Sometimes, the holidays can be challenging, especially when you are trying to conceive. Families often gather together to catch up, and children are typically the focus of attention (either the ones physically present, or in the form of the typical ‘So when are you going to start trying?’ question). It does not matter if you welcome the holiday as a celebration, or you experience more solemn emotions. They are your emotions; they are perfect, and normal. (Grief is a common emotion and process around the holidays. For more information regarding grief see this article.)
Father’s Day is often one of the more challenging holidays to encounter while trying to conceive. However, there are some great opportunities to focus this day not on what you are lacking, but what you have. As always, the best way to cope with this potentially challenging day is to anticipate and plan. Make sure you have considered potential challenging situations, and assessed what would make you feel most relaxed and at peace.
Here are some brief suggestions (recycled from Mother’s Day!) to help prepare and cope with Father’s Day:
- Be your best friend: You are not required to be anywhere or do anything you are not comfortable with. You have to listen to yourself, and protect yourself. If you feel that going out to eat, or a family member’s house will be too anxiety provoking, then graciously thank them for the offer but let them know you have other plans. You (and your partner, if you have one) must have a discussion before, outlining the most enjoyable and least stressful holiday scenario: will you celebrate? Where will you celebrate? How long will you stay?
- Prepare your script: This does not mean you will have each conversation planned out, but come to a consensus beforehand. How will you respond to the inevitable question, ‘so when will you have children of your own?’ If you have a couple of planned responses that you feel comfortable with, it will make the conversation a lot smoother, and quicker. When we become anxious about answering a question, it can often lead to us revealing more than we would like. However, if we are able to calmly deliver our planned responses, we can guide the direction of the conversation to another topic rather smoothly. If you have told your family you are trying and seeking treatment, this tool also works. They may ask ‘What is new at the doctor’s office?’ and instead of giving them a play-by-play of your last appointment, you could have similar, planned responses.
- Celebrate not what you are lacking, but what you have: If your father is an active presence in your life or you have a paternal figure, take the day to celebrate them. Transfer the focus off of yourself as a father, onto the person of your choice. This enforces the passion/empathy tool we have discussed, and planning a nice meal for someone else allows a nice break for the mind and heart.
- Spend the day fostering your own fatherhood: Make it a ‘healthy day’, to promote your fertility. Spend the day outdoors, exercising, or eating really delicious and nutritious foods. Take some time and try a new activity, utilizing your imagination and nurturing any emotions you may be experiencing.
- Recognize and honor the emotions, but celebrate with family: This may be an opportunity to use as motivation for each cycle. Try to take it all in. Take a mental image of the smiles and laughter, and when you are experiencing a challenging moment later on, remember those smiles and what it is that you are working towards. You are doing all of this so that you can have those moments, those smiles, for yourself.
- Honor your losses: If you as a couple have experienced a miscarriage or chemical pregnancy, this may be a nice day to honor those losses. You could write a letter to the child, or plant a tree in their honor.
Please remember it is incredibly important to protect your emotions, and if that means removing yourself from a situation that could be too challenging, then do it! We just need to get a bit creative, and open ourselves to new traditions and opportunities!