Helping women with chronic illnesses

Family, Facebook, and Frenzy: A Holiday Infertility Meditation

Family, Facebook, and Frenzy:
A Holiday Infertility Meditation

Today’s guest blogger, Dr. Diane Neal, is chronically healing from multiple illnesses including Stage IV endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), hypothyroidism and lipo-lymphedema. She has never been pregnant. Her inability to conceive naturally was confirmed when she was forced to have both fallopian tubes removed (one in 2008 and the other in 2009) due to endometriosis-related complications. A professor, she loves both research and teaching. When she has the time and health for recreation, she enjoys belly dancing, watching “Mad Men,” and practicing Reiki.

As Jeanne noted in her wonderful last post, this is a stressful time of year. We’re told (and, for some reason, we believe) that we’re supposed to maintain a big smile full of magical holiday cheer while we host a delicious dinner for friends and family, bake fattening cookies for the office party, buy the perfect gift for the dog groomer, play Santa to our kids…

Wait a second! I can’t do all that! I mean, I don’t have kids!

“Why don’t you have kids?” a woman I had just met asked me recently.

“I can’t have them due to severe endometriosis,” I replied tersely. You’d think I’d be used to this now, I thought to myself. But I never get used to that question. I also never get used to the fact that people with children sometimes assume my schedule is more flexible than theirs, or the fact that people who don’t know the real story probably think my husband of seven years and I are waiting for some inconceivable (pun intended) deadline to start “trying,” or the fact that my friends with children must think I really want to see Junior’s mug-shot-of-the-day every time I log in to Facebook. (Note: if you are my Facebook friend and you do that, I may have hidden your updates some time ago.)

However, those are all mere annoyances. Speaking personally, the time it hurts the worst is when I go to a worship service. All the children are asked to come to the front of the sanctuary to hear a story, and then we have to sing to them as they head to their classes after the story: “Go now in peace/may the spirit of love surround you/everywhere you may go.” But I can never sing: by the time the story is done, I am crying too hard to sing, although I do hope love and peace surround them. It’s not their fault I can’t have a child, after all. That said, their presence makes it difficult for me to attend services, despite the (theoretical) idea that one goes to worship services for spiritual renewal.

Could it get any worse? Cue the holidays. “Christmas is for children,” we’re told. The kids are performing holiday pageants, the toy department at your favourite discount store is overflowing with games and action figures, and your co-workers are all conversing excitedly about the trips they and their kids are taking over the break. Or their kids are coming home from university for a few weeks. Or their kids are bringing the grandkids home. Or whatever.

If you are reading this post seeking answers for how to get through the holidays, I’m not sure I have any concrete advice for you. I struggle with it myself, and I just want December to be over so we can get back to “normal” life. As a childless-by-choice friend suggested, the only sensible ways to get through the holidays are either (1) remaining under general anaesthesia through January 3, or (2) checking into a luxurious hotel with no phone, good books, and room service.

Just don’t forget the underlying message: especially during the holidays, family makes everything worthwhile, and if you don’t have a family of your own, you have nothing.

Wait a minute. Is that true?

I have a supportive husband who sees me as a person rather than a mere baby-making machine, wonderful friends, a Chihuahua who curls up by my side every night, and a rapidly developing career that I love – so many reasons for gratitude! On the other hand, I have multiple chronic illnesses that frequently inhibit me from living life as easily as others do, and I lost my wonderful dad to frontal lobe dementia in May 2010, an absolutely devastating personal loss that will never leave me.

But no matter how I examine my life, no matter how much I ponder my strengths, my weaknesses, or both, I always come to this conclusion: I am more than my (in)ability to have children. And, if you want to be pregnant but are not, you are so much more than that too.

We are definitely the sum of our pasts and our present selves. Sadly, I am watching so many people I know struggle. I know people who have had multiple recent deaths within their inner circles, who have gravely ill spouses, who are going through divorces, who may not be able to see their children (even though they have them), who simply cannot keep up with the societal expectations of the season, and so on. So many of us are just doing the best we can to get through it all right now, whether we can’t conceive, or the fruitcake got burned…

Lately, I’ve been struck by the devastating situations that children face at this time of year (and all year, for that matter). My nightly news broadcast keeps reporting that local charities do not have nearly enough toys for all the children that can only get holiday presents through donations. I have also seen a series of advertisements for a foundation seeking money to buy medications to treat leprosy in impoverished children. So many parents worldwide do not have jobs, or homes, or grocery money.

And then I think, I’m not rich, but I do have a job, a place to live, and a stocked kitchen. And I suppose I could think, It’s not fair! I could provide for children more easily than they could, and they have them! But, in actuality, I’ve been thinking, you know, there is more than one way to “mother” or “father” in this tragic world, and we can all start today…

As I conclude this post, I want to return to the subject of my wonderful dad, who would have turned 68 on December 15. He worked hard, played hard, and made people happy with his kind nature and silly jokes. He exemplified the kind of person I strive to be, and I hope he is watching me from wherever he is with pride. The twist? He was my adoptive father, but I never thought of him that way, and I’ve never known a more loving dad. Of the countless lessons I indirectly learned from him, the most important was that your “family” is by no means limited to blood. I’m not suggesting adoption is the answer for everyone, and I’m not diminishing the devastating loss we all feel with infertility. But I wouldn’t exchange my life (or either set of parents) for anything.

That said, I do believe that we are all one family on this planet, and as my favourite band U2 once brilliantly sang, “We get to carry each other,” a fact that us humans frequently fail to remember. And this particular family is what makes everything worthwhile, and if you don’t have your Earth family (and, hopefully, some love and peace to go with it), then you have nothing.

A fate even worse than not being able to post your own sonogram photos on Facebook.

This post was written by Jeanne at Copyright © Jeanne — All rights reserved.

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Reading: Family, Facebook, and Frenzy: A Holiday Infertility Meditation


1 Laura HegfieldNo Gravatar { 12.20.10 at 12:53 pm }

Such a beautiful and inspiring post…I find that if I focus my attention on gratitude for the blessings in my life…the difficulties don’t have the same power or strength that they do when I focus on them…you know??? And I agree…we are ALL ONE FAMILY…all one.

blessings to you
.-= Laura Hegfield´s last blog ..Desire Dragon =-.

2 DianeNo Gravatar { 12.20.10 at 11:26 pm }

I’m glad you liked it, Laura – and I completely agree with you!

3 JasmineNo Gravatar { 12.21.10 at 2:11 am }

I agree with Laura about focusing attention on gratitude and blessings.
.-= Jasmine´s last blog ..Making friends with my discomfort =-.

4 RellacafaNo Gravatar { 12.21.10 at 2:18 am }

Thanks for sharing such a personal story, Diane and for expressing your truth so eloquently. Wishing you much merriment during this tough season, you are definitely more than your struggles! My condolences for your sad loss x
.-= Rellacafa´s last blog ..Ramping Things Up! =-.

5 JeanneNo Gravatar { 12.21.10 at 2:54 am }


Isn’t Diane’s post just beautiful? I am honored that she took the time and energy at this busy time of year to write such a post. I can see by the large number of visitors her post is getting that her message is reaching many! As I mentioned to Diane when I asked her if she would be interested in guest blogging about infertility and the holidays, there are always a great number of visitors to my blog’s infertility posts at holiday time. This year has been no exception. So, I was very grateful that Diane agreed to write this piece. Her focus on gratitude and blessings is a testament to her wonderful perspective. I agree with you and Diane… we really are ALL ONE FAMILY… all one.


Thank you again for writing this beautiful post! The amount of visitors to the post today alone (at holiday time, no less) is amazing! Usually this close to the holidays, there are less visitors than usual. However, your post is being viewed by a great many. Thank you so much for sharing your personal story. I know it’s helping others… and, yes, we are ALL ONE FAMILY!


Yes, I agree with you, Laura and Diane!


Diane really did word it eloquently, didn’t she? Yes, we are more than our struggles. It’s true. I think Diane was very generous to invest the emotional energy involved in sharing her story. In addition to letting fellow infertility patients know they are not alone, I believe she has provided a source of comfort for those who have lost loved ones as well. The first holiday season without a loved one can be especially difficult. I am very sorry for Diane’s loss too.



6 RoseNo Gravatar { 12.22.10 at 4:30 pm }

Thank you for your post. I, too, feel a bit left-out at the holidays with no child of my own. But I have a beautiful, loving exchange daughter and a very supportive hubby to get me through. Their excitement about Christmas does rub off on me a little, I have to admit. 🙂 Thanks for the inspiring post, and blessings to you all!

7 JeanneNo Gravatar { 12.22.10 at 5:15 pm }


I’m sorry for any challenges you face with the holidays. I’m glad you have your amazing exchange daughter there with you. I know she brings you much joy. I’m glad your husband is there to support you as well! I hope you all have a lovely Christmas. 🙂 I’m glad you liked Diane’s post. It really is beautiful.


8 Voices On Endometriosis — { 03.01.11 at 1:00 am }

[…] Dr. Diane Neal, is chronically healing from multiple illnesses including Stage IV endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), hypothyroidism and lipo-lymphedema. She has never been pregnant. Her inability to conceive naturally was confirmed when she was forced to have both fallopian tubes removed due to endometriosis-related complications. A professor, she loves both research and teaching. […]

9 A Holiday Time Re-Post — { 11.22.12 at 1:37 am }

[…] by Jeanne Originally posted 12/20/2010 with the title: Family, Facebook, and Frenzy: A Holiday Infertility Meditation […]

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