Those of us that are/have struggled to conceive will know that one of the hardest things to cope with when trying to conceive is other people sharing their happy news that they are expecting, and when I did a poll in my support groups on what topics people would like support with, this is the one that had by far the most requests.
We know we should be over the moon for them (which we are) but there is another instant reaction that hits you like a bus – that sickening feeling in your stomach that someone else is lucky enough to have achieved the amazing and seemingly unattainable thing you most desire – that immediate thought of – ‘why can’t it be me!’.
You immediately feel guilty for not being able to just be happy for them, but it just acts as a reminder that you still don’t have a baby – there is an intense jealousy (that you don’t feel you can voice to anyone) that is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Some of my closest friends got pregnant whilst I was struggling and I felt so disloyal and mean for having these feelings, but I do believe its instinctive.
In the time I was trying to conceive 14 friends had babies (one friend even had 3 babies in that time – including twins). It gets very hard to keep the smiley congratulations on your face on when hearing all their announcements, and wondering when it will be your turn.
In the current age of social media it is difficult to get away from pregnancy announcements, I sometimes found myself scouring the Facebook looking for peoples scan pictures and announcements – it was like I was punishing myself expecting people's announcements.People are coming up with more elaborate ways to announce their pregnancies, and you then have to see it repeatedly come to the top of your feed every time someone wishes them congratulations.
There is also always a big queue of people asking when you will have children – ‘You’ve been married ages, when are you going to start having children?’, ‘you’ll be next’ or 'do you want children?' (and lots of other insensitive/rude/personal questions and ways of asking). It is difficult to think of excuses and an answer to these questions when you know you are desperately trying to have a baby, whilst also trying to hide the emotions you feel at the question
On top of the announcements, you also have to deal with the comments like ‘It happened in the first month we started trying’, or we weren't even trying' or 'I'm just super fertile!'. Those that have conceived with no trouble (or haven't yet started trying) just have no idea how hard it can be for some people, and how triggering it is to hear comments like that. It can lead you to feel like a failure (which you are not) and like it's your fault (which it is not).
Coping with pregnancy announcements
Give yourself permission to feel how you feel (sad, angry, distraught) and try not to feel guilty. It's a normal reaction and doesn't mean that you are not happy for your friend, just that you are sad for yourself. It doesn't make you an awful person, just a human being with feelings
Breathe – breathing techniques can be really good in helping you regain control of your emotions when you are feeling triggered by one of the many upsetting things when you are TTC, especially announcements. They are great in helping you clear your head of the fuzzy feeling so you can think clearly. Breathe in through your nose for the count of 3, and out through your mouth for the count of 6. It will help you to control that rising feeling of tears if you want to hide your emotions from others and to help you work out what to do next.
Create a 'How to tell me' plan – you can ask close friends that you know are trying to conceive to be sensitive to your feelings when they tell you that are pregnant. Maybe ask them to send you a text, that way you can cope with it in your own way without feeling you have to put on a front. Explain to them that it’s not that you are not happy for them, that you are struggling with your own inability to conceive and trying to deal with it.A true friend will understand and should hopefully be subtle/considerate of your feelings.
Avoid social gatherings - If you are really struggling with your emotions, you may choose to avoid certain social gatherings (big family events, groups of friends that you know are trying to get pregnant, events where there are lots of pregnant people or young babies). If your friends are understanding about what you are going through they won’t mind you missing certain events. If you don’t feel they will understand then don’t feel bad about making up an excuse for not being able to go. If you have an important event to go to (weddings, Christenings) and you are finding it difficult to be there, you could go to the main parts of the day and excuse yourself from the less important parts.
Arrange to do more with other friends that don’t have children – a wider circle of friends, colleagues, people you meet at a support group. It is hard when you start to distance yourself from groups of friends to protect yourself emotionally, so make sure you still see other groups where you can so you don't feel isolated.
Come off social media for a while - the different social media channels now seem to be the main way to share pregnancy news, so to save yourself the upset of seeing announcements and baby pictures you could maybe have a social media break. I know a lot of support also comes from social media, so it is trying to find the balance. You could maybe stay in the online groups you are part of if they help you, or only follow accounts that have a positive and supportive effect on your wellbeing.
Be kind to yourself - while you are going through this process and struggling with your emotions, take time out to treat yourself to things that make you feel relaxed and special. You are not a bad person for feeling like this, it is completely normal. Allow yourself to feel sad and have a cry if you need to, then call a friend or message your support group to pick you back up.
Create a thankful list - Think of something every day that you are thankful for – make a note of these and refer back to them when you are struggling or having negative thoughts. Often, when we are so focussed on the things that we don't have, we forget about all the things we do have, and having a little reminder can help us remember that there are some positives in our life and we need to celebrate them to protect our emotional wellbeing.
Talk to someone – There are lots of people that can support you and will help you see that you are not alone, that it's normal to feel overwhelmed, and upset and jealous. There are also fertility professionals (Counsellors and Coaches) that can help you if you are struggling emotionally, so reach out to have a chat, even of you just have one session to see if it’s right for you.
Get Support – Support groups are great for talking about how you are feeling with people who really get it, who can support you and offer advice in coping through TTC and treatment. My free group TTC Support UK is a great place to seek support, advice and just have a rant when you are upset. It is free and a safe space to get support.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and would like more support, you are more than welcome to join my free Facebook support group for peer support, advice and comfort from me and lots of lovely people who completely understand.