The festive season is a time in which many Australians get together with their extended family and friends. For some, it may be the only time in a year that they see or socialize with each other.
For people experiencing pregnancy loss and fertility difficulties, the festive period can feel like treading through a minefield. Well-meaning or thoughtless relatives may ask questions such as “When can we be expecting a baby from you two?” or comments such as “Tick-tock, don’t leave it too long.” Others report finding themselves on the end of interrogative questions and advice about how to get pregnant. These types of questions and comments present a number of challenges for people experiencing pregnancy and fertility loss.
A common fear is that recent grief will come pouring out or a privately kept fertility experience will be inadvertently shared to stop further questions. Some feel a pressure to deny their grief so others can celebrate. Others worry about getting angry in response to intrusive questions. Some people express a desire to enjoy the festivities without talking about the problem they face, which for many people is often consuming, but finding that others do not allow them to do that. Christmas can be a time in which people feel the loss of a pregnancy more as they imagine the age their lost baby would have been at Christmas.
In this post, I provide suggestions for people experiencing pregnancy loss and fertility difficulties and also tips for family and friends on how to support their loved one during the festive season.
When you are experiencing pregnancy loss and fertility difficulties:
- Understand that your feelings of grief are normal even though our culture tells us to celebrate at this time. Take care of yourself during the festive season. Identify possible triggers and have a plan for them.
- It can be helpful to share your loss or fertility difficulties to ensure you are supported. However, you can choose who you share your difficulties with.
- Know that it is ok to limit the information you give people. Nobody is entitled to know anything about your fertility or loss.
- Make a plan for how to respond to any insensitive questions and comments.
- Redirect unwanted conversations with something like “I’m not in the right space to talk about this, let’s move on to another topic. So, how has your year been?” or use a stock phrase that you repeat.
When you are a family member or friend:
- Offer support for your loved one on their terms. “I’m here if you want to talk about it. If you don’t want to talk about it, it’s ok”.
- Acknowledge that Christmas may make their grief rawer. Statements such as “If you need to do Christmas a little differently this year, we have your back”, are helpful.
- Be supportive of your loved one leaving an event early while they journey through this period.
- Avoid intrusive questions or offering unsolicited advice. Most people experiencing pregnancy loss or fertility difficulties have read all the same articles from google that you have. They are generally experts on the topic.
- Consider what it might feel like to a childless or one child couple to be asked continuously about “When will you have a baby/ next baby?” Ask yourself, do you really need to know this information? Is it being supportive to ask this question? What kind of pressure might you be putting on that person, especially if they are a private person? Also, what are we conveying about people’s individual value if we constantly make them feel that not having a child/ two children is not good enough? Some people may never conceive a biological child due to their biology or personal preferences and these messages make them feel less worthy than people who can.
This Christmas, let’s be mindful of the impact of pregnancy loss and fertility issues. They are part of the fabric of our community. Be supportive, but not intrusive is the message. Acknowledge the loss is real and painful, including and maybe especially so, at Christmas. Value everyone at Christmas, for who they are, not whether they measure up to the 2.3 kids yardstick.