Ah Christmas – the most wonderful time of the year. Right? Well… hold your sleigh bell jingling horses my friend.

If you’re trying to conceive, the holiday season can in fact be the most triggering, emotional, difficult, stressful and challenging time of the year. Fa la la la la la la la humbug.

I am in fact not the Grinch (promise).

We recently found out that instead of moving forward with our next round of IVF, I need an MRI and some pretty major surgery. It’s been a bitter pill to swallow on top of everything else we’ve dealt with over the past few years which includes 6 miscarriages and 10 rounds of fertility treatment. We’ve gotten pretty good at navigating the unexpected at this point, but at Christmas it can all feel that much more difficult.

If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a while and feel disheartened, if you’re mid-way through treatment and are trying to juggle appointments with festive work ‘do’s’, if you’re about to start treatment and feel nerves simmering beneath the surface or if you're grieving a loss, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed. I know I am.

And on that note, here are some top tips for coping during the Holiday Season.

Book a trip away and escape the fertility rat-race

Whether it’s between Christmas and New Year or even in 2022, having something to look forward to outside of getting pregnant can be so good for your mental health.

We just got back from 5 days in New York and it was SO good for our souls. Just to explore, get in the festive spirit and be a couple again outside of this painful path we're currently walking was just what we needed.

Having new experiences, going on adventures, trying new foods, meeting new people and making memories are all still things that you deserve to enjoy. Baby or no baby, your life matters.

Say NO to events, parties and meet-ups that could upset you

While you may feel obligated to attend all the Christmas events you’re invited to (especially after being in total lockdown last year), believe it or not, you don't have to go.

Saying ‘no’ to events or even people that could trigger feelings of sadness was the top response that came in when I asked others to share their ‘coping at Christmas’ advice.

While many of us feel obliged to attend that friend’s annual lunch or the local Christmas Eve pub crawl, you can say no if you’re not in the mood for prying questions about potential baby-making, fake smiles and enquiries about your drinking status. Say you have other plans – nobody has to know it’s with Netflix and a box of quality street.

Listen and honour your own needs and don’t feel guilty about it

While it’s important to set boundaries and say no to things that won’t serve you right now, it’s also good to say YES to things that are going to fill your cup and make you happy.

Now is the time to focus on doing things and seeing people that bring you only JOY. Tis the season after all.

Take a walk that makes you feel like ‘you’ again, breathe in the fresh air, snuggle up by the fire with a book, get some well earned sleep, cook delicious foods, drink hot chocolate, hug your loved ones, write in your journal and set intentions for the new year.

Know your ‘safe people’ or tribe who you can message when times get tough

Having someone or a group of people who you know are going through the same feelings and experiences as you can be a lifeline. With families and friends coming together – perhaps for the first time in a long time – there may be comments, questions and conversations that make you feel awkward, upset or sad. If people are sharing pregnancy news, asking you about your plans for the future or you’re having to listen to how well Charlotte performed in the Christmas nativity, it can all get just a bit too much.

Lean on those who ‘get it’

For example, a friend shared with me: “On Christmas day 2019 I had some triggering news from a relative that came at a particularly difficult time (I’d just had yet another December d&c, so I was extra sensitive).

I was so triggered, I was trembling, so I took myself off into another room and vented to my little group of recurrent pregnancy loss warriors (we’ve had a group chat running for years now).

It makes such a difference knowing there are women out there who not only have your back but wholeheartedly feel your pain too. The reciprocal nature of sharing and caring in these little communities is good for the soul.”

Focus on some serious self care

Hopefully you’ll be able to take a few days off over the holiday period so there is no better time to focus on some much-deserved pampering and self-care.

If you’re in the thick of fertility treatment or are about to start a round very soon then taking some time to indulge and rest will ensure you’re rested and rejuvenated for January.

Treat yourself to new PJs, take baths, stick on some carols, light candles and do anything that makes you feel at peace and relaxed.

Take a social media break

I wrote about this more in another blo post "How to Improve Mental Health When Going Through Fertility Treatment" but I’ll say it again: as amazing as social media is for connection, it can also make you feel isolated.

I know when I was going through IVF stims, egg collection and my first transfer, I found social media really gave me hope. Seeing success stories of those who were on the same path was exactly what I needed to see. In the wake of my latest miscarriage however, Instagram, Facebook and even certain WhatsApp groups make me feel left behind, sad and lost.

I needed to go away, process and grieve, and that meant stepping away from posting about my life and seeing others’ updates. My heart simply couldn’t take seeing another happy family, birth announcement, scan picture or baby bump after we’d so cruelly been dealt another bad card.

Protecting your energy is so important when you’re going through IVF so use that mute button liberally and if you can have a ‘phone free’ week every now and again, do. And what better time to do that than at Christmas? I try to do a social media detox most weekends at the moment and it does help my mental health enormously.

Create special new festive traditions for you and your partner

Sometimes when I hear people say: “A family of two is still a family” I think to myself, but is it, really? I’ve had to really dig deep on this one because for so long the idea of family for me has been synonymous with children. That’s what we were always taught, right? The longer our journey to having children takes however, the more convinced I am that my husband and I are our own little family unit. We have our gorgeous dog too, who is very much a part of our family.

So, start a new tradition with your partner to keep your mind off wishing there was a new stocking to hang. Watch all of each other's favourite festive movies together, bake a traditional family holiday dish, buy a new tree decoration each year or go for a festive lunch date.

Final thoughts - Next year all our troubles will be out of sight (right?)

This time of year is incredibly special and similarly very tough for the millions of couples around the world who are waiting on miracles of their own.

I'm sending love to everyone who wants to soak up this magical time but feels an underlying heaviness. Know that it won't always be this way.

I'm hoping that all of us can somehow find small, quiet moments of peace and happiness this Christmas and that the above tips help you to not only get through the next few weeks, but to enjoy them!

Be kind to yourself and do things that bring you seasonal joy regardless of the mountain you're climbing.

I'm not sure what the new year holds but I know I'll be able to get through the hard days ahead and so will you.

All I want for Christmas this year is... calm after a roller-coaster year and maybe a dash of hope that next year will be different.

I say that every year but maybe 2022 will be the one.

Merry Christmas All!

Jessy x