This time of year can be hard on a broken, waiting heart. There is something magical about this season, and the weight of infertility seemingly strips away the magic and wonder of Christmas.
We see their smiles and hear their giggles, and we’re reminded of just how much Christmas spirit children bring to the world. We’re reminded of our own empty arms and quiet homes, and we see our stockings hanging lonely on the mantle. There are moments of joy and beauty, but there are few things that can soothe the ache in our hearts.
Over the past few Christmases my husband and I have been intentional to discover (and sometimes create) ways to nurse a waiting, hurting heart. I’d like to share those ideas with you, surviving infertility during the holidays is possible.
Five Ways to Nurse a Waiting, Hurting Heart
1. Count your blessings.
It sounds too simple, and a bit cliche, but sometimes it is in the darkest moments of grief and frustration that a tiny flame of hope and thanksgiving is kindled. This time of year I am keenly aware of what I don’t have: children filling my home with laughter and excitement. Bitterness is an easy response – it is familiar to my heart; but it is now, when I am tempted to that bitterness, that I must take inventory of the things for which I am thankful. From intangible things like fond childhood memories, to my most prized processions like the scrapbook I created of our first year of marriage, there are countless things for which I am immensely grateful, and I’d like to dwell on those things I have, rather than the things I don’t.
2. Have a strategy.
Last Christmas was tough, my husband’s cousin had just given birth to twins and I was scared I would have to see her and those precious newborn babes at Christmas. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see them, but I was in such a dark place that I truly didn’t know if I could handle seeing everyone dote on those tiny babies.
I suspect you know your own vulnerabilities, you know what situations and which people have the potential to bring up that monster of bitterness and that cloud of depression. My challenge to you: go into the holiday season with a strategy of what you can say, where you can go, and how you can graciously escape those situations that are too much to bear. Don’t be afraid to be proactive in protecting your heart, but remember to offer kindness and to seek peace when you must excuse yourself from a conversation or situation.
3. Go see a kid movie.
I admit it can be pretty tough to be the only childless couple in a theater crowded with children. My husband and I squirm a bit at the beginning of movies because we feel out-of-place: two childless adults at the latest Disney Pixar film. But hearing the laughter of children in a dark movie theater will help you see the movie through the eyes of a child, and it is so much fun! Sometimes we just need to laugh heartily, without reservations, and the unreserved laughter of children is contagious and good for the soul.
4. Take a kid Christmas shopping.
It always saddens me that I won’t be helping a little one pick out Christmas presents for my husband. Several years ago I realized that I can experience this joy by investing my time and excitement into the lives of my friends’ children. I asked a sweet friend of mine if I could borrow her daughters for the day, and told her that I wanted to take them Christmas shopping. I treated them to dinner and took them to all of their favorite stores. Watching them debate about what to get for their mom and dad was refreshing to my spirit. We sang along to Christmas music, braved the cold weather, and had fun wrapping presents. It was truly the highlight of my holiday season.
5. Invest in the life of a child.
There are so many ways to invest in the life of a child. Many families sponsor children all year round through World Vision, Compassion International, or a similar ministry. Operation Christmas Child, Angel Tree, and other seasonal ministries allow us to impact a child’s life specifically during the Christmas season. I think it is important to remember that there are children who need a positive, loving influence in their lives, and not just at Christmas. It is hard to be childless during the holiday season, but there is a peace that comes in knowing that I’ve invested my time and energy into the life of a child who is also hurting during the holidays. Helping with homework, stringing popcorn garland, and going to look at Christmas lights, are simple ways to impact a child, and there’s a good chance they will impact your heart as much or more as you impact theirs.
What about you? How do you protect your heart and embrace joy in spite of infertility? I’d love to hear your thoughts.