- Holiday Cards. I love getting holiday cards from friends and family: seeing what people are up to, filling up my sliding-glass door windowpanes with festive images. But at the same time, holiday cards can be a very painful reminder that everyone seems to be celebrating the holidays with their beautiful babies and small children and you aren't. Last year I opened all the cards, ooohed and ahhhed over all the babies and toddlers, and then promptly displayed the small children at the bottom of the door/red velvet ribbon so that everyone else's fecundity wasn't staring me in the face over dinner. I love seeing cute pictures of adorable children. It just makes a person cry when you realize how many people have the family you dream of and how far behind the eight ball you are even though you are trying so, so hard. I decided last year to do photo cards from now on even though we don't have children to showcase. Last year our card was wedding photos--this year, I chose pictures from our Maine vacation for our card. I put all the animals' names on the card even though we don't have any pictures of the animals on the card at all, because at the time "The _______ Family: Bryce and Jess" sounded small, even though we most certainly are a family of two. Holiday cards can be hard to receive and hard to put together when you were hoping to have a family portrait with a new addition (or at least the announcement of a new addition) and it just hasn't come together yet.
- Christmas Carols. I know, this one is weird. But think about it--all religious Christmas carols center on the arrival of a very special baby. The entire Christmas holiday is about the birth of a miracle child. Secular Christmas carols often center on the joy that Christmas brings to little children (minus songs like "Baby It's Cold Outside," a song I always thought was a date-rape anthem and falls into the "It's Christmastime, let's get it on" carol category). When you yourself are sans miracle baby and sans small children to bring Christmas joy to, hearing the carols all the time can trigger waterworks. I love Christmas music and listen to it all the time, but have to prepare myself that sometimes the songs will make me teary. Or, like this morning when I was listening to Annie Lennox's verson of "Universal Child," dissolve into a full-on sobfest while driving home from Dunkin Donuts. It's a catch-22. Christmas carols make me very happy, but at the same time can catch me at a moment where all the joyous baby tidings just make me incredibly sad.
- Family Parties/Work Parties/Friend Parties Involving Lots of Small Children. I don't personally have this issue as most of my extended family with small babies/toddlers live far away and we don't get invited to kids' parties from friends. So, I don't have to go to parties like this for the most part. But for people who do, being the reproductive-age-married-no-children people at the party can be awkward and uncomfortable and cause sadness--because you want to be making holiday crafts with your little kid and probably someone is going to ask "So when are you going to have kids?" Luckily, since I have been very open about our situation and have very supportive family and friends, the only people who would ask such a thing are friends-of-friends or distant relatives who don't know what we're going through. (And I have decided that my strategy for this year is to point-blank tell people nosy enough to ask exactly why we don't have kids yet.)
- Holiday Parties in General. This is mostly because the holidays are full of fun drinking cheer -- wine! eggnog! cocktails! -- and if you are in a treatment cycle you can't have any of it. Which makes people do stupid things like wink at you exaggeratedly ("Not drinking tonight? Hmmmmmmm? Anything you want to tell us?") or flat out ask if you are pregnant. Offering the excuse that you are on antibiotics or got really drunk last night so you couldn't THINK of drinking tonight only work for so long before people either think you have tuberculosis or are a raging alcoholic. And, if you are in a treatment cycle you do not feel well and even can be bloated enough to look a little pregnant--which only fuels rumors and winking. These parties also tend to be filled with people you don't really know--friends of friends. People who will ask you if you have kids or assume that you have kids and say something like, "Great to get away from the kids for a night, huh?" All of which can make a person struggling with infertility suddenly feel a whole lot less festive.
- Shopping. I did the majority of my Christmas shopping online this year. Partly because I am pressed for time, partly because I hate crowds, but also partly because Christmas shopping can be incredibly difficult, especially at the mall. The mall is filled with children, and strollers, and giant pregnant bellies. I used to think if I went to the mall all the time I would surely get pregnant because it is such a fertility hotspot--look around next time! There are babies and bellies EVERYWHERE! Of course, that could just be because my mind zooms to that immediately. I am super sensitive to the presence of babies and pregnant women. I have mommy-dar. There are cute onesies everywhere. Onesies tend to make me cry too. Case in point: In Maine we walked into a store that had a onesie that said "Stud Puffin." I left the store sobbing. For some bizarre reason I wanted a reason to put my nonexistent baby in a "Stud Puffin" outfit. Another example--a catalog had a onesie that said "I was worth the wait." I almost bought the damn thing because it will be so appropriate, but teared up and decided I didn't need to spend $30.00 on a onesie for a baby who won't be here for quite some time. So, I can still get ambushed by catalogs and websites, but it is a lot harder since I can ignore baby-centric stores. Unlike the mall which is teeming with stores and actual babies.
- Facebook. Oh Facebook, I have such a love/hate relationship with you. Over the next few weeks I will not be trolling through my Home page so much. That's because over the next few weeks Facebook becomes photo after photo of babies and children and happy families frolicking in the snow, picking out Christmas trees, opening presents, eating Christmas cookies, etc. Seeing them in isolation is fine but when it is 90% of the content it is a bit much to take. Also, people tend to start posting things like "Christmas is so much more meaningful when you have children" and "Ah, Christmas is really for the children" and "I love Christmas so much more now that we celebrate it is as family." Maybe not exactly those posts, but close enough. I get it, and I appreciate the sentiment, but for someone who really wants to share a holiday with the joy of a child and can't, it makes me feel like my Christmas is worth crap because I don't have kids. Which is totally not true, Bryce and I do a really good job of celebrating just the two of us and having fun traditions. But seeing all those posts can have the knee jerk reaction of "My Christmas is so empty."
The holidays are a wonderful time and Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. I still feel a lot of love and joy and spirit of giving. We have decorations and traditions of our own that we will one day share with our children. But it is still a mixed bag for people going through infertility. I experience the sadness but try to have more joyful moments with the wonderful life we have now.