Every year, in the fall, I begin to think, “maybe it could be this Christmas.” Dreams of some pre-planned surprise for our whole family where we would tell them we were finally pregnant start to fill my mind. I imagine ways we could surprise them, the look on their faces, their sense of joy and relief that this promise was finally fulfilled for all of us. I start to dream about having an actual baby by next Christmas. Our first Christmas with our baby! Family and friends would be able to enjoy our new treasure with us. We would have to unwrap the gifts for our baby because they wouldn’t be old enough yet. Christmas with a baby would be so much fun!
Christmas is by far my favorite holiday. I love everything about it – I love how people from all over the world celebrate it at once, how homes transform with trees and lights, and how it feels to give gifts to the people you love. It’s a holiday of generosity, the gathering of loved ones, and great FOOD! I mean, who doesn’t love Christmas fudge, decorated cookies and a slow cooked beef roast with mashed potatoes and gravy?
But over the years, through our infertility journey, an increasing shadow has been cast over what is my favorite holiday. While there is still joy and celebration, year after year there is also pain, sadness and an emptiness when it comes to our unfulfilled dreams.
The Pain of Being Childless at Christmas
Christmas after Christmas, we’ve absorbed all the childhood wonder of holiday joy through our nieces and nephews, only to drive home again with our empty back seat, and a conversation for two. It’s been 20 years of decorating our own house, putting up a Christmas tree, and hanging two stockings. After all this time, being unable to share these traditions with the children we dream of can leave them feeling like hollow routines. I long to establish traditions like opening Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve and taking pictures by the fireplace. Or making ornaments and Christmas cookies together. Having an advent calendar with treats that they look forward to every morning or those silly elf on the shelf games. Last year we put up a 3rd little stocking as a faith statement of what we believe is to come.
As the end of December rolls around we find ourselves in the thick of all the Christmas celebrations with those unfulfilled ideas hanging like a dark cloud over our minds and a heavy weight of grief in our chests. Those hopeful imaginations are put off for another year. Maybe you can relate.
The Closeness of God in the Grief of Infertility
I remember one particular Christmas where someone close to us announced their pregnancy, and while I was genuinely thrilled for them, it plunged me into a painful reality of shock and grief. I spent hours in my dark room weeping and the pain was unrelenting. I remember playing the song “What a Friend I’ve Found” by Delirious over and over and over, letting the tears roll, with a deep ache in my heart and an awareness of the nearness of God. In those moments, I had nothing to cling to but God.
“ I look back and remember how profoundly I could sense the Lord close to me as the lyrics connected my heart to His. ”
I look back and remember how profoundly I could sense the Lord close to me as the lyrics connected my heart to His. I don’t know if I could’ve said that at the moment because the pain felt so big, but still to this day, when I hear that song, it sends me right back to that memory of that dark room. I get tears in my eyes remembering God’s Presence with me so strongly.
What a friend I’ve found
Closer than a brother
I have felt your touch
More intimate than lovers
Jesus, friend forever
What a hope I’ve found
More faithful than a mother
It would break my heart
To ever lose each other
Navigating the Loss of Being Childless at Christmas
If you’re someone going through the pain of infertility, consider this thought: When someone is sick or fighting an illness it’s considered normal or considerate to bring them a gift, a meal or flowers. Why do we do this? Loving those who are sick brings comfort, helps them practically and reveals they have value – all of which brings healing. Care of the human heart that is in pain is no different.
As someone going through infertility, it is easy to “be tough” and pretend like nothing is wrong. What if you took an alternative path and extended kindness and consideration to your own heart and you decided to go above and beyond to do special things to care for yourself? Examples include but are not limited to: book a massage (my personal fave), make a gratitude list, buy yourself a piece of jewelry, plan a night or weekend away, set time aside for creativity/reflection, take a hot soaking bath, or eat your favorite dessert several times during the week’s festivities. I pray this Christmas you can lean into the comfort of God, that it is an unusually joy filled time, that you can intentionally be generous toward your tender heart, and treat yourself to something extra special.
If You Know Someone Going Through Infertility During the Holidays
If you know someone going through infertility, know that they might be experiencing increased sadness or grief during the holidays. They may benefit from understanding and thoughtfulness on the topic of children or babies. Depending on your level of connection with them it could be beneficial to ask questions about how they are doing. Many people want to help or fix the situation of the loved one in pain by offering suggestions and advice or telling stories of people they know who have gone through similar things. I’ve done this myself – it’s hard to resist.
But the best thing you can do is simply listen and just be with them in their pain. This creates safety for the person who is in pain. If you have a hard time acknowledging your own pain, or if you struggle with empathy, this kind of listening can be challenging! It could also be a great opportunity to learn. Non-judgmental listening and just being with someone in their pain with empathy seems unproductive and not helpful, but it is by far the most beneficial component of connection with those in pain. Also, extra kindness and thoughtful treats or gifts could bring great joy as well (see list above for ideas!)
The Promise of the Season
I find it interesting that Christmas is about celebrating the supernatural birth of a child while I long and pray for that very miracle to happen in my story. Here is Mary, a young woman betrothed to marry a man, Joseph, when an angel appears to her to announce that she will get pregnant by the power of God and He will be the savior of the world. Can you imagine what that might’ve been like for her? Somehow she had the incredible grace to roll with this news and said “Be it unto me according to your word.”
The angel then tells her of another supernatural conception found in her relative Elizabeth who was barren and of old age and tells Mary to go visit her. How encouraging for Mary to hear of someone she knows who also experienced a wild miracle regarding conception! The beautiful unfolding of this story is that Elizabeth’s son becomes the one who paves the way for the savior Jesus Christ that Mary carried in her womb.
That is the very One who I rely on every Christmas to get me through, the One who sticks closer than a brother, the One who brings me hope for His promises to unfold in my life. Just like there were many promises in the Bible that a Savior would come and He did, I believe that same Savior will bring our impossible promise to fruition. The holiday that can elicit sadness and loss is also the one that inspires hope for what is yet to come.
If you’re like me in walking through an infertility journey during the holidays, know that you are not alone. This kind of grief can feel so isolating, but it is an experience that is far more common than you might think. My prayer is that you would receive the love of God and the kindness of the community around you this Christmas as you wait for your miracle.
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