Five Tips for Holiday Self Care

Embarking on the next couple of weeks of holiday celebrations, we offer you five tips that we find ourselves practicing as a method of surviving the celebration of a miraculous conception while dealing with infertility.

#5 Send a holiday card. Really! Tired of getting pictures of new babies and growing families in the mail? Send your own card! Remind others that you are a family! Maria does this frequently sending cards featuring herself, husband, and two puppies. For her, this is a form of infertility advocacy.christmasphoto_2016

#4 Treat Yo Self! Take time out and pamper yourself. Get a massage. Get your nails done. Make yourself feel good!

#3 Talk with your partner and ask, “What are we going to do to make the holiday special for us?” Maria recommends this especially as much of the holidays revolve around the excitement of nieces and nephews waiting for Santa to come. Maria tries to go out for a Christmas Eve brunch with her husband to block out a set time for just the two of them.

#2 Remember it’s okay to just say “no”. Not everything is going to be something that you are going to want to attend. Just like baby a baby shower, remember you don’t need to attend every holiday party or every family event. Sometimes you just need to say no. And that’s okay! Elizabeth said no to her extended family Christmas party this year and spent time with child free friends instead.

The lone decoration at Elizabeth’s house, which wasn’t put out until 3 days before Christmas.

#1 Try to step back and enjoy the simple things. To say infertility is complicated is an understatement. Balancing infertility with the holidays can sometimes increase anxieties. We suggest taking a night and escaping. Make a fire, turn on some holiday tree lights (or don’t if you’re on a decorating strike like Elizabeth), cozy-up with a cup of tea, blanket, and a good book to escape. Sometimes taking a moment to remove yourself from it all allows you to better process and handle the ups and downs that will no doubt come with your infertility diagnosis.

We hope some of the suggestions we have implemented over the years will help you navigate the holidays and new year. Most of all, we want you to know that you are not alone.

Wishing you peace this holiday season,

Elizabeth and Maria

The Holiday Blues

 

This short reflection is a few years old. I wrote it after being recently diagnosed. The holiday season was fast approaching at this time, creating a lot of anxiety.  Re-reading this reflection, I am quickly transported to a place of deep pain. The reflection seems like a distant memory, yet, also hauntingly familiar. Many of the feelings and thoughts are still there. The only difference is that they appear less frequently and not in the same velocity as they did when I first wrote this reflection. Today, I wonder, when did I stop fighting my infertility and begin to embrace it? And why did I choose surviving infertility over fighting for a family? – Maria

The Holiday Blues

The holidays have always been special to my husband and I. This is when we first met. When we first started dating. When we got engaged. When we told our families we were getting married. When we bought our first house. When we got our first puppy.

An image of our first puppy, Stella. We picked her up from the shelter the on New Year's Eve. She was symbolic of a new year, new life.

An image of our first puppy, Stella. We picked her up from the shelter on New Year’s Eve in 2010. She was symbolic of a new year, new life.

Lately though, we’ve been needing to rely on those memories in order to escape feeling the holiday blues. Now, as we find ourselves in this new place, this new understanding of what it means to be a married childless couple, we have needed to question what this means.

This year we decided to volunteer for Thanksgiving. To visit with the elderly. We thought this to be a great idea as it avoids feeling the constant reminder of this childless lack. And by volunteering we felt a great bond with Bob, Mary, and Ethel. All three did not have a family to visit them. They were very much on their own. Feeling many of the same emotions we felt. Not sadness, not loneliness. Just acceptance of this is how life was to be. Finding meaning and special joy in little things. Little things like having the café at the nursing home open and simply visiting with those who silently felt the same acceptance towards life.

But Christmas and Thanksgiving are two very different holidays. Thanksgiving is reflective and about the food and blessings that you have. Christmas is projective. It is very much about “another year.” And more often than not it is about children. Baby Jesus and manger scenes. Promoting a redemptive and celebratory message about the power of the baby.

It is also about kids and the “magical joy” of Christmas. Kids waking up Christmas morning and running to the tree. Screaming at the excitement at finding an Xbox or Easy Bake Oven – but more often simply screaming because Santa arrived and provided.

This has become clear to us over the years that we’ve been married. Each year, it seems harder for us to embrace the spirit of the holidays. We know this and often comment on it. “What are we going to do to make the holiday’s special for us?” we ask each other.

We come up with different ideas to make it special. Often times it is simply going for a drive to see the lights and reliving the memories of us doing this when we were younger, before we were married – when we looked to the future of family with hope and excitement.

Now though, it is more common than not to experience the holiday blues.

christmasphoto_2016

While we still find it difficult to celebrate the holidays, we make sure to send out a holiday card each year. This card is from this year. We make a point to stress that while we may not have children, we are a family.

In fact, the puppy that we got around the holidays is no longer with us. Five years have past since I last wrote this reflection. Her passing reminds us of how we could have our own 5-year-old at this point in our life. Our own child eagerly waiting to find presents under the tree. Instead though we are still trying to make sense of it all. Still trying to find joy in the little, non-traditional family we made.

When I hear “Blue Christmas” by Elvis on the radio, I am transported to the moment I wrote this reflection. Sometimes it is nice to be reminded that while the holidays can be a time of joy, they can also heighten personal pains.

Holiday Survival Cheat Sheet

Dealing with the holidays while dealing with infertility can be brutal.

Just a few examples…

  • Seeing jewelry commercials celebrating new moms who gather by trees for their newborns’ first Christmases.
  • Hearing songs on the radio highlighting tiny tots with their eyes all aglow.
  • Family holiday gatherings that make it impossible to ignore that everyone else’s families are growing but yours.
  • Siblings who gift calendars full of adorable photos of your nieces and nephews to your parents while you look on, childless yet another year.

So, we at The ART of Infertility are again sharing this list of tips for surviving the holidays that I compiled several years ago. 

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 ourselves. So, we’re sharing it with all of you today.

Keep it bookmarked, save it to your computer’s desktop or your phone’s home screen. Or, new this year, follow this link to download a PDF that you can post somewhere you’ll be sure to see it regularly. Heck, maybe a friend, family member, or co-worker will see it and get some more insight about what may be difficult for you this time of year and then be more mindful of their holiday interactions with you :).

I chose number 3 today and baked my first loaf of Paleo bread. I haven’t decided what to do about number 59 yet, but I’m looking forward to fulfilling number 62, with quality time with my nieces and nephews when we take a family vacation to Tampa next month.

Hang in There!
– Elizabeth

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.

    After nearly 9 months eating a Paleo diet, I made my first loaf of Paleo bread.

    After nearly 9 months eating a Paleo diet, I made my first loaf of Paleo bread.

  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.
  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 without an 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.

    Maria and Kevin's tree one Christmas.

    Maria and Kevin’s tree one Christmas.

  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.

Ornament Kits Available – Starting New Traditions

The holiday season is upon us. Raise your hand if you’re less than thrilled. Growing up, my parents had all kinds of holiday traditions that I figured I’d carry on one day with my own child. My mother read us a Christmas themed book every day until Christmas and we received small gifts that were tucked into the pockets of the advent calendar. There was the large family Christmas party on my mom’s side with a slew of cousins of all ages on the Saturday before Christmas and Christmas Eve dinner at my paternal grandparents’ house with silver taper candles on the table, mistletoe, and a fire burning in the fireplace. We received new pajamas to wear to bed on Christmas Eve and my dad had a special style of handwriting that he painstakingly squeezed onto the tags of the gifts from Santa.

Every year, I look at the advent calendars in the stores, consider buying one, and then decide to wait until I have a child in the house to purchase one. A few years ago, I had a melt down in the Christmas aisle in Kohl’s as a result. I have a large collection of ornaments that I usually can’t wait to get out of storage and unwrap. I love them because they’re all like tiny pieces of art. However, the past couple of years, I’ve downsized, getting a small table top tree and only displaying a small amount of them, or just doing a garland on the fireplace and no tree at all. I just don’t feel like I have the energy to deal with it all. Infertility has drained so much of it from me.

So, in an effort to start some new traditions of my own, a child in the house or not, I decided to do a limited edition, commemorative ornament making kit for ART of IF. My hope is that we’ll have a different kit each year and it will be an opportunity for me, and those of you who would also like to participate, to set aside some time and space for creative expression around the holidays and have an outlet for some of the less than comfortable feelings that come along with them.


IMG_6600_webIMG_6602_web

The kits come with everything you need to make the ornament. In this case, the shatterproof plastic bulb (safe for fur babies and human babies alike), strips of paper, ribbon, a metallic silver pen, step by step photo instructions, and a list of ideas for what you might like to write on the strips before curling them up and tucking them inside. They’re available in our ART of IF colors in either shades of blue, or shades of red and are $10 each plus shipping and handling. We have 50 kits available and you can buy them until they are gone. However, if you’d like them in time for Christmas, please submit your order by December 10. You can fill out the order form here. The money that we make will go back into the project and used toward our mission of raising awareness about infertility and providing creative outlets to those dealing with the disease.

Hang in there! Together, we’ll make it through.

Elizabeth