Infertility has made me feel like *everyone else has kids* and I don’t. (This isn’t even all in my head either… most people do have children) Families with children are all over the place: nearly every book or article I read mentions families with children; everywhere I go — from stores and restaurants to hiking trails or airports — I run into families with children; and on every social media site I visit, I see babies, children, and pregnant women. I feel like the world reminds me all the time that I do not have children and *everyone else does*. And I’m jealous.
Infertility is feeling jealous of complete strangers who I see out and about with their pregnant bellies or their children. Other people would look right past the pregnant mom at Target, or the family with kids at the grocery store, but I see them and despite looking away or trying to look past them, their mere presence has already upset me. As I turn green with envy, my internal voice cries out, “Why them and not me?!”
Infertility is feeling jealous of people I know and people I love — my friends and family who have children. I’m happy that their families are growing and I’m glad that they aren’t in the kind of pain I’m in… but infertility is overwhelming, profound sadness for myself and jealousy that they have children. I certainly do not wish infertility on my loved ones, but that does not stop me from feeling jealous that their routes to parenthood have been smooth and infertility-free. I’m jealous that they are rapidly growing their families and enjoying their children. I feel so heartbroken and left out.
Infertility is feeling jealous of the whole experience my loved ones are having with their children — even the parts they complain about. It’s so hard to be left behind while *everyone else* moves on to parenthood. I wish I had a child like everyone else.
Infertility is feeling jealous watching children interact with people and their world. I feel jealous seeing children play, laugh, and smile with their parents and their grandparents. I feel jealous of the bonding that is taking place. I feel jealous when milestones are reached and holidays and birthdays are celebrated. I wish all these things could be happening for me and my child, and I’m afraid that they never will. My heart breaks with sadness for who and what I’m missing.
Infertility is feeling jealous of the kinds of things my loved ones with children are studying and learning to cope with in their lives. I wish I were reading about pregnancy, childbirth, and how to best parent my newborn/toddler/growing child, instead of reading about infertility and pregnancy loss. I wish I were tired from pregnancy or from the demanding schedule of being a parent, instead of being exhausted from disappointment, heartache, and treatments.
Infertility is feeling jealous of the activities my loved ones are doing with their children. I wish I were taking my child to music class, soccer, or playdates, instead of going to endless doctor’s appointments, lab appointments, and infertility support group.
Jealousy is a hard part of infertility… it mixes with my grief, anger, and isolation, resulting in a terrible combination that makes me feel absolutely miserable and sick inside. I know comparing my experience to someone else’s is not productive; I know asking “why?” is not productive; but knowing those things does not make them stop. Feelings of jealousy do not go away just because I don’t like them… and all feelings are valid — even jealousy. So what do I do to cope with it?
Well, to start with, I know a lot of the things that trigger jealousy, so I try to avoid those things. For example, we prefer to go to the grocery store after dinner, when families with children are typically at home. I avoid reading books that I suspect will upset me. I avoid facebook and other social media sites that trigger me, and I’m very careful about who and what I follow and like. I say “no” to social engagements, especially when I’m feeling really vulnerable.
However, it is not always possible to avoid everything that might trigger jealousy. So when it strikes, I acknowledge it and work through it. I might write about what I’m feeling or talk about it with a safe person. If I’m in a social situation I might need to leave the room to give myself some space, or leave the gathering completely. When I’m jealous of strangers, I try to remember that I do not know their story — maybe their path to parenthood has not been as easy as it appears… perhaps that pregnancy is a result of IVF, or maybe those kids were adopted. And at the end of every day I give myself some perspective too — I practice gratitude and write down things I’m thankful for from that day.
Even though I know that someone else’s success growing their family doesn’t reduce my chances of having children, it is still hard to accept the feeling that everyone else but me has kids. Infertility has turned on some kind of hyper-aware-of-children radar in me, and activated a jealous streak that I didn’t even really know I had, but it’s there now. I just try to keep it in check.
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