Surrogacy is normally the final destination in fertility treatment – the last stop on the IVF Polar Express if you’d like. There are so many controlled variables involved, that third-party reproduction has a reputation for being a sure bet; however, intended parents experience the same agonizing wait as patients undergoing IVF treatment and we know you struggle during the holidays. There is no quick fix to catching the blues during the happiest time of the year, but know that we hear you and from our years of experience counselling intended parents over Christmas, you are far from alone
Why can the festive season be so incredibly hard?
Regardless which celebration you recognize, holiday time puts a zoom lens on family and at Christmas, closest focus is on it’s littlest members. It’s a time when parents relive the magic of the season through their children and go to great lengths to commemorate this joy. Advertising and social media become saturated in December with every kind of concept relating to family, parenthood and children.
As bustling activity and last minute frenzy have become synonymous with the season, you can feel like you can’t really relate to the manic lead-up to the holidays described by your friends and family with offspring. All conversation, leading up to the 25th, seems to have a count-down feel to it – as homes are being decked, family portraits booked and households busy preparing for the magic of the day by way of food, drink and gift giving. It’s common to feel that this level of anticipation isn’t really legitimate if kids aren’t in the equation.
A surrogacy journey involves controversial perspectives and can stir strong emotion in family and friends. It’s a deeply personal decision and there is much vulnerability involved when embarking on this particular path to parenthood. For this reason, intended parents often decide to keep their experience private until comfortable opening up to those around them. Hope is at the root of fertility treatment but also a scary emotion to put out there. As the holiday period involves socializing and catching-up with lovedones it can feel awkward skirting questions about what you’ve been up to and answering untruthfully to those you care about.
All tapped out
Surrogacy tips the scales as the most expensive fertility option. Intended parents often save for years to be able to finance creating their family in this way. As expenses ramp-up during the holidays, which they do, budgeting can be a source of anxiety, especially if you aren’t openly sharing your plans with those around you.
A surrogacy process is like any journey – it has it’s peaks and valleys. And the valleys can be very difficult to power through. Sometimes a brave face just isn’t possible and can be doubly hard to muster when the music and world around you demands jolliness and good cheer. The emotional and physical toll of surrogacy can leave intended parents exhausted, with little energy to sustain a chipper demeanour during the festivities
So much wishing
“I hope all your wishes come true this season”… “What do you want for Christmas?” are very common and innocent holiday remarks. Intended parents on a surrogacy journey are all thinking the same thing…”I desperately want a child and this is my one and only wish”. They have likely not only been wishing, but praying and planning long before the festive season, for nothing else other than to nurture and experience the fulfillment of parenthood – notions that are all tied up in a bow at Christmastime. While you may try to actively avoid what can be painful self-reflection the rest of the year, it’s much more difficult to skirt during the holidays
For most people, the holidays herald the gathering of friends and family, which can be fun or stressful (depending on your relationship dynamics) but, either way, is a minefield full of questions about family planning and pregnancy. Traditionally, the festive season is a favourite time for exciting announcements; 50% of expectant couples pick Christmas Day to share their pregnancy news. Coupled with the guilt of feeling resentful rather than overjoyed, intended parents can feel alone and on the outskirts-looking-in more than ever.
The drive is real during the holidays to strive for perfection – a picture perfect version of what the holidays could or should be. Caricatures of the “perfect” family, home, traditions, food, clothing and even snowy weather get drawn. Intended parents are very aware their lives have not gone to plan as few envisioned years of fertility treatment and expense when picturing their future family building. Perfection seems way out of reach. Or, on the flip side, perfection can be pursued at all costs – as a means of compensating for what’s lacking, making the festive season a potential recipe for failure
New year same story
Ringing in the New Year brings with it a certain degree of introspection as we tally all that transpired over the last 365 days and set our sights on what we hope to accomplish in the year to come.
Intended parents have often seen timelines slip by only to be reset over and over – “last year I was meant to have a baby in my arms, and the year before that…will this year be any different?”. Reckoning the future and reconciling past failures can dampen the mood and just make you wish it was after midnight already.
1. Take a vacation from social media
2. Lean on your partner or ‘person’ and share your feelings of isolation.
3. Bring your family and friends in on your surrogacy plans ahead of time or prepare boundaries you can set to protect yourself beforehand:
• Rehearse answers you can keep handy if uncomfortably questioned
• Prepare deflection topics if the conversation gets steered in a direction that makes you uneasy
• Plan get-away strategies if it all becomes too much and you need to exit or… give yourself a free pass altogether. You’ve been through a lot. Skip functions if needed; value your mental health and schedule activities you will enjoy that will invigorate you
4. Be proactive and plan a mini-break or events and endeavours you can look forward to. Mapping the year ahead can give you a much-needed sense of control over your future.
While the term “journey” can be terribly overused in relation to surrogacy it is an excellent metaphor. Give yourself leeway to be down over the holidays, as no journey is easy 100% of the time right? There have to be periodic dips too. Take the season to treat yourself, recharge, and gather your energy for the life-change you
have waiting for you around the corner.