect. The build-up to Christmas is immense, and with it, social media really comes into its own. Cheers Zuckerberg for the grief. Merry Christmas to you, too.
If you're weighed down with fertility issues this Christmas, chances are, you'll be super sensitive to the hype, and with good reason. I mean, why is it that Christmas seems to be the prime time for baby bumps and scans to be posted on Facebook? Or re-shared from years previous? And then there’s those precious milestones captured on camera, for us all to see and marvel over. Baby’s first Christmas, the first nativity, meeting Santa, baking gingerbread and cookies and putting out carrots for the big man and his reindeer crew on Christmas Eve. Oh, and the obligatory and extremely cheesy matchy-matchy family Christmas pajamas selfie… And let’s not forget the goddamn Elf on the sodding Shelf. That prick.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, all of these things can be truly beautiful… if you’re lucky enough to have kids to indulge in those moments. But if you’re struggling to conceive, or are going through IVF, fertility issues at Christmas can make each and every festive tradition can feel like just another load of salt in the wounds.
And then, there’s the trepidation of meeting up with long-lost family and friends, who’ll no doubt ask an insensitive question or two: “When’s it going to be your turn?” “Are you going to be starting a family next year? The clock is ticking, you know!”
Oh, PISS OFF why don’t you?! Unless you want to donate a few thousand quid to fund an IVF cycle, keep your mouths shut, Uncle Trev and Auntie Joan. Christmas lunatics.
So, I Googled to see if there were any useful tips I could share in this post because the only ones I could think of myself were… If you feel like shit, ride that wave. Go with how you feel. Hibernate if that’s what feels right, say ‘NO’ to the awkward social gatherings you’re spending too much time dreading, turn off the Facebook feed. Crack open the gluhwein and eat the entire tin of Quality Street if it feels right. I mean, hey, what’s a yard of Jaffa Cakes for if it’s not consoling the experience of infertility at Christmastime? 5ft Toblerone? I’m coming for ya. The biggest Lindt Father Christmas on the shelf? Get in ma belly. Don’t even get me started on the selection boxes. I’m there for over-indulging on the sweet stuff.
(Slight disclaimer here amidst the joshing: use your common sense if you are mid-treatment, or preparing for treatment - disclaimer not really needed, I’m sure, but you know, it’s good to stick one in here - JUST in case!)
So, back to those handy tips. Well, one website advised on taking up baking, sewing, drawing and reading. Meh… I’d say get stuck into six episodes of Grimm, that’ll take your mind off things until at least February. The Wessen world is mind-blowing! And that Nick Burkhardt is also very easy on the eye, hear what I'm sayin'? Distraction, my friends, is key.
Volunteering – well, it’s a great suggestion and would probably do wonders for putting things into perspective, but it’s not for everyone, every year, but it could be worth a punt.
Mindfulness, I’d love to joke about this one, but truth is, mindfulness is not just the craze of the moment, there’s definitely something to it. You should never underestimate the power of just breathing. In fact, why don’t you join the online yoga classes I do with the brilliant Toni Wolf. She’s sorted out a lot of my 3 am anxiety attacks without even realising it. And I’m rubbish at yoga. I like her classes so much she’s even coming round for Christmas Day! And we will be cracking open the Seachange pink Prosecco like a boss. Because I should be pregnant right now, and I’m not, so pop the cork and pour me those bubbles. Spending time with friends you can confide in is important. They'll get you through.
Seriously though, however you get through this time, try and remember that Christmas comes in all shapes and sizes, and some years will be better than others. Do what you feel is right to get through this time, and make some plans for 2022, ones that don't involve IVF ('cause I know you'll have made those plans already!)
Here’s to 2022. Sending those who need it so much baby dust and the power to get through December. Oh, and if you remember, tune into The JelliePod on 16th December. It's our fertility/IVF/TTC podcast I’ll be joined by three women who are all on different journeys. We’ll be nattering about infertility at Christmas, and sharing our thoughts, worries, dreams, tips and tricks on how to survive it.