The holidays can be a time of festive cheer – but if you’re struggling to conceive you might find it hard to feel merry and bright this December. Here’s our advice on navigating the triggers, relationships and emotions that the holidays can bring along with them.
Have open conversations with your partner
If you are finding this time of year difficult because your baby-making plans aren’t going the way you hoped, it might be tempting to put on a brave face for your partner. But the truth is that you can only truly support each other if you are honest about how you’re feeling. Being vulnerable and sharing what you’re going through will actually bring you closer and allow you to make a plan on how to get through the holidays – together.
If speaking about your emotions doesn’t come naturally to you, you could try writing a letter to your partner about what you’re struggling with, or maybe you could do a joint journaling activity where you both get your feelings out of your head and on to paper – then swap so you get an insight into each other’s emotional world. Whatever works for you, just make sure the only thing that’s getting bottled up this holiday season is the mulled wine.
Set boundaries and create traditions that aren’t connected to kids
Once you have spoken to your partner, part of your action plan might be to do activities that help you avoid or manage triggers. The holiday season is undoubtedly a time of year that puts a focus on children – which can be hard if you are struggling to have a baby. It’s impossible to avoid babies and children all together – at Christmas and in life! – but it’s ok for you and your partner to put boundaries in place so that you don’t have to put yourself in situations that make you feel sad or uncomfortable. This is your permission slip to say no to going to your niece’s Nativity play, or yes to having a quiet Christmas for two if that’s what you think would be most helpful.
This is also a time that you can work to create traditions that put the focus on you as a couple, rather than activities that are all about children. Whilst a dinner at a fancy restaurant or a relaxing spa day isn’t going to take away the pain of infertility, it might help to momentarily alleviate some of the tough feelings you’re dealing with and give you some much-needed quality time where you can be grateful for what you do have rather than focusing on what you don’t.
Talk to your family
So often, fertility journeys are shrouded in secrecy – and if you’re at the early stages of trying, it might be that you haven’t even shared that with your family and friends yet. However, if you are struggling and find that it’s taking its toll on your emotional well-being, it might be worth briefing those closest to you before you hunker down to spend the holidays together.
Firstly, this can stop well-meaning but intrusive (and sometimes insensitive) questions from being fired at you from across the dinner table. If your fertility journey isn’t going quite as planned, there is nothing worse than your great Aunt bugging you about when they can expect to hear the pitter-patter of little feet. Consider choosing some trusted family members to share the reality of your fertility journey with and ask them to disseminate that information to the wider group. Secondly, it also means that you will have a support network on hand if you are finding things hard and need someone to talk to that isn’t your partner.
Find a supportive community
Speaking of support networks – there are some incredible communities out there for men struggling with fertility. Whilst it’s important to connect with your friends, family and partner, there is something really special about finding a group of guys who know exactly what you’re going through – but who aren’t connected to your personal journey. Community is incredibly important throughout the year but can be especially helpful if you’re finding Christmas tough – whilst the rest of the world seems to be enjoying the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ it can be validating to connect with men who are also finding it hard.
Whether you want an anonymous online community or fancy meeting up in person, the male fertility space has grown and opened up over the last few years. There are now lots of places where you can find a community that works for you. As the first port of call, we would recommend checking out the Him Fertility support network run by Fertility Network UK and a friend of ExSeed Ian Stones. They meet online once a month and it’s a great place to connect with other guys, share your story and listen to theirs.
We hope that even if things aren’t going to plan right now, you can find some peace and joyful moments in the holiday season this year. If you are keen to support your fertility as we head into 2023, why not check out our blog on the best New Year’s Resolutions for improved sperm health.