Whether you are struggling to conceive or just starting to explore the possibility of having children, the holidays can be a stressful time for couples. Maybe it’s someone asking you about your timeline for having kids, or maybe you’re surrounded by little ones in your family. Whatever it is, the pressure to get pregnant is a recurring theme every holiday season.
“So when are you having kids?”
In fact, baby-making pressure is almost an expected topic around the dinner table for young couples. If you’re struggling with your fertility, you may be caught off-guard and feel speechless. Alternatively, your frustration and anger might take its vent, and you wish it hadn’t.
As a functional fertility physician, it still baffles me how often people cross the line with the question, “When are you going to have kids?”
Let’s empower you to keep that question from ruining your holiday season. Here are my five tips for surviving conversations around your fertility experience:
1. Help your friends and family understand.
Contrary to what your grandmother (who had eight children) might have you think, prior generations struggled with fertility too. It just wasn’t talked about.
About 1 in 8 couples experience challenges in conception. If you have a big extended family, that probably means that you and your partner aren’t the only ones who have struggled.
To create more understanding, you have to be a little open about things. It can be hard, but awareness is the key to open up the door of empathy. Sure, you might get some unsolicited, whacky advice. Chances are, though, someone else will open up about the same difficulties you’re going through. That can feel like a breath of fresh air. Some things you can say:
- “It’s not that easy for everyone to get pregnant, but we are trying.”
- “We hope to have kids soon, but everyone’s process is different.”
- “Pregnancy doesn’t come as easy for us, but we are exploring some options.”
2. Set boundaries.
If someone asks if you’re going to have kids anytime soon, nip it in the bud with the first opportunity. It’s easy to snap and cause tension, but it takes more patience (and maybe a deep breath) to respond with kindness. Doing it before your frustration builds can deter your temper from flaring! So right from the beginning, look into the eyes of your well-intentioned relatives or friends, and set some boundaries.
If you’re too nervous about spearing yourself, recruit your partner when someone asks or enlist the help of someone who knows what you want to say (your favorite cousin, your parent, your best friend, etc.). Here are my favorite responses (the first one is guaranteed to get them to stop asking, possibly forever):
- “We are working on it, but we would like some privacy around it for now.”
- “Someday soon, I’m sure you’ll hear about it when it happens!”
- “It’s tough being asked that, but yes, we’re working on it. You’ll find out when it happens.”
3. Say, “No.”
Avoid gatherings if you need to. If gatherings include babies and kids, or lots of moms, and you’re feeling too raw, it’s okay to withdraw. Make time to get together with friends and family in a more intimate or individualized setting. Sometimes in big groups, you might feel more isolated.
You are allowed to feel how you feel, and you are entitled to set your own schedule, priorities, and environment. If people ask why you haven’t been around, be honest. Here are some things you can say:
- “It can be hard for me to be around a lot of young families. Sometimes I need a mental break.”
- “Hearing a lot of talk about kids and babies can be difficult at times. Some days I need a breather.”
- “I’d like to hang out in a smaller setting. Sometimes I get too overwhelmed by all of the conversations about kids and babies.”
4. Vent to your support system.
Fertility can be hard to talk about. Find your people, the people you can be open and vulnerable with. Do not isolate yourself and don’t act like things are “fine” if it starts to feel overwhelming. If you get triggered by conversations about your fertility, let your support system know.
More often than not, they’ll help you steer those conversations towards a more positive place and keep others in check for you! It’s also good for them to be in the know in case they accidentally bring up topics around babies, pregnancy, or news of other expectant parents.
Mental-emotional health is a priority in working with fertility couples. If either of you is facing heavy emotional stressors, it can lead to more challenges in conception (and your pregnancy)! Why? Stress is a major obstacle to conceiving, as it can negatively affect the hormones needed to get pregnant. You’re not a ‘Debbie Downer’ for talking about your struggle or for feeling bad about it. You’re getting ahead of the curve by establishing your long-term support system, which will be essential when you have children.
5. Join a Support Group or something similar.
Nowadays, there are numerous resources for counseling (like resolve). Some are virtual, some are free with your employee benefits, and some are from your local church or community. But sometimes friends, family, and counselors aren’t enough. This can be an isolating time for some couples.
Resolve.org has support groups all over the country for couples and individuals who are going through challenges in fertility. If not Resolve, look into Facebook groups or reach out to local midwives or doulas who may know of more support networks. In this age of social media, you can create strong connections to an online community with a few clicks of a button!
In less than 12 months, 90% of my clients were able to conceive in the most natural way possible. Boost your chances of pregnancy and book your first consultation here.