The holidays are one of the worst times of the year for an infertile. Babies, pregnant friends and relatives, endless questions about our reproductive efforts from well-meaning aunts… We dread all these things. For some of us, it’s all we can do to simply show up for dinner. Even if we manage to pull ourselves out of our misery for a few hours, it’s not as easy as showering, putting on a cute top, grabbing a bottle of wine, and putting on a fake smile. We have to spend some time preparing our game plan and outlining our escape. Here’s what I like to do:
- Identify your safe zones. You may think bathrooms are a safe zone, but spending too much time in one, crying and trying to stop crying, only draws unwanted attention. You can always use the tried and true “stomach issues” excuse, but others will catch on when you dive head first into the pie and wine. In my experience, it’s helpful to find an out-of-the-way room – like the laundry room, utility closet, or the storage space under the stairs – and make that your nest for getting away and collecting your emotions. If it’s not too cold, the back porch, garage, or side door are good places, too. (Avoid the front/main entrance, for obvious reasons.)
- Know your limits and triggers. For me, any talk of pregnancy or raising children is out of the question. I can’t hear it and I certainly don’t want to be a part of the conversation. I also can’t spend too much time talking to pregnant women. I’m great with kids and babies, as long as I’m not around other adults at the same time. (Inevitably, someone will make a comment or ask a question about my having my own kids, which is the last thing I want.)
- Plan your escape. Basically, come up with an excuse for your early departure ahead of time. Maybe you have a sick pet or a demanding boss. Maybe you’re prone to migraines or diarrhea. Maybe you’re coming down with the flu. Keep it simple, and keep it between you and the host(s). In other words, don’t make a grand exit. Pull the host aside, thank him or her for a lovely time, give your excuse, and quietly leave. Or maybe all you need is an escape from one of your triggers. I find it useful to always be coming down with a cold, so I can easily avoid holding babies or spending too much time with my pregnant cousins. I’ve also prepared a few quips to throw out in response to nosy questions and insensitive comments:
“So, when are you going to have a baby?”
- Whenever my body stops killing babies.
- Quite possibly never. I’m barren, thanks for asking.
As a screaming kid runs by: “Are you sure you want to have kids? How about you take mine? [wink wink]”
- More than ever. But I’m going to raise my kids NOT to be obnoxious jerks.
- I’d be happy to take your kids, if they’re too much trouble for you. I’ll have my lawyer contact yours. What’s your lawyer’s name?
- How about you get in your time machine and give your past self some birth control?
“Why don’t you just adopt?”
- “JUST adopt”? Ha! That’s a good one! Why don’t we just build a robot baby that will never grow up and never die?
. . . . . . . . . .
What I am most thankful for this year is that I rarely have to use these tricks. My family is awesome. They don’t offer useless, unsolicited advice on how to conceive a baby. They don’t point out that we’re not getting any younger. They respect our grief and our privacy. They give us ample space and ask no questions when we quietly leave the party.
I am eternally thankful for my husband. He doesn’t try to fix me; he just holds me when I break down at a pregnancy announcement (or for no reason at all). He lets me grieve and be bitter without judgement. I can’t imagine getting through this with anyone else.