Infertility: how to deal with pregnancy envy

I’ve addressed the topic of infertility a few times on the blog. Just like any deeply emotional challenge, in many ways it really blows, and in many other ways it’s an amazing source of personal growth.

For me, aside from the body confidence issues that have arisen as a result of my PCOS, one of the biggest challenges to overcome has been my feelings of jealousy towards pregnant women or women with young kids.

I know, right? Ugly, petty and potentially damaging to personal and professional relationships. Pretty uncool. But also normal and forgivable, in the same way that you might feel irrationally sickened by seemingly smug couples when you’re single or envious of a friend’s soaring career when you’re looking for work.

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When everybody’s having babies apart from you

What is pregnancy envy?

The difference between those types of feelings and pregnancy envy (which is how I’ll refer to this issue from now on) is that, for the most part, fertility problems are out of your control. There is usually more you can do about finding a partner or improving your career than about changing things within your body.

Pregnancy envy is different because it’s more primal. If your body is telling you that you’re ready to be a mother and you can’t fulfil that wish, it evokes more deeply seated emotions. Your life may well revolve around difficult, painful, hormone-filled, emotionally and financially draining fertility treatments. It may well feel like everyone around you is managing the one thing you so desperately want with ease. You may feel like the only flat-bellied woman in a world of round tummies and baby showers, left out of a mum club that you so desperately want to join.

What can you do to stop pregnancy envy from ruining your life?

When you’re trying so hard for a baby and having no success, it’s easy to start to feel bitter and resentful towards pregnant woman or new mums. There are a few things I do to make this easier on myself and I’ve found that they’ve really helped me to put my own disappointment aside and be happy for others.

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Be kind to yourself – beating yourself up solves nothing

Take responsibility for your feelings

The most important thing is to recognise the difference between rational anger and your own pain talking. Nobody does something as monumentally life changing as getting pregnant to spite you, so feel angry at the fact that you’re not pregnant if you need to, but it doesn’t need to be about blame. Nobody’s sharing their baby updates to rub anything in your face and, most importantly, their pregnancy has not stolen anything from you. They haven’t taken your baby.

When you feel feelings of resentment, for example when that colleague gets pregnant by accident or a family member announces their happy news, let yourself feel all the upset, pain and shock that you need to feel and then wish them well, with all your heart. Picture them happy and healthy, because if you respond with love, in the end you will start to feel genuinely thrilled for people.

Go easy on yourself

You’re allowed to think and feel whatever you like so long as you’re not taking it out on those around you. There are no thought police and nobody’s allowed to tell you that what you’re feeling is wrong.

Understand that a baby isn’t a magical life cure

Your friend with a baby definitely doesn’t have the perfect life. She has something you’d love to have, but don’t paint a rosy picture in your head of maternal bliss. I know you’d kill for those sleepless nights, swollen ankles and cravings she’s complaining about, but from her perspective being a mum might be really hard. That doesn’t mean you need to feel sorry for your fertile friend, just don’t torture yourself thinking all of her problems are instantly solved because she has a baby.

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Expose yourself to baby stuff when you feel up to it

Some of my closest friends and family members are pregnant at the moment, and as much as I’m sad for myself, I’m excited for them and also for me as I’m sure I will be a big part of their children’s lives.

Sometimes I am able to completely happily chat baby stuff and feel totally unaffected, even excited for my loved one, other times (like after another unsuccessful try, or just on a bad day) I find it hard to face. The key is to feel a little more control of these interactions. Hide stuff on Facebook and only look at it when you feel up to it, initiate conversations when you feel happy enough to deal with it, decline baby shower invitations if you can’t face them and send a gift instead.

The most important thing is that you take care of yourself so you don’t end up snapping at someone who doesn’t deserve it.

Be honest

Explain to your mum friends that you have your good days and your bad days. Sometimes you’ll be more than happy to chat prams and labour positions and sometimes you might prefer to talk about other things.

Ask them to be patient with you and maybe refrain from sending you unsolicited baby stuff in case it comes at a bad time. You’re happy to be there for them but you also need to be a little bit selfish in order to be a better friend. If they’re rational and care about you, they’ll understand and will talk about baby stuff with someone else when you’re not on form.

At the end of the day, you can expect empathy from your loved ones but understand that their excitement may override their sensitivity towards you. Do what you need to do to feel strong and happy and don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day! Big hugs all round.

6 Comments on Infertility: how to deal with pregnancy envy

  1. anon
    March 26, 2014 at 12:17 pm (5 years ago)

    Another little thing to remember is that you never know another persons story… having had a miscarriage (pre my two kids) as we went into spring there were bumps everywhere. It hurt so much. Then my cousin announced her ‘accidental’ pregnancy with her new boyfriend, and it hurt. A lot.
    I try now never to judge or feel jealousy, because even ‘perfect’ pregnancies often have a story: a not mentioned miscarriage, fertility issues, the labour from hell, bleeding in pregnancy… the list goes on. And on. Everyone has their own journey to fulfilling their family, in whatever shape or for that takes. But it is hard, there is no doubt. And those bleeping hormones make it all the worse.

    • Sara - Darling Lovely Life editor
      March 26, 2014 at 12:23 pm (5 years ago)

      I totally agree, you never know what someone went through or is going through and we all have our own battles in life! Very well put xxx

  2. Anon
    March 26, 2014 at 12:41 pm (5 years ago)

    I cried reading this.. it’s hard…. oh so hard. I have my 3 steps…. breathe….smile…. and get on with it. So many people close to me have had children, and are all now on their second child…. I (we) are still trying and have been since before anyone else (so a long time). I have good days, and bad days, but always told myself that I don’t want to miss any of the possible time I could spend with any of them growing up and although I feel there was a lot of tiptoeing around me at the beginning, they all involve me with open arms now. I’m a proud auntie to 6 little ones now (‘real’ auntie and ‘honorary’ auntie) and i’m proud of all my friends and their little ones, children are hard work. ‘You’ve got all this to come’ and ‘you’d make such a great mum’ are two of the worst things to hear (possible pointless statements) and the word ‘adoption’ twists the knife (in a ‘great thanks you’re giving up on me’ sort of way, not that it’s something we haven’t considered)….and breathe! One day…… maybe. I’ve also had a friend that lost her baby (has since gone on to have 2 beautiful girls), and that was truly an awful awful time, all the time trying for a baby thinking how awful I would feel if I got pregnant whilst she was in so much pain. As someone has already said, everyone has their own journey…. some are more painful than others. Well done on a great blog post though, it’s not something some people think about x x

    • Sara - Darling Lovely Life editor
      March 26, 2014 at 12:54 pm (5 years ago)

      I’m so sorry it’s so hard and believe me, I know your pain. People think they’re being helpful when they say things about your time coming soon or make references to adoption or you one day being a parent but it’s such a dagger in the heart!! You sound like you’re doing a great job, I know how tough it can be keeping up the brave face, so I really hope you have someone to confide in when things get hard. Huge hugs xxx

  3. :-)
    March 26, 2014 at 2:42 pm (5 years ago)

    Great post (as always) not just for those who are experiencing infertility but also for those who may KNOW someone who is. I find that often some people (usually family and close friends) are just not aware how to deal with those who are going through this. I really love the way you have listed ways for couples/people to be honest with themselves on their infertility journey. It is ok to be a bit selfish and ok to feel sad when once again, another baby announcement has been made. I think it is unhealthy to suppress these emotions and posts like this make it ok not something shameful that is swept under the carpet and not to discuss. Thank you Sara! Can’t wait for your next one. :-)

    • Sara - Darling Lovely Life editor
      March 26, 2014 at 2:48 pm (5 years ago)

      Thanks so much for the lovely comment. There’s not always a great deal of compassion out there for people who feel this way. I think it’s important to talk about it and make people aware, I don’t think anyone means to be hurtful they’re just excited about their own stuff and maybe not so aware of how it feels to not be a part of it. Thank you for the kind words xxx


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