Anxious about navigating conversations about family planning during the holidays? Licensed board-certified genetic counselor, Sheila Johal, provides helpful tips and support to help you navigate gatherings and conversations.

It happened during my brother’s going away party (he had enlisted in the Army). My aunt approached me after speaking to my (very pregnant at the time) sister and asked me,

“So, when are you going to have a baby?”

I don’t remember what I told her, but I do remember what I did not tell her – that we had been trying to add to our family for almost one year, that we had already been blown off by one reproductive endocrinologist, that we were gearing up for another appointment with a specialist, and that I spent every waking moment agonizing over whether we would ever have a baby of our own. My aunt probably does not remember that conversation, but the way it made me feel is forever seared in my memory.

As the holiday season approaches, many of us are gearing up for the requisite family gatherings and, for those who are navigating infertility, scenarios like mine are all too common. It is unlikely the rapid-fire questions about baby-making will stop (why is this everyone’s go-to conversation topic?), but there are some things you might be able to do to make your family time a little more bearable. Here are a few suggestions I wish I had tucked in my back pocket during that time.

Have an answer prepared

You know the questions are coming (don’t they always?) so know how you will respond. This may be as simple as, “Why do you ask?” Sometimes, this question is enough to stop the rest of them, as it forces the asker to think about why they are asking such a personal question (and maybe recognize this is not an appropriate small talk subject). Often, the conversation will find its way to other topics (see suggestion # 2!).

If that does not work for you, you may try a canned response like, “We are happy with our life/family/etc. as it is now” or “We are focused on ___ now.” These may work well if you have not shared your infertility journey. If you have been open with your experience, it is okay to set whatever boundaries you feel are appropriate with something like, “We will share updates/exciting news/etc. if/when we are ready.”