There are often lots of family events, Christmas parties and work nights out, and it is a time of reflection on what you have done and achieved throughout the year. This can be difficult as it puts so much focus on children, and it is difficult to avoid.
I found myself getting upset around Christmas time, and getting more so with each year that passed without getting pregnant. I saw Christmas as a milestone that I still didn’t have a baby. Every year I thought ‘next Christmas we’ll have a baby’, so it was hard when Christmas came, but there was still no baby.
As we come into the Christmas period, please keep in mind how difficult this time is for those who are desperate to be celebrating Christmas with their own little one. This year has been extra tough, making make people feel extra lonely and conscious of the fact they still don't have a baby.
I have written another blog for those struggling at Christmas time where I encourage them to think about how they can redefine Christmas time as a positive and exciting time with their partner, friends and family, so that Christmas becomes a time to look forward to. You could help them by sending them that blog, it will really show you care.
If someone you know and love is struggling to get pregnant or is going through IVF, there are lots of little ways you can help them this Christmas that will make a big difference to how they feel this Christmas time. They will really appreciate the fact you care and want to support them.
Think about how you can create new traditions with each other or with a group of friends that don’t include children, and that you can continue over the years — like all going for dinner on a certain date in December, having a Christmas shopping trip where you go and have dinner out together somewhere, a group trip to the Christmas markets etc. Try to think about what you can do to make them smile and enjoy this time a bit more.
If your friend is trying to get pregnant or is going through IVF, they may be avoiding alcohol and feeling very left out of all the festivities. Plan time together that doesn’t focus on drinking - going out for meals where the focus is on food, or suggest doing something different to things you usually do, that doesn’t involve drinking – ice skating, bowling, going to the cinema, a day at the Christmas markets, etc.
There are often lots of Christmas parties and nights out planned that your friend doesn’t want to be left out of (group get togethers) but they may not want others knowing that they are not drinking (people gossip!). You can help them out by pretending to order alcoholic drinks for them (lemonade disguised as gin/vodka etc) or buying mocktails that look like cocktails, so they don’t have to keep telling people they just want a soft drink.
If they want to talk or have some quiet time – Christmas time can be very overwhelming for those desperate for a baby, and the psychological stress experienced by women with infertility is similar to that of women coping with cancer. Infertility is similar to a bereavement, a grief for a life you want that includes a family.
Be sensitive to their emotions, give them space to talk, offer a sympathetic ear and read up on infertility and IVF so you can be understanding and show you care about what they are going through. Remind them to be kind to themselves, that it's normal to feel the way they are and to focus on things that make them smile and taking care of themselves.
It may feel tricky buying gifts for your friend when you are conscious of them avoiding certain fertility unfriendly things like alcohol, and cosmetics. You don’t want to offend them, and you want to give them something that will help and support them through trying to conceive.
This list gives a few ideas of some gifts that will make your friend smile and shows how thoughtful you are:
Remember to be understanding to what they are going through, and don’t invalidate their feelings (so please don’t say things like ‘at least you’ve got….’).
Remind them how amazing they are at…, talk about what they have planned and ask them about work etc. If they want to talk about how they are feeling, give them space and listen attentively. You may not fully understand how they are feeling, but you can be there for them and ask if there is any way you can help them.
People can often feel a lot of pressure at Christmas time, to attend certain parties, to visit family, to see friends who have children. Christmas time is so focussed on families and children (marketing, events, shopping centres) that it is very hard to escape it, and it can be really overwhelming.
Sometimes people want to feel included and not miss out, so will be happy to get involved, but sometimes it gets too overwhelming and they need to avoid things for their own emotional wellbeing.
Christmas time usually involves lots of events focused on family time and children, some people may enjoy spending time with other people’s babies and children, whereas others will find being around babies and pregnant women a painful reminder of the fact they still don’t have a baby this Christmas.
Don’t assume that they will not want to be involved (they may feel excluded if they are not invited to group events just because they don’t have children) but also, be understanding and don’t get offended if they avoid certain group events because it is difficult for them.
Also don’t put pressure on them to hold a family member or friend’s new baby. This could be extremely difficult for them. If they want to have a cuddle they will ask.
If they are struggling and would like to have some peer support they can join my free Facebook community IVF Support a safe and private space to share stories and support. It's a really great, supportive group, so you could let them know about it so they can think about if they'd like to join.
Your friend will appreciate you considering how they are feeling and that you are trying to make this often difficult time of year that bit easier. You’re already an amazing support to them by the fact you are reading this article.
Have a lovely Christmas x