SALT LAKE CITY — This Christmas would be a little different for the Stratford family.
The presents under the tree weren’t gifts, but boxes left over from infertility treatments. The hanging ornaments weren’t snowmen and reindeer, but needles and medicine vials.
“We just kind of make light of the situation when it’s out of our control,” said Karlie Stratford, a local hairdresser.
Stratford and her husband have been married for seven years and trying to have children for three-and-a-half. After the first year of unsuccessful attempts to become pregnant, Stratford went to see a reproductive specialist.
She tried several different treatments to no avail, until her doctor suggested in vitro fertilization. Soon after, she was pregnant with twins — and so was her sister. A few months later, the frustrated mother-to-be experienced a miscarriage.
“The day I had my (miscarriage surgery), I had one of my really good friends tell me that she was pregnant. I had my best friend have her baby the (same) day. The next day, I had another friend tell me she was pregnant, and then the following week, another. So all my friends were pregnant, and then my sister. I had been so excited to finally be pregnant with her,” she said.
And Stratford’s experience with infertility hasn’t just been an emotional struggle, but a financial one as well — hence the gift-wrapped medicine boxes.
“(My husband and I) aren’t doing anything for Christmas (gifts) for each other this year,” Stratford said. “Instead, just doing service and helping others that way and … I saved all my injections (and) medicine vials from all the treatments that we’ve done. And since we’re not doing presents … I put my boxes underneath my Christmas tree, and they’re presents that way.”
And though Stratford’s experience with infertility has been difficult, she knows she’s not the only one struggling with it. For many couples dealing with infertility issues, the holidays can be a trying time — especially when surrounded by friends and family who may be wondering why they haven’t started their family yet.
For those experiencing infertility, here are five tips to navigating the holidays:
“It got to the point where I was like, ‘Why am I hiding this?’” she said. “It feels really good to just let things out and just talk about it. I think that’s part of the healing process.”
Booth also recommends service, saying it can quickly improve the mental mood and take your mind off infertility issues.
For family and friends of those dealing with infertility, here are three tips to be a help, not a hinderance:
“I think it’s a very personal and touchy subject … so I personally don’t like to ask people,” Stratford said.
“I didn’t realize how hurtful that was until I’m experiencing it, and then I’m like, ‘I can’t believe I said that,’” Stratford said.
“If the family members are open minded enough to listen and accept that families are made in many ways, and families come together in many ways, then it can be a positive experience for them to have that support,” Booth said.