As a perinatal psychotherapist, I’m often getting asked by clients (and friends) how to handle expected conversations with family, friends, or colleagues around the holidays. Many women who are trying to conceive (TTC), recently pregnant, or experiencing fertility challenges feel some level of stress or anxiety heading into the holidays. They are anticipating being asked questions about their family planning timeline or journey, or are worried that their behavior will invite unwanted conversations (most frequently avoiding alcohol when they would normally be drinking).
I’ve outlined the two most common questions below, along with some potential responses to consider. Use these as a basis for reflection or a conversation starting point. It’s important to consider what your personal comfort level is regarding disclosing your personal journey and experience around conceiving, fertility, or pregnancy. If partnered, it’s also helpful to discuss this with them. You may have different comfort levels regarding sharing this information, including to whom, when and how that disclosure happens.
These are important factors to clarify before entering any family gathering or social event. Remember that what you share is deeply personal, and you do not owe it to anyone to share before you feel ready.
Q: How should I respond when someone asks about our plans for having children?
This question usually comes from family members, and not always from close ones. Navigating this question can be tricky, especially if this topic brings up big emotions for you. Respond in a way that feels good, and remember that choosing not to share personal details about your family planning does not mean you are being dishonest or lying. It means you are setting a boundary around what you do or do not feel comfortable discussing with that particular person. I’ve listed some responses below, categorized by comfort level and personality type.
“That’s really personal and I’m not comfortable sharing/answering”
“My body and family planning are not appropriate topics of conversation”
“When people stop asking us that question – so probably not for a while”
“I didn’t know it was a group decision. I’ll conference you in to my next gyno
“Oh my [cat/dog/bird/fish] is enough of a child for us for now”
“We’re just focusing on a lot of practicing at the moment”
[Smile] “So, how’s work?”
[Don’t smile] “So, how’s work?”
“We’re actually trying right now, but aren’t looking for comments or advice”
“We’ve been having trouble getting pregnant and are looking into our options, but I’d prefer not to discuss further. Thank you for respecting that.”
Q: We are trying to conceive/are currently pregnant but are not ready to tell people yet. What do I do when people ask why I’m not drinking?
Whether you are expecting comments from friends, family or colleagues, many women worry that avoiding alcohol will “give them away” regarding TTC or being pregnant. While a lightly veiled response may not completely dissuade people of their guesses, if it helps them get the hint to stop asking this question, sometimes that can feel like enough. If you are not ready to share this news, here are some go-to responses, along with some helpful tricks to avoid this question altogether.
“I’m on antibiotics/medication”
“I have a bet going with [partner/friend/dad/sister] who can abstain the longest. Big money on the table!”
“I’ve been feeling under the weather so I’m taking it easy”
“I’m the designated drive tonight. [Taking one for the team!]”
“Nope, not pregnant! Just not drinking.”
“I’ve been getting awful hangovers lately.”
“I’m focusing on my health heading into the new year.”
Potential Tricks to Avoid the Question:
Drink soda and pretend it’s a mix drink
Empty a canned drink and refill it with a non-alcoholic beverage
Make a mocktail instead
Hold a glass of wine but don’t drink it (and let your partner/trusted friend take sips)
Offer to drive
Remember that you are in control of how and when you share this information. Having a plan in mind can ease anxiety and stress, and help you feel more comfortable and confident in upholding your boundaries.
About the Author: Yael Sherne is a licensed psychotherapist based in Los Angeles. She supports individuals and couples through pivotal life transitions, helping them find healing and happiness within themselves and their most important relationships. She specializes in perinatal mental health, relationship issues, and parenting. You can follow her work and join her community here @thebumpy.road
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