Before I ever thought about trying to become pregnant I remember hearing friends who were having trouble conceiving describe how painful it was to see a friend pregnant or to buy them a baby gift. At the time this so-called fertile myrtle jealousy struck me as petty because someone else getting pregnant obviously has no bearing on your ability to conceive. Fast forward a few years to time when I couldn’t get pregnant myself...and my inner cave woman came out.
A Good Friend Isn’t Jealous of her Pregnant Friends - Right?
It was rough to see friends get pregnant and deliver their babies while I have yet to see a plus sign on a pregnancy test. But I still liked seeing their wonderful pregnancy announcements, maternity pictures, newborn pictures, monthly age pictures, holiday pictures, cute stories, and milestone excitement on social media. Or so I told myself.
I couldn't be jealous because I am a good friend. I am a good person. I am happy for good things to happen to others. Then one day I ran into an acquaintance from high school and her two small children. My immediate, back-of-brain thought was “what has she done to deserve to have two beautiful little girls?” Whoa Nelly! I had officially lost it. This was not fertile myrtle jealousy - this was full on fertile myrtle rage.
After admitting that this jealousy was indeed seething inside me like a primitive instinct that I felt little control over, I decided that I needed a game plan. It was very likely that I would soon explode in an ugly and unfair way on someone who certainly didn’t deserve it. Here are 8 tips that worked for me:
1. Avoidance is OK
Avoidance might be necessary. If you can’t go to that baby shower - don’t. A good friend should understand that it isn’t an act of selfishness, but rather an act of self-care. Send a gift card if looking at itty-bitty baby gear is simply too much.
2. Connection is Helpful
I felt a lot better after speaking to one one my fertility-challenged friends. We both confessed our jealousy/rage and had a good laugh at ourselves (and how terrible our inside head thoughts sounded coming out of our mouths). It felt better to know that I wasn’t the only one thinking the way I was. It’s also nice to have someone you trust validate your experience.
3. Take a Social Media Vacation
Perhaps you need a little time unplugged. Baby announcements etc. (see extensive list of baby-related triggers above) from people you don’t even know seem to be pretty much guaranteed. New addition announcements always get enough “likes” for the Facebook algorithm to be sure that you need to see pictures of a your cousin’s colleagues’s fourth child.
4. Get Ready for The Questions
If you are of a certain age or in a committed relationship, it is very likely that people will start to ask about your plans to reproduce. You might choose to have a few stock replies ready for the baby-related questions to avoid thinking violent things. Some of our greatest hits included the strong hint of, “Oh well, you know how it goes. You can’t control everything.” Or my husband’s guaranteed conversation ender: “We are still practicing. Lot’s of practicing.”
Continue to lie to people if it is the easiest thing to do. “How great for you!” and “We are excited for you!” can robotically roll of your tongue because deep down, you know that it is true. You just have a rage cloud blocking the brainwaves telling you this is the truth.
6. Don’t Lose Your Cool
It is obviously not a good idea to lose it in a bad way on some poor unsuspecting pregnant friend or new mom. The situation may suck for you - but you don’t need it to suck for them too. This fertile myrtle-related feeling can be really hard to understand unless you have been there too. Unloading on someone at such a pivotal moment in their life also as the potential to be relationship impacting in a permanent sort of way.
7. Demonstrate Understanding
Pass on the love to other fertility-challenged folks in need. You are likely to come across someone else in your life who may also be dealing with infertility. Help deflect awkward conversations at family gatherings, give them a clear out on baby-related events. Show the kind of compassion that would have been helpful to you.
8. Brace for Baby-Related Complaining
People are likely to continue to complain about how demanding babies are. Babies will continue to not sleep, poop up to their necks, cry for extended periods of time for no apparent reason etc.. You may want to rage out about how lucky people are to have these experiences, but keep in mind that this complaining is just a new parent coping mechanism. Baby-related grievances are not a personal affront to those who dream of the privilege of being kept awake all night by babies. It’s just a way for new parents to survive a new reality.
Darn it, this jealousy deal is the real thing. I didn’t like how I felt, but it was so true and deep into my core that I couldn’t pretend it didn’t exist. I don’t think it is a free pass to exercise your feelings, but rather to be aware of how you feel and plan ahead to care for yourself and those around you. While it may be possible to cope, be prepared that the feelings may not completely go away. Dialing the rage back down to a dull jealousy is the best that this cave woman managed to do.