Honest, raw and helpful. Let’s all learn from Christina and be mindful of our words and actions. -Krystle K.
The holiday season is a joyous season for some. Stressful but filled with joy. Joy in seeing family and friends, giving to others and celebrating the beauty of the season. However, it can also be a very painful time for those who have or are struggling with infertility and loss. Just even in the little things.
For those struggling with infertility, the days before Christmas begin to get more emotional. Shopping for Christmas presents starts out well, but can very quickly and unexpectedly end in heartbreak. Walking past the baby section while shopping for your family can spark memories of hopes, and the subsequent loss of hope, for a family. Sorrow fills your heart and you rush out of the store leaving the cart half full of the items you were intending to purchase so no one sees you sobbing. At other times, choosing toys for your sweet nieces and nephews can be exciting. Yet the realization of the emptiness and loss you walk with on a daily basis looms in front of you. Again, searing loss and pain come to the forefront of your mind as you struggle to finish the Christmas lists.
Christmas is also a time when events continue to fill the calendar. As you look at the calendar, you wonder if you should even go to some of them. You love your family and friends but you need to do what is best for you and your spouse. If you decide to not go to some events, you pray the loved ones you are missing will somehow understand and see the pain you are walking through and why you just cannot attend. If you do decide to go, you pray you can keep it together as waves of loss and pain wash over you at unexpected times. The day of the gathering you watch your nieces and nephews open gifts and it is wonderful. You get through it! Even with a smile and some laughter. Then while sitting on the couch, you see them begin to play with their gifts, address their mommy and daddy, and your heart aches so much. You go to the bathroom praying you can keep your composure to not draw attention to yourself, to not cry on such a joyous occasion. You take a deep breath, walk out the door, go sit on the couch and all of a sudden your sweet niece is their wanting to snuggle with you, her auntie. A precious gift. A sweet memory in the making. The beauty amidst such raw brokenness.
So as family gatherings are starting to commence, a the busyness and the time is here to connect with family and friends, there may be someone in your circle struggling even now with infertility. You may know they are struggling. You may know of a recent loss. You may know nothing more than they have no children at this time. You love them, want to support them, show them love, but yet do not know how. It is not something talked about in most circles, very misunderstood by many who have not walked this road. And what you intend to be loving words filled with support end up being hurtful to those struggling with infertility.
So what should you avoid saying or doing this holiday season? What things will encourage as well as show love and support to those you know struggling with infertility? If you know someone walking through infertility, here are suggestions for what not to say. As someone who has and continues to walk the road of infertility, these are things I have heard often and found hurt the most.
“So when are you finally going to start having a family?”
This is a common conversational piece brought up to couples without children at family gatherings and events. These couples may have chosen to not have children at all, have been trying for months or years or have even just recently went through a miscarriage and chose not to share it with everyone. Instead of asking questions about when they plan to start having a family, ask them about their job, if they have traveled recently, what places they enjoy going to as a couple, etc. This changes the focus away from having a family and allows them to bring up the topic if they choose.
“You are so lucky you can enjoy sleeping in and the freedom to do what you want.”
Oh how I longed for the house to not be so empty. For the sound of little feet. The sound of those cries in the middle of the night. The rooms of the home to be filled with little giggles and laughter. Yes, sleeping in is nice, but the longings of the heart for those walking through infertility would take sleepless nights over sleeping in any day.
“Just relax, it will happen. Stop worrying about it.”
Hmmmm, how many months did you have to wait? Two? Yeah. Try month after month, doctor appointment after doctor appointment, lab work after lab work, year after year of trying with no results. I know you are trying to show support, but the best way to show your support: give them a hug; tell them you cannot imagine how hard it must be. That is all that is needed!
“Maybe you should adopt.”
Well, adopting is something unique, special and is not for the faint of heart. It is something that should be thought about and researched. It is not for everyone and that is okay! Someone struggling/longing to have children may have done the research, may have thought and prayed about adoption, may have come to the conclusion it is not for them or may have undergone a failed adoption. Suggesting that to someone else without them bringing it up first should be avoided.
“You are so fortunate you don’t have to go through pregnancy. You won’t have to experience the changes your body goes through.”
That may be true, but comments like that can pierce our souls. Because we would much rather be able to experience what it is like to feel our baby’s first kick, our baby’s first hiccups, and yes, just have our own birthing story.
Those are some of the most common phrases I have heard.
Here are a couple more suggestions for what to avoid during holiday gatherings:
If they decide last minute to leave a day early, a few hours early or not participate in all of the family events, it is not because they do not feel welcome. It is not because the food is bad. It is not because of any one thing other than it is such a difficult time for them. Give them a hug, give them grace and let them know they are loved. You may not understand the heartache. You may not understand the difficult time they are having. But to know your love and support, the grace you show to them as they leave early, will speak volumes to them.
I hope this gives you a little better understanding of the things to avoid saying, as loving and well intentioned as they may be. I hope this gives you a better understanding of the road those going through infertility are facing. And I hope this gives you a better understanding of how to love them through this difficult time.
For those walking the road of infertility, amidst the difficulty in the holiday season, I pray you can find the beauty woven in amidst the brokenness. Where hope still flourishes.
Christina loves to sing, write, and live life to the fullest. She is a writer for TheSnapMom.com and CEO of the home;) She has an awesome husband and two sweet littles who stole her heart. Check out her blog! HERE