Coping with Being Childless During the Holidays

Most of us look forward to spending time with family this time of year. Holiday stress, however, can spike for couples who haven’t had a child yet. This most child-centered time of the year can be hard on couples who have been trying to (or trying to avoid) conceiving a child. Glad tidings can quickly be crushed by a question like, “Why haven’t you two had kids yet?”

Watching other couples celebrate their first holiday as parents can be tough as well. There are things, however, that those struggling with fertility can do to make the holiday season easier, according to endocrinologist and columnist Dr. Mary Hinckley. “Take the time to think about which situations are most challenging and which provide you with hope and encouragement,” Hinckley says, “Identify the events that seem too overwhelming and navigate around them.” She offers the following tips:

Tips for Childless Couples

1. Plan ahead. Have your answer ready if someone asks about your intentions to have children, and don’t feel obligated to disclose personal details about your infertility experiences.

2. Be selective regarding invitations to holiday celebrations, especially where you expect to find children or pregnant women. If it might be too difficult to attend, don’t go. If it’s too painful to be around young nieces, nephews and cousins, consider arriving just in time for a holiday dinner and not the night before.

4. Bond with other couples who don’t have children. Plan to spend time with couples or friends who don’t have children if family festivities are too much to bear.

5. Decide whether to hold babies before you arrive. For some, holding a baby can bring hope while for others it can be incredibly painful. Well-meaning relatives may want to share the joy of a new family member with you, but it’s important to put your needs first.

Be prepared for friends and family to lack infertility etiquette. Remember, many people don’t understand a childless couple wanting to stay that way or a couple who has difficulty conceiving. If you share your fertility issues with others, prepare for loved ones to offer tips (“just relax”), suggest lifestyle changes (“wear boxers”), or give medical advice (“I know a great specialist…”) Sometimes playing out these dialogues in your mind ahead of time makes it easier when holiday chatter about children begins.

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