If you’re anything like me, you’ll be used to that pit in your stomach whenever one of your friends announces, “we’ve got news!”. The constant influx of pregnancy announcements from friends, colleagues and social media is a relentless reminder that the whole world is getting pregnant and you’re not. For me, it seemed as though as soon as we opened up about our fertility issues, the volume of pregnancies in our immediate circle seemed to double. It was like salt in an already open and sore wound and repeated knocks against my own feelings of failure.
I always knew deep in my heart that I had to try and feel happy for couples and try to understand their joy; after all, what they were experiencing was our ultimate wish. And of course, I did. Admittedly, the principal feeling I was experiencing was jealousy. Not in a spiteful way, but in a “I wish that was happening to us” way.
Over the years there are certain ways I’ve learned to try and deal with other people getting pregnant while we’ve been coping with failed IVF cycles, a miscarriage and the persistent ‘Not Pregnant’ window on tests. These little tricks never take the pain away, but they’re hopefully reminders that the way you’re feeling is entirely normal and that you’re certainly not alone.
- Don’t feel bad for feeling bad. Trying to exude joy for something others have been given that you have been denied is extremely difficult, however the people in your life who know what you’re going through should be compassionate and understanding as to how hard it is for you, so give yourself a break. If you need to put some distance between yourself and the pregnant person for a while, do that. If you need to decline the invitation to the baby shower, do that. If you know something is going to make you feel worse about your own situation there is absolutely no shame in avoiding it. Self-protection is paramount, however don’t alienate yourself from your friends altogether. I find texting is a great way to keep in touch without actually having to face the pregnancy head on.
- Scream if you want to. I am a firm believer in expressing your feelings. And there are times when battling infertility where it is perfectly acceptable, if not mandatory, to scream, cry, or just have a good old rant. On my birthday last year I heard 3 pregnancy announcements in the space of a few hours. I remember just crying hysterically, it was as though I physically couldn’t take anymore. Afterwards I felt better and more balanced. And that is absolutely key; you need to find your own balance, your own peace of mind as much as you can and if that means screaming in the middle of a field then go for it! You’d be surprised how great it can feel.
- Find your people. When my infertility was first diagnosed the overriding feeling I experienced was isolation. Certainly, at that time we didn’t know any other couples battling infertility. I decided to search the internet for infertility chat rooms or blogs and couldn’t believe how many people I found. I then decided to start my own blog which connected me with thousands of women experiencing infertility in one way or another. Now whenever I feel lost, or just need to be reminded that we’re not alone, I simply log on and tap into my sisterhood, who are all wonderfully supportive, uplifting and most importantly always there for me. I may not know these people in real life, but we’re connected in a way that will bond us together forever.
- Find a fertility clinic that supports you. Personally, every time I went to my fertility clinic I felt a feeling of failure and vulnerability, particularly when I thought about my friends and colleagues just along the corridor in the maternity unit experiencing boundless joy while I was praying my eggs were still functioning. It’s therefore so important to have a fertility clinic who will look after you emotionally as well as physically. I can’t tell you the number of couples I’ve spoken to who have had unsupportive fertility clinics, which just makes the journey needlessly harder. Granted, their main job is to assist you clinically, but I strongly believe there needs to be an element of support and compassion that goes along with that. Just a friendly smile, or a sympathetic ear can go such a long way to alleviating some of the worry and heartache couples experience during treatment.
- Don’t compare your journey with other peoples. This can be very hard, especially in the age of social media overkill where other people’s lives are thrust in our face on a daily basis. However, it’s really important to remember that no two people ever live the same life. And there’s a reason for that; because we all have our own path to follow. Infertility is probably one of the hardest things you can go through in life, but it doesn’t mean you won’t get your happy ending; it may just mean it’s going to take a little longer for you. Meanwhile what else is there in your life you can celebrate? While your friends are dealing with endless nappies and sleepless nights, celebrate being child-free; have a lie-in at the weekend; go out for dinner, enjoy life. Try to make the best of what you have now, and have faith that one day everything you want will be yours.