For years now I have struggled with Christmas. I am indeed known as The Grinch to those around us. The Grinch also happens to be one of my favorite Christmas films. It just resonates. I don’t find it upsetting that people liken me to The Grinch and I hope this post helps to explain how I got here. Struggling with Christmas and just trying to survive. Hiding myself away, finding comfort in my own company and being ok with being different. It is only a few weeks before Christmas and we have no tree up, no decorations up and we are the only house in the street not to have lights outside. Right now, I can’t be bothered.
I haven’t always struggled at Christmas. As a child I remember the excitement, the build up, picking what I wanted Santa to bring (mainly from the Argos catalogue), rehearsing Christmas concerts, visiting family to drop presents off. All of it. I suppose we learn that Christmas is about children. And we don’t have any of our own to share this time of the year with.
Somewhere along the way I have also lost my faith. I no longer go to church and I’m no longer part of that community either, as they celebrate ‘the true meaning of Christmas’. Indeed, my mum always reminded me that Santa as we know him now in his red suit was in fact shaped largely by a well known drinks manufacturer. As a child, Christmas was as much about the arrival of Jesus as it was about the arrival of Santa.
In the early days of trying to conceive, we would look to Christmas as a marker for the year. Maybe we would have a baby before Christmas and as the year progressed maybe I would be pregnant by Christmas. As Christmas got closer, maybe we would have some happy news to share with family at Christmas. Of course, this was all fantasy. For us it never came to fruition. As the years passed and the treatments failed, I fell further and further into depression. Those around us started to have families and I really started to struggle, in fact some years I haven’t coped at all. It wasn’t that I was jealous of them, it was that it brought a deep sense of sadness to me. This time of the year is a reminder of the life we wanted so much and yet for some reason we just aren’t able to have it.
I put together Christmas Eve boxes for the children in our lives, hoping one day I will be able to do it for our own children but knowing that may never be the case. Somewhere deep inside, that hurts.
I wrap the presents for Christmas and think about the ages that our children would be if any of our treatments had worked. Would our spare bedroom currently look like a Pokemon explosion had gone off, or that Batman had taken hold of the house, or would it be filled with Barbie and pretend dragons? At the moment it is all of those things & I’m glad we are able to spoil the children in our lives, but at the same time I am filled with a huge sense of sadness. Even writing this is painful. As we spend time on Christmas Day watching them unwrap everything, there are times when my heart literally feels like it is bursting and I have to fight the tears back. I know in those moments I have to step away and then come back when the feeling has passed. No-one ever notices but me.
I have learned over the years where my limits are and that has been key to me being able to get through the holidays. So my tips for getting through this time of year:
- Put yourself first – if you think a situation is going to upset you then say ‘no’. Those that know and love you will understand. If it creates a problem, that’s for the other person to deal with and not you. They will get over it.
- Close the door – if you need to lock yourself away to protect yourself, then do it. Your feelings are the most important thing, do what you need to do. You don’t need permission from anyone else.
- Shop on-line – I avoid the shops at all cost. I think the local delivery guys wonder whats wrong if they don’t drop something off at our house during December. I don’t want to see the decorations, listen to the music and wrestle with the crowds.
- Buy nice food – diet goes out of the window for me. I don’t go mad but if we want something different then we will have it. I’ve missed the on-line slots this year so I will have to brave the supermarket but that will be an early morning trip and my trolley will be full of whatever I want.
- Know when it’s time to leave – if you are at a gathering and are struggling then have a key word that you use so that your partner knows its time to go. Don’t stay in a situation that is causing you sadness or upset. Its ok to leave.
- Buy plenty of tissues – its ok to cry, infertility is hard to cope with and even more so at Christmas
- Create your own ‘traditions’ – we take part in some of the family traditions, but we have started to create our own. We go out for lunch on Christmas Eve, we watch films on Boxing Day. We try to do things that we enjoy, just us two.
- Take time off work if you can/need to – there seems to be an assumption that those without children are ok to cover the Christmas period at work. For me there is nothing worse than being in work. I don’t want to hear those with children talking about how fabulous it is/has been. It hurts, it cuts deep and so if I can I ask for the time off. I don’t always get it as we have to ‘take turns’ but I never let them assume I’m ok to go to work just because I don’t have children. Just because I don’t have children doesn’t mean I don’t have a family.
- Spoil yourselves – we ask for spa vouchers for Christmas so that we can have a day in an adult environment, being pampered and relaxing. Bliss.
Christmas is hard. It is upsetting. At times I am filled with utter sadness. Yet I have to find the strength to get through it. I am not The Grinch. I am simply protecting myself and putting us first. I am sad about the life that we wanted so badly and yet we are unable to have right now.
If you are struggling at this time of the year, be kind to yourself and know that it’s ok not to be ok. Christmas soon passes, a new year of hope begins and the torturous road of infertility continues. Maybe next year I will be writing something different, maybe we will have a baby, maybe we won’t. As I write this we are mid way through an IVF cycle & so I don’t know what our future holds. I am not heading into Christmas thinking about what is to come for us, I am trying to live in the here and now. The sadness is real and that’s ok.