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.
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.
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.
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.
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.