Handling Infertility at Family Gatherings

The end of the year brings a long list of family holiday gatherings — Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s — all of which can be emotionally difficult for those struggling to conceive.

In a time focused on family and loved ones, it can also be a painful reminder that a couple’s family planning has hit some roadblocks.

Whether you are currently struggling with infertility or are a family member of someone who is, these tips can help you make it through the holiday season:

Here’s what family members should keep in mind:

Understand your loved ones may not want to attend — or may need to leave early.

Every family is different and for some, trying to skip out on a family event altogether could be met with a lot of protests. Choosing to leave early or not attend may be in their best interest for their mental health — this doesn’t mean they don’t love you!

Try to understand that these events can be hard on couples or individuals who are struggling to conceive. It may also be hard for them to be honest about how they’re feeling and what they’re going through. Which brings us to...

Respect the couple’s boundaries.

Some people are very open about their infertility struggles, others keep it private — so private that as a family member, you may not even know they’re struggling in the first place. Keep this in mind if your loved ones opt to leave early — it’s not a reflection on the company, something bigger might be going on in their personal life.

If you do know that the couple has been struggling to get pregnant, but are unaware of their openness about it, it's perfectly ok to ask their preference. Just be sure to respect how little or much they want to talk about it, allow them to lead the conversation.

Avoid asking “when are you going to have kids?” — or sharing your own advice.

You may not know your loved one is struggling to conceive, and while this question seems harmless, it’s difficult for the person on the receiving end. Don’t be surprised if they avoid the question or change the conversation topic. While we are on the subject, if your loved one is open to discussing their infertility, that doesn’t mean they’re looking for miracle advice either. Not sure what we are referring to? Read our Infertility Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts blog for more.

Tips for couples experiencing infertility:

Send an email or text, pre-celebration.

If you can’t avoid family during the holidays, don’t be afraid to send out some communication beforehand. Let them know what’s going on and how you’re feeling (as much as you’re willing to share). If you’d rather not discuss any further over the holidays, let them know you appreciate them respecting your privacy.

Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself from uncomfortable conversations.

Whether it’s hearing unwanted advice (“Just relax more!”) or complaints about your relative’s children (“I just wish my kids would sleep longer!), don’t be afraid to excuse yourself from uncomfortable scenarios. It may feel rude to ask your loved one to stop talking about their frustrations with their children, but know that these feelings are normal. Opt to switch the subject, excuse yourself to the bathroom, or offer to assist in the food preparation.

Make time for yourselves.

Family gatherings are taxing, so be sure to plan some time for you and your partner to destress. Maybe that means the two of you head out a little early for some alone time or schedule something that you both can look forward to the next day — like a couple’s massage or a movie date!

Attend a Support Group Here at ACRM

Here at ACRM, we strive to provide sensitive care to the “whole” person. This may mean referring our patients to trained mental and emotional health professionals who can help them through the stress and depression that often accompany a diagnosis of infertility.

If you wish to meet with a counselor this holiday season, please call your patient care coordinator who will assist you with a referral to an ACRM trusted source. Our weekly support group is also available for free to all patients.

Read on for more tips on coping with infertility during the holidays»

Categories: Blog