When Pregnancy Announcements Attack, Part III
Hello, I’ve been reading your column for a while and I really love it. I’ve never seen this type of question before, but I didn’t really go through the archives, so I apologize if you’ve seen it before.
OK, so my husband and I have been trying to conceive for over a year now, which has clearly been one big FAIL. I have an appointment with an RE to see what our next steps are. My problem lies more with the fact that in this last year or two my friends and family have been baby making machines and are popping the little ones like crazy. I really am so happy for them. I love seeing the babies, pinching their cheeks etc. And I would never want to deny any of them their joy in being mothers. But, I’ve noticed that as we’ve crossed the big one year mark, and beyond, it’s becoming much harder to keep the smile going. It’s getting harder to go to Facebook, and see all the pics of the adorable babies, to hear the new mothers complain about not getting any sleep (though, please know, I do not begrudge anyone with a legitimate complaint. Being up all night with a crying infant is certainly complaint worthy, it’s just hard to hear.), or to hear another “we’re pregnant!!!”. I can avoid it to a point, but really it’s everywhere and unless I want to never go on the internet, talk to my friends or listen to my mom’s family updates, there is really no way around this baby boom.
So, here is the question. How do I not become an embittered hag? It really is getting harder and harder. Some friends know about our issues, some don’t. But it doesn’t really matter. I don’t want anyone to be afraid to share something baby related with me because I may breakdown in tears or say some snide comment. Example, recently some friends of ours shared the news that they’re going to have a baby. My husband didn’t tell me for two weeks because he didn’t want to hurt me. I was shocked that he wouldn’t tell me, and said that I could handle it, then I broke down in tears.
I don’t want to be “that women” who nobody feels they can share their baby stuff with. But I have to admit, it’s getting really hard to not get, well bitter when every negative pregnancy test just break my heart a little more and everywhere I go I’m surrounded with happy baby news for everyone else. How do I continue being a good friend and being happy for my friends and family, when all I want to do is cry because I may never have a baby of my own?
Thank you so much,
Trying not to be Bitter
Personally, I think the feelings and emotions and turmoil surrounding infertility can be viewed in a similar way as anxiety or panic. If you’ve never been treated for either, the general therapy line is something like this: Don’t fight it. When you feel that lump in your throat or that pang in your gut, don’t immediately go all no no no no not happening gah gah gah, because basically you cause your brain to unleash a secondary wave of anxiety about your anxiety. Instead, acknowledge it. Okay, there it is. I’m feeling this way right now. Let’s deal with it and move on.
In other words, you shouldn’t HAVE to fight off all of these emotions all the time. It’s OKAY TO CRY. There’s nothing in your question that suggests that you are anywhere close to teetering on the edge of Bitter Hagdom. So you burst into tears in front of your husband. Dude, he’s exactly who you SHOULD be able to burst into tears in front of.
I am pretty sure that most women who have struggled to conceive (this advice columnist included) have totally faked the “I’m so happy for yooooouuuu” thing in public. To coworkers, Facebook friends, real friends, even to people we don’t like very much to begin with. And you know what, I think that’s okay sometimes too. I’m not saying, for example, that this woman’s response from a previous column was correct or mature, but it was still pretty UNDERSTANDABLE, in the grand scheme of things. And as you can see from the comments, most pregnant women DO understand how you feel, and WANT to be sensitive and respectful to your pain/grief/bitterness. So please, don’t beat yourself up for having a perfectly natural reaction to your situation. IT. SUCKS. And it always seems like everybody and their dog is pregnant and none of them understand how you feel.
I’m sure some people might suggest “stuff to take your mind off it.” Take up a hobby! Go outside more! Take a vacation! Get a puppy! Enjoy your carefree child-free days! And you know, it’s probably good, mature advice and all, but I dunno. I’m not saying you wallow in it (and hey, we DID get a puppy for this exact reason, and it DID help a lot), but I also don’t want to patronize you with the idea that knitting or scrapbooking will somehow lessen the pain of not having the one. thing. you. want. more. than. anything. In the world. Of all time!
What you probably need, though, is a safe place to express how you feel, once you’re done with the stony smiles and gritted-teeth “congratulations” and holding of Other People’s Babies. Start an anonymous little blog or join a message board (I have no specific site recommendations these days, so…readers? Any good TTC/IF boards out there that are low on the blinkies and baby dust and higher on the snark/honesty?). Find a place where you can talk about this stuff without fear of being judged as That Woman. Check out the amazing blogroll over at Stirrup-Queens.com and find some kindred blogging spirits. (Actually, just check out EVERYTHING at Stirrup-Queens.com. It’s pretty much the best infertility resource I can think of these days.) Let it OUT, either through your words or the occasional crying jag.
So while I hammer home the idea that it’s OKAY to feel how you feel, that it’s NATURAL, I do want to warn you about one thing, because it happened to me and really took me by surprise: The bitterness and wounds of infertility don’t just magically go away once you get pregnant. I was shocked to find that even though I was pregnant and everything was going okay and I had a pretty reasonable hope that I was going to end up with a baby, I was still just as thrown by other pregnancy announcements, particularly by women who didn’t experience a struggle. I distinctly remember being completely irrationally annoyed by the birth of another woman’s baby when I was practically in the third trimester — but that woman had announced her pregnancy just a few weeks before I found out I was pregnant, and I had cried and been upset and jealous (OH, SO JEALOUS). And I had a really hard time letting go of those feelings.
So. While you may feel alone and miserable and bitter within your current social circle, you AREN’T really, within the very large and real and understanding circle of your fellow infertiles. I wrote about it, I read what dozens of other women wrote about it, and I found a couple of online friends who I could randomly send overly rant-y emails about WHO WAS PREGNANT NOW OMG KILL ME without fear of being thought of as a jealous, seething bitch. (Which I was, maybe, in that moment. But by allowing myself to have that moment, I was better able to sack up and move on and NOT be a jealous, seething bitch 24/7. More like 23/6, I suppose.)
Photo by Bah Humbug