Today I’m delving into a topic that has been on my mind quite a bit lately.
It runs rampant on the fertility journey.
The green-eyed monster has long been a big part of my life. I’ve always been a late bloomer, and a bit of a misfit. I’ve often felt like I’m on the outside looking in. It’s a lonely place to be, and is a classic recipe for a perpetual state of envy.
I didn’t meet my husband until I was 34. When I was single, I was busy but lonely. I wanted to find love and have a boyfriend, and it seemed everyone around me was partnered up. I envied them.
After my husband and I had been dating for a while, I was antsy to get engaged and married. Everyone around me was married, it seemed, and I envied them too.
Then, after we were married and were trying to grow our family, it seemed that pregnant ladies and babies were everywhere. It was hard seeing happy families out everywhere enjoying each other, and I really envied them.
Suffice to say, I’m experienced at envying others who have what I wished for.
Still, the desire to have a child can be so hard-wired into a woman that the envy of a childless woman is like no other. The desire to have a child is so palpable, and so raw and emotional. When you want to be a mother so badly, and you see people around you with their families, it really gets us right at our core.
Especially at this time of year. The holidays are all about family, and if your family isn’t what you want it to be – either you don’t have a family, or you’re trying to expand your family and are suffering from secondary infertility – it can propel you into the depths of despair.
The holiday season during the year that I was trying to conceive was particularly painful. My husband’s family was gathering in California – the complete opposite side of the country from us – for the holiday. By the time Christmas rolled around, I’d had two miscarriages in a six-month period. I’d also had a cancelled IUI cycle, and having a baby was beginning to feel pretty out of reach.
I knew that spending the happy holiday with my one sister-in-law, and her kids, would be hard – and with my other sister-in-law and her kid that she conceived on the first try, would be unbearable. So rather than plan a long visit, we went out just for Christmas and came back home.
Yep, we flew all the way out to California – a 5-hour flight each way and hundreds of dollars – for a day and a half.
This is part of my past now, but I haven’t forgotten.
I’ve been told by others that they envy me because I successfully got pregnant and had a baby despite the heavy odds against me. I get this, and if I were in their shoes, I’d envy somebody like me too.
But I think they’d be very surprised to hear that sometimes I envy them. I envy their ability to do whatever they want whenever they want, from going to a movie, to meeting a friend for lunch, to going on an impromptu weekend getaway.
I remember those days. I travelled all over the world, ran marathons, volunteered in my community, hung out with my friends. I was up on all the new hotspots in town. Now, I turn into a pumpkin every night at 7:30 when my son goes to bed, and weekend events are coordinated around mid-afternoon nap schedules. If I want to go out without my son, it requires several weeks of advance planning (and many reminders) to make sure my husband can watch him.
Obviously, I’m not complaining, and I wouldn’t change my circumstances. My son was very much planned for and very much wanted. I went through a lot to have him. I remember life before he came along, but it’s really hard now to imagine my life without him. I love him more than I ever knew I could love another living thing.
Still, it’s hard not to remember the taste of freedom and miss it sometimes – and envy people who still have it.
Envy is a part of the human experience, and it affects all of us. I think that feeling envy is natural and healthy, and it’s okay. Sometimes it can even be a good thing — being envious of something that someone else has can inspire us to up our game – to perhaps stretch our goals a little further than we would have otherwise. And this is great.
When the green-eyed monster can become a problem, I think, is when we allow it to affect our outlook.
The key is to keep envy from allowing us to become bitter, angry or spiteful, at ourselves or toward another person. This is when feelings of envy can become unhealthy.
Allow yourself to feel the envy. All too often, we’re told to “suck it up” or “just deal with it” when we’re upset. Especially as women, we’ve been conditioned to feel that being envious of others is wrong, and that we need to be gracious. This is a tremendous disservice to our feelings. Not only is it okay, it’s vital, to recognize our feelings and be with them, really own them. By doing so, that helps us manage them so that we can live with them in a healthy way.
I’ve recently started telling people when I envy them, or have envied them in the past, for (insert reason here). In most cases, they’ve been shocked to hear this, and I’ve felt a great weight lift off my shoulders from being honest and living with true authenticity. So next time you feel envious, recognize it for what it is, process it, and then you’ll be able to better move on from it.
Recognize that the envy is usually about ourselves, and doesn’t have anything to do with the other person. Obviously, all those years that I spent envying everybody else for having what I wanted would have been better spent by focusing on myself and resolving whatever it was within me that was causing me to feel that unhappiness. It’s hard work to do, and can be incredibly painful, but it’s worth it to get to a place of greater peace within ourselves. It makes it easier for when you get that pregnancy announcement from a friend — you can feel those pangs of jealousy, but know that deep down it’s not that you don’t wish that for her, it’s that you do wish it for yourself. And it will be easier to genuinely be happy for her.
Remind yourself that there’s nothing wrong with you. This is where I sometimes get tripped up. When single me saw everybody else happily coupled up, I wondered what was wrong with me that I couldn’t find love. When I was surrounded by pregnant women I wondered why everyone could have a family but me. Even today, when something undesirable happens in my life I wonder what I did wrong. So I still battle with this but recognizing it is the first step. I’m trying to be better at telling myself that there’s nothing wrong with me when things don’t go as planned – and truly loving myself. This isn’t easy either, and I don’t always believe myself when I tell myself I’m a good person – even if intellectually I know it’s true.
And there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re a beautiful, perfect woman, inside and out, and no matter what happens along your fertility path, you are beautiful just the way that you are.
The bottom line is that you likely won’t ever “get over” the envy. But you can manage it in a healthy way so that it doesn’t cripple your life.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Leave a comment below!
Lots and lots of love to you,
[originally appeared at B Fit, B Fertile on 12/15/16]