Thanksgiving has absolutely always been one of my favorite holidays. Family coming together and eating a huge feast commemorating the bounty of the earth and collaboration between peoples- PLUS a big turkey . . . what could be wrong with that?
Well, for some couples struggling with infertility (like we did), Thanksgiving can be the start of a painful holiday season. Families coming together means upsetting questions from Auntie Mildred about why you don’t have kids yet. Or it means watching your pregnant sister-in-law preparing plates for the three children she already has. Or it means doing all the dishes because the families with the kids left early. Or it can just mean a lot of delicious food . . . that you can’t eat because of your diet (it’s not true!! You can eat Thanksgiving food!!).
Between food and family, the pressure and fear can start to mount.
So I have something crazy to say.
Don’t let it.
Don’t go down that path.
Let’s reclaim Thanksgiving as a FERTILITY holiday and turn it into a ritual that brings abundance to our lives.
Let’s love Thanksgiving again.
In this post I’m going to talk about overcoming Thanksgiving fears, the (fertility) history of thanksgiving, the fertility symbols of thanksgiving, and ways to make Thanksgiving more meaningful and enjoyable than over.
Note: Of course, I do realize that the English coming to the New World wasn’t all hugs and puppies- the white people did bring death and devastation to many of the American Indians. But this small moment in time we are commemorating- before any conquering or destruction, this moment of peace between peoples, of acceptance of great differences, of feasting after famine, and of teaching the bounty of the earth– well, I think that’s worth celebrating.
Table of Contents
Overcoming Thanksgiving Infertility Fears
I’m going to propose a number of solutions to you to some of the regular issues couples struggle with during the holidays when they are taking the long route to baby; pick the ones that work for you and leave the rest.
1- Before Thanksgiving, tell your family you are struggling with infertility. Explain your sensitivities. I am lucky that my family is very gentle and loving about this, so things got a lot better once we told everyone. And, we had so many people praying for us, it was amazing! Yes, we did have to deal with the occasional “why don’t you just adopt?” question, but to me, that was a lot easier than questions about were we pregnant, when were we going to get pregnant, etc. Also, if people know to be sensitive then they can remember not to complain about pregnancy, parenthood, etc.
2- If you choose not to tell people, then have your response to the children question ready. My standard response when people who didn’t know our struggles asked when we were going to have children was, “As soon as God blesses us with them.” Come up with a line and practice it.
3- Host Thanksgiving. I know this is crazy for most people, but let’s face it, if you go to your sister-in-law’s every dish is going to be smothered in dairy, gluten, and who knows what else. Don’t spend your day terrified of eating- if you host you control everything. You can make a healthy and delicious Thanksgiving feast- just like we have- while sticking to a strict fertility diet! Check out my Thanksgiving recipe book- A Real Food Thanksgiving – which has over 25 fertility friendly recipes that are also Paleo, Keto, and (mostly) Whole30 compliant! Your guests will love them, I promise!
4- If you can’t host, bring your own food (to share obviously). I suggest the protein stuffing in my recipe book and a dessert. That way you will have at least a main course that feels Thanksgiving-y and whatever your favorite dessert is (my pumpkin pie is delicious). Your family will be amazed that the dish your brought tastes so good and is so healthy! You can probably eat other things the host has like greens or salads.
5- Do something else. I could never do this because I love turkey and my family doesn’t drive me crazy. BUT if your family drives you so crazy ,that you will be miserable no matter what- just skip it. Serve dinner at a local homeless shelter. Go hiking. Take a trip somewhere fun. Stay home and do a small feast with your honey and then make love. Make it YOUR holiday. Remember- this season – the season of “infertility” will not last forever. Eventually your baby will be with you and you will be a family for the holidays.
The Roots of Thanksgiving
In the U.S., schoolchildren are taught about how the Pilgrims came from England seeking a better life and how they starved over the winter in the cold Massachusetts winter. Those that survived were approached by American Indians (also called Native Americans), in the early spring, who showed them how to plant corn, harvest wild berries and herbs from the forest, find fish and eels to eat, etc. They taught them the abundance of the earth. And, they signed a peace treaty. We remember it as a day to give “thanks” or to practice gratitude.
But, did you know there’s actually more to this holiday than the history we are given? The fact is that the United States is not the first place to have a harvest celebration or a special day of “thanks.” In fact, many others can be found throughout history, especially in areas where pagan earth-based religions were practiced.
Many of these were harvest celebrations, where the people came to say “thank you” to the Earth for her fertility and abundance. And, of course, to ask for continued fertility and abundance from the earth! Autumn is a natural time for these celebrations, as the final harvests of the season are happening before the long cold winter.
Gratitude, in and of itself, is a beautiful fertility practice. Just that simple link between gratitude and the holiday makes it a fertility holiday in my book! Check out my post here on how to develop a gratitude practice for fertility and my post here where I talk about my gratefulness for my long and winding baby journey.
Harvest Feasts Around the World
In England, they celebrated Harvest Home, which was based on an old druid harvest feast. (Interestingly the Puritans that were the Pilgrims didn’t celebrate this because they knew about its links to paganism! Little did they know eventually there would be a similar holiday based on THEM)
In Rome, they celebrated Cerelia in October, where they thanked the harvest Goddess Ceres.
In Greek they celebrated Demeter, the Goddess of the Harvest, Agriculture, and Corn.
The Celts celebrated the harvest festival of Mabon.
The Mid-Autumn Festival in China, Taiwan, and Vietnam celebrates the harvest and it coincides with the full moon.
In Egypt they celebrated Min, the god of vegetation and fertility during their harvest festival.
What do all of these have in common? Giving thanks for an abundant harvest. Now, most of us live in a land and time of plenty, where we don’t have to worry about if we can get enough to eat. Instead, we obsess over the details of our diet- how much protein? How much fat? (here’s the answer, hah!) Which fat is good? Do I need organic? (Answer: yes)
With such abundance, Thanksgiving is a good time to slow down and remember to be thankful for the incredible blessings you have in your life, including the privilege to worry about such things as optimizing diet.
Even in infertility, we are blessed.
Thanksgiving Fertility Symbols
Turkey – Long before the first “Thanksgiving” Native Americans associated the turkey with abundance and being thankful. Some tribes saw the turkey as a symbol of sacred fertility which would serve as a ritual sacrifice in ceremonies. Kind of like, um, Thanksgiving? 🙂 Turkey feathers are important in some traditions and used in smudging ceremonies (and, today you can buy turkey feathers on Amazon for decorating or ritual work!).
Horn of Plenty/Cornucopia – This symbol was used in ancient Greek and Roman art to depict abundance, as the horn overflowed with fruit, vegetables, wheat, and flowers. Consider using a cornucopia as your centerpiece and fill it with other fertility symbols- decorative corn, acorns, nuts, apples.
Corn – With its many seeds, corn is a symbol of fertility and rebirth. Many Native Americans held corn sacred and used it as a symbol of fertility, abundance, and life.
Apple – Apples are a symbol of fertility and of female beauty. Hera received an apple as an gift to promote fertility when she was engaged to Zeus. The apple, which has a tiny star made of seeds inside it, was also an ancient symbol of love and the sweetness of life. Eat them (with some restraint, I mean carbs, ladies), bake with them, and decorate with them, and be grateful for the sweetness of life. Apple candleholders anyone?
Acorn – What better to symbolize fertility than a tiny acorn that holds the potential to become the largest oak in the forest? Acorns are incredible fertile power in a tiny package. Think of your eggs and your husband’s sperm bursting with fertile life just like the acorn.
Nuts– Similar to acorns, nuts have great nutrition and power in a tiny package. Chock full of protein and fats (just what little embryos and babies need)- nuts are are also great fertility foods.
Rituals & Prayers for an Abundant and Fertile Thanksgiving
Ready to make this the best Thanksgiving yet? Below are some ideas for enjoying the holiday and making it a true ritual of abundance and fertility
Start a Gratitude Practice– If you haven’t already, now is the time to start your gratitude practice. Every morning or evening, write down three things you are grateful for. I start and end my days with short prayers of thanks. And I start every prayer I say with a prayer of gratefulness. Check out my post on how to create a gratitude practice for fertility.
Be Mindful of the Abundance. Take the time to be aware and appreciate the abundance and fertility of the earth, of your life, and of your family. Think of the Thanksgiving table as an overflowing of abundance- both of the fertility of the earth, and of the prosperity of your family. Even if you are struggling financially, take the time to compare your meal with those around the world who don’t have enough to eat, and be purposeful with your appreciation.
Decorate with Fertility Symbols– Decorate your house with images of or real apples, acorns, nuts, horns of plenty, turkeys, and corn. As you decorate imagine you are blessings your house and your life with fertility and abundance.
Make a Corn Dolly. Corn dollies are made with corn husks and are common in harvest celebrations. They are also symbols of prosperity and fertility. As you make one to decorate your house with (or, let’s be honest, sleep with under your pillow!), imagine the blessings of abundance and fertility infusing the corn dolly.
Say a Prayer of Thanks. Write down your Thanksgiving prayer. Or start a new tradition where at the prayer before the family meal you each go around and say what you are thankful for. Or put out a big sheet of butcher paper (or make that your tablecloth!) and have everyone write down their blessings. Take this holiday, privately, or publicly, to declare all the things you are grateful for in your life!
Connect with the Earth. Make time for a walk in the fall foliage, or at least to be outside some place beautiful. Sit on the earth if you can, and think about how rich and fertile it is. Know that you belong to the earth, and that you too are rich and fertile.
Host Thanksgiving. For me, the culmination of all of this is to host Thanksgiving and invite my family to feast with us. I love making the food and pouring the love and gratitude into the entire meal. AND I love controlling the food so I know it’s all fertility-friendly and healthy! We’ve hosted for so many years that I wrote an e-book with our fertility friendly, paleo, and keto recipes for Thanksgiving!
Honor your Loved Ones Who have Passed. You can remember them privately or during prayer with your family at the meal. Who better to advocate for you in life and in your baby journey then the family that has passed before you? As you remember your deceased family and friends, ask them to advocate for you to God on your fertility journey. Feel yourself surrounded by their love and warmth.
Do you have a way you keep Thanksgiving special? Do you enjoy the holiday? What are you going to do to enjoy it more? Leave a comment and let me know!
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Anna Rapp is a fertility journalist and non-toxic living expert. When Anna Rapp was struggling with infertility and recurrent early miscarriage, she was diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve, High FSH, low AMH, low follicle count, endometriosis, and an MTHFR mutation. Despite being told donor eggs were her only solution, Anna used her graduate training in research methods and analysis to read everything she could find on fertility and egg health. Ultimately, she lowered her FSH and got pregnant naturally (twice). She blogs about how she did it and encourages her readers to take charge of their fertility journey and get happy, healthy, and pregnant!