Envy and infertility grief
Why is it the those who least need to be pregnant seem to conceive easily, while others who are completely ready–way past ready–struggle for years?!?

Although we know it isn’t really true, sometimes it seems that the only people who get pregnant easily are those who are having an affair, too young, or totally unprepared for parenthood.  Intuitively we know this isn’t true. We also know that we aren’t in the position to judge who is and isn’t ready or worthy to parent. But dadgummit, doesn’t it seem that infertility is so darn arbitrary and unfair?!?!

Someone who has been trying to get pregnant for almost three years posted on the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group that she had to leave the table when her sister announced she was pregnant—her unmarried, irresponsible, self centered sister who had been in a relationship with the baby’s father for two months. She felt bad about ruining the moment for her sister and was able to pull it together to express her joy at her sister’s news, but the unfairness stung. Others had similar experiences:

I remember sobbing like a baby when my sister became pregnant, it was the result of an affair she had had with my best friend’s husband and at this point we had been trying to become pregnant ourselves for 5 years. It was one of the lowest and hardest times of my life.

I had 3 miscarriages after doing everything I could to do everything right. Then I saw some segment on the news where some teen gave birth in a public restroom with no prenatal care, and had a healthy baby. I cried. I wanted to ask God why so many loving, capable parents struggled to have families when so many teens, who’s only qualification for parenthood was hormones, found it so easy.

We had been ttc [trying to conceive] for 2 years when a friend blurted out publicly that a mutual friend was pregnant who has a very serious autoimmune disease and was also divorcing her husband. I almost lost it.

Dueling Emotions

Usually we are truly happy for our easily pregnant family and friends. We might wish for a little more consideration in the timing and method of announcing their pregnancy; we might gnash our teeth at the unfairness of our struggle compared to their ease, but usually we are truly happy for their success, even while feeling intense sadness at our struggle. Humans have the wonderful capacity to feel two emotions at once, even though we may not be able to express them both equally at the same time.

To Cry or Not to Cry In Public?

While we can feel two or more emotions at once, the real question is what emotions do we express at the moment. Let’s be honest, often what emotion we express is not a choice–the emotion expresses itself. However, whenever possible, I think it’s good form to not make this important moment in their life all about you and your pain. Whenever possible, paste on a smile and express your happiness for them, then go home and cry and vent to a sympathetic audience.

Where to Vent?

It’s important to choose your venting audience. It’s natural to want our family and friends to “get” the pain of infertility–to understand our grief and sensitivity; and yes, at times to forgive our over-sensitivity. Some will, but many will never understand. Infertility grief is not easily understood since the struggle and losses are often invisible.  If you have someone who tries to understand and be there for you, but says all the wrong things, forgive them. The truth is that infertility is hard to get unless you’ve been there, or at least close enough to “there” to see it in the distant. If you don’t have someone you can call on the phone or text who understands what you are going through, then hop on over to the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group and, as someone in the group said, come “cry on our virtual shoulders”.

P.S. We will be interviewing one of the leading experts in the US on “ambiguous loss”, grief that is not recognized by our society, such as infertility grief and birth mother grief in the fall of this year. Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter at the bottom of this blog to be notified when this show will be. I can’t wait.

How do you handle the “happy for them, but sad for me” emotions when receiving a pregnancy announcement?

First published in 2013; Updated in 2017
Image credit:  .Andi.