Written by Elena Ridley, guest blogger
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, as the song goes. For many reasons those lyrics are true; being with family, enjoying traditions, partaking in all of the fun and festivities that only happen during this joyous holiday season. But what if you don’t feel joyous? What if you feel like it’s the most awful time of year? For many couples who deal with infertility, this is exactly what the holiday season feels like.
As if infertility was not hard enough, mix in the holidays and you’ve got a cocktail of heartache, sadness, and stress that is tough to overcome. It can be hard as you sit back wondering if you will ever get to be a parent. You watch others from a distance; moms, dads, and their children. You get the family Christmas cards, see parents taking their children to visit Santa, and buy gifts for your godchildren, your nieces and nephews, and friends’ kids often with resentment and jealousy. You muster up enough courage and composure to attend gatherings with family and friends while you watch the happiness on the faces of parents as they watch their children open up gifts never knowing if you will ever get to experience this feeling. Next to first days of school and other holidays, Christmas is probably the hardest time when you’re going through infertility.
When I think back to my first Christmas as a newlywed in 2011, I was almost certain that I would be pregnant and announcing it with a cute ornament handed out to my parents and in-laws. I had been married a whole 3 months and I knew I’d be pregnant in an instant after getting married. Then Christmas rolled around and so did my period and for the 3rd month in a row, I was frustrated & wondering why I wasn’t pregnant yet. Boy was I naïve. As time went on and we kept trying, Christmas after Christmas was passing, yet I still wasn’t handing out those announcement ornaments to my family members. I was absolutely clueless as to why I wasn’t pregnant yet 2 years and some minor fertility treatments later. Little did I know that it would take another 3 years before I would be expecting and 4 years before I’d actually have a baby in my arms at Christmas time. After a very long journey, we finally get to say that this is our very first year as parents to our miracle Georgia June after 5 years of infertility.
For 5 Christmases we sat in waiting. We watched our nieces and nephews every year and other family members get pregnant and grow their families (some even through their own infertility struggles) yet here we were, 2 IUI’s, 1 miscarriage, and 6 IVF transfers (3 fresh & 3 frozen) under our belts over the course of 2 years and still no baby. The final straw for us was our very last fresh IVF cycle in 2015. Although the cycle started out promising with 16 eggs retrieved and 11 fertilized, by day 5 I only had 2 that were ready for transfer, not even considered blastocysts yet, and 5 more that were still growing but didn’t end up making it. The day after Christmas I had my beta which was an 8. It never did rise and that was when we decided to close the book on my eggs (the suspected culprit for about 6 months) and move forward with an egg donor.
The real Christmas miracle for us that years was when a complete stranger who I had only knew through social media reached out to us and offered us her eggs to help us build our family right around the time we found out the cycle had failed. We decided to take her up on her offer and met her and her family in March of 2016, on June 16th I had my very first donor egg embryo transfer and 11 days later my beta was 967 and I was the most pregnant I had ever been over the course of 5 years. Our donor is from Georgia which is what we decided we would name our miracle. Now we are finally able to enjoy our very first Christmas as parents.
But is it possible to cope with those feelings of sadness during the holidays? I think the answer is yes. Although this can be such a challenging time of year when going through infertility, it is also a time to remember the blessings that we do have. Remembering that life itself is a gift that we are given every day. Being thankful for the simplest of things like clean running water, food on our tables, and roofs over our heads. Even incorporating some Christmas activities into your time might lift your spirits. Christmas shopping, donating to a family in need, driving around and looking at Christmas lights, decorating cookies, wrapping presents, listening to Christmas music, and watching Christmas movies were all things that always helped to put me into the Christmas spirit despite our struggles.
There is no doubt that the holidays are hard when you’re going through infertility. My wish is that no one would ever have to experience the pain and heartache that comes along with infertility, not only during Christmas, but year-round. Infertility is a vicious cycle of uncertainty every single month as you wait for those 2 pink lines that only seems to get worse as time goes on and cycle after cycle continues to fail. I know from firsthand experience the pain that comes along with getting a negative test back after putting your body through ultrasounds and injections: it’s a physical, emotional, and financial burden with no guarantee and it only gets worse during the holiday season. I am here to tell you though that the fight is worth it, and no matter what the outcome of your journey is, as long as you are giving it your all, that is the best you can do. Inevitably, some will end up with children of their own, some will adopt, some will use donor sperm, eggs, or embryos, and some will never have a child. This is the nature of infertility. Remembering all of our blessings and all that life does have to offer is by far the best way to get through the tough times, even when it’s not Christmas time, always count your blessings and always remember that you are not alone.