The holiday season is upon us…(those words always reminds me of my favorite TV show, Friends, season 6, episode 9 “The One Where Ross Got High”).
For our family, we are going to be gathering together and I am so excited to see people who I haven’t seen in two years! So much has changed in two years. And nothing has changed.
If you’ve been trying to have a family you probably envisioned that you would have your baby by now. And the way you had your baby is probably not the way it has (or will) happen.
Today I want to share some of my favorite tips for how to survive the holidays when you are still in the midst of your journey to build your family, especially when you are thinking about and/or considering using a donor (although these tips can apply to everyone).
Tip #1: Make sure you and your partner are on the same page about what you plan to share.
If your family knows you’ve been going through fertility treatments or have been trying to have a baby for a while they may want to ask you details. If you are considering using a donor or have decided to use a donor it is important that you and your partner are on the same page about what you plan to share.
If one or both of you are not comfortable telling people you are using a donor (at this point) it could be really challenging if one of you shares and the other isn’t happy about it.
To be clear, I am 100% a proponent of talking to friends, family and your child about donor conception and that is a topic for other posts. This commentary is specific to the situation where you are still wrapping your head around it and you are not ready to be open yet.
Before going to any events, sit down together and have a conversation. Talk about what you feel comfortable with and what you don’t. That way, if/when it comes up you can know that both of you are on the same page, sharing (and not sharing) the same information.
Some responses could be:
- Thank you for asking, we are trying some new protocols that we are hopeful about.
- We’ve taken a break for a bit to sort through some new options that have presented themselves.
Tip #2: Prepare responses to change the subject
We all have the family members who want to know everything. They ask questions like “when are you having a baby” or “why haven’t you had a baby yet”. If you offer up information like “oh we are trying” or “we are seeing a specialist” they follow up with things like “just relax” or “when I was trying (thanks…didn’t want that picture in my head) we just did X and it happened”.
Their intentions are good. They want to know about you. They want to offer support and help. But their approach is incorrect.
If you anticipate these conversations with people in your life my suggestion is to have some pre-planned responses. These responses can acknowledge their support and then change the subject. Here is an example:
Aunt Kate: “when are you going to have kids? You’ve been together for so long now, isn’t it time?”
You: “Thank you for your interest in our family Aunt Kate. When it happens we will let you know. So tell me more about cousin Joe’s new house”.
People love to talk about themselves so turn the conversation back on them and ask them a question and 9 times out of 10 they will start talking about their thing and forget all about what they asked you.
Here are some other phrases to use as subject changers:
- I love your necklace…where did you get it?
- I heard you went on a trip to X, what was your highlight?
- Excuse me, I need to refill my beverage.
- Are you still doing Y for work? How is that going?
Tip #3: Have an Exit Plan
Sometimes you can plan and the situation still gets to be too much.
Seeing family members pregnant and thinking… “we’ve been together longer…how are they already pregnant and we aren’t”
Being “surprised” by a pregnancy announcement at an event and then having to hold back the tears.
Getting bombarded with questions and feeling incredibly overwhelmed.
If this happens, there is nothing wrong with you. It can be too much so the best way to plan for it getting to be too much is to go in with an exit plan.
My tips for exit plans:
- Have a code phrase or word or hand signal to let your partner know you are over the edge and you want to leave.
- When you arrive, scope out the venue for a quiet place where you could step away from the crowd (an empty bedroom, a basement TV area).
- If leaving immediately isn’t an option (you are staying the night), step into the place where you will be sleeping for a few minutes, put in your headphones and do a mediation or watch an episode of your favorite show to get your mind off things.
- Have another person besides your partner who you trust and who knows what is going on who can run interference for you or who you can go talk to.
Bonus Tip: If you just can’t go, don’t go.
We put pressure on ourselves to do things we don’t want to do because we want to make others happy. And that can be wonderful. There are times in life (like right now) where you need to put yourself and your partner first. If gathering with friends a family feels too hard this year, don’t do it. Missing one gathering, one holiday won’t ruin your life and your relationships. Plus, when you have your child someday, you will start building new traditions with them. You and your partner are your own family now – even before your children get here. Start a new tradition or just take a holiday off and do what feels good.
The holidays can be hard. They can also be magical and beautiful and fun. Go in with a strategy to take care of yourself and your partner and you will be able to come out the other side.