My favorite time of the year, fall, is officially here. I love fall weather and the clothing it accommodates — sweaters, scarves, cute boots. I love the colors in the leaves and the way the leaves take flight and dance in the wind. Fall brings the harvest and asks for warm, comforting foods — soup, apples, apple cider, and all things pumpkin. Fall means my birthday is coming and all the best holidays of the year. But some of these things I that love about fall have become difficult for us during infertility. Instead of celebrating the season change and looking forward to upcoming events, fall is now the beginning of a rough time of year for us: it signals that more time has passed, it brings my birthday, and it starts the big holiday season. Infertility has made all these things painful and it’s threatening to ruin fall for me.
Strike One: Fall is a Marker of Time
It was hard for me to acknowledge the arrival of fall this year… I love to decorate for the seasons, changing out my decor with every season. But this fall I struggled — I sat on my sofa and stared around the room for days before deciding that I would decorate. It seemed like a lot of work, and my heart wasn’t in it… but I ultimately decided that if I didn’t change my decor for the season, the lack of pumpkins and leaves and yummy scented candles would probably make me more depressed than I already was. So I asked Matt to go fetch my totes in the basement and I put out a few things.
I know that acknowledging the arrival of fall doesn’t seem like such a big deal… but it is: the turn of every calendar page marks another month of our heartbreak. Every season change marks more time in which we have tried, and failed, to grow our family. Time keeps moving on while Matt and I feel stuck, going nowhere, waiting for our miracle. We are doing everything we can to grow our family, but so much is out of our hands and it feels like every month we’re right back where we were before.
Strike Two: Fall Means My Birthday is Coming
My birthday is less than a month away. Birthdays used to give me great joy — a day for me! But my birthday has been hard the past couple of years, and this year I expect it to be worse. It’s not necessarily that I’m getting older; it’s that birthdays mark time. My birthday puts me another year older in my quest to become a mother. And if I’m not dreading my birthday enough, I’m reminded of it all the time — my age and birth date are all over my medical paperwork, prescriptions, and instructions. My nurses mention my age when they discuss treatment or try to encourage me. I confirm my birth date at the lab before having blood drawn and at the pharmacy when I pick up meds. And having my birthday celebrated… well, it’s a day I’m not looking forward to this year. I’m certainly not where I thought I’d be by now and turning another year older without a child here with me makes me so, so very sad.
Strike Three: Fall Means Holidays are Coming
The arrival of fall means that holidays are just around the corner: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. I’m dreading the holidays already and they haven’t even begun. Holidays are hard because they naturally emphasize the very thing we are lacking: our own family. Please don’t get me wrong — we LOVE our families. And we have, for many years, travelled back across the country for both Thanksgiving and Christmas to celebrate with our families. But sometimes just being with our families, even just our parents and our siblings, reminds us that we have yet to create that magic of our own. We want so badly to have children to share these special moments with and to create new traditions with, and holidays brutally remind us of how much joy and love we are missing due to our infertility. Holidays make our hearts ache for our losses.
The upcoming holidays again mark time that has passed. This will be our third holiday season since we’ve been trying to conceive. This will be the third Halloween where we hand out candy to other people’s children while feeling sad for ourselves. And I so hope I’m wrong, but at this point, we are potentially looking at a third Thanksgiving and Christmas without a pregnancy announcement to share with our loved ones. This could be our third New Year where we have tried, and failed to meet our goal from the previous year: grow our family. For the third autumn, already I’m anxiously wondering if next year’s holidays will be different. I hope so.
Three Strikes: You’re Out? Fall Officially Sucks?
Good thing I have at least a small say in how infertility affects me — I hate the idea of letting infertility ruin my favorite season. Infertility has already taken so much away from us, and caused us so much pain. Is it really fair for it to take my favorite season too? Absolutely not. But there’s only so much I can do — the painful reminders of the time passing, the disappointment of my birthday, and the heartbreak over the holidays are all probably still going to happen. I can’t stop them and I’m not going to try — I’ve learned it’s not good for me to fight my feelings.
But I can do little things to reclaim fall and the upcoming holidays for myself. I did decorate a bit for the season. I like my pumpkins and leaves and spiced autumn candles. We will make soups and drink apple cider. And I certainly will wear cute scarves and boots. However, I will need to do more than dress myself and my home for the part; I will need to take care of myself in order to survive what’s coming. I will need to give myself plenty of time to sit with my grief during this hard time of the year. I will need to be ok with feeling sad on my birthday. I will need to be gentle with myself over the holidays. I will need to give myself space during family events or large social gatherings. Resolve has a list of recommendations for surviving the holidays that I have found helpful. I will need to make sure Matt and I have enough time for each other. I will need to remember that we are not alone… there are many others having a hard time too: here and here just to name a few. In short, I will need to practice a lot of self care in the months to come. And I hope that with enough love and care for Matt and myself, we will be able to get through this hard time of year and maybe even enjoy some parts of it.