Five Tips for Holiday Self Care

Embarking on the next couple of weeks of holiday celebrations, we offer you five tips that we find ourselves practicing as a method of surviving the celebration of a miraculous conception while dealing with infertility.

#5 Send a holiday card. Really! Tired of getting pictures of new babies and growing families in the mail? Send your own card! Remind others that you are a family! Maria does this frequently sending cards featuring herself, husband, and two puppies. For her, this is a form of infertility advocacy.christmasphoto_2016

#4 Treat Yo Self! Take time out and pamper yourself. Get a massage. Get your nails done. Make yourself feel good!

#3 Talk with your partner and ask, “What are we going to do to make the holiday special for us?” Maria recommends this especially as much of the holidays revolve around the excitement of nieces and nephews waiting for Santa to come. Maria tries to go out for a Christmas Eve brunch with her husband to block out a set time for just the two of them.

#2 Remember it’s okay to just say “no”. Not everything is going to be something that you are going to want to attend. Just like baby a baby shower, remember you don’t need to attend every holiday party or every family event. Sometimes you just need to say no. And that’s okay! Elizabeth said no to her extended family Christmas party this year and spent time with child free friends instead.

The lone decoration at Elizabeth’s house, which wasn’t put out until 3 days before Christmas.

#1 Try to step back and enjoy the simple things. To say infertility is complicated is an understatement. Balancing infertility with the holidays can sometimes increase anxieties. We suggest taking a night and escaping. Make a fire, turn on some holiday tree lights (or don’t if you’re on a decorating strike like Elizabeth), cozy-up with a cup of tea, blanket, and a good book to escape. Sometimes taking a moment to remove yourself from it all allows you to better process and handle the ups and downs that will no doubt come with your infertility diagnosis.

We hope some of the suggestions we have implemented over the years will help you navigate the holidays and new year. Most of all, we want you to know that you are not alone.

Wishing you peace this holiday season,

Elizabeth and Maria

Holiday Survival Cheat Sheet

Dealing with the holidays while dealing with infertility can be brutal.

Just a few examples…

  • Seeing jewelry commercials celebrating new moms who gather by trees for their newborns’ first Christmases.
  • Hearing songs on the radio highlighting tiny tots with their eyes all aglow.
  • Family holiday gatherings that make it impossible to ignore that everyone else’s families are growing but yours.
  • Siblings who gift calendars full of adorable photos of your nieces and nephews to your parents while you look on, childless yet another year.

So, we at The ART of Infertility are again sharing this list of tips for surviving the holidays that I compiled several years ago. 

Some of the ideas are mine, some are of those of people I’ve met along the way, some are from online blogs, or resources like RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. I wish now that I had kept track of where I’d found them so I could give credit where credit is due. However, it’s been too helpful to me, and those in my infertility support groups, over the years to keep it to ourselves. So, we’re sharing it with all of you today.

Keep it bookmarked, save it to your computer’s desktop or your phone’s home screen. Or, new this year, follow this link to download a PDF that you can post somewhere you’ll be sure to see it regularly. Heck, maybe a friend, family member, or co-worker will see it and get some more insight about what may be difficult for you this time of year and then be more mindful of their holiday interactions with you :).

I chose number 3 today and baked my first loaf of Paleo bread. I haven’t decided what to do about number 59 yet, but I’m looking forward to fulfilling number 62, with quality time with my nieces and nephews when we take a family vacation to Tampa next month.

Hang in There!
– Elizabeth

Tips for Surviving the Holidays

  1. Treat yourself.
  2. On a good day, make a list of things you’re grateful for and read it when you’re feeling down.
  3. Give yourself an enjoyable challenge.

    After nearly 9 months eating a Paleo diet, I made my first loaf of Paleo bread.

    After nearly 9 months eating a Paleo diet, I made my first loaf of Paleo bread.

  4. Shop Therapy!
  5. Enjoy one on one time with your partner.
  6. Take good care of yourself.
  7. Tell parents and other family members how you are feeling using “I” statements.
  8. Limit time spent with family if you find it too stressful.
  9. Change the way you celebrate.
  10. Create new traditions.
  11. Volunteer.
  12. Plan at least one day during the holiday that you are really looking forward to.
  13. Make a date to see your siblings and/or parents away from children so you can really catch up.
  14. If you think you may act badly under stress, decide ahead of time how to behave.
  15. Be sure to incorporate the usual events that are meaningful and joyful for you into your plans. Don’t let infertility rob you of your joys.
  16. Don’t go to holiday events.
  17. If you do go to holiday events, have an escape plan.
  18. Instead of attending an entire event, go to only the portion of the event that you find enjoyable or tolerable.
  19. Don’t feel like you have to hold babies.
  20. Alternatively, hold every baby available to get your “fix.”
  21. Be prepared for the “When are you having kids?” question.
  22. Decide ahead of time whether or not to tell your family about your infertility.
  23. Don’t be afraid to cut off uncomfortable conversations.
  24. Be ready to cope with pregnancy announcements.
  25. Be forgiving of yourself.
  26. Hide in the bathroom for a few minutes (or more) when necessary.
  27. Put yourself first.
  28. Be interesting! Adjust the focus from your inability to have a baby to something positive about you.
  29. Shop online instead of in the stores to control what you see and when.
  30. Ban the baby department if you must go into stores.
  31. Create mantras.
  32. Cry.
  33. Focus on the lighter side of infertility by joking with your partner or friends who understand.
  34. Don’t open holiday cards. It’s okay to throw them away or put them aside to open on a good day.
  35. Get exercise.
  36. Avoid television to avoid the holiday commercials.
  37. Party with adults only!
  38. Rely on your support person/people.
  39. Have an emergency to-do list of enjoyable activities. Write it when you’re having a good day and then pick an item from the list when you’re having a bad one.
  40. Take a break from Facebook.
  41. Be honest with others about your feelings.
  42. Dress up!
  43. Think positive! Let yourself dream about future holidays as a parent.
  44. Remember the reason for the season, whatever it is to you.
  45. Plan a January “get away” or other reward.
  46. Ask for/tell others what you need from them.
  47. If it’s too hard to shop for baby and kid items, buy a gift card instead.
  48. Try to avoid sitting next to new/expectant moms at dinner.
  49. Slow down.
  50. Start each day with intention.
  51. Do what you need to do for yourself without an apology.
  52. Remember that “No.” is a complete sentence. You don’t need an excuse.
  53. Do what’s right for you.
  54. Find a way to honor your lost baby or babies.
  55. Schedule time to grieve.
  56. Don’t expect to live up to others expectations.
  57. Practice empathy.
  58. Make your own holiday cards and avoid the card aisle.
  59. Decorate for the holidays or don’t. Either way, do what feels right to you.

    Maria and Kevin's tree one Christmas.

    Maria and Kevin’s tree one Christmas.

  60. Write an uplifting note to yourself on a good day. Keep it in your purse or a pocket to read when you are feeling down.
  61. Journal your feelings.
  62. Create memories with a special child in your life.
  63. Write down your favorite childhood memories.
  64. Avoid talking about Infertility at holiday parties. If someone brings it up, say you’d rather enjoy the holidays instead.
  65. Watch a holiday classic.
  66. Make a list of resolutions, sticking to things you can control.
  67. Give yourself an infertility break by not trying to get pregnant over the holidays.
  68. Educate others by being ready with infertility statistics when the topic comes up.
  69. Find a creative outlet like coloring, painting, or another kind of crafting.
  70. Remember that it won’t feel like this forever.

Taking a Time Out to Grieve During the Holidays – Perspectives from Elizabeth

Thanksgiving, 2009 was the last holiday before my world came crashing down. The illness and death of my sister-in-law, the relocation of three of my nieces who my husband and I had been caring for in my home, our infertility diagnosis.

I’ve been weepy the past few days. Okay, more than weepy. I’ve indulged in an ugly cry a few times. There isn’t anything current that is contributing to this. It’s like my body remembers that we’re entering the season of traumas past and is working through emotions that are rarely as close to the surface as they once were, but must need some attention.

In the months following that holiday season that everything went wrong, it wasn’t hard to grieve. It was something I did constantly, both intentionally and unintentionally. I had a play list of songs, that I’d deemed “sad” that I listened to every day on my commute to and from work. I attended therapy sessions and grief support group meetings, I told everyone who’d listen what I’d been through. I journaled. However, as time has passed, and I’ve adjusted to life without my sister-in-law, without the girls, WITH infertility, I don’t often take time out to acknowledge what I’ve been through and grieve it. Years of unsuccessful infertility treatments, the miscarriage of my twins, the strain that infertility has put on my relationships.

That last Thanksgiving, I saved the wish bone from the turkey and put it in a dish on the shelf above the sink in my kitchen. It’s been there since. There have been a few times I’ve reached inside to make sure it was still there. Traced my finger along its curves. I’ve even taken it out a time or two. It was only recently that my husband knew it was there and that I started thinking that it’s time for the wish bone to move on.


So, I spent some time, intentionally grieving the primary and secondary losses of infertility while creating this piece. Doing so was painful, messy. I had to face emotions that aren’t pleasant and sit with them for a while. It’s a remembrance of the lives that were, a prayer for wishes long desired to come to fruition, and an acknowledgement of not just the fragility of it all, but the strength that we find in community.

While there are many things about this season that are difficult, I’m thankful for those I have in my corner, both at home and around the world, because of this infertility journey I’ve been on. I send you wishes for peace as you enter this difficult season.

Summer Stress Relief

As you may know, in addition to running the ART of Infertility, I work in imaging and communications for the University of Michigan Medical School’s Department of Pathology. I was a biomedical photographer for 16+ years and in May, was offered a new position as Communications Specialist. Moments before I received my good news, my colleague announced his retirement. While I was happy for him, his timing could not have been worse. Since July 1st, all of the responsibilities of three full time employees, have fallen to me.

While I love working, and was able to have a pretty good handle on things for the first several weeks, the past couple of weeks have been a challenge. There are never enough hours in the day and the stress of the work piling up is getting to me. Also, since they don’t plan to back fill my old position, and haven’t yet posted my colleague’s position, there is no end in site.

I’ve been pulling out all of the tools I generally use. Yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, art making (including keeping a sketch pad and markers at my desk for doodle breaks), and therapy sessions. Another tool that I often use is to give myself attitude adjustments. I felt like I needed one that would give me a fresh start today. So, last night, I broke out some sidewalk chalk to help.square-sidewalk-chalk-art-therapy

I drew an outline of my head and torso and used the chalk to represent the stress I feel. The anxiousness in my chest, the thoughts constantly filling my head, and the pain that builds up in my neck and shoulder on my left side. It felt good to get out some nervous, stressful energy by marking the pavement and the colors were soothing to me. Then, when I had completed my drawing, I washed it away with water as a symbol of releasing that stress and the effects it has on my physical and emotional well being.

While today has been another busy, stressful day, and there’s even more work in my pile, I’m more at ease because I took some time out and made a conscious effort to practice self care.

What kind of self care do you practice? Do you think washing away a chalk drawing would be helpful to you? If you give it a try, let us know what the experience was like for you.


Five things I Wish I’d known when First Diagnosed with Infertility

Awhile back, a friend asked me what I wish I had known when I first received my infertility diagnosis. While there are hundreds of things I’ve learned over the past seven years, these are some that have proven to be very helpful to me in my journey. So, I’m sharing them with you today. 


1. Resolving your infertility will likely take longer than you expect. Hopefully you’ll get lucky and it won’t, but you should be prepared for a long process.  It’s going to take some time to move through testing, treatment, and finally reach resolution, whether it’s through treatment, adoption or ultimately choosing to live childfree. For this reason, I often tell those who have recently been diagnosed to take some time to adjust to their diagnosis, find out what their options are, and move forward with the most aggressive option available to them as soon as they are ready.

E. Walker FET.xls

A portion of the medication calendar for my first frozen embryo transfer.

2. It’s okay to take breaks.  Sometimes breaks are forced, due to medical or financial reasons, and sometimes they are a choice. Either way, try to make the most of your “time off”. Infertility is all consuming, even when you’re not going in for daily ultrasounds and stuck with a curfew in order to inject yourself with meds at the right time. Take this opportunity to connect with the people and activities that you enjoyed before you started dealing with Infertility. Explore new hobbies, whatever they might be. Or, just sleep if you have no energy for hobbies after the marathon of medical appointments you’ve just endured!

3. Make friends with others experiencing infertility. No one else is going to understand the mix of joy, agony and guilt you feel when a family member announces a pregnancy like they are. No one else can give you some Lupron when your doctor’s office doesn’t have any on hand and your order from the pharmacy is delayed by a snowstorm (thanks, Jessica!) and no one else can easily decode the sentence, “I’m 6DP5DT. I triggered on April 10th. When do you think it’s safe to POAS?”

infertility friends

Infertility friend, Lindsey, and me. I visited with her and three other infertility friends in Columbus over the weekend.

4. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself to little things that make you happy. It’s important to set boundaries for self-care. Say no to attending baby showers, leave the family Christmas party before Santa shows up to pass out gifts to the kids, or visit friends after their toddler is in bed for the night. Above all, always have an escape route and reward yourself for doing things that are hard. I always take a trip to Sephora or Ulta after a trip to Babies R Us, for example :).


A new bottle of nail polish is an inexpensive reward after shopping for a baby shower gift.

5. Share your story. Whether it’s with one family member you can trust, a group of others struggling with Infertility around a table at a support group meeting, or publicly through social media. Infertility can be very isolating. Sharing your story will benefit you and others by creating a community of support and awareness and reminding you that you are not alone in your struggle.

Interested in sharing your story through the ART of Infertility project? We are always interested in talking to those who would like to be interviewed or contribute to the project through art or writing