The Green Eyed Jealousy Monster is no stranger to the fertility challenged. Feeling pregnancy jealousy over friends, co-workers, and relatives is normal and common. You may even feel jealous just seeing a stranger's pregnant belly! What causes jealousy? And how can you cope?
Ideas that Feed into Jealousy
Jealousy is a normal emotion. You're not a bad person, friend, or relative for feeling pangs of jealousy. Understanding the underlying thoughts that feed into jealous feelings may help you understand yourself better and even reduce your feelings of jealousy.
Common Jealousy Rational #1: "I would be a much better parent, but Ms. Terrible-Mother gets pregnant yet again."
Why do women get pregnant who were "not even trying"? Why does your co-worker become "accidentally pregnant" when you can't purposefully get pregnant for months or years now? Why is your neighbor, who you believe to be a terrible mother, able to pop out kids with ease, but you, who you believe would be an awesome mother, can't conceive no matter how hard you try?
The truth is that pregnancy doesn't discriminate. Becoming pregnant is not dependent on how "hard you try", nor on whether you'd make a good parent or a bad one.
Common Jealousy Rational #2: "How dare she complain! She has no idea how lucky she is."
Nothing stirs up jealousy and anger more than when a lucky friend starts complaining about morning sickness, or having to wake up with the baby in the middle of the night. How dare she complain when you would give everything to have a baby?
Well, here's the thing to keep in mind: When you're pregnant, you'll also probably want to complain. And if you force yourself to keep a happy appearance on the outside throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period, you may set yourself up for feeling depressed. (Because let's face it, pregnancy and early parenthood isn't easy, and keeping your struggles a secret isn't good for your mental health.) In fact, having experienced infertility puts you at a higher risk for developing postpartum depression.
When you hear your friend complaining, remember that whining about pregnancy and the newborn period is also part of the experience. It's not that they don't appreciate what they have - they do. They just also love to talk-it-up.
Also, remember that pregnancy and new motherhood are a both a blessing and a difficult experience to go through. Complaining isn't a sign they don't appreciate it - it's part of the reality of pregnancy and parenting.
Common Jealousy Rational #3: "Why her and not me?"
There are two rationales behind this one. One is a kind of silly notion we have that pregnancies are in short supply. Almost like if all your friends get pregnant, there won't be enough "pregnant" to go around for you, which isn't true of course.
The other rational behind this one is more accurately, "Why not me?" It's the sadness peaking out from behind the jealousy.
Jealousy: Anger and Grief in Disguise
In many ways, it is easier to feel jealousy and direct difficult feelings outward than to look inward and acknowledge our sadness. Jealousy is less about our friend or family member's pregnancy, and more about our own grief over infertility.
Infertility is a frustrating, difficult disease to face. Feeling sadness, anger, grief, and fear is common and normal. Anger especially is an emotion that likes a target, and if you're feeling angry about infertility, directing that anger at a co-worker who gets pregnant may feel easier than directing it at the universe for not dealing you the pregnancy cards you hoped for.
Protecting Yourself from Pregnancy-Jealousy-Overwhelm
When you're in the thick of pregnancy jealousy, sometimes you need to take steps to lessen your exposure to the triggers. Some things you can do include:
- Hide all status messages from your pregnant friend or family member: They'll never know you hid their updates, and you can always go to their page every so often and scan for important updates. Plus, if something really important happens, they or someone else will tell you.
- Decline the baby shower invite: You really don't have to go. Honest. (More about baby showers.)
- Ask them not to talk about pregnancy all the time: If hearing them talk about the pregnancy is painful, either find a way to switch the subject, or be honest and tell them you don't want to talk about the pregnancy and why. "I am happy for you, but hearing you talk about your pregnancy makes me feel extremely sad because I can't get pregnant myself. So can we talk about the things we spoke about before you got pregnant?"
Learning to Let Go of Pregnancy Jealousy
While I don't suggest going to every baby shower or forcing yourself to put up with dozens of Facebook pregnancy-related status updates, I am going to suggest that when you're ready, you should try to let the pregnancy jealousy go. You may need to re-let go over and over again, but being able to do so is important to your mental health.
There comes a time when isolating yourself to avoid pregnancy jealousy will create more harm than good. Jealousy can get in the way of having an Awesome Aunt role. Jealousy can cut you off from people who you once really loved to hang out with. Jealousy can make you feel alone, and jealousy can make you feel ashamed (wondering why you just can't get over yourself.)
Letting go of pregnancy jealousy takes time, and sometimes, you need professional counseling to help you get there. As stated above, jealousy is deep down grief and anger. If you don't face the inner sadness, you'll have a harder time letting go of jealousy.
Some ways to let go of jealousy include...
Tell someone: Don't keep your feelings a secret, otherwise they fester and grow larger. If your pregnant friend or sister is close to you, you can confide in them. If not, talk to someone else who will understand. A counselor can serve in this role as well.
Write out your sorrows: Write in a fertility blog; write a letter than you'll never send to your pregnant friend. (Or write one that you will send, expressing how you want to be happy for her but the sadness of your own situation makes that difficult.) Write in a private journal. Write out what you cannot say.
Send a blessing or prayer: When your eyes gaze upon a pregnant belly, and you feel the green jealousy monster rising inside, pay attention to that feeling. Take two deep breaths. Then, close your eyes and send blessings, vibes, or prayers to that mother and baby. The prayer can be very simple, like "May you have a healthy, safe delivery; may you know nothing but love and warmth." Do this when you feel like giving a blessing, and do it when you don't.
Then, after sending the blessing to the pregnant woman, send a blessing to yourself, fertility related or not. Like, "May I have peace, may I have love," or "May I soon know what it's like to carry a child." Don't be surprised if you feel the jealousy melt away into tears of sadness - the emotion hiding behind the green eyed monster.
More on coping with friends and family when trying to get pregnant:
- 10 Things to Stop Doing if You Want to Support Someone with Infertility (For your friends and family.)
- Coping with Unwanted Advice
- 5 Ways to be an Awesome Auntie
- Should you Tell Your Friends and Family About Your Infertility?
- How to Deal With Baby Showers
- "When Are You Going to Have Kids?"
- Coping with Family Dinners
- 10 Ways to Cope When Trying to Conceive Overwhelms You