The best ways to deal with family gatherings when you are dealing with infertility
One of the inevitable realities of being part of a family is the dreaded family gathering.
All of these people that are related to you by blood (or force) may be the last group you would voluntarily hang out with.
Family get-togethers are hard for a lot of us but can seem even harder to face when you are under the immense pressure of trying to conceive.
Here are some sure-fire ways to confidently face the family shindig, work party, high school reunion, or whatever it is you are nervous about attending.
Recruit a wingman
One of the very best things you can do is not go in alone.
Recruit someone close to you, preferably someone with a similar sense of humour, and instruct them to be your wingman for the event.
They have to keep an eye on you and rescue you if you look like you are not coping or if you are trapped in an uncomfortable conversation.
They should be ready to swoop in if someone tries to hand you a baby or an alcoholic beverage.
It’s even better if they walk in with you, so you need never be alone if you don’t want.
Partners can work well as wingmen, however, they can also sometimes be immune to your signals for help, so you may want a girlfriend or sister as well.
Having multiple wing persons is an excellent strategy.
Have a sanctuary at the party, and if need be an escape plan
Once you get to the gathering, find yourself a sanctuary, or a place you can hide briefly at any time during the party if need be.
Sometimes five minutes of deep breathing is all you need to face the party again, so work out a strategy early for where you will go and hide.
Toilets are fine for this, or outside in the fresh air, or an upstairs bedroom.
Often if you have somewhere you know you can hide if required, then you won’t actually have to use it.
You should also have an escape plan, again only for emergencies.
You may not be coping, and really just need to go home.
Have an ‘appointment’ you have to get to or arrange for a call from a friend who needs you immediately and give yourself a polite out.
If you have this option, then you may feel more relaxed about actually going in the first place.
Prepare yourself for seeing babies or pregnant women
If there is a way to prepare yourself for such a thing, you need to do this.
Find out who is going to be there beforehand and if there are any noticeably pregnant ladies or tiny babies on the guestlist.
Talk to yourself in advance about how you are going to deal with this.
You may wish to tell people you have a cold and don’t want to hold their newborn.
It may help to have sentences ready in your head to congratulate people without falling apart yourself.
Get your wingman ready to rescue you if needed.
Whatever you do, tell yourself that this may happen, and have some idea of how you are going to face it when it does.
Create a tickbox of ridiculous things that people will say
At family gatherings, there is always that one old (or young!) relative who has no filter.
There may be more than one.
You may have a mother or grandmother who you know will just follow you around all day and ask why you aren’t pregnant yet and want to know what positions you are trying.
With your wingman, prepare a tickbox of stupid things that people might say at the party.
This can be a real list or just one in your head, but talk about it in the days leading up to the gathering and note the silly and awkward comments or questions that are bound to come up.
Then when they do come up, you won’t be blindsided, and instead can just treat it like an internal joke.
Some things people are bound to say to you include:
- So when are you going to start trying for a baby?
- Why aren’t you pregnant yet?
- When’s it going to be your turn (looking at someone else’s baby nearby)?
- Maybe you would have less trouble if you lost a bit of weight?
- Have you tried acupuncture/tantric yoga/standing on your head?
- Maybe you just need to do it more often
Predicting the silly comments and being able to laugh them off can make a world of difference to how you face the crowd.
Have some confident responses ready to the inevitable questions
People, whether insensitive or very well-meaning, will probably ask you difficult questions, so it may help you to have some rehearsed answers ready to go.
If people are asking why you aren’t pregnant yet, you could reply with:
- I am focusing on my studies/work/home renovations/macramé this year, but have a solid baby plan in place
- Oh, we plan to, we’ll get there (then change the subject)
- Goodness, we are having too much fun for that!
- How do you know I’m not (said with an exaggerated wink)?
- We actually gave it a go in the car on the way over
- I don’t know. Why aren’t you dead yet?
- None of your effing business
Maybe not the last couple of responses, but you get the idea.
Cut yourself some slack
If you think a certain gathering is going to be difficult for you, don’t make yourself feel worse about it.
Be kind to yourself before during and afterward.
Steer clear of people there that you really don’t want to talk to.
If it seems overwhelming consider not going at all, and make sure you don’t feel guilty for bailing out.
Right now, your own health, both mental and physical, is very important so consider taking things a little bit easier on yourself wherever possible.
On top of the physical and emotional stress of trying to conceive and dealing with repeated disappointment, you do not need guilt from missing a family gathering as well.
Let yourself off the hook wherever you can, and don’t beat yourself up about it.
And at the end reward yourself at home with comfy pajamas and expensive ice cream.
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