By Christine Murray, PhD, LPC, LMFT, Director of the Healthy Relationships Initiative
Our Healthy Relationships Initiative (HRI) team is excited to partner with Triad Moms on Main on this blog series. In this series, we offer general guidance to relationship or family questions submitted by TMoM community members. If you’ve got a question to ask, please share it anonymously here.
My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for over a year now. While we’re seeking treatment for infertility, I’m finding it really hard to be around friends who are having babies, which feels like everyone around me! Baby showers are especially difficult. I want to be happy for my friends, but I just feel so sad about my own situation. ~ Wishful Mom
Dear Wishful Mom,
Even though infertility and impaired fertility are far more common than most people realize—affecting about 10% of women in the U.S. (Office on Women’s Health)—it can be an extremely isolating and lonely experience for individuals and couples who face it.
All the emotions you’re experiencing are normal responses to the grief that can arise when you face the uncertainty that comes along with not knowing whether and when you will become pregnant. It’s normal to feel frustrated and sad when pregnancy doesn’t happen in the way and on the timeline that you had hoped. As you see your friends become pregnant, it’s natural to feel sad because it’s a reminder that you’re still waiting.
Infertility can be one of the most significant challenges a couple can face, so don’t downplay how difficult this experience is for you and your husband. Remind yourselves that you’re in the middle of a very emotional and difficult process, and commit to taking good care of yourself, your emotions, and your relationship throughout the experience.
Give yourself permission to make decisions that honor both yourself and your friendships. It may simply be too difficult for you right now to be part of events like others’ baby showers, and it is okay to take a break from these events until you feel comfortable going again. With close friends, try to be open in explaining your feelings and why you don’t feel comfortable going, and consider if there are other ways that you can celebrate your friend that are more comfortable for you, such as by spending one-on-one time together before or after the baby is born. Hopefully, your friend will be supportive and understanding, and if not, then you may need to create some space from that friend to help protect yourself from further hurt.
You have the right to decide who to tell about what you’re going through, so if you’re invited to a shower or other event for someone you’re not close with, it’s okay to simply state that you are sorry you can’t attend and send your regrets.
Beyond navigating baby showers while experiencing infertility, be gentle with yourself about your complicated emotions that you’re feeling. It is possible to experience more than one feeling at a time. In other words, just because you feel sadness about your own situation doesn’t mean you can’t also feel happy for your friends. You don’t have to feel guilty for feeling sad, and it doesn’t make you a bad friend. It just means you are being honest with yourself about your feelings. Try to honor any feelings that come up as you go through this experience.
To help you navigate these complex feelings, consider reaching out for help. A professional counselor can be a wonderful resource to help process your feelings and work through relationship challenges that may arise. Read this Healthy Relationships Initiative blog post for suggestions on finding a counselor. Online and in-person support groups can be another incredibly valuable source of support by connecting you with others who share similar experiences. Ask your healthcare provider for recommended support groups in your area.
As much as possible, practice good self-care toward your own physical and emotional health. An important part of practicing self-care when you’re going through a difficult time is allowing yourself to experience and honor the feelings that come up for you. Surround yourself with positive social support from friends, family, and professionals to help you along the way.
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