Holidays, with their focus on family and children, can be emotionally challenging for individuals and couples experiencing fertility problems. But Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are often especially difficult. As celebrations of parenthood, they can be painful reminders of the child you yearn for. For some, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day may also mark the passing of time – another year that’s gone by without being able to create a family. The sense of isolation can often feel acute. But a little preemptive planning can improve your ability to cope and make it through the day more easily.
Check-in With Yourself
Think about how you’re emotionally handling your fertility journey right now and realize that this may be different than how you felt a year ago. If you think about a scale of “1” to “10,” with “1” representing “least distressed” and “10” representing “most distressed,” where are you on the emotional barometer specifically as it relates to your fertility journey? If you’ve just started seeing a reproductive endocrinologist and are in the midst of your work-up, you might be feeling fairly hopeful. However, if you’ve recently had an unsuccessful treatment cycle or a pregnancy loss, you may be experiencing more negative feelings and sensitivity; in this case, you want to be acutely aware of your emotional needs and care for yourself. How you’re feeling helps determine how you should plan for Mother’s and Father’s Day.
Option 1: Honor Your Parents But Take Care of Yourself
Ask yourself if it’s important for you to acknowledge your own mother and father (as well as, mother-in-law and father-in-law). If so, you may want to plan to celebrate on an alternative day, for example the day or even weekend before Mother’s or Father’s Day. This allows you to avoid the restaurants filled with families and children, and those well-intentioned, yet sometimes unsupportive family members and friends asking intrusive questions. If your parents are aware of your fertility problem, you may want to explain to them how difficult the day is for you and thus, the reason for celebrating early.
Once you’ve determined whether and how to honor your own parents, make an alternative plan for Mother’s and/or Father’s Day that involves an activity where you aren’t likely see other families. This may involve a private day at home with just you and your spouse, inviting friends without children for lunch or dinner, attending a movie not made for family viewing, or taking a secluded hike.
Option 2: Take Control of Your Family’s Plans for the Day
Hosting or organizing your family’s Mother’s or Father’s Day activities puts you in the driver’s seat; you determine when, where, and how your family celebrates and honors your parents. For example, inviting family to your home for brunch or dinner allows you to create boundaries around the time spent together. Planning and preparations for entertaining may also keep you busy and distracted in the weeks prior to Mother’s and Father’s Day when there is an onslaught of print advertisements and online and television commercials. Having people to your home will also keep you busy on the actual day.
One More Tip…
Don’t be surprised if you’re suddenly blindsided by emotions. This can often occur when you walk by the rows of Mother’s or Father’s Day cards in a store, or when you go to find a card for your own parent or in-law and have to read through the various options. Stay away from the holiday card aisles. Find a blank card or create a card and write your own heartfelt note to your parent.
Ultimately, being aware of your own needs and planning accordingly can help you survive Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. And don’t forget to take pride in the fact that you were able to cope more effectively!
Dr. Erica Mindes is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and an Associate with the psychotherapy practice of Covington & Hafkin, which specializes in reproductive health issues. She has an office in Richmond, Virginia where she provides counseling to individuals and couples struggling with infertility, pregnancy loss, and other areas of reproductive medical care. She has conducted research and written on the psychological responses to infertility and infertility treatment, and recently co-authored the chapter, “Counseling Known Participants in Third-Party Reproduction” for Fertility Counseling: Clinical Guide and Case Studies. Dr. Mindes is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Mental Health Professional Group (MHPG) and serves on the MHPG Executive Committee.