Infertility Awareness This Holiday Season
Having worked in the Surrogacy/reproductive field for many years, I heard a variety of stories from those struggling with infertility about facing judgement and receiving unsolicited advice from family and Friends.
While the holidays are a joyous time for many, it's often a reminder to those suffering from infertility individuals about their childless reality. Though much of our families mean well, being asked when you will have a baby often adds to this disappointment. 1 in 4 couples struggle with infertility and becoming. The social anxiety at family gatherings can be strong.
We've come up with a few ways you can be supportive without unknowingly negatively triggering family members this holiday season.
Here are 8 ways to practice infertility awareness during the holidays:
1. Try not to use the phrase “when are you going to start your family?”. Their family started when they decided to commit themselves to one another. Suggesting they are not a family without children can be hurtful and disregarding. You don’t know their fertility story.
2. Do not ask your family members if they are pregnant, even if you feel certain that they are. Perhaps they just had a loss, gained a bit of weight, are on fertility medications, etc. If they are pregnant and want you to know, they will tell you.
3. If the subject of having children comes up and someone says that they don't want to talk about it or “it's none of anyone's business”, don't be offended. This is a highly sensitive topic for those struggling with infertility and can bring forth many emotions.
4. Don't give advice on how to get pregnant. Suggesting they "just relax" after they’ve seen many doctors and have had many struggles can be frustrating. Infertility has many root causes which may require many different types of therapy to conceive. Each family’s path to pregnancy is between them and their health care professionals. Unsolicited advice isn’t welcome in most scenarios.
5. Be a safe space. If one of your family members tells you about their struggles, be an active listener. Ask them how they feel, ask them how you can help. Most of the time they just want someone to listen and to release the thoughts and emotions they are holding in.
6. If you are aware of a family members fertility journey and are going to announce your own pregnancy, perhaps let them know gently before making a big announcement to everyone.
7. Don't joke about how they are "lucky" they don't have kids, due to the everyday struggles of being a parent.
8. Sharing your joys and sorrows about parenthood and your kids is totally natural and you should keep doing what feels right based on your relationship.
There are still many great conversations that can be shared with loved ones this holiday season. Instead of discussion family building, try focusing on other areas. Here is a list of 10 great conversation starters:
When covid is over where will you travel?
Tell funny stories of Christmas’ past.
Tell me about your work/school?
What in life is bringing you joy?
What in your life has been challenging lately?
Have you watched any new shows lately that you’d recommend?
What is your favorite place you've ever visited and why?
Have you been to the theatre yet??
What passion projects are you working on right now?
What is inspiring you lately?
As family, we don’t always know what to do or say in these hard situations, and while our intentions are good sometimes, they end up doing more harm than good. Holding space and listening may be the best gift you give this holiday season!