Envy, a very human trait, but one we fight against, none more so than while trying to conceive. Every bump or baby we encounter can feel like a punch in the chest, winding us, causing us to stumble. When that bump (or baby) belongs to a close friend or family member the emotional storm inside of us can be debilitating. We can feel upset, inadequate, confused, even grief stricken. Why them and not me? You then feel awful for having these feelings.
I wrote this blog 3 years into trying to conceive on the eve of Kate Middleton’s baby announcement. It was originally going to be called “Green Eyed Scary Lady!” as I really struggled with feeling jealous.
6 ways to cope with jealousy while trying to conceive
At times, distancing yourself from encounters can be essential as a survival technique and many fertility websites suggest avoiding baby showers and situations involving children in order to protect yourself. I have given up so many things in my quest to become a mother; caffeine, dairy, gluten, alcohol, to name but a few. I also lost many things for a time, my self-confidence, my trust in myself, my body and my faith in life.
However I refuse to give up or to lose my friends. I love my friends’ children; they are miniature versions of the people I care most about. I spent much of last week in the company of friends with children. I take great joy in the games I play with those children. I love the fact that my friend’s baby is comfortable enough with me to fall asleep on my chest. I cherish the fact that a two-year-old greeted me by using my school nickname as that is what her mum calls me and Friday afternoon was spent on a trampoline with two small excitable boys and I had just as much fun as they did.
The joy I take from these encounters far outweighs the difficult emotions which inevitably surface. Yes, it is difficult being around children when I desperately want them myself. Yes, it brings home the longing, the wanting and the lack, but my grief will not be any less acute, my situation would not be any different if I’d stayed at home.
I can be doing something completely unrelated to pregnancy and children, like dancing in a club and having a fantastic time when out of nowhere a little unwanted thought will rise up and be just as painful as walking past a group of new mums in a cafe.
The fact is that until I am pregnant I need to deal with the fact that I am not pregnant! I need coping strategies:
1. Be honest with yourself
Part of my mindfulness practice is to stretch. The phrase “Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is about what we learn on the way down” sums it up perfectly. When you stretch your body to the point of resistance you are learning your boundaries. The idea is not to strain, but to find that point of resistance and breath into it for a few moments to fully experience it, and then gently back off. We can use the same tool in scenarios when encountering emotional resistance. Learn your boundaries.
If you are in any given scenario and overwhelming emotions arise simply remove yourself from the situation for a time. Listen to the 5 minute mindful meditation MP3 that is part of the free fertility support pack I have created and really allow your emotions to surface. It is okay to cry. It is okay to admit that you are jealous. It is perfectly understandable and natural. Be with your feelings. You may find that after a time, you are strong enough to continue your game of hide and seek and take pleasure from it.
2. Be honest with others
This leads on to being honest with your friends and family. We can fall into the trap of seeming positive and upbeat when inside we are silently screaming. No one can truly understand how we are feeling but by sharing a little you may help to protect yourself from well-intentioned but painful comments. The family member who tells you to hurry up and have a baby before it is too late or the friend with a newborn who says you are lucky that you get to sleep at night. You don’t need to give them the whole story, but maybe a comment such as “You know it’s not as easy for some people just to decide to have a baby, these things can take time.” Or to friends who know you are trying “Most of the time I’m okay, but some days I just want to curl up under my duvet and I find it really difficult to stay strong.” You could send this blog to your friends and say that this is a little bit like how you are feeling.
3. Other people’s ballet pumps
Everyone, no matter who they are, has their own difficulties and worries. You may look at someone who is heavily pregnant or who has a baby and think that they have everything, but unless you walk a mile in their shoes you do not know the entire story. Take Kate for example, she has a new bouncing baby boy, lives in a palace and has hair so beautiful that it makes even Jennifer Aniston envious! But we will never know the full story; she was married for 18 months before she conceived, were they trying for the entire time? Did she go through fertility treatments? Did she suffer a miscarriage? Whenever jealousy has you in its grip, take a deep breath and put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you will be amazed at how much this simple technique can help.
4. Don’t see babies as babies
This one helps me the most when I feel myself judging other people’s parenting choices, you know, when you say to yourself “Why do they have a child when they obviously do not want them?” Imagine that child in 16 years time, giving that parent grief and getting their own back! This also helps to remind you that you don’t want just any baby, you want your baby, that person who will be in your life for your entire life.
5. The “Yes please” game
This one can be really hard to start with but when you get into the habit of doing it it is really fun and can be a lifesaver. Instead of seeing every bump or baby as a reminder of what you do not have, use them as a reminder of what you want and say, “Yes please!”
If you have read any positive psychology books you will know that this is highly recommended for lifting your mood and moving towards what you want in life. The idea being that if you see the things you want and only register the lack of them in your own life you are putting yourself on a downward spiral that can lead to anxiety and depression. By saying yes to the things you want and imagining that you too can have them, you are putting yourself on an upward spiral, which is altogether more fun.
An example for you; every year I go on holiday with my husband, gran, parents and uncle to the seaside and every year I tell myself that next year I will be bringing our gorgeous baby with us. For the third summer Aunt Flo joined us instead and this year I was in the beach toilets. I stepped out of the cubicle to find not one but two heavily pregnant young ladies in front of me, in string bikinis! I had two choices, the first to turn round back into the cubicle and have a good cry or to say “Yes please, that will be me in eight months time, but possibly without the string bikini!” I went for the second option. I’m not saying it’s easy and sometimes it can take all of your strength, but it is so worth it.
6. Stop expecting life to be fair
I went through a period of using the phrase “It’s not fair!” almost continuously. “It’s not fair that some women get pregnant when they do not even want a child.” “It’s not fair that I have to go through tests, injections, surgery and treatment and some people get pregnant on their first try.” “It’s not fair that some women have ten children and we don’t have any.” My husband simply said: “Why do you expect life to be fair?”
Life is not fair, shit happens to lovely people every day. The trick is not to be weighed down by this fact, but to change your perspective. Instead of stamping your foot and crying, “It’s not fair!” whenever life throws you a curveball instead see each challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow.
On my journey I have learnt to be proud of myself, really proud of myself for who I am not what I do. I have learnt to accept my current situation while acknowledging my feelings. I have learnt to really love and listen to my body. I have learnt to communicate on a new level with my husband. I have learnt that I will not crumble, that I have an inner strength and I have learnt that I can be happy on this journey.
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