How Can I Handle Pregnancy Jealousy?
I’m struggling with infertility. How do I handle feeling jealous of a pregnant friend?
It's completely normal to be conflicted. You feel jealous of your friend because she has something you want but cannot have right now. That makes perfect sense. You don't need to feel guilty about having these feelings, but you do need to give yourself a break.
A compassionate thought to have about your feelings could be: "I'm happy for my friend but sad for me." It's ok to wish your friend well and, at the same time, feel sad or disappointed about your own loss. Ignoring those feelings, pushing them away, or feeling guilty about them does not change the fact that you are upset. You have to honor those feelings. Try to accept that you are upset about your own situation and that makes it difficult (or maybe impossible) to feel happy for your friend right now.
Your experience is very common among women who are having difficulties getting pregnant. While you don't need to feel guilty about your feelings, there are things you can do to relieve frustration and jealousy.
Here are some suggestions:
Talk to your friend. You can be honest with her and tell her that you're happy for her but also a little jealous at the same time. Communicating your feelings in a constructive and honest way can help you – and those who want to support you. Most likely, your friend will understand what you're going through.
Take a step back when you need to. If certain gatherings or celebrations, such as baby showers, are too painful for you, give yourself permission not to attend. You can be honest about why you need to take a pass or just decline the invitation without giving a reason. Don't feel guilty about taking care of yourself.
(Send a gift to avoid hurting anyone's feelings, but choose children's books or an online gift certificate to spare yourself a visit to a baby products store.)
Try out a support group. Experiencing infertility while your other friends are getting pregnant can be very isolating. Cultivating relationships with women who can relate to your struggle will give you support from a community that understands you. And talking with women who are going through similar experiences will help you realize that you are not alone and that your feelings are normal.
Resolve: The National Infertility Association offers a list of support groups by state.
Diversify your interests. When you give a lot of attention to just one aspect of your life, you can burn out in that area while other parts of your life suffer. Refocus on things such as your family, work, or hobbies. Trying new activities can also distract you from the stress and disappointment of infertility. Although it's important to acknowledge those feelings, it can also help to reengage with other rewarding parts of your life.
Talk with a therapist. Struggling with infertility or undergoing treatment for it is stressful and time consuming, and talking with a professional who understands what you are going through can make the process seem much more manageable. If you feel overwhelmed and stressed out, are having relationship difficulties, or feel jealous of your pregnant friends, having a safe place to discuss your problems can be extremely helpful. A therapist can also help if you are struggling with a specific issue, such as whether to stop treatment.
If you decide you could benefit from talking to a therapist, look for one with expertise in reproductive medicine. Resolve also offers a list of mental health professionals.
Take control where you can. One of the most difficult aspects of infertility is feeling completely out of control of your body. But you can take control of your response to that by communicating your needs with friends, reaching out to a support group or therapist, or focusing on other parts of your life. All these things will help you realize that you still do have a lot of control during this process.
You also have the power to learn new coping skills to handle the unfair situation you find yourself in. It can be easy to get caught in negative thinking patterns that will only make matters worse: "I'll never get pregnant" or "I should have tried to get pregnant before, and now it's too late."
Instead, remind yourself that your fertility problem is not your fault and find ways to bring positivity and resilience back into your life. If that seems unmanageable on your own, reach out for professional help. Even though this is a very difficult time in your life, you can feel better and move through it with strength.