Infertility and The Holidays: Creating New Traditions
Aunt Steph shares what it's like to create holiday traditions after she and her husband found they could not conceive.
Boy can I throw a party.
I know this because for an unsettling period, I had the party throwing acuity of Martha, Rachel AND Oprah.
Not the kind of parties that would render Martha Stewart necessarily wicked- witch-of-the west-green or draw celebrity A-list crowds, or the kind where red velvet ropes are requisite for crowd control to separate the distinctive guests from the chaotic frenzy of the paparazzi.
Quite the contrary.
A pity party
This was a pity party. But as pity parties go I was a force to be reckoned with. In attendance, one indignant infertile woman, who naively sat peering out the window, convinced if you throw it they would come.
“Who wouldn’t want to join the crusade against the injury of my infertility?” I reasoned. In anticipation of huge crowds and to be sure they were well fed, I scattered crudités in every nook and cranny.
You might be overcome with shock when I tell you this and be warned- you might even want to take a seat.
No one came.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
“Steph, I’m so sorry.” Quiet, shameful whispers filled the room on those rare occasions when a few compassionate folks would show. They spoke in the kind of whispers people use in chemo lounges and funeral parlors. They didn’t stay long and no one brought casseroles.
In a preeminent martyr tone, I responded, “Thank you for coming. I appreciate you stopping in.”
Post catastrophe, as typically happens, the crowd (I use the term loosely) thinned and I was left single-handedly to reconstruct an identity outside that of Mommy.
Charlie in the Box
In my forthcoming memoir, Doris, Sophia and Me, I write about what I call the Charlie in the Box syndrome. Fans of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer know Charlie. He is the self-appointed mayor of the Island of Misfit Toys. Constructed to look like and resemble a jack-in-the-box, what relegates him to this dank and destitute locale is his unforgivable misfortune. He was named not Jack but oddly, Charlie. He doesn’t fit in.
Infertile women often feel akin to Charlie
In a recent guest post for the New York Times, Shelagh Little says, “Motherhood is still central to womanhood, the magical thing that women’s bodies do. Motherhood is also socially rewarded and is a sort of proxy for femininity.” She further shares, “After work, young couples chat on lawns while their children ride bikes and draw on the sidewalk with colored chalk. My husband and I are sidelined, left to feel aberrant. Infertility is a unique kind of loneliness.”
Shelagh, you can say that again.
The struggle of infertility can transform even the most psychologically sound woman into a fragile being that after time even she doesn’t recognize.
I was no exception.
I needed help.
The big discovery
After running a psychological marathon, my psyche bushed and raw, I uncovered life-altering information.
My locus of control had to shift from external to internal. A life lived reactively rendered me pathetic. If I was to survive the trauma I had to live proactively.
Our own savvy expert on happiness
In a recent piece Janice Marie Simon, one of our own Savvy Auntie Experts, brought up the question, “Are you Happy?” In her same titled column, she shared the findings of Marcus Buckingham, author of Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently. “Happy women spent their time on building up and leveraging their strengths.”
And that is what I began to do.
The question of holiday traditions for a PANK
The times of year when traditions take center stage were tough. If I never had children of my own, to whom would I pass on the rich holiday customs my mother went to such great lengths to establish? With whom would I roll out sugar cookies and cry with when Frosty the Snowman melts?
Something magical happened while I was busy licking my wounds. My proactive posture became the conduit for answers and organically, those questions got answered. It was my nieces and nephews of course.
My niece Christina was quoted as saying in First for Women magazine this month, “Aunt Steph, my second favorite day of the year is the Christmas Scavenger Hunt you design for us, next to my birthday!”
The cornerstones of our lives are constructed not from packages and bows or even as I learned, from biologics. The strongest foundations are those bred from traditions and memories carved out of love and attention.
So design away, Aunties.
Hugs and kisses ‘til next time.