As the holidays roll in, so do the inevitable wave of obnoxious comments from often well-meaning yet invasive family members. While you’re minding your own business, Aunt Suzie might casually blurt out, "Why aren’t you pregnant yet?!" and those words can feel like a punch in the gut.
At Kofinas Fertility, we understand the unique stress the holidays can bring for those navigating fertility struggles. Helping individuals start families for all these years has given us some helpful insights on how to manage these hurtful comments. A lot of us have been in a very similar boat- and we know it’s not always smooth sailing. So, here are our top five tips to help you out!
#1 Expect Triggers
It’s common to encounter insensitive questions or comments during gatherings. Being mentally prepared for these triggers can help soften their impact. Anticipating and acknowledging that these moments might occur can help you to choose how you respond rather than reacting impulsively. Remember, it's okay to protect your emotions and set boundaries.
In addition to family members, there are also tons of other triggers around. I mean, everyone just seems so damn happy all the time! According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 64% of individuals struggling with a mental illness noted that their conditions worsened during the holidays. Oftentimes, when we’re “supposed” to feel happy and joyous, how we really feel is stressed and overwhelmed. This is even heightened for those going through fertility struggles. We just want you to know that you’re not alone!
#2 Craft Your Responses Ahead of Time
Crafting a response to the infamous question, "Why aren’t you pregnant yet?" can help you to respond rather than react. And it can help you manage your stress levels in the meantime. Consider rehearsing your answers to various questions you may be asked. Here’s some examples to get you started:
“When are you going to have kids?”
- "We're still figuring out our plans, and when the time is right, we'll let you know. How's [change the subject]?”
- “Well, we really don’t want our baby to be a Virgo, so we’ve got to wait a bit.”
"You should try XYZ method to get pregnant; it worked for someone I know."
- "I appreciate your suggestion. We're exploring options with medical professionals, but it’s a bit of a sensitive topic for me right now so do you mind if we talk about something else?"
"You're not getting any younger; you should hurry up and start a family."
- "I understand, but these things can take time. We're focusing on what's best for us right now. How have things been with you?"
"Maybe you're doing something wrong; have you tried changing your lifestyle?"
- "We've explored different avenues, including lifestyle changes, but fertility can be complicated. We're following medical advice and doing what's best for us."
- “How’s that fifth glass of wine treating you, Aunt Suzie?”
For more intrusive questions, a simple “That’s something personal we're not discussing right now” could do the trick. If a line is really crossed, you could use the phrase, “What a strange thing to say out loud.” After all, sometimes Aunt Suzie needs to just be asked to stop. However, everyone’s family is different. The last thing you need is to draw more attention to the situation, making you feel even worse. So craft your responses based on what will make your life easier, not anybody else's.
#3 Create a Safety Signal
Navigating fertility struggles can weigh on both partners. Develop a discreet signal or code word with your partner to indicate when you need support during uncomfortable conversations. A quick rescue can provide relief, allowing you to gracefully exit the situation. For emergencies, you could always spill your drink or say something absolutely unhinged to change the subject. Redirection can be a very useful tactic.
#4 Prioritize Self-Care
With all of this going on, it's easy to overlook self-care. Research from Mayo Clinic shows a direct link between stress, depression, and infertility. Remember, taking care of yourself isn’t selfish—it’s essential. Find moments to step away, indulge in activities that bring you joy, and set aside time for relaxation. Prioritize your mental and emotional well-being.
#5 Hold onto Hope
Infertility can feel isolating, but you are not alone. Don’t lose hope! Remember that there are so many families out there that went through fertility struggles and now have the daily of their dreams. Confide in trusted friends and family, or seek professional support. Sometimes, simply being listened to is all we need to feel better.
You’ve Got This!
Managing fertility stress during the holidays requires strength and resilience, and you possess both. Don’t let anyone’s thoughtless comments get you down. This holiday season we hope you find moments of peace and joy amidst the chaos. You deserve compassion, understanding, and support.