When I picture a mother’s love or a child’s joy, I am flooded with memories of cozy Christmas mornings that my parents planned out month in advance. The love and thought that went into that magical day were present in every sight, smell, and sound in our home. We would wake up to the salty smell of sizzling sausage; our favorite sweet brown coffee cake with white powdered sugar that looked like fresh snow; a warm roaring fire; and the sounds of rapid tearing of wapping paper breaking through the background music of Christmas carols. Before we could partake in any of the festivities we would pile into my parents room and wait while my dad went downstairs to set up the VCR so he could capture the joy on our faces as we discovered the presents piled as high as our chests and stockings that were tailored to our every wish.
When I longed to be a mother, I also found Christmastime to be the hardest season. For me, many years came and went when all I wanted was a baby and Santa seemed to forget. I felt like I was the only one trying to fake it through the holidays so wanted to share some tips I learned to get me from Thanksgiving to New Year’s while dealing with fertility issues:
1. Give yourself permission to have guarded hope.
No matter how long you have been trying or how many losses you have had. It is the season of hope.
2. Prepare for questions.
Sit down with someone you trust (spouse/parent/therapist) and talk through your biggest fears. Maybe you can’t deal with one more aunt asking you the dreaded “When are you having kids” question over the eggnog bowl. Come up with a pivotal reply that will not only terminate that line of conversation but change the direction. You might say, “Oh it’s on my list for Santa. Now that I have you I’d love to hear more about that great trip you have planned.” Whatever makes you feel good is what you should say. Unfortunately, the questions will come and you don’t want to be a reindeer in headlights or crying into a snowman napkin in the bathroom.
3. Decide if you can handle being around children on Christmas morning and be true to yourself.
Some years, I had the strength; others, I wanted to wake up at home with my husband and just accept our quiet day. Some years, embracing the pain felt like a security blanked I wanted to hide under; other years, being around children helped. Talk to your spouse and come up with your plan.
4. Find something small that can serve as your holiday gift to your future baby.
I vividly recall feeling so lonely that I wandered the children’s section of department stores hoping to blend in as a new parent hunting for the perfect gift. I found comfort in pretending that, for just a minute, I was the mother I saw myself becoming. Over the years, I purchased baby socks, a small toy bear, a onesie, a mini stuffed animal and a board book. You don’t have to tell anyone or make it a big deal, but tuck it away and know that you are already making despots into this loving season for your baby. If you practice visualization you could visualize your baby with this gift.
5. Buy a gift for a child in need.
You are missing a child to love this holiday season so find one! There are so many children who are lacking a mother’s love. You can find one locally or there are many sites online where you can adopt a child for the holidays—or go big and adopt a whole family!
I volunteered decorating a woman’s shelter. What I liked about this experience was connecting to other women going through things that I hadn’t considered. Many had what I wanted but wanted what I had. A few were trying to improve their lives so they could get their children out of foster care. I cried with them and it brought me out of my own self-focus.
7. Have an escape.
Choose a mantra, make a playlist on your phone, or have a go-to podcast that you can quickly pull up when something triggers your jealousy or worries. Use it as a reset button because there are so many triggers during the holiday season.
8. Plan a fun New Year’s Eve.
New Years Eve is the holiday for singles and lovebirds. Do it up while you can. Treat yourself for surviving Christmas. Book a ski or beach vacation that you can get excited about, or maybe you want relaxing massages and a night out because you are saving up for fertility treatments (I’ve been there, too). Whatever you do, try to dress up and make it special because you deserve it.
9. Know that you are not alone.
I’m sending you all my love.