Anticipating the holiday season

| Posted On Dec 05, 2011 | By:

For anyone in the midst of fertility treatment, the upcoming holidays can present challenges.  The holiday season provides more opportunities to socialize with friends and family, and therefore increases the potential for questions that, however well-intentioned, can make you uncomfortable.  Because the holidays are often family-focused celebrations, the most difficult part of the season may actually be dealing with your own family.   It’s helpful to anticipate the events and prepare ahead of time for situations which may be stressful for you. 

From other couples who have undergone fertility treatment and who understand the emotional strain it can place on couples, here are some ideas and tips to help you better navigate the holiday season.

Practice answering difficult questions.  For example, if you anticipate being asked questions that you dread or that make you feel uncomfortable, you can rehearse your responses to make the subject a little easier for you, and even be prepared with a change to another subject of your choice.

Take care of yourself and each other.  Do what makes you happy.  If it’s important to you, arrange to have dinner or an evening out with other couples who don’t have children.  If you are going to a family member’s house for the holiday, consider celebrating in your own home first.  Give gifts to each other and acknowledge that you are going through a very difficult time.  Celebrate your love for each other. 

Volunteer to help others during the holidays.  If you do something for someone else, it can make you feel better and take your mind off your own concerns.  You can volunteer in a food pantry, invite someone who’s alone to your Thanksgiving dinner, or help collect gifts for the needy during the holidays.  These activities can leave you with the many positive feelings that you get when you help others.

Limit your participation in family celebrations.   If watching your young nieces and nephews open presents makes you feel sad, perhaps you can arrive late or leave early.  If you have to travel far to your family’s celebration, consider staying in a hotel if it will give you some respite. If you are feeling particularly upset, you might want to offer to help with some tasks in another room or suggest to your partner that you take a walk outside.  Some couples develop cues that alert one to the other’s feelings, and they can signal each other when it’s time to leave.

The holidays can seem difficult, but with some anticipatory planning you can better take advantage of the love and support that may be available from friends and family. The holidays might even be the time to speak more openly with some of your family members and let them know what you are feeling and experiencing.

We at the Harvard Vanguard Center for Fertility and Reproductive Health understand and appreciate that it can be very difficult to get through the holiday season, and we are here to help you learn to cope with these situations.

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About Sharon Steinberg, RNCS

Sharon Steinberg, RN, MS, CS, offers individual, couples, and mind/body group therapy. She helps patients cope with infertility and its treatment. Sharon joined Harvard Vanguard in 1972. She is a graduate of the University of California San Francisco Medical Center where she received her undergraduate degree in nursing and her graduate degree in psychiatric-mental health nursing. She was also a Fellow in Medical Ethics at Harvard Medical School.


  1. It’s true, sometimes you can feel so uncomfortable with family or friends. Those are good tips, thank you!

    Comment by Febe Moore on December 7, 2012 at 11:18 am

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