You know it’s coming: Chinese New Year — in fact, all family-oriented holidays — means your older relatives will feel the need to ask when you are starting a family and lecturing you about it. There’s also well-meaning peers making comments about family planning, oh, and the endless government programmes…
Things get worse when you and your spouse are dealing with fertility problems. A Harvard Medical School study suggested that women dealing with infertility experience levels of stress that rival those with chronic health conditions like cancer. And people are usually less sensitive and understanding when it comes to childlessness than they are about cancer.
So here are some tips from fertility counsellor Tanja Faessler-Moro on handling questions without making a scene… (But go ahead and make a scene if you feel like it!).
It pays to practice ahead of time so you’re not caught off guard. At home, rehearse in the mirror a few lines you can say if someone enquires about this sensitive topic. Be polite, somewhat vague and friendly. There’s no need for defensiveness, just take control of the situation, be warm and then change the topic.
Communicate healthy boundaries
Unfortunately, you may have to deal with those who are pushy, rude or insensitive. If someone makes a hurtful comment, prepare for this, too. People usually don’t know how hurtful it is if they suggest some wonder diet to you or imply that everything is your fault for stressing too much. Politely and firmly reinforce your boundaries — you never have to discuss anything you are not comfortable discussing, and you’re within your rights to make this known.
The holidays can be a draining time at best, a period of overindulgence, so set yourself some goals when it comes to eating and drinking, your sleep routine and even your spending habits. Make sure you are not overextending yourself or putting yourself into overly stressful situations something that’s remarkably easy to do over CNY.
A gratitude journal can boost your feelings of well-being by 10 per cent. If you can get out of your head for long enough, you may notice that you actually have plenty to be thankful for. Constantly realign to all the ways that your life is full and meaningful already, by writing down three things you’re grateful for every day.
Focus on the now
So often, our suffering is caused in most part by our own thoughts and interpretations of reality, rather than reality itself. Try to reclaim your own presence of mind and power in the coming months and remember: nobody can make you feel anything, at least, not without your permission.
Challenge negative thinking
Watch your inner monologue and be careful of one-dimensional, “black or white” thinking. The more you tell yourself something, the more you’ll think it’s true, so it pays to be watchful. Is it really true that people think badly of you because of it? And does it matter? Do your children have to be birth children? What’s wrong with adoption?
Take a breather
By incorporating a breathing exercise into your daily routine, you train yourself to relax, loosen your muscles and lower your cortisol levels, and bring yourself back to focused awareness on the present. Try the 4/7 technique: wherever you are, close your eyes and breathe slowly in for a count of four, pause for a moment, then breathe slowly out again for a count of seven. Simply let go, become loose and easy in your breath, thoughts and body.
Information from Tanja Faessler-Moro, a fertility counsellor with Virtus Fertility Centre.