“Oh my God!!! I’m so happy for you! What fantastic news! You and your husband must be thrilled!!” are the words some of us would have said at some point in time, a huge smile on our faces but with a hollow-as-a-pit feeling in our stomachs. You’re happy for this friend, family member, colleague, acquaintance, you really are but it’s just yet another person who has hit the jackpot in the pregnancy lottery while you…well, your tickets have all been dud so far.
I was never the jealous sort. All my life, I was the one who would, instead of hate on you for being prettier, having better clothes, a better job, etc., would genuinely admire you and use you as my template. But when I found myself languishing in the desert of infertility, I found that it got progressively harder to smile from my heart when I happened upon people for whom getting pregnant was not an issue (some of whom found it an inconvenience even ironic much!).
A number of my acquaintances and colleagues got married around the same time as I did. When the first person got pregnant, it was all so exciting, and I couldn’t wait for my turn. Then the next person got pregnant, and then the next. With each one, it got harder and was such a mish mash of emotions. The happiness for the person would be real, but so would the sadness; the reminder of my own situation. But somehow, and only by the grace of God, I was always able to pull myself together, typically after a minimum of 24 hours (LOL), and really be truly happy for the person involved.
Sometimes, it did get annoying though. I had an acquaintance who got married a few months after I did, that claimed to have been on birth control when she conceived, and how it was such a bother as she and her husband would have preferred to wait at least 2 years before having kids. Years later, I was to find out that it was a bold faced lie and she and her husband had been actively trying from the very start. A relative of mine decided to try for a baby the month after she got engaged. She thought it would take her a few months of trying, instead she got pregnant that very first month. I, on the other hand, had been trying for about 16 months at the time. The day she called to tell me, my period had just arrived, ending a cycle I had been convinced pregnancy would occur. I had barely gotten over the heart break of Aunt Flo’s arrival, when I received my relative’s happy news. I could barely manage 2 minutes of conversation. It took me the rest of the day to grieve and regroup. By the time I returned her call the next day, I had gotten over myself and was able to honestly and truly rejoice with her.
But the worst part about being in this situation and trying to be genuinely happy for people? It is the fact that everyone else is almost more interested in your reaction than the happy news itself. Be it in the office, church, a family gathering, when the news of pregnancy is broken, the spotlight seems to shift from the happy mother/parents-to-be to you, Mrs Infertile. Your facial reaction(s), body language, tone, words; everything is analysed and assessed and spun into fodder for the next round of gossip. If you’re over enthusiastic and animated by the news, the story becomes that you;re fake and a pretender. If you’re not as enthusiastic, then you must be jealous. Sometimes, you simply cannot do anything right by these casual bystanders.
Speaking from my own experience, most times, these friends, relatives, acquaintances who got pregnant were ever so considerate and even in the midst of the jubilation did show genuine concern for me (shout out to my darling girls; I wish I could mention you by name J). But I did encounter some well less than gracious ones. A friend of mine dodged me like the plague for the first few months of her pregnancy. I had heard she was pregnant, and it really hurt that she chose to avoid me. To add insult to injury, I heard from more than one person how she was afraid to tell me because she didn’t know how I would react. Gosh that hurt! I don;t mind having a pity party by myself, but having everyone else make me the subject of such pity, or sometimes scorn and disdain, is not a pleasant option.
In the end, I had to learn to just chin up and face it. I accepted that it was okay to feel sad, but to keep the sadness as short lived as I could possibly manage. I learnt that, even in the face of the initial sadness, I had to master the perfect poker face, manage as genuine a smile as I could, and be as sincere as I could in my congratulations especially as anything outside of this could potentially hurt the feelings of this pregnant person but to keep this first discussion as short as possible. Only after I had had enough time to process the news and regroup, would I then seek out the happy party for a much more elaborate and enthusiastic discussion. This is how it worked for me; it might not be the same for everyone.
For the newly pregnant, the best way to manage your friends still in the land of infertility is not to tiptoe around them. This just aggravates the situation. Confiding in them as early as possible will pull them in, and make them feel a part of it. Acknowledging their pain and giving words of encouragement and prayer, will make the sharing even easier. Essentially, I have learnt that it is best for both parties to acknowledge the elephant in the room, and be sensitive to each other. Period.
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