Infertile for the Holidays

Need a Holiday Survival Guide? Our guest blogger, Angela Bergmann, has one for you! Maria and I first met Angela at Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. this year. Thanks, Angela, for sharing your tips for dealing with Infertility during the holidays!



Infertile for the Holidays

The holidays are trying at the best of times. Add in being infertile, and the holidays can be a true test of will. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be!  Well, at the very least, we can take steps to make it through in one piece.

This Christmas marks the ninth year since I started trying to conceive that there won’t be a baby in my Christmas photos. Last year, for the first time ever, I had some small hope as I completed my first IVF retrieval and subsequent transfers around Thanksgiving and Christmas. After those failed, I was so sure I would cycle again and be pregnant before this holiday season. Alas, it was not meant to be.

Knowing how hard the past several holidays have been for me, and feeling like this one may be the worst yet, I tried to proactively prepare myself for this holiday season. I found a counselor that works for me, and I have actively tried to practice self-care. I also put together a “Holiday Survival Guide” for my RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association peer-led support group.  Knowing how hard the holidays can be, I wanted to share some of the tips from that guide- lessons I’ve learned over the years that can help ease the pain of being infertile for the holidays:

  1. Practice self-care. Having a tough time? Stressed out? Treat yourself to a manicure, or a couple hours snuggled on the couch with a blanket and Netflix or a book. Whatever it is that makes you feel good, do it.
  2. Ask for help. A lot of the time people don’t realize we’re suffering because our disease isn’t visible. Communicate with those around you so that they know what you need (My husband says he would like to see this tip bolded and underlined).
  3. Say no. Remember, it’s okay to say no to things. The only way we can protect ourselves is by being our own advocate.
  4. Have an exit strategy. If you want or need to go to something, have an exit strategy. Conversation getting hard for you? Have a password to let your spouse know you need some air or that you want to go home. It’s also a good idea to have a way to tell them if you’re having a good time!
  5. Grieve. What we’re dealing with is sad, and is a grieving process. Those around us may not recognize that. Allow yourself the space to grieve what you are going through. If you’re comfortable, explain it to those around you.

It can be difficult, but try to remember that our family and friends aren’t trying stress us out… They just don’t understand what we are going through, and often just want to be helpful. They don’t realize that what they are saying is not helpful to us, as we are suffering from a disease.

The majority of the time they have our best interest at heart. If you are open in your struggle, educate them on the best ways to help you. Remind them that you are suffering from a disease, and that it’s a process. If that doesn’t work, excuse yourself and don’t feel bad for doing so. As someone once said, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”  You have to take care of your own well-being if you hope to have any good cheer to spread!



70 Tips for Surviving the Holidays with Infertility

Aaah, the holidays. If you’re like me, this time of year has definitely been made more challenging by your infertility diagnosis. Years ago, before I had any idea that I’d one day be traveling around the country with an infertility art exhibit, collecting oral histories, and running art and writing workshops, I compiled this list of tips for coping with infertility during the holidays.

Some of the ideas are mine, some are of those of people I’ve met along the way, some are from online blogs, or resources like RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. I wish now that I had kept track of where I’d found them so I could give credit where credit is due. However, it’s been too helpful to me, and those in my infertility support groups, over the years to keep it to myself. So, I’m sharing it with all of you this week. I’m particularly fond of #s 12, 17, 42, 52, 68, and 69. What are your favorites? Do you have any you’d like to add?

Hang in There!


Tips for Surviving the Holidays

  1. Treat yourself.
  2. On a good day, make a list of things you’re grateful for and read it when you’re feeling down.
  3. Give yourself an enjoyable challenge.
  4. Shop Therapy!
  5. Enjoy one on one time with your partner.
  6. Take good care of yourself.
  7. Tell parents and other family members how you are feeling using “I” statements.
  8. Limit time spent with family if you find it too stressful.
  9. Change the way you celebrate.
  10. Create new traditions.


    An image from s/m/othering, by Marissa McClure. Part of the ART of IF permanent collection.

  11. Volunteer.
  12. Plan at least one day during the holiday that you are really looking forward to.
  13. Make a date to see your siblings and/or parents away from children so you can really catch up.
  14. If you think you may act badly under stress, decide ahead of time how to behave.
  15. Be sure to incorporate the usual events that are meaningful and joyful for you into your plans. Don’t let infertility rob you of your joys.
  16. Don’t go to holiday events.
  17. If you do go to holiday events, have an escape plan.
  18. Instead of attending an entire event, go to only the portion of the event that you find enjoyable or tolerable.
  19. Don’t feel like you have to hold babies.
  20. Alternatively, hold every baby available to get your “fix.”
  21. Be prepared for the “When are you having kids?” question.
  22. Decide ahead of time whether or not to tell your family about your infertility.
  23. Don’t be afraid to cut off uncomfortable conversations.
  24. Be ready to cope with pregnancy announcements.
  25. Be forgiving of yourself.
  26. Hide in the bathroom for a few minutes (or more) when necessary.
  27. Put yourself first.
  28. Be interesting! Adjust the focus from your inability to have a baby to something positive about you.
  29. Shop online instead of in the stores to control what you see and when.
  30. Ban the baby department if you must go into stores.
  31. Create mantras.
  32. Cry.
  33. Focus on the lighter side of infertility by joking with your partner or friends who understand.
  34. Don’t open holiday cards. It’s okay to throw them away or put them aside to open on a good day.
  35. Get exercise.
  36. Avoid television to avoid the holiday commercials.
  37. Party with adults only!
  38. Rely on your support person/people.
  39. Have an emergency to-do list of enjoyable activities. Write it when you’re having a good day and then pick an item from the list when you’re having a bad one.
  40. Take a break from Facebook.
  41. Be honest with others about your feelings.
  42. Dress up!
  43. Think positive! Let yourself dream about future holidays as a parent.
  44. Remember the reason for the season, whatever it is to you.
  45. Plan a January “get away” or other reward.
  46. Ask for/tell others what you need from them.
  47. If it’s too hard to shop for baby and kid items, buy a gift card instead.
  48. Try to avoid sitting next to new/expectant moms at dinner.
  49. Slow down.
  50. Start each day with intention.
  51. Do what you need to do for yourself with no apology.
  52. Remember that “No.” is a complete sentence. You don’t need an excuse.
  53. Do what’s right for you.
  54. Find a way to honor your lost baby or babies.
  55. Schedule time to grieve.
  56. Don’t expect to live up to others expectations.
  57. Practice empathy.
  58. Make your own holiday cards and avoid the card aisle.
  59. Decorate for the holidays or don’t. Either way, do what feels right to you.
  60. Write an uplifting note to yourself on a good day. Keep it in your purse or a pocket to read when you are feeling down.
  61. Journal your feelings.
  62. Create memories with a special child in your life.
  63. Write down your favorite childhood memories.
  64. Avoid talking about Infertility at holiday parties. If someone brings it up, say you’d rather enjoy the holidays instead.
  65. Watch a holiday classic.
  66. Make a list of resolutions, sticking to things you can control.
  67. Give yourself an infertility break by not trying to get pregnant over the holidays.
  68. Educate others by being ready with infertility statistics when the topic comes up.
  69. Find a creative outlet like coloring, painting, or another kind of crafting.
  70. Remember that it won’t feel like this forever.

Hurtful and Helpful Things to Say to those Dealing with Infertility

We often hear from those dealing with Infertility that they have had friends, family, and acquaintances say many hurtful things to them about their disease and inability to conceive. We also hear from people close to those with an infertility diagnosis that they want to helpful, they just don’t know what to do or say. So, we’ve compiled a list of the most common hurtful and helpful comments we’ve heard through our interviews, along with some of our favorite ways we’ve heard of people helping and some of the strangest unsolicited words of advice. There are 25 quotes from our interviewees in each category but they aren’t in any particular order, just numbered for easy reference, and as Maria noted, one for each of the 25 days of Christmas! We hope that you find this a helpful tool, especially with all of the social gatherings that occur this holiday season.



1 “’Oh, you are still young, you have time’. Being young and having time has nothing to do with what caused my infertility. Infertility is not a disease that only happens to women over 35, it can happen to any woman at any time.”

2. “When are you going to make your mom a grandma?”

3. “‘You can always adopt.’ This minimized that pain that I was experiencing at the  possibility of not being able to have a child that was genetically mine.”

4. “’Once you stop trying you’ll probably conceive naturally’ – by countless people who apparently can’t comprehend that when you don’t have tubes this is impossible. And, yes, I am a strong Christian woman and believe anything is possible for God – but without a delivery system, if I became pregnant it would be with the 2nd coming of Christ and I don’t really know that I could handle the responsibility.”

5. “Infertility is nature’s way of population control. ”

6. “I had a coworker say to me ‘no one else in the office is pregnant… I think you should be next!’ I had to just try to laugh it off and made some sort of reply like ‘yeah, yeah, maybe soon!’ When she made a comment after that about maybe I’m ‘just a dog person,’ that is when I felt like telling her about our struggles, and although I am a ‘dog person,’ I also hope to be a mother someday as well.”

Inconceivable by Aine Quimby. Oil on canvas. Part of the ART of IF collection.

Inconceivable by Aine Quimby. Oil on canvas. Part of the ART of IF collection.

7. “‘Who has the problem with not getting pregnant, is it you or your husband?'”

8. “Variations of, ‘I don’t know what I’ve do without my kids’, ‘My life wasn’t complete until I had kids’, ‘Being a parent is all that matters’, ‘Being a parent is the most important job in the world’, ‘You don’t know love until you have a child of your own'”

9. “We got them all!   ‘You’re doing it wrong.’,  ‘Maybe you weren’t meant to be parents’,  but my personal favorite was from an old man who told my husband ‘Let it soak.’  – Still to this day have no clue exactly what he meant but we laugh about it.”

10. “We are Christians and regular attending members of a Seventh-Day Adventist Church. We had people say to me/us ‘well if it is in God’s plan you will become parents.’ The people who said this were parents. My thoughts were: so God thinks you will be a better parent then me? – I doubt it. So for all the people who abuse their children and have them removed from the home, and traumatized by their parents are apart of God’s plan, but me not being a parent is? – I doubt it!”

11. “‘You can borrow my kid(s) if you want.’ or ‘Do you want some of my kids? You can have them!’”

12. “Sometimes it’s what people don’t say that hurts the most. My friends have had more babies than I can count in the last 4+ years. Every time I go to the baby department and buy them gifts. It rips me up and takes everything I have to hold in the sobbing until I get to the car. I think people take it for granted. Not once has anyone ever said, ‘Wow, that must have been really difficult for you. Thank you for loving us so much that you would subject yourself to that hurt.'”

“Don’t say, ‘My life wasn’t complete until I had kids’, ‘Being a parent is all that matters’, ‘Being a parent is the most important job in the world’, ‘You don’t know love until you have a child of your own'”

13. “‘Everything happens for a reason. It will happen when it is meant to happen.'”

14. “A lot of people always refer to the most common phrase during the infertility journey, which is to ‘just relax and it will happen.’ As much as I wish ‘relaxing’ would cure that, it doesn’t.”

15. “‘I know it will happen. You just have to give it time.’ No one can know that the treatment will work and I felt like it minimized my pain.”

16. “’My friend was going through the same thing, and when she just stopped worrying about it, she got pregnant.’”

17. “The worst thing people have said is implying that my energy created the infertility like through fear, emotional stress, emotional barriers, etc., and to simply get over it because we could adopt or do IVF or surrogacy without knowing the financial and emotional costs of our options.  They completely negate the emotional aspect of infertility and how it rocks your world as you know it.”

Grief in Black and White by Sarah Gough. Photography. Part of the ART of IF permanent collection.

Grief in Black and White by Sarah Gough. Photography. Part of the ART of IF permanent collection.

18. “I was told I was being dramatic. ”

19. “I cannot remember the comment exactly, but it was something along the lines that I should try to have a baby ‘at any cost.’ As if it wasn’t okay to be concerned about protecting my marriage, our finances, the health of my body, etc. I also recall someone saying, ‘I know you don’t want to talk about it, so I won’t ask you.’ That wasn’t true for me. It’s true for many women, but I did want to talk about it.”

20. “‘Maybe your husband is cheating on you and giving all of his good sperm to someone else.'”

21. “This isn’t a terrible thing to say by any means, but a very common question is: ‘Do you have kids?’ It’s a little uncomfortable. It’s a quick response, no we don’t. But so much comes behind saying those few words. People don’t know – is it because you didn’t want them? Because you tried and couldn’t? What is behind that statement? People don’t usually follow up and ask why not (not that they necessarily should). We’re still trying to figure out the best way to answer that question without the uncomfortable silence that follows.”

22. “‘Flip her over. It’s a whole new ball game.'”

23. “Complaining about how hard your pregnancy is. You get a baby in the end! It does not make me ‘feel better’ about never getting to experience pregnancy. I’ve been through far worse pain and misery, and I never received a miracle in exchange.”

24. “I think that some of the worst things actually came from my mom.  With the initial troubles, she’d repetatively tell me that she didn’t understand why I couldn’t get pregnant because my dad just had to look at her funny.  Gee, thanks mom for that image.”

25. “‘Drink a ton & enjoy some recreational drugs’ because that’s what worked for them.”


1. “When I was going through my miscarriage my husband’s grandmother called me, and told me her story about her loss. We sat on the phone and cried together. She knew no words could help but she just wanted to be there. To share a story she didn’t share a whole lot made me feel supported.”

2. “Understand I’m doing the best I can with a total shit situation.”

3. “Be open to discussion and listening. Most days all I wanted or really needed was someone to listen and really HEAR me. I needed someone to say it was okay to be upset, it was okay to cry, I was grieving a major loss.”

4. “I found that telling people what I needed from them helped. Many times they were clueless as to how to help me. Just knowing I had someone there willing to hear me out whenever I need was amazing.”

5. “Say ‘I’m sorry you’re going through this.’”

6. “Ask me about it and about my losses…. Sometimes I would feel like my babies only mattered to me. It wasn’t until my sister wrote me a letter and told me that she felt their loss too that I truly felt like someone else cared about it. And that meant so much more than she probably ever will realize.”

7. “The best way my family and friends have supported me is to educate themselves so that they can at least understand the medical aspect of what is happening to me.”

8. “Be there when I need to talk or cry and on the opposite end of that, allow me the time I need to myself, to understand that I may not always be up to hanging out with them while they were pregnant… or with them and their children.”

9. “Our parents would stop asking us questions about doctor appointments and wait until we told them info. They didn’t want to bombard us with questions and they were respectful of our choices.”

10. “Just doing things to keep my mind off of what I was going through. Inviting me out to do things I enjoy, like getting spa treatments, going to sing karaoke, going to wine tastings, etc. Many people asked if they could pray for me and I really liked that.”

11. “My family: mom, sister and aunt all gave me the progesterone shots through both of my IVF cycles.”

Failed IVF #1 (September 10, 2015 - October 9, 2015) by Sara Nelson. Mixed media. Part of the ART of IF permanent collection.

Failed IVF #1 (September 10, 2015 – October 9, 2015) by Sara Nelson. Mixed media. Part of the ART of IF permanent collection.

12. “One of the most memorable ways people helped support us was fundraising for IVF. We set up one of those health donation websites and had a garage sale. Family members and friends had bake sales, everyone donated items for the garage sale, and even coworkers from family members helped out. It was really really humbling and brought us to tears once to see all the support we were getting.”

13. “The people who have shared their experiences of infertility with me have been extremely supportive.”

14. “Honoring my request that if I wanted to talk about it I would and not ask questions otherwise. When I needed someone to talk to and they really listened vs. trying to make me feel better or talking about their own fertility struggle.”

15. “Financial help was hugely important to me. I wouldn’t have opportunity to seek alternative therapy, like acupuncture, without help from my parents. To me, there are already so many costs of fertility treatments, and I was unwilling to try acupuncture because it was just another cost.”

16. “The best ways that our friends and family have supported us is just by listening and encouraging us. They are positive, but they are realistic in having the same expectations as us, which is hey, it might happen, it might not happen, but you have to give it a try.”

17. “They never tell us we should or could have done things differently, and instead point out to us that we are just one step closer to having a baby. You guys found out what doesn’t work; now you get to move onto the next thing.”

18. “Letting me cry. Taking me out to dinner. Letting me avoid baby showers and kids’ birthday parties with understanding and not exasperation or frustration. Giving me space to vent and grieve.”

19. “I have discovered some very special friends through this process.  They have best supported me by being present and listening, not judging or offering suggestions/opinions. They ask me what me what I need and strictly follow any guidelines that I set out. For example: I hate it when people offer solutions so I’ve asked my friends to never offer solutions.  The ones who listen warm my heart.”

Participants at the ART of IF Women Write the Body Workshop in East Lansing, MI.

Participants at the ART of IF Women Write the Body Workshop in East Lansing, MI.

20. “Help me to feel I’m still me even though I might feel a piece of me is broken.”

21. “When I would talk about the idea that there are many ways to be fertile, that bearing offspring is one way, but not the only way, and that fertility encompasses so much more – there were people who ‘got’ what I meant and people who didn’t. Those who ‘got it’ were excited for me and excited to see what other endeavors I might pursue in life. That made me feel supported.”

22. “Many friends have tried to support me just by asking what we need. Usually I tell them I just want to be allowed to hurt. The best friends I have are willing to let me hurt, are willing to sit through awkward silences and haven’t been hurt or offended when I’ve politely declined to attend their baby showers or their children’s birthdays (there are some, believe it or not, who take it personally and have made me feel bad about it).”

“Letting me cry. Taking me out to dinner. Letting me avoid baby showers and kids’ birthday parties with understanding and not exasperation or frustration. Giving me space to vent and grieve.”

23. “Please spare me any conversations about pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. These situations make me incredibly uncomfortable and I’ll just find a chance to try and run away. It’s painful to hear these conversations, they tear at your heart. And if I know that you are aware of my situation & you bring up these topics in front of me, I feel even more hurt & isolated.”

24. “Do not complain to me how exhausting and hard it is raising your children. Nothing in life is easy that’s worth something. Think about how that sounds to someone who has been to hell & back trying to have children.”

25. “Really, I just wish people could think twice before they speak. Try for a minute to put yourself in our shoes. Be compassionate. If you have a friend or family member that can’t have children, don’t ignore them. Do tell them you are thinking of them. Do tell them you understand they’re going through a hard time. Do tell them you’re praying for them if that’s what you do. Just try to understand and be more sensitive.”


Infertility Greeting Cards: Hope and Comfort via the Mailbox

This is a guest blog post written by Kristy Koser who is a Licensed Professional (Clinical) Counselor. After trying nine rounds of IVF with no luck, Kristy decided to channel her frustrations into Trying to Conceive Greeting Cards in order to help herself, and others, find the right words to say. You can follow Kristy on Instagram at @ttcgreetingcards or find her work on Etsy

As with most things in life, we have an expectation of what’s to come, at least an idea of where we imagine our life to be. I accomplished most of my personal and career goals by my late 20s, with two degrees, a thriving private practice as a couples therapist, several publications, a house, two cats, all while being married to my best friend. When it came time to think about children, I assumed starting a family would be within reach just like all the other challenging, but doable things I tackled in the years past. Much to my surprise, having children or should I say “making” children was and is much harder than we ever dreamed of. After nine rounds of IVF (and loads of medicated and IUI cycles before that), we are still in the midst of wondering what’s next, and will this ever work?  We wonder if we are legitimately going insane for continuing to embark in yet another IVF round? Could this be it? Will this be it? The conundrum with IVF is that often there is always some lingering, hope, maybe it’s possibility or curiosity, whatever you want to call it, at the end of each failed round–tempting you and your doctors to tweak something and try again. Maybe now, we finally have the magic mix of suppression, estrogen, uterine receptivity and progesterone that will miraculous allow that embryo to implant. The key word here is “maybe,” a five letter word that holds all the hope and optimism. It propels you into thinking just one more injection, pill, retrieval, patch, or transfer will be it. I think we all need those “maybes” in life, it keeps us motivated, curious about what’s to come. Somehow the “maybe” brings forth hope that would otherwise get lost in the fear and the unknown.

I’ve spent years of life in the “maybes” in the hope that something new will finally emerge. I’ve fought off doubt, grief, jealously, and fear of the unknown, hoping that somewhere underneath it all I’ll find that “something” to renew my heart to try again. Infertility challenges you to face feelings on so many levels it’s often to hard to process them from day to day and depending what medication you’re on, really it’s more like hour to hour. I’ve been swallowed up in emotion and have felt paralyzed at times, not knowing how to feel or even wanting to reach out. I knew living in the black hole of infertility was not going to cure my sadness or anger, it was instead going to propel me farther from the things that really matter.

So, after sitting with all that uncertainty for years on end I decided to do something with it. I often heard friends and family say “I just don’t have the right words” or “I wish I knew what to say” as we would announce another failed cycle or another early pregnancy loss. This led me to create TTC (trying to conceive) Greeting Cards, which specifically supports those struggling through infertility. They highlight the unique struggles, medical procedures, and feelings that are often associated with infertility. They are meant to provide encouragement, hope, and comfort–just the right words for people who don’t know what to say. Creating these cards was also a way for me to process my grief from the last three years. Knowing these cards were going to be filled with love and encouragement, arriving to someone’s mailbox on one of those dark-doubt-filled days, made me feel less alone in this battle. I felt like I was doing something with all this pain and heartache. I also loved the idea of encouraging and supporting other couples going through this. It’s easy at the beginning to think you can manage infertility quietly or without help, but what soon becomes apparent is the need for others along the way. On social media (Instagram) I often share tips that I’ve learned over the last nine IVF rounds to staying positive, focused and organized through this process. I’ve even created a “cycle calendar” that people can print off at home to help organize medication, appointments, lab results, and other procedures that can often feel overwhelming. Mapping it all out and if you are really ambitious even color coding it can help to ease the panic when trying to remember numerous medications in one day. I’ve often found keeping each calendar in a special folder is helpful to compare your medication and lab results from one cycle to the next. For example, you are able to anticipate how quickly your estrogen may rise or how slowly a follicle may grow. This can help you feel more in control and be a good reminder to wait patiently on your body to show you what it’s capable to doing.


Just one of the many “trying to conceive” cards that Kristy has created.

Over the last six months I’ve created cards that highlight things like egg retrieval and the excitement of embryo transfers. I’ve also created a line of thank-you cards for the nurses, doctors and embryologists who have provided such exceptional care during your most delicate moments. These have been quite a hit with doctors and embryologists around the country.


Kristy’s card apologizing for the whirlwind of hormones while trying to conceive.

I’ve most recently created a line of cards for couples to intentionally stay connected during the struggles of infertility. So often one partner feels at fault for the failed treatment or worse a partner can feel left out of the process. As I experienced both of those at times in my own marriage, I was reminded how important it is for all couples to stay in conversation along the way. As a couples therapist, I’m always looking out for ways couples can improve their relational bond and infertility has an immense power to create very wounding trauma that can impact fertility treatment, our body’s ability to cope with the various medical procedures, and our overall emotional health. It’s usually our partner who sees us day-in and day-out, going to our appointments, injecting mass amounts of hormones, sticking things up all kinds of places, and is left with whatever capacity we have left to be a good partner (which is usually very limited, sharp, sarcastic, or constantly hungry).


A card created by Kristy that helps couples to stay connected through the struggle of infertility.

Next week I’ll be launching a “lucky” socks collection that has been highly suggested by customers. I’ll be introducing various designs to keep your feet nice and cozy during the often cold and sometimes sterile appointments, egg retrievals, embryo transfers, and of course the dreaded two week wait. I love knowing women can look down at their feet and be reminded “I can do this” or feel empowered to stay focused and positive when the doubt creeps in. Also in the shop are “lucky” tees that women can wear at any point in the infertility process to feel supported and motivated to make each day, appointment, medication, and dollar, matter.

My hope in creating these cards and gifts is to help couples, families, and friends start to speak about the pain of infertility and in turn feel empowered to comfort and support their loved ones–with just the right words. So, if you are needing the right words to say to a friend or family member–or if you are needing a little encouragement yourself, consider sending some love through the mailbox. I mean, who doesn’t love snail mail?

A big hug to all those trying to conceive today, tomorrow, and in the years to come. You are not forgotten, friend. You can do hard things.

Kristy Koser, is a Licensed Professional (Clinical) Counselor in Virginia and Ohio and a Emotional Focused Couples Therapist and Supervisor. She specializes in couples therapy, family business consulting, and attachment related dynamics. Outside of her professional life, she’s a sucker for Netflix, flash mobs, and a good piece of cheese. You can reach Kristy for speaking, media or press inquiries at