Jealous. So jealous I could taste it. Jealousy gripped me by the throat, making me wish I could vomit to rid myself of the horrible feeling. Worse still was the guilt…guilt for being jealous of my best friend, her baby news, her “success” in achieving those elusive two lines on an HPT.
I was in torment.
And you’ve been there too.
I’d like to say I’ve discovered the magic key to ridding oneself of the gut-twisting agony of baby jealous. But I don’t believe there is one. I won’t insult your intelligence by pretending there’s a cure or suggest you play little mind games with yourself.
There shouldn’t be a magic cure. We’re hardwired to want to be mothers. It’s perfectly normal and natural. If we weren’t, well, we’d all stay on birth control, have a jolly ol’ time free of dirty diapers and the human race would simply peter out. But no! It’s deep in the race to want a nursery with a cute little baby sucking on its toes.
When baby jealousy rears its ugly head, when I find myself snapping irritably at my husband, the only solution I know of, in the words of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, is to “lie right down ’til the feeling leaves me.” I pop in a DVD, curl up alone with the dogs and lose myself in Blandings, Fawlty Towers, Are You Being Served, Monty Python…any show that makes me laugh and takes me out of myself so entirely that I forget…nearly forget just how badly I want to have a baby.
But I have discovered a few, a very few, techniques that help me cope. Oh, they don’t take away the jealousy by any stretch of the overactive imagination…but they do put it into perspective. They help me cope. They temper pure, ugly emotion with cold logic.
Perhaps they’ll help you too.
Pregnancy VS Motherhood
In their amazing book A Few Good Eggs: Two Chicks Dish on Overcoming the Insanity of Infertility, Julie Vargo and Maureen Regan ask a very important question:
Do you want to be pregnant or do you want to raise a child?
Wow! That hit me right between the eyes. It was thought provoking. I felt downright convicted. My jealousy was focused on the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nine months of pregnancy. Here today, gone tomorrow. I wasn’t thinking beyond pregnancy and that gurgling baby to raising a child (who may or may not like me and turn out well despite my best efforts) only to wave goodbye to them after eighteen years.
Whenever baby jealousy floods my soul ’til I’m gasping for air, I ask myself, “Is this about you, Ivy, or is it about the child? Is it about your self-esteem? What are your true motives, Ivy?” That’s when I try to forget about pregnancy and focus on how hard it is to raise a child to be emotionally healthy, confident but compassionate, wise and savvy beyond their years, well-educated…happy.
Because pregnancy only lasts nine months. Despite all those baby showers and being Queen-For-A-Day, it’s merely a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Babyhood is also (shockingly!) short and children are grown and gone in a mere eighteen years. Or, they should be. I don’t want to be like my mother, a pathetic needy woman who clung with both arms, both legs and her teeth. A woman for whom, to paraphrase Charles Dickens, I was her sole psychologist, sole shoulder-to-cry-on, sole teddy bear, sole personal shopper, sole chaffeur, sole focus, sole obsession, sole object-of-jealousy, sole companion, sole friend and someday, will be her sole mourner. It’s called parentification. That’s a burden no child should be made to bear.
That’s why I try to distract myself from obsessing over my Fertility Friend chart, my basal temperature and the darkness of my OPK pee sticks by focusing on becoming so health, so happy, so well-balanced, so interested in life, that I can give to my child without asking anything in return. So I don’t need them to give me anything and can instead give unstintingly to their needs. So I can wave goodbye to them when they launch their adult life, have a good cry and still be okay.
Less Of A Woman
Remember back to when you felt like you were the only virgin among your acquaintances? You felt stupid. You felt left out. You felt naïve. Well, at least I did. But then again, I was a late-bloomer and my self-esteem has been crap for most of my life.
Then you had sex for the first time and you realized hmmppphh. Nothin’ to it. Totally natural. Any idiot can have sex! After that day I realized that I hadn’t been stupid nor naïve. In retrospect, I felt a bit silly ab
out how important sex was to me.
Fast forward a few years. When I hear women talking about cervix dilation, breast pumps and baby care, I feel stupid. I feel left out. I feel naïve. Ah, we have been here before, Ivy!
But forewarned is forearmed! It wasn’t true about sex…and it’s not true about pregnancy either. Pregnancy doesn’t imply any particular goodness, skill, intelligence, culture, you-name-it. It’s no Bozo Button. It’s not the Badge of Honor we sometimes think it is. Yes, babies are a blessing but I’ve come to believe that having a baby doesn’t mean that God loves you more and not having one doesn’t mean you’re “less than” or being judged! Heck, you can have a baby and not even be a good person! And getting pregnant doesn’t automatically make a woman a good mother. (But more on this in a separate article.)
Miracles Can Happen
For many years, I believed no man would ever want me. I was a goose no gander wanted. I just never had chemistry with anyone. I didn’t believe that even God could orchestrate a match for me.
Then Rhys happened. Like magic. We met online. Out of millions of pictures of buxom blondes, Rhys clicked on my picture instead. Not only was he in Wales, he was in Cardiff. But, and this is the freaky part, both of our ancestors originally came from the tiny town of Llanwrtyd Wells. Their graves were in the same cemetery even! What were the odds!? Like Tevye’s daughters in Fiddler on the Roof, I sang “Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles…”
Compared to the miracle of meeting someone decent in the wilds of the World Wide Web who could love me and even hailed from Llanwrtyd Wells, getting pregnant seems downright pedestrian. All the ingredients are already there. They just haven’t clicked yet.
So I try to have faith. God worked one miracle. Of course He can work two! Oh me of little faith.
In the meantime, I do what I did while I was single. Stay busy! Have experiences! Enjoy my freedom! Keep my mind distracted by other things! Do what I can to facilitate fertility, but try not to obsess about it! Enjoy the time before I become a mother, hopefully, some day. It helps, but the pain is always there, niggling around the edges.
Earth to Ivy
My baby jealousy was tempered, a little, by my best friend, Maeve’s, difficulty in childbirth. Before labor, she had a kind of bravado. “I’m sure everything will be fine,” she said breezily, deprecatingly. At the time, I told Rhys, “Maeve is just whistling to keep up her courage.”
Her vagina tore. And it didn’t heal right. It’s still ragged. (Sorry, TMI!)
She labored for thirty hours. No painkillers. She did it raw with a midwife. She gave birth to an (almost) ten pound baby on her bedroom floor after thirty hours of agony. And she tore. She lost a lot of blood.
I’m still game. I still want to have a baby (or two) myself. But I’ve watched a few childbirth videos and, uh, it’s not glamorous. Maeve’s experience tempered my baby fever just a tad. Earth to Ivy! Come in Ivy!
I kinda’ like my vajayjay just the way it is!
You Will Have a Family
Julie Vargo and Maureen Regan conclude their book by saying…
“If you want to have a family, you WILL have a family.”
If you want a family badly enough, you will have a family. It just might not be exactly in the way you want it, the way you’ve always imagined it. You and I might have to gulp and accept that pregnancy is a dream that may never come true.
But we can still have a family! And isn’t that the point!?
You may consider adoption. Foster parenting. A sperm donor. Baby-sitting for a harried single mom. Running a daycare. Cuddling babies at your local hospital. Or taking a local family under your wing as a kind-of adoptive Auntie or Nain (grandmother). (Personally, since childhood I dreamed that someone would leave a baby in a basket on my doorstep!)
Baby jealousy sucks! There’s no two ways about that. Sometimes my only coping mechanism is to avoid all pregnant women and babies altogether. I call it “desertion being the better part of valor.” But, together, we can cope with jealousy! I hope my techniques help you too.
Photo by Andrea Koerner