Brenda Horrocks: Childless at Christmas: A survival guide

By Brenda Horrocks

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Dec. 14 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

For a couple battling infertility, the statement could read: "There is nothing sadder in this world than to awake on Christmas morning to a house empty of children." I know this is true for me, because I have lived it. When you are a couple with empty aching arms, Christmastime can be brutal.

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Erma Bombeck stated: "There is nothing sadder in this world than to awake on Christmas morning and not be a child."

For a couple battling infertility, the statement could read: "There is nothing sadder in this world than to awake on Christmas morning to a house empty of children." I know this is true for me, because I have lived it. When you are a couple with empty aching arms, Christmastime can be brutal.

For those who are hurting and hoping, they are not alone. According to RESOLVE, The National Infertility Association, 7.3 million Americans deal with infertility. I am one of them. My husband and I have been married for 18 years and I have never become pregnant.

Here are some ideas to help your holiday season be merry rather than miserable.

Create a list of things you enjoy doing together. Pick one item each week and have it be your special holiday of the week. Take time to focus on one another and enjoy things you cannot do with children — like late night movies, fancy restaurants, an overnighter at a favorite hotel, sleeping in followed by a late morning breakfast. Remember, even though you don’t have children, you are still a family. In a RESOLVE fact sheet series about coping with the holidays, founder Barbara Eck Menning says, “You're as entitled as anyone else to have a tree in your home, even if there are only two presents under it. How about throwing yourself into the search for, or the production of, a special present for your partner? It's a way of saying, 'Baby or no baby, we love each other and we’re a family in our own right.'”

Sometimes you have to protect yourself when you are in a great deal of pain. If family gatherings are too much right now, then excuse yourself from the event and make other plans together or with other couples who are dealing with the same challenges. Those who love you will understand and be supportive.

Seek out and serve children. For some couples, being around children brings hope. If this is how you feel then find ways to be around children. Offer to babysit for parents who need to do some gift shopping. Ask to hold a family member’s baby. Children in foster care are always in need of clothing items — coats, boots and gloves — and love new toys. Hospitals greatly appreciate clothing gifts for premature babies in their NICU. There are children hoping to be adopted from foster care who would love to have something special at Christmastime. Take toys and clothing items to a local homeless shelter. With so many children in need, there are many ways to nurture children and many children who need that nurturing.

Remember to take care of your mental and physical health. Holidays are stressful for everyone, but when you have the added challenges of infertility the stress is compounded. Helen Adrienne, a psychotherapist, suggests couples seek out a yoga class or get a massage to help with the stress. She also states,Whether on your own or with professional help, if you successfully decide and declare your decisions about the holidays, you set yourselves up to minimize the impact of family/holiday stress on your bodies. And beyond the logistics of who and what, there exists a further opportunity to nurture the marriage. Now is the time to explore techniques of mind/body relaxation that you can enjoy together. Besides being on the same page, feeling loved and understood is palliative and has a positive impact as a stress reducer.” Go to her article titled "Dealing with the stress of the holidays" to learn more.

Seek out others who understand. Whether in person or online, being connected to couples who are going through or have gone through what you are, can really be a lifeline. Connecting online was a big key for me. I found commonality and developed special friendships. Here are a few of my favorite blogs/sites which tackle the infertility topic — The R House, LDS Infertility, Beyond the Rain. I share pieces of my infertility journey on my blog Another Small Adventure and my most tender writings on my other blog I AM.

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