When Infertility & the Holidays Collide: How to Handle the Relatives

I was at the dentist the other day and everybody- the dental assistants, the hygienists, the patients… everybody was discussing their “Holiday Schedules”. I’m a New Yorker living in North Carolina. I really didn’t know what they were talking about. So maybe it was a “Southern” thing? “Holiday Schedule” to me is: “Tuesday Rudolph is on”, “Wednesday, Charlie Brown”, “Thursday, the Grinch”… “Frosty’s next week”…

Seeing as I was left alone for some time in my comfy dental recliner wearing my fashionable paper dental bib, in the 4th of 9 little dental cubicles while the dentist and his assistant went somewhere– maybe out to breakfast or to x-ray themselves in a passionate embrace… somewhere… I was left with little to do but eavesdrop. Well, I’m sorry, if they didn’t want us to listen in on conversations in other cubicles, the cubicles would have real walls…and doors.

Cubicle 3’s patient answered the “Holiday Schedule” question by saying she was going to her cousin’s on Christmas Eve, her sister’s on Christmas Day, and her in-laws’ on Christmas Night. Then she must have gotten a drill shoved in her mouth because her genteel conversation suddenly turned to what sounded like pleas for mercy.

Cubicle 5 was going to his parents on Christmas Eve, his brother-in-law’s on Christmas Day… Okay, so, now I get it: “Holiday Schedule” equals: “Holiday Obligations”. Places you may or may not want to go, but either way, you’re a goin’.

I don’t think people dealing with infertility are the only ones who dread the “holiday schedule”… I just think we dread it just a little more than everybody else. It’s not the schedules that upset us– it’s the people that are there when we arrive. I don’t know about you, but as I see each person, I dread talking to them just a little more than the person before. We may all come from different places, have different backgrounds, and different relatives… but there are “types” among all of them.

The Inquisitor: They have no shame. They’ll ask you anything.

“Are you still trying to get pregnant? Have you been doing that IVF? Any luck?”

There are several acceptable responses:

  1. Actually answer the nosy fool. “Yes. Yes. No.”
  2. Turn around and walk away.
  3. Give them an absurd answer: “Maybe Belgium”.
  4. Or… my personal favorite… Tell them the truth: “It’s really none of your f….. business.”

The Inquisitor in Disguise

The Inquisitor in Disguise wants badly to know every detail of your business but pretends they don’t. As The Inquisitor asks you the intrusive questions, The Inquisitor in Disguise says to them in their best stage whisper: “Sh… don’t ask them that! If they want us to know, they’ll tell us.” And this is supposed to be your cue to say: “It’s okay… I don’t mind.”

Of course the correct Jeopardy! response would be: “What is: You’re right! If we wanted to tell you, we would! But we don’t! Good for you for recognizing that!”

The Jokester

Usually a man with a limp eyelid and pointy elbow. To the male half of the infertile couple: “Still trying to knock her up? Sure you’re doing it right?” Elbow elbow. Wink wink.

Appropriate Response: Screw it. Just walk away. This jackass doesn’t deserve a response.

The Infertility Expert

That one family member who prides themselves in knowing a little about everything who, everybody else realizes- they know a lot about nothing.

“You know, if you’re having trouble getting pregnant, it’s probably because you’re working too many hours.”

Okay, this is a tough one. Now you have to figure out if she means your body is too tired to get pregnant or you and your partner aren’t within touching distance often enough for you to get pregnant because of your work schedule. You almost want to ask her just to see if she even knows which she means. Either way, who wants to discuss this with this person? Nobody. Before you get a chance to respond anyway, The Infertility Expert will move on to another one of her brilliant theories that nobody asked to hear.

“It’s that eggnog that’s doing it. You’re having too many dairy products.”

Response: “I’m sorry. Did you recently graduate from somewhere with a degree in something?”

The Clueless

They don’t know what you’re going through, which is fine. Or they know what you’re going through and just don’t get that it’s a big deal or emotionally devastating… which isn’t fine.

“Want to see some pictures of the kids?”

Response 1: “Oh, wait. Is that a rhetorical question or can I actually say ‘no’?”

Response 2: “Wait. Isn’t that them in the dining room trying to saw off the legs of the kids’ table with a butter knife? What do I need pictures for? They’re like, 10 feet away.”

I’m not big on obligations. I’m big on doing what’s best for me… and okay, for my husband. Personally, I’d just as soon stick with my own Rudolph, Charlie Brown, Grinch, and Frosty holiday schedule. The only obligation my holiday schedule requires, is to be sitting in front of the TV at 8 pm. And yeah, I’ll bring a dish: Popcorn. True, Charlie Brown is depressing and Frosty ends up as a puddle, but at least if they exhaust me, unlike with my relatives… I’m already in bed… and I have a remote control to make them go away.

If you have questions about infertility, IRMS’ sisterhood of physicians can help. We also have wonderful counselors and support groups where you can vent, listen and learn. Get in touch by calling (973) 322–8286, or by filling out our contact form.

Lori Shandle-Fox is the author of the Laughing IS Conceivable humor blog and book series. Laughing IS Conceivable

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