by Beth Panella

Coping with Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year's

Image by Sarah Sosiak via Flickr

The holidays are difficult for anyone going through infertility. You may see family and friends you don’t see throughout the year and all they want to know is when you are going to have a baby. They might not know that you have been trying for years with no success. But in December 2001 things were going to be different for me. I was going to tell my family what they wanted to hear and what I dreamed of and had been trying to do for years, that I was three months pregnant. I was beyond excited, trying to figure out how I was going to spring the good news on them.

About a week before Christmas I went in for an ultrasound. For some reason, I asked my husband to accompany me to this particular one; maybe deep down inside I knew something was wrong. Or maybe some other being was telling me that he needed to be there. I had already been released by my reproductive endocrinologist to an obstetrician. My OB knew what I went through to get pregnant and thankfully agreed to let me have extra ultrasounds to alleviate my fears. I lived for these ultrasounds.

I could tell that the ultrasound technician was having some difficulty and she went to get someone else. After the second technician examined me, he confirmed my worse fear, at 11 weeks gestation, there was no heartbeat. My head was spinning and I couldn’t move. This couldn’t be happening; I was almost at the 12 week “safe” mark! I kept saying, “why me, why me”. It’s just not fair! I couldn’t stop crying. They called my OB who wanted to see me right away, so after what seemed like forever, my husband helped me off the table, I got dressed and he helped me walk across the street to his office. We passed some visibly pregnant women in the waiting room and the sobbing continued. My OB reassured me that there was nothing that I did to cause this miscarriage. It didn’t matter what he said. For the next few weeks I racked my brain trying to think of what I did to cause this. Was it that nasty cold I had around Thanksgiving? I’m sure that was it. It certainly wasn’t exercise since I stopped that out of fear.

My OB told me that I could either have a procedure to remove the fetus and they would be able to run some tests and possibly determine what went wrong or I could let nature take its course. I wanted to get it over with quickly, and I really wanted to know why this happened, so I opted for the procedure. So a few days before Christmas I was at the hospital having surgery to remove what I thought was going to be my baby. Afterwards I curled up in bed for days.

We went to my parents’ home on Christmas Eve. No one knew quite what to say or do. There isn’t a book on what to say to someone who just had a miscarriage, but there should be. As my parents were getting ready for church, I informed them I wouldn’t be joining them. When my father asked me why, I told him, “If you can guarantee me that there aren’t any babies in that church, then I will go”. Plus, what did I have to celebrate or be thankful for?

On Christmas day our extended family came to visit. My uncle congratulated me and my aunt hushed him and pulled him aside to tell him what happened. I guess my parents couldn’t wait to tell some of my family members that I was pregnant and apparently he didn’t get the message that I had miscarried. I could tell he felt bad about it, but all I wanted to do was go back to bed, curl up and cry some more.

After the holidays, I tried to avoid places that had kids – the mall, the grocery store – but they were everywhere. “Where are they all coming from?” I thought. “Why am I being tortured like this? What did I do to deserve this?” I avoided baby showers and friends that were pregnant. Work was the only place that I didn’t avoid, but then one day a woman I work with who just had a baby, brought her in to show everyone. I was so upset that I had to leave work. As the weeks and months went on, it got a bit easier.

I’m glad I didn’t go to church that day. I’m glad I missed some baby showers and other events that may have children. My advice for anyone going through something like this is you need to take care of yourself. If you don’t want to go to that family event if kids, or worse – someone pregnant will be there, then don’t go. Send a gift to that baby shower or kid’s birthday party. Miss the holiday party. Instead, go away with your significant other or a close friend during those times, a good excuse to miss those painful events.

And don’t feel guilty about it. The people that mean the most to you, they will understand.

About the Author

Beth Panella is a Past President of the RESOLVE New England Board of Directors and long-time volunteer for the organization.

This article originally appeared in the RESOLVE New England Fall 2012 Newsletter.

Looking for support during the holiday season? Consider attending one of our many peer support groups, whether you’re looking for general infertility support or topic-focused discussions, such as our pregnancy loss support group. See our Calendar for a complete listing of our Peer Support Groups throughout New England.