There are often lots of family events 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.
With restrictions on what we can do this year, it may make avoiding events a bit easier, but also means that some of the things we enjoy and that make us happy at this time will be cancelled too.
This year more than ever, it is so important to focus on self-care and the things you do have, rather than the things you don’t. It is easier to cope with things when you are feeling stronger emotionally and taking care of yourself.
Think about how you can redefine Christmas time as a positive and exciting time with your partner, friends and family. Time off work, time with friends and time for self-care. A time for starting new traditions with your partner and friends, so that Christmas becomes a time to look forward to.
If you are struggling this Christmas please be kind to yourself and talk to someone that understands, so you can talk honestly about how you feel and get the support you need. I know it could be even more difficult than usual, but there are lots of people who can support you.
I wanted to share some tips to help you get through the Christmas holidays. I know how tough it can be, so take small steps and do what you need to do to get through it.
Allow yourself to feel however you feel, don’t beat yourself up over feeling sad/jealous/upset, it’s ok and perfectly normal to feel these things. Just acknowledge it and do things that make you feel nice and that make you smile.
Treat yourself to things that make you feel happy and good about yourself. This may be getting your nails done, having a beauty treatment, planning in meditation time each day, taking some time out on your own to read a good book or go for a walk, having a nice long lie in or taking part in your favourite hobby. There may be restrictions on some things you enjoy, but that doesn't mean you can't plan things in, you may just need to be a bit more creative with those things (at home facial/nails, zoom calls with friends).
As you may have some time off work, use it to plan in nice trips, things as a couple or with friends that make you feel good — cinema, out for a meal, Christmassy markets. Again, depending on which tier you are in, there will be limitations, so think about the things you can do safely, and you may need to do some things virtually this year.
Write a thankful list for all the things in your life that are important/special that you are thankful for — close family, strong relationship, great friends, fulfilling job etc. It doesn’t have to be big things, it is just good to focus on the positive things.
Rather than organising nights out that focus on drinking, plan in going out for meals with friends where the focus is on food, or suggest doing something different to things you usually do, where drinking isn’t the focus – ice skating, bowling, going to the cinema, a day at the Christmas markets, etc. In some ways this will be easier this year (with restrictions and if you're meeting virtually) but can mean that you have fewer plans, so think creatively about what you can do - walks with friends, smaller meet ups, virtual quizzes/murder mystery's...
If you’re lucky enough to be able to meet with friends, look for non-alcoholic alternatives so can still feel like you are involved, order drinks that you can pretend have alcohol in or confide in a friend you can trust who can pretend to order alcoholic drinks for you (lemonade disguised as gin/vodka etc) or say you’re driving as you have a big family event the next day.
It could be for a Christmas get together, or just generally for over Christmas time. It doesn’t need to be expensive or a full outfit, it could be new earrings, a new bag or shoes, etc. Something that will make you smile and feel good in yourself.
The planner helps you focus on the good things in your life, and it helps you plan some goals for the things you'd love to do. It supports you in focussing on your relationship and coping at this difficult time, and most of all it helps you feel happier and stronger, and more able to cope when you are feeling wobbly. Treat yourself to the planner as a little Christmas gift to yourself, so you can go in to the New Year feeling positive and looking forward to spending more time on yourself. Or you can add it to your Christmas list.
Many people set new years resolutions, but many of those don’t follow them through. Rather than a resolution think about what else you would like to do next year, a trip somewhere, starting a new course or a hobby. Think of this as outside of trying for a baby. It will give you a focus and help you feel more in control of you life.
For example, family get togethers where there will be lots of babies/family asking when you will have a baby. If your close family know you are struggling to conceive you can explain that you find those events difficult at the minute and that you need to look after your emotional well being. It's ok to say no!
You will always get some well intentioned (but not subtle) family member or friend asking this question at family gatherings (even virtual ones!). Think of an answer before hand so you can reply and move on quickly. Something simple like ‘we’ll let you know when we have news to share’ will do the job and then just change the subject.
Create a tradition as a couple or with your friends 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. Again, the restrictions this year are making it more difficult to spend time with those we care about, but technology will continue to help us stay connected, and you can meet in smaller groups to create great Christmas memories.
It’s really important to look after yourself at Christmas time, but helping other people is a great way to make yourself feel good, keep busy and make a difference to someone else’s life. You could maybe visit someone elderly or lonely over Christmas, help out a charity or make Christmas boxes for the homeless, collect shopping for someone that is shielding, help wrap presents for elderly family members.
If you are having a bad day, call a friend or family member that understands and just say you are feeling sad and just need a hug or someone to listen to you. There are support groups that are a great source of support and understanding. I run a free private Facebook community that you are welcome to join called TTC Support UK. Please reach out if you are struggling, you are not alone and you will not be the only one feeling wobbly.
Take care and have a lovely Christmas xx
This article covers lots of feedback I have heard from patients, in the hope that it will help doctors and nurses understand how patients really feel, and also help everyone that is going through IVF know they are not alone.