Written by: Patricia Sachs, LCSW-C
They’re at the mall. They’re in your neighborhood. They are your friends and your family. They’re everywhere! When you have been struggling with infertility, it suddenly seems like everyone around you is getting pregnant. Everywhere you go you see pregnant women and big bellies. You can be out enjoying yourself and then you are unexpectedly confronted by this traumatic event. You feel as if you want to “flee” the situation. Especially if you are at an age when your friends and relatives are also getting pregnant and starting their families, it may seem as if everyone else is getting pregnant quickly and easily, and can’t understand why you have not.
The reality is that it is extremely painful to be faced with the visible success of others when you want this so much for yourself and feel so vulnerable and helpless. Seeing or even hearing about pregnancies can be a stimulus that triggers feelings of anger, sadness, and jealousy. You may be left feeling out of control and overwhelmed.
Strategies to Help Cope Around Others Who are Getting Pregnant
There are some strategies you can do to help with coping with other people who are getting pregnant or who are already pregnant that allow you to regain control of the situation and your emotions. Here are some questions to ponder and some possible solutions:
- Have you told any of your close friends or family members about what you are going through, even if not in a lot of detail? Letting a few close allies in on your situation can sensitize them to how difficult seeing/hearing about pregnancies can be for you. Think about what you may want from them. Do you want them to tell you about pregnancies right away, or to wait, or have someone else be a “reporter?” Would you prefer NOT to receive baby shower and birth announcements? Chances are if you can speak privately with a friend/relative about these issues they will understand and there will be fewer hurt feelings. If you simply cannot go to a baby shower, tell your friend that it is just too difficult for you to be in that kind of group setting. Maybe there will be another way to have some special time with your friend in the future. It may seem as if these relationships will be strained, but once your situation changes (and it WILL, one way or another) they can be repaired. You are not a bad person because you can’t “be there” for your friend’s pregnancy and most likely, if you express these feelings, she will understand.
- Take notice of when mothers and young children are most likely to be at the mall, for example (mornings, daytime, not at night!) and don’t go then. This will cut down on unexpected encounters with pregnancy.
- Recognize that jealousy is a normal feeling associated with infertility. Chances are you are not typically a jealous person, but this situation is bringing out these uncommon emotions in you. It is normal to feel frustrated when faced with infertility, especially as getting pregnant seems to come so effortlessly to others. These feelings of jealousy towards your friends and family members will ease in the future when your own situation has been resolved.
- If you are going to a party or family gathering where you know there will be a pregnant person, enlist the help of a partner, spouse, or friend. Agree on a signal or cue you can give if you are starting to feel uncomfortable and want to leave. There is no reason why you have to suffer through an experience that will set you back emotionally and leave you feeling depressed and defeated.
- It may seem like your newsfeed on social media is full of pregnancy announcements. We recommend joining Shady Grove Fertility’s community of hope of over 28,000 SGF Sisters. SGF’s Facebook community offers women and men facing infertility a space to share their struggles and successes. Receive support, resources, and reassurance.
- Last but not least, consider joining a support group of others experiencing infertility. You will find that many people face similar emotions and concerns as you and that your feelings are completely normal. Having a safe place to share and strategize about coping with infertility will help you to feel empowered to deal with the “outside world.” You may even make some new friends, which can help you feel less lonely and isolated, knowing that you are not alone in this struggle.
About Patricia Sachs, LCSW-C: Ms. Sachs has been on the psychological support team at Shady Grove Fertility for 25 years. She does infertility counseling with individuals and couples, and has led support groups and workshops for patients on many infertility-related issues including IVF treatment, secondary infertility, adoption, and families formed through gamete donation.
To learn more about Shady Grove Fertility’s support groups for individuals or couples experiencing infertility, or to schedule an appointment with a physician, please call and speak with one of our New Patient Liaisons at 877-971-7755.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2016, but was updated in May 2019.