Infertility is a reality for many couples around the world. We were married 19 years ago, in 1990, at a time when few people were willing to talk publicly about the pain and humiliation of being childless. We felt alone. Over the years, more people started talking about this harsh reality for many. Women are taught from an early age that they will be a mother someday, and that all of the challenges of the menstrual cycle will be worth it on the day their baby is born. I am still waiting for that day. I have watched young unwed mothers have multiple children. I have watched surprise pregnancies for others. We have tried medical intervention, and the long list of tests that accompany those doctor office visits. We are still waiting to hear our first baby cry.
The holidays are especially difficult for couples facing infertility. Families gather at the mall for pictures with Santa. Adorable Christmas dresses are displayed in store windows. Stockings are stuffed with small toys. Cookies and milk are placed at the base of the chimney. Churches spend many weeks talking about the exciting news for Mary and Joseph that they would be having a baby boy. Songs are sung from Mary’s perspective about the wonder of being pregnant with the baby Jesus. I love the Manger story, but we have to choose to focus on the baby Jesus and what his life as an adult was like, instead of the joy of Motherhood that Mary got to experience. For a childless couple, the holidays can be a harsh reminder of their infertility. At a time when the world is talking about hope, their quest can feel hopeless.
In 19 years, we have had to come up with at least 19 ways to make it through the holidays without children. I hope these will help those of you who are facing this difficult situation in your own marriage.
1. Don’t give up hope. We had to realize that even though it’s been 19 years, it might happen this year.
2. Spend time holding or feeding other children. Sometimes even holding a child for a moment can be a gift.
3. Sponsor a child overseas. Sponsorship can sometimes satisfy your desire to nurture a child.
4. Buy toys for yourself. Just because there is no child doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the delight of toys.
5. Hold a baby doll. Sometimes it is fun to pretend you’re a mom. Sometimes it’s just too painful.
6. Get a pet. The desire to mother can sometimes be satisfied for awhile with caring for a pet.
7. Get your picture taken with Santa anyway. You and your spouse can still have a family picture taken.
8. Choose Christmas activities that families cannot attend. There are many adult only events in town.
9. Las Vegas is a popular tourist destination during the holidays for people who don’t want to celebrate.
10. Choose your Christmas music carefully. You may not want to hear children or mothers singing this year.
11. Dedicate the month of December to try to have a child. You might have a child by next Christmas.
12. Pack your holiday calendar with lots of events. If you have a lot of time to think, it might be tough.
13. Take up a hobby. If you are passionate about a hobby, it will distract your mind from a lot of other things.
14. Look into adoption and foster parenting. It is not for everyone, but it can be a great option for some couples.
15. Accept the fact. Sometimes in life, couples just have to accept life the way it is. Make that choice.
16. Take all of the love you would like to give children, and give each other a double portion this month.
17. Make plans for something great next year. You have to have something wonderful to look forward to.
18. Pray for strength. God made you and God makes babies. Pray that He helps you through this.
19. Make a doctor visit or counselor visit. If you really cannot process the loss, get the help you need.
In 19 years, we have had great years and difficult years. We never seem to really know how the holidays will affect us until the moment happens. Sometimes we are all excited to go to a Christmas tree lighting, but somehow end up behind the lady who has newborn twins in her stroller. When parents yell at their children at the mall, I just think how lucky they are to have a child, after my own 19 years of infertility.
This year, we think we can be happy whether we have children in life or not. We never give up hope, but have tried to accept the possibility that it might never happen for us. We will choose to celebrate this year as a family of 2. May you find peace this year as you celebrate the holidays childless too. Next year, you might have bottles and diapers in every room of the house. For us, that would be a dream come true.
Tags:19 Ways to Cope with Christmas Despite 19 Years of Infertility