It’s here. In full force. The Holiday Season.
That time of going to festive parties, shopping for gifts, baking cookies, mailing cards, and generally running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
If you’re trying to conceive it can also be the most painful time of the year. The holiday season is all about connecting with family, and when you want family to be you and your children rather than you and your parents, the pain and longing can be brutal.
Before my son was born, I dreaded the holidays. It felt like the same old grind year after year, and I was painfully aware that another year had passed without me having what I so desperately wanted. My house felt like a sad and lonely place without the pitter-patter of little feet rushing down the stairs on Christmas morning and shouting for joy at the gifts under the tree.
I used to wish it was a simple enough fix to go sit on Santa’s lap and tell him I wanted him to bring me a baby for Christmas.
I was all set to write a blog post about surviving the holiday season when trying to conceive. As a fertility coach, my mission is to help you when you’re trying to conceive to develop the tools you need to endure the fertility roller coaster with your sanity intact – and if there’s any time you need those tools, it’s the gut-wrenching holiday season.
So that the post would have more voices that just my own, I reached out to several colleagues in the wellness business who also focus on fertility, as well as women currently trying to conceive, to get their tips.
I collected the tips — things like, feel your feelings. Treat yourself and others with kindness. Meditate. Take time to do things you enjoy. Seek out your support system. Be present and grateful.
Then guess what happened. I wrote about half of the post, then got overwhelmed with life, and never finished it.
You see, I’ve learned that the stress of the holiday season doesn’t magically go away when you have a child.
The holidays are kicking my ass this year. I used to make fun of my mother for shopping all year for Christmas gifts and having them all wrapped by Thanksgiving. Guess what, Mom? I get it now!
It’s a different kind of stress, to be sure. My house is no longer sad and lonely. It’s run by a 2-year-old, so it’s boisterous and chaotic. I’m not feeling like my life is incomplete. Instead, I’m so overwhelmed that I’m having a hard time getting through each day. On top of the holiday madness, I’m running my household, launching my fertility coaching business, working at my day job, and trying to make sure my son eats something besides Christmas cookies.
I know I’m not unique in this; instead of reassuring me, that only makes me feel even more inadequate about how I’m (quite unsuccessfully) burning the candle at both ends.
And I’m not doing the best job at treating myself with kindness, seeking out my support system, meditating, doing things I enjoy, or being present and grateful. What kind of coach am I if I’m not able to follow the advice I give others?
While I was trying to conceive, I did a lot of journaling to get in touch with my feelings. Journaling for me pre-dates the fertility journey, actually. I recently dug out some of my old journals and discovered that I have books dating back to the mid-1980s filled with my writings about how lonely I was and if I could just find love, my life would be magically transformed.
Back then, I was searching for the love that I felt was lacking in my family. Then it became the romantic love of a partner. And, in more recent years, it was the love of a child.
It was only through the fertility journey that I learned that the love I needed most of all, that could sustain me and help me weather any storm, was the love of myself.
I’ve found my partner, and had a child, but this is still my most profound struggle. This is the reason my ass is getting kicked by the holidays, and – more importantly – why I feel inadequate about it.
I know that I need to love myself the way that I’ve hoped throughout my life that someone else would love me. I’m still learning how to do this.
I hold myself up to impossibly high standards – standards no human could possibly consistently attain. I’ve always felt like I needed to be perfect. The perfect student with the most achievements. The perfect employee who worked on the best projects. The perfectly fertile woman whose children weren’t conceived via fertility treatments. The person who’s always got it together (whatever it is).
The fertility journey rocked my world – two miscarriages, not being able to get pregnant on demand, being told I had less than a 2% chance of having a baby with my own eggs. It’s enough to make any woman feel like a failure, much less a woman who holds herself to an impossible standard.
Surviving – and thriving – during this process required, for me, the ability to surrender. It’s not something over which one has a lot of control. Yes, there are ways to help maximize your chances, and I as a fertility coach am here to help you with that – but the reality is that the control is not ours on this journey. Surrendering that control was immensely challenging for me, especially since I’d always been able to control other aspects of my life. Some days I was better at surrendering than others.
So yes, extending kindness, seeking out your support system, meditating, doing things you enjoy, and being present and grateful are all wonderful tips for surviving this mad, crazy, emotionally charged time of the year. I genuinely appreciate and honor the amazing women who sent them to me.
In the end, though, I have but one tip for surviving the holiday season, and the entire year, whether or not you are trying to conceive —
Let yourself be where you are — in your journey and in your life.
You are where you are, and it is the only place you are in this very moment, so accept it. Tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, you’ll be someplace else. If you are truly able to do this, the ability for everything else — extending kindness, seeking out support, getting into your own head, really enjoying yourself, and being sincerely present and grateful — will follow.
As you now know, I’m not totally there yet, but I can guarantee that accepting your place on your journey will create the space in your life and give you the nourishment for the best of all that is yet to come.