Why is it when you’re trying not to think too much about something, it’s all you see? When you’re dieting, every commercial is for pizza and ice cream. When you’re dreading back to school, every display in the grocery store is tormenting you with shiny new pencils. And when you’re trying to conceive (TTC), pregnant ladies pop up like dandelions all over the place.
For some women TTC, pregnancy announcements, baby showers, and even events with kids of friends and family can be emotionally gut wrenching. They are reminders of what they so desperately want but haven’t yet been able to achieve. Jealousy isn’t exactly a trait someone strives for, which leads one to feeling guilty and wondering if she’s being selfish. It can turn into a torturous cycle of pain and self-loathing.
Do I know all this from my own TTC experience? Not exactly, but I sure know the feelings described above all too well. I experienced them in my twenties when it seemed every trip to the mailbox brought another invitation to a wedding I’d be attending as a singleton. All I wanted was to be starting a family with the right guy. Instead I was getting a collection of cocktail and bridesmaid dresses I’d never wear again. And I hated it. I didn’t hate that my friends were finding amazing men to marry and be happy with. I loved that part. I genuinely squealed in delight at each engagement announcement. And I was honored to attend, and especially to be a part of my closest friends’ ceremonies (and luckily, they all picked great bridesmaids dresses, too!). But I hated that somewhere in the back of my head, or my heart, I felt jealous and sad. It made me feel like an awful friend, an awful person.
Since then I’ve begun to learn, with the help of a few friends who give great advice on the subject, that no one should feel guilty for their emotions.
If you feel something, there’s a reason you feel that way. It’s not healthy to plaster on a smile and bury it, and it’s even worse to chastise yourself for it. I still might hold something in until I reach the car, turn on the shower, have dinner with a friend, or am on the phone with my mom, but I’m getting to a point where I can be a little more open about how I feel, at least to those closest to me.
So, yes, there are moments when I occasionally feel a pang of jealously or longing when I spend time with my nieces and nephew, or when a coworker announces she’s pregnant, or even walking through the maternity department at Target to get to the dressing rooms—I can’t help it, some of those tops are adorable. But rather than hate myself for feeling something completely normal, I’m learning to acknowledge it, deal with it (shopping therapy, anyone?), and then enjoy the high of sharing in another’s happiness.
And, surprisingly, it’s a lot easier than you think, especially when one of those quickly growing bundles of joy looks at you and says “Aunnie” for the first time. (He’s still working on that ‘t’.)