In general, the holidays are a difficult time for those who are grieving. Infertility is a different type of grief, because you’re grieving for something you’ve never had. It is a constant loop of grief every month. During Christmas, a holiday centered around kids, a holiday celebrating the story of a miraculous birth, infertility becomes even more difficult for many.
There are the Christmas cards of cheerful families with their cute little kids, the pregnancy announcements, and the family gatherings with questions about having children. I once read a semi-viral post on Facebook that compared infertility to not being able to score a ticket to an amusement park. You have to stand behind the gates and watch while everyone enjoys the rides and the food. You smell the carnival foods, hear the music, and see the fun, but you can’t join in. It was the best way I’ve ever seen infertility described, and that feeling increases one hundred-fold during the holidays. You receive holiday cards showing people riding the rides. People post announcement after announcement to social media telling everyone they’re getting on the ride. You attend family celebrations where you watch people ride the rides. You’re asked over and over again why you aren’t on the ride. But you can’t get on the ride no matter how hard you try. That’s exactly what infertility during the holidays feels like.
Then there is the guilt. If you’re open with your story, like I am, you feel guilty that you might be putting a damper on other people’s excitement. You feel guilty that people might hesitate to tell you their good news. That they might wonder how you’re feeling witnessing all of these joyous moments. You feel guilty that people are sharing in your burden. It’s part of the shame of infertility. It keeps people from sharing their grief and loneliness. It forces many people to deal with their struggles in silence and solitude. I refuse to allow the guilt to force me into hiding. Although I do keep some of the most painful parts of my story private, that is because I need to process them. I will not feel shame or guilt for something that 1 in 8 couples deal with. I won’t purposely put a damper on other people’s holidays, but I will focus on my emotional health during this time, and you should too.
Amid all of the grief there is joy too. I have a husband and step-daughter who love me. I have family and friends who root for me to overcome my struggles with infertility. I’m allowing my story to bring awareness to people who would otherwise be oblivious to this struggle. I have a wonderful therapist to help me navigate what I’ve been dealt. None of this erases the grief, but I too can find small joys in the holidays despite longing to ride the rides at the amusement park.
My motto through this journey is to give myself grace, and I once again challenge you to do the same. If you’re riding this wave with a loved one who is going through this journey, give them grace. It is especially important during the holidays when the joyous times can be mixed with so much grief. Allow both the joy and the grief. You are allowed to grieve, and you are also allowed to make memories and create pockets of joy.