Thanksgiving can be a joyful time for gathering with family and friends, food, football, and relaxation, but it can be full of triggers when you’re dealing with infertility and miscarriage. You can find yourself surrounded by children, pregnant relatives, and family members that ask inappropriate questions. Planning ahead can help. Identifying what triggers may be present and preparing yourself for ways to cope can mean the difference between a pleasant experience and an agonizing one.
Here are some tips on preparing for and finding joy in a family Thanksgiving when you are trying to conceive.
1. Don’t go. This may sound shocking and for many the repercussions of skipping a family tradition can be brutal depending on your family. However, you may choose that the triggers are just too much to deal with this year – you can plan a trip away or feign sick the morning of Thanksgiving. If you do decide to miss the family gathering because that’s the best choice for you, feel good about that decision. You may be able to be honest with your family and tell them why (that may stop the inquiries). If you are considering skipping the family Thanksgiving, think it through because, if you do find some joy in the tradition, completely missing out may be worse than going. You may be able to compromise and go late and leave early in order to limit your exposure to the triggers. There are ways to enjoy Thanksgiving with your family when you are trying to complete your family – keep reading.
2. Find your ally. Try to think of one person (this can be a partner but even better someone else) who can help you at the family gathering. Dealing with infertility and miscarriage can be isolating and being in a group of people that do not know what you’re dealing with can intensify the feeling of being alone in the struggle. You may be able to share with your family before Thanksgiving what you’re dealing with, but you may not want to share if you’re worried that’s all people will want to talk about that day. Unfortunately, people can say inappropriate things like ‘It’s meant to be’ and give well-meaning but painful advice like ‘Just relax’ or ‘Just adopt’ when trying to comfort you. Having one or two people that know and ‘get it’ can help you get through Thanksgiving with the family this year. Talk to this person before you go and let them know you’re worried about triggers at the event – they can sit next to you at the meal, play defense when Aunt Sally starts asking too many questions about when you’re going to make your mom a grandmother, and be there for you when you need to vent. Your partner can be that person, but they have their own triggers to deal with at Thanksgiving. Having at least one other person who knows what you’re dealing with can provide comfort.
3. Plan your responses to awkward questions like these. You know they are coming.
How long have you two been together? When are you having kids?
Your eggs aren’t getting any younger!
Your child needs a sibling – better get on that!
There are two basic strategies for responding to these questions (well three if you consider punching the person in the face but let’s focus on the two other techniques): Avoidance and Honesty.
“We’re thinking about it – how has your year been?”
“That’s a pretty personal question – where’s your next vacation going to be?”
“Actually, I’d rather talk about something else – what book are you reading? Seen any good movies lately?”
“We’re actually trying and it’s been tough. I’ll let you know more when I do.”
“We have been trying for over a year and I’d love to share more with you but at another time.”
“I’ve been trying for a long time and it’s been hell. Being around family and all these kids is really tough – can you be supportive today. I’d rather not talk about it right now.”
4. Plan an exit strategy. This can mean a break in the middle of the gathering – find a quiet room, even a bathroom, for some deep breathing. Offer to run to the store for more of anything. Have a signal with your partner for when you are ready to leave and go home to recharge.
5. Plan to recharge. Do something special for yourself or with your partner after Thanksgiving dinner. Go out for your own celebration or have a quiet evening at home relaxing. I suggest watching the movie ‘Love Actually’ – it’s a personal holiday tradition that I watch it during the Thanksgiving weekend as a way to bring in the rest of the holidays. It’s a light-hearted, feel good collection of stories that interconnect loosely around a holiday season in London full of some fun people to watch on screen including Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, to name a few. Other self-care ideas for the weekend after Thanksgiving: journaling, mindfulness, hiking, yoga, other exercise, sleep, anything that recharges you. Find time to connect with someone else who understands your story. Schedule a massage, get outside, try a cooking class, read that book you’ve been wanting to for ages.
Find time in the few days after Thanksgiving to reflect on how things went. Which strategies worked, and which did not. How did you respond to awkward questions? What questions were you asked that you weren’t ready for and how did you answer them. How would you handle a similar situation differently in the future? Did you plan enough self-care after the event to recharge?
Write these thoughts down because more holidays are coming soon. Take time to reflect so you can learn and prepare to care for yourself in the upcoming events with more triggers. Always remember to be kind to yourself. You’ve got this!
Learn more about infertility and miscarriage with more blog posts at drlorashahine.com.