Another Holiday Season without a Baby

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When the beginning of the year started you were sure that by the holidays you would finally have your longed for baby in your arms. That, or you would at least be announcing the soon-to-be-adoption or the pregnancy. You even allowed yourself to daydream about it this past year.

You daydreamed about sitting around the Thanksgiving table listening to everyone state what they’re grateful for and when it’s your turn, you announce quietly and with a big grin, “I’m grateful for our baby that’s coming,” and then you sit back and listen to the shouts of congratulations.

Maybe in your daydream, you saw those precious children from Russia or China, clinging to you shyly as they meet the rest of their forever family on Thanksgiving Day.

Maybe it was the daydream of the family opening presents until the very last one, in which you placed a picture of a pregnancy test or the first ultrasound and gave it to your mom to open, sitting expectantly as you wait for her to get what it all means.

Perhaps, in your mind’s eye, you imagined the phone call, coming to tell you that the birth mom was in labor and you would have your adopted little one with you just in time for Christmas.

However, it’s another holiday season and there is no baby, there is no phone call, there is no adoption, there is no pregnancy. Your womb remains unfilled, the adoption call hasn’t come through, and your arms are as empty as the boxes under the Christmas tree will be after the presents have all been opened.

To make matters worse, your siblings, your cousins, and everyone else, or so it seems, will be walking through the doors with their brand new babies and bulging bellies, emphasizing your empty arms even more. With that will come the moaning and groaning of sleepless nights and colic and aching back and legs. You’ll sit there and paste a smile on your face and pretend to sympathize with their complaints, but inside you’ll be screaming, “Do you know what you have? I’d give anything to have what you have and I sure as heck wouldn’t be complaining about it either!”

Then the comments will start — the thoughtless comments from those that don’t know your struggles: “So, when are you going to give me a grandbaby?” “You guys need to get going on those kids!” “Do you have anything you need to tell us?” On and on, ad nauseam, each one, another knife in the heart.

The comments that come from those that do know your struggles are even worse: “If you would just relax and quit thinking about it, you would get pregnant.”  “Are you sure adoption is the right thing to do? Maybe God won’t let you get pregnant because you’re not meant to have kids….”

There is no easy way to get through this minefield of newborn babies and pregnant relatives and hurtful comments. You can attend the events and deal with it all, going home even more emotionally distraught than you already are, or you can avoid the events and look like a jerk because you didn’t come to the holiday get-togethers. You’re screwed if you do, you’re screwed if you don’t.

So how do you do it? Get through it all, I mean?

Nothing is going to make it go away, but maybe a few things can make it just a tiny bit more bearable.

My husband and I got to a point where we felt it was better to tell everyone that we were going through infertility. It opened the door to all the infertility comments we hated to get, the “just relax” one being the worst, but at least it cut down on the unknowing pressure comments of “When are you guys going to have kids?” Plus, not everyone who heard about our infertility made stupid comments. Instead, knowing about it made them gentler with us and less invasive in their questions.

You and your husband will have to discuss whether or not telling everyone is the right choice for you as you approach yet another holiday season with all the inevitable questions and comments. In some cases it may not be, in others, it may help alleviate some of the tension.

If you have an exceptionally open family and you do decide to tell them about your struggles to have a biological baby, this would also be a wonderful time to share how they can best help you, as well as your future plans to possibly pursue fertility treatments or adopt. Most of the time people say what they say just because they don’t know to act any differently. You can help them, and yourself, by being up front and honest about what is helpful for them to say and what is harmful.

During this holiday time, however you choose to approach it, take special time to carve out time for you. Take time to do the things that refresh your spirit and help ease the ache in your heart. It might be curling up and watching favorite movies or getting lost in a great book or creating art. Maybe it’s a massage or a mani/pedi session.  Whatever you do, don’t get so caught up in the holiday rush that you add even more stress to yourself by becoming exhausted and frustrated. Take care of your heart and soul during this time.  Soul care is especially important when you are feeling more fragile than usual.

Keep close to your spouse. Delayed adoptions and infertility can make or break a marriage. I know that the desire to have a baby can so easily take over everything, but as much as you can, focus on what you and your husband have apart from your empty arms.

Don’t lose each other during the crazy holiday season, because of all times, this is when you need each other the most. Take time out for dates, and whenever possible, check in with each other on where you both are emotionally with everything. Your friendship and your love is what has carried you this far and it is what will carry you through this painful holiday season.

Some couples have used this time of year to sponsor a child through agencies such as World Vision to support in the coming year. Sponsoring a child will never fill the empty bedroom in your home or the place in your heart that only your future child can fill, but it does give a sense of purpose to couples as they wait for their children.

Give yourself as much permission to grieve your emptiness as much as you would a death. Not having your children with you yet is a huge loss, much like death, and it needs to be grieved. Allow the full range of emotions to come as they need to and don’t try to stuff them or write them off carelessly. Letting the emotions come with their full force will be healthier emotionally in the end than if you try to ignore them and put on the cheery holiday face.

Holidays are just meant to have children in them. Until your children come to you, the holidays are going to be a difficult time; for some it will be more difficult than others. There is no fairy wand to wave to make it easier. Instead, it’s something that you have to get through the best way you know how, and hold out hope that next year will be different.

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