Although the holidays are focused on celebration and joy, this time of year can be hard for many people. Specifically for couples or individuals who are having a difficult time on their family-building journey. If you are in the midst of pursuing IVF treatments and find yourself dreading all the touchy comments and questions by friends and family members this holiday season, this post is for you.
Regardless of your situation (single, heterosexual couple, same-sex couple), you’ve most likely been asked this question before. Whether you’ve chosen to keep your IVF experience private, or even if you’ve opted to be open with your journey, it can still turn quite uncomfortable when others question you about pregnancy and children in a social setting. So, we’ve compiled some thoughts and tips that we hope will help make your holidays as joyful and peaceful as possible.
1. Be emotionally prepared
When you’re faced with these seemingly insensitive questions or comments, being emotionally prepared beforehand can make a difference in how you react. If you’re completely caught off guard, you may find yourself reacting defensively which can lead to an unwanted outcome of the conversation.
If you have a partner, try communicating in private before the event to make sure you’re both on the same page with how much you should share and with whom. Deciding beforehand is a good way to make sure you don’t feel pressured in the moment to share anything you don’t want to share. Remember that you do not owe anyone an explanation, and sometimes it’s best to politely change the subject.
2. How to respond to the question, “when are you going to have a baby?” or even, “when are you planning on having another child?”
There’s not one simple response to this question that works for everyone. Most importantly, it depends on where you’re at in your journey and what you feel comfortable discussing. If you prefer not to talk about it, you have every right to respond with a simple, “I prefer not to discuss it.” However, if you’re feeling up to it, you could take a different approach. There are ways to respond without being rude or blunt while also letting the person know that these types of questions can cause pain.
If you are in a place emotionally where you feel comfortable enough to do so, you could take the route of educating the person asking. For instance, you could opt to offer up some statistics, saying something like, “Did you know that 1 in 6 people struggle with infertility? I’m not going to say whether or not I do, but that’s just something to keep in mind the next time you ask someone if they want to have children or even if they want to have more children.” Being genuine and honest about your challenges can bring awareness to the topic and help remove the stigma. Responding in this way can politely help the person realize that these types of questions and comments are not all in fun and they should consider the underlying issues before questioning someone about having children.
3. When possible, forgive others for their ignorance
We have read through many online forums regarding this topic to gather a consensus of how people in the infertility community feel about these types of questions. Understandably, a lot of people get angry. They don’t understand how others can be so nosy, rude, and insensitive. They wonder how people can think it’s okay to ask such personal and hurtful questions. We understand and respect their concerns, but we’d like to offer another perspective that may be more beneficial in some situations.
Understanding their intention
Honestly, there can be a number of reasons why someone asks these types of questions. We believe that people usually have good intentions when asking these questions and may just be ignorant to the pain it can cause.
Most of the time, if asked by an acquaintance, it’s an attempt at small-talk. If close friends or family members ask, it could be a reasonable curiosity. When it comes to family, it’s common for the intention to be self-centered. Your parents may be wanting a grandchild, your sister-in-law may want her kids to have cousins around to play with. 14Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’s your responsibility to provide these things or even explain your situation, but realizing the askers intention may help shift your attitude towards them for asking.
Give them the benefit of the doubt
Here’s the thing: Everyone is fighting a battle that you may not be aware of. Be kind to yourself but also try and be kind to others who may unknowingly cause you pain. People don’t realize that it can be an inappropriate and sometimes painful question to ask. We know it’s hard, but whenever possible, we encourage you to give others the benefit of the doubt. We think this approach will ultimately bring you more peace, which leads to our next point.
4. Take care of yourself
Overall, it’s important to understand that everyone handles their struggles differently and you need to do what’s best for you - physically and emotionally. Prioritize taking care of yourself, understanding your emotions, and doing the things you love.
We know the journey can be long and hard. But, as we know from our years of experience, it is a journey that is ultimately filled with hope. If you are in the midst of a struggle with infertility, or pursuing a same-sex or single parent family, please take a moment to step back and imagine the bright days ahead. Remind yourself that this is just one of the many seasons of your life. Widening your perspective to the long-term picture will give more meaning to the emotions you are feeling now. Give yourself grace, be kind to yourself, and don’t lose hope.
Happy Holidays from all of us at Donor Nexus!