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Welcome!

This blog addresses various emotional aspects of experiencing infertility. It is written by a clinical psychologist who specializes in infertility counseling. Thank you for reading, and best of luck with your journey!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

When she's pregnant and you're not: infertility, envy, and acceptance

One significant psychological challenge for those encountering infertility is dealing with the constant stream of pregnancies in the lives around them. Whether it is at work, with friends or family, or just walking down the street or through the mall, pregnancy is everywhere. When I first was diagnosed with infertility, this struck me as unfair--how could everyone else move on with their life goals when I was completely stuck? Even now, I am occasionally caught off guard by my reaction to the pregnancy of others. The other day, my neighbor, who is a lovely and wonderful woman, stopped by to invite me to her son's birthday party, as well as to announce she was pregnant with her third child (a fact which I had sussed out weeks before...but more on that later). "I just had a third one in my heart. What about you?", she asked. Without thinking too much, I blurted out, "Wow, it never even occurred to me that it could just be up to my heart!"....and created yet another of my trademark awkward social moments.

Thanks to research done on those struggling with infertility, as well as my own clinical work, I know that, unfortunately, I'm not alone in these types of responses. In this post, I will explore some of the common reactions that people experiencing infertility have to the pregnancies of others, and will also suggest some coping strategies that may be useful in dealing with these feelings.

The dark side

One distressing facet of infertility is that it can bring up feelings that we'd rather not experience. Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to reactions to the pregnancies of other women. Although reactions to pregnancies will vary, depending on the people and situations involved, it is quite likely some of them will include intense negative feelings such as envy, jealousy, and anger. While understandable, this is often very difficult for people to tolerate. If a person is not used to feeling this way and is not consciously aware of their capacities for these feelings, it can be very shocking to be confronted with such negative emotions. I frequently hear clients berating themselves because despite their best efforts, they can't "just be happy" for the pregnant woman, and instead are flooded with envy and anger. I have also heard countless confessions of clients who shamefully admitted they imagined hitting, tripping, or yelling at pregnant women on the street. (As you might expect, these were just fantasies--no pregnant women were ever harmed!) And all of these clients hated that they felt this way.

Most people are very uncomfortable acknowledging their own capacities for negative emotions. And yet, they exist in us all, despite our efforts to keep them out of consciousness. I think they are probably "hardwired" into our emotional system, in order to give us the energy and the will to protect ourselves from physical harm. Dealing with them is a little trickier in modern day society, in which harmful situations often don't require a physical response, but a psychological one.

Like it or not, the natural psychological response to seeing someone else get something you desperately want, and for which you have been working very hard to achieve, involves feelings of envy and anger at the unfairness of it all. Add to the mix that the desire to have children is usually very strong and a fundamental part of life, and the stage is set for some very strong feelings and emotional reactions. Unfortunately, I don't really see a way around it. You can, and should, control your actions around these feelings--for instance, not acting on the urge to trip that nice pregnant lady--but you can't just will your feelings out of existence.

Thus, the first step to dealing with these feelings is to remember that even though they are unpleasant, they are normal. Beating yourself up for having them really isn't fair, and it's probably not going to change how you feel. Although you may have to live with these feelings, you can find ways to cope with them so that they are not too overwhelming.

The invention of "pregdar"

I'm not the kind of person who loves a surprise, particularly when it's the kind of surprise that is going to send me into an unpleasant emotional tailspin. When I was in the beginning of my infertility treatment, I was not attuned to the pregnancy plans, or slight changes in behavior or appearance, of the women around me. However, a few painful pregnancy disclosures later, I had learned to spot the telltale signs of early pregnancy. While I am not always right, overall I have a pretty good track record. My "pregdar" has been very helpful to me, because if I could anticipate a pregnancy before it is announced, I had the luxury of processing my negative feelings in advance and in private. Now, I am not suggesting you make every woman you see pee on a stick, but I do think it is helpful to be aware of the possibilities and anticipate upsetting pregnancies ahead of time.

Being honest about your feelings

Sometimes just being honest about how you feel may be useful, although it will not work, nor would it be appropriate, in every situation. If the pregnant woman in question is a good friend or relative, yet you are finding yourself having negative emotions about her pregnancy, telling her about them gives the two of you the chance to process these feelings together. Chances are, if you say it nicely, and she's an important person in your life, she is going to understand how you feel. She may be worried about your reaction anyway, and will welcome the chance to discuss it. Many times, after these negative feelings are discussed, they greatly lessen in intensity, making room for more positive feelings, including "just being happy" for the other person.

If all else fails...

Of course, there are some situations in which you just can't process your feelings with the pregnant person. And others in which processing these feelings did not produce the desired result. Further, there are some pregnant women to whom, for various reasons, you will react to more strongly. In these cases, avoidance can be a useful short-term strategy. Much has been written about this strategy already, so I won't belabor the point. But remember, you can give yourself permission to skip the baby shower or bow out of pregnancy related conversations when possible. Although it's not ideal, you are just a human being, and you have your limits, just like everyone else. Acknowledging them, at least to yourself, can give you the freedom to control when and where your negative emotions are experienced and expressed.

In sum, although negative emotional reactions to the pregnancies of others can be distressing, they are understandable and to be expected. Accepting and acknowledging these feelings allows you to be more in control of when and how you express them. As these feelings are not exclusive to infertility treatment, learning to deal with them now may be one of those little "fringe benefits" of the current situation, because in the future, when they are stirred up again, you will have a coping strategy already in place.

23 comments:

  1. Thank you thank you for posting this, and for reminding me that I am not a bad person for turning away from pregnant people and turning down baby shower invites. I have always struggled with these feelings. I now go around assuming that every one of my married friends is pregnant, and will announce it any time, so I am not surprised when I hear an announcement.

    I love your writing and read it religiously. Thank you once again for your insight and for being so understanding.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The video presentation shows you some unique and rare tips on how to reverse almost any type of infertility disorder and get pregnant naturally in just 60 short days even if you're on your late 30's or 40's.

      This is based on the latest scientific research on how to stop the actual CAUSE of 97% of infertility disorders.

      For more info please click on the following link: how to treat infertility

      Talk soon.















      .

      Delete
  2. This is another useful post for me. Just found out that one of my best friends is expecting again...after only one try...and is pregnant naturally with fraternal twins. I've been nauseous with envy the past two days.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for your insights. My infertile friend won't talk about it or go see her newborn nephew. Everyone is in pain. How can we help?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for your post. I stumbled upon it while researching on infertility issues, and what you said really resonated with how I have been feeling the past few months. My married peers are getting pregnant so easily all around me even though they got married later than me. And it still gets to me each time to find out about it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for your blog! It's the only comfort I've had in 4 years knowing that I am not the only one feeling so angry and hopeless over infertility. Thank you also for not making us infertile women out to be "bad" people so may blogs (family & friends) paint us in a negative light.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I needed this post so badly. I've been so disgusted with the amount of jealousy I feel towards other women that are expecting. A sister in law just got pregnant in the first month of trying. When they announced it at a family dinner I bawled. The worst part was feeling like everyone must think that I am SUCH A JERK.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been there... when my SIL announced her first pregnancy at a family party they specially threw for the occasion, I felt the room start to spin, and immediately went to the bathroom to cry my eyes out. Since then, she's had two MORE pregnancies (she's basically been pregnant nonstop for three years), and we're still struggling to conceive. I think my envy has subsided a bit, but I still find it extremely difficult to be around her. Sometimes I wonder if this isn't all just a cruel joke specifically aimed at us, but I know that isn't rational. :-(

      Delete
  7. It feels good to find out that I am not the only one who has been feeling this way. My husband and I have been TTC for a year without success, while my friends seem to be getting pregnant left and right. It really hurts me when the ask am I ever going to have children. I just tell them that we will when the Lord is ready for us to have them. But that doesn't help me to feel any better. I don't think they are asking to rub it in but I feel like they are because they have multiple children.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I really needed this today. I turned 40 in October and I've been pregnant 9 times and have no children. Due to 2 severe ectopics, I no longer have fallopian tubes. IVF is my only hope and I am just coming out of a cancelled cycle. My BEST friend of 25 years learned 5 months ago that she had severe endometriosis, cysts, a blocked tube, low ovarian reserve, AMH of 0.41 and is in the stages of premenopause. She just got a positive pregnancy test, naturally and I am (as another poster commented) nauseous with envy. I tried to explain my feelings to her and how they were separate from my happiness for her, but she didn't want to hear it. She told me that maybe we shouldn't talk for a while. 25 years. Is there nothing in my life safe from infertility?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heather, I'm so sorry to hear this has happened for you. Infertility does seem to infiltrate every aspect of our lives at times. Add things and reactions from others like this on top and it feels so unfair.

      Delete
    2. These kind of emotions run so deep it is really difficult for us to predict how we, or others, will react to them. So sorry to hear that your friend wasn't capable of supporting you.

      Delete
    3. Don’t think of anything else just contact priest eka and purchase some of his herbal medication and your depression will go away. This was my state of mind when my doctor told me that i will not be able to concieve due to the Fibroid that was rolling in my family life and when i decide to reach out to the priest, and the priest told me what to do in other to get the medication. Eventually I receive all the Herbal medications that cure my Fibroid and give me the chance to become a proud mother: Eka is a great spiritualist, He did it for me, you can contact Eka on (dreka14demons@gmail.com). If you are suffering from the following gynecology disease::
      1. Fibroid, Asthma, All STD, sinus infection
      2.High Blood Pressure (herbs to reduce your BP within 7days)
      3. Infection, regular body pains (yeast infection),urine tract infection.
      4. Blockage from the fallopian Tube
      5. Cyst from the ovaries
      6. Unpleasant smell from the virginal, virginal itching
      7. Irregular menstruation
      8. Weakness of the penis (not able to have sex with your partner or inability to satisfy your partner sexually)
      9. Watering sperm (low sperm count) not able to get woman pregnant.
      10. Infertility for easy Conception.......
      11. Skin diseases, Toilet infection and bad body odor…….Etc..
      Simply contact the spiritualist DrEka on (dreka14demons@gmail.com) to get his Herbal Medication to cure your disease and put yourself on a motherhood side of life..

      Delete
  9. Thank you for this post. I had been feeling so frustrated at myself for my feelings of jealousy and hurt. We have just had a negative result to a transfer and I had hoped to tell my immediate family some good news this past weekend. I had no news yet my sister in law announced her pregnancy instead. I know I don't 'own' getting pregnant but as she is a psychologist I had discussed with her some of my fear and anxiety with her in the lead up to the negative result. She knew my timing and plans. I know she wouldn't have done anything intentionally to hurt me but I feel like salt has just been rubbed into my wounds. Now my sister and sister in law are pregnant and I am still at fertility treatment :( Thank you for helping me feel OK with posts like this to know I am still 'normal'

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow thank you so much. I'm 23 and have been married for 3 years. My husband and I have been trying for the past year and I recently found out I suffer from infertility. It just hurts because I can't get on Facebook without hearing that 3 more people are pregnant. Teens, and friends who aren't married and ones who have been married for less time. I have friends on their second child. I always believed my sister and I would raise our children together and now she is raising her daughter with her SIL's son and I just feel like I can't deal with it. Everyone keeps asking When we will have children and my in laws want grandchildren so bad they are constantly reminding us. My husband is so supportive but I just harbor so many negative emotions towards all of these women who are getting pregnant or having babies. I Force myself to push the 'like' butting on their posts even when they make me sick. I'm glad to know I am not alone and this is not abnormal for me to feel like this.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I want to thank fountain waters spiritual coven for what they did for me, I married my husband for the past 5years without a child, I have search for every means to get pregnant but all to no avail, my husband have even threaten to divorce me because I can't get pregnant, so one day a friend of mine told me about a spiritual coven who have been helping people getting pregnant and getting their loved ones back, so I decided to email them if they can help me solve my problem, so I contacted them and they told me my problem was solved that they are going to send me a pregnancy child portion to drink and I had sex with my husband that I will get pregnant, so I did it with my husband as directed by them and finally I got pregnant. All appreciation and thanks goes to fountain waters. If u want to get in contact with them, email: fountainwatercoven@yahoo.com Or whatsapp them on +2349054913842

    ReplyDelete
  12. The video presentation shows you some unique and rare tips on how to reverse almost any type of infertility disorder and get pregnant naturally in just 60 short days even if you're on your late 30's or 40's.

    This is based on the latest scientific research on how to stop the actual CAUSE of 97% of infertility disorders.

    For more info please click on the following link: infertility Causes Male Female and Treatment

    Talk soon.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm comforted that so many of you are feeling the same as I am. I’m sending you all love and strength.

    Every single one of my close friends is pregnant or have children, my sisters, sister in law, cousins. It’s unbearable. When 2 of my best friends told me they were pregnant early this year and of course conceived straight away. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach.

    One of my best friends has had her 2nd baby (conceived straight away). All she does is moan about tiredness or feeling unwell. I would love nothing more than that. I feel so angry at times that it’s taken for granted and as much as I love her, I need to distance myself from her as it’s too hard to be around.

    I find I resent others for constantly posting pictures on social media of their children as if to gloat. Do they have no awareness of those that may not be able to conceive? For those desperately trying? I feel like people just don’t see.

    We have now been trying for 3 months and nothing. Sex feels like a chore and it is now causing huge tension between us. I think because we both want it so much. I feel this could even end our marriage as I’m so stressed and think about it every hour of every day. I feel utterly low, helpless and desperate for that missed period when we can finally have our turn.

    I’m definitely struggling to stay positive as I'm sure you can tell. I hope you women out there, in the same boat as me are able to conceive speedily and we all get our time to become mothers. I’m sending you all love xx

    ReplyDelete
  14. Don’t think of anything else just contact priest eka and purchase some of his herbal medication and your depression will go away. This was my state of mind when my doctor told me that i will not be able to concieve due to the Fibroid that was rolling in my family life and when i decide to reach out to the priest, and the priest told me what to do in other to get the medication. Eventually I receive all the Herbal medications that cure my Fibroid and give me the chance to become a proud mother: Eka is a great spiritualist, He did it for me, you can contact Eka on (dreka14demons@gmail.com). If you are suffering from the following gynecology disease::
    1. Fibroid, Asthma, All STD, sinus infection
    2.High Blood Pressure (herbs to reduce your BP within 7days)
    3. Infection, regular body pains (yeast infection),urine tract infection.
    4. Blockage from the fallopian Tube
    5. Cyst from the ovaries
    6. Unpleasant smell from the virginal, virginal itching
    7. Irregular menstruation
    8. Weakness of the penis (not able to have sex with your partner or inability to satisfy your partner sexually)
    9. Watering sperm (low sperm count) not able to get woman pregnant.
    10. Infertility for easy Conception.......
    11. Skin diseases, Toilet infection and bad body odor…….Etc..
    Simply contact the spiritualist DrEka on (dreka14demons@gmail.com) to get his Herbal Medication to cure your disease and put yourself on a motherhood side of life..

    ReplyDelete
  15. Yes when i have pregnant this all step act on me so I have to say that for the last few of hours i have been hooked by the impressive articles on this website. Keep up the wonderful work and if you want more info about this topic then visit Pregnancy miracle book

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    ReplyDelete