This is always a tough one when it’s not happening for you: the fine balance between allowing your own sadness whilst not feeling like a completely terrible human can be a difficult act to master. So what can you do about it?
What are the sorts of feelings that come up?
Pregnancy announcements can be made all the worse if they are accompanied by comments such as ‘he just looked at me and I got pregnant’ or ‘it happened first time’. When you’ve spent months or years without so much as a shadow of a second line on a pregnancy test (not to mention hundreds and thousands of pounds in a very sterile and clinical setting trying to facilitate one), it can just seem downright unfair. You might sway from being angry and jealous to miserable, trapped in a limbo-like bubble, which feels like you have no choice but to surrender to science and the powers that be.
Sometimes, it’s a fellow member of an online forum, with whom you’ve shared a very personal but faceless journey. This scenario often goes one of two ways: you might be elated for them and spurred on by the fact that someone else has won the fertility battle, got to the finish line. But you could also feel disheartened and low: perhaps you were cycling at the same time, and you are the less fortunate one in this particular leg of the journey. I remember only too well thinking that if someone else got pregnant, the law of averages meant that I wouldn’t. And I’m trained in statistics, so there’s logic for you...
Failed treatment cycles bring further complications and twists on the rollercoaster: not only is there the loss of your dream (for this cycle), but also the financial strain, the impact on work and the emotional burden on yourself and your relationships.
Then last but by no means least, is the guilt – the guilt you might feel for not being over the moon for your best friend/cousin/fellow treatment warrior. And the guilt you may feel towards your partner and even family – because often, you becoming pregnant is part of someone else’s dream too.
It also chips away at something deeper: it can feel as if you are a failure. It is really important to listen to your inner 'chatter' during this time - your internal (and probably biggest) critic. What is it saying? Left unchecked, this voice will start to rule your head, leading to untrue and potentially damaging beliefs. So listen out for it and challenge it.
Why do I feel like this?
Firstly, it’s ok and absolutely normal to find pregnancy announcements difficult. And you are not a bad person for feeling this way: it’s not that you’re upset or unhappy with your friend or the woman on the street, it’s that you are sad for you. And that’s ok.
You are also not a failure, your body hasn’t let you down. Biology is a really, really complicated thing, there is a reason why fertility treatment still has a relatively low success rate. Try not to beat yourself up over it. If you want to be a mum - and my belief is that you can be if you are open to what that word means to you - then compassion and kindness has to start with you. Set the best example that you can now, because you will need it when you succeed.
What can I do to feel better?
It could be the smallest of things, but start today, now:
- ‘Allow’ and validate your emotions, give them a name (‘anger’, ‘sadness’ etc)
- Listen to and challenge your internal chatter: what is it saying? Is it true? What is the evidence?
- Have an arsenal of resources up your sleeves for these sorts of occasions, a toolkit: treat yourself to a night out/shopping trip or call a friend (probably not the pregnant one, just yet…) to bawl uncontrollably down the phone…
- …and then decide to move forward: this cycle is in the past, it’s gone. Next month, next treatment cycle, next time is a fresh start and a new hope.
- Make a change: it doesn’t matter what. Do something you don’t usually do. If you’re stuck for ideas, help this along by making a physical shift in location – get out of the house, go for a walk, get in your car, change your route to work. See things with fresh eyes.
- Start to look at what your next steps might be
Because you can choose to dust yourself off and get up again - and you will be stronger for it.
What is the one small change you can make, right now, to feel better?