Every December it’s the same old story. You're catching up with friends or family from home. One of them takes a deep breath. "So, everyone, I have some news!"
Oh no. Oh no, not again. The room starts spinning…
Your Emotions Are Valid
If you want a baby in future, it's natural to have mixed feelings when you find out someone else has taken the leap.
On one hand, you’re happy for them. Or at least, you’re giving it your very best shot.
On the other hand, you feel crushing disappointment that you’re falling behind. You’ve got sensible reasons for delaying pregnancy, and here someone else is, bang, straight into it, seemingly without a care in the world. What is that about?!
You ask yourself: does this frustration make you a bad person?
It’s OK to want something someone else has. To really, deeply want it. We’re wired that way because competition is literally baked into evolution. It’s just hard to hold such a washing machine of emotions to be true all at once.
Fertility Envy vs Fertility Jealousy
Although these words are often used to mean the same thing, there is a nuance. Can you guess which emotion causes you less pain?
Envy = seeing someone eating a red velvet muffin, noting what a great position that person is in, and getting tunnel vision on the deliciousness of the muffin.
Jealousy = seeing someone eating a red velvet muffin, resenting the fact that they have a muffin, and getting tunnel vision on the luckiness of the person.
Do you find yourself flipping between the two? Again, that’s natural! You might find that it helps to have precise language to describe these emotions. (Brene Brown talks about this in her book Atlas Of The Heart.)
10 Ways To Tame The Green-Eyed Monster
Work out beforehand which of these you’re putting in your toolkit:
- Journal your experiences. You can be as blunt as you like with an empty page.
- Always have an “out”. For instance, plan to visit family for Christmas day breakfast and presents and then leave, or only go for the evening. You don’t have to be there for the whole day. If you’re travelling further afield, you could book a hotel so you’ve got somewhere to retreat to.
- Get a fake call app to use in emergencies. You can literally press a button on your phone to make it ring so you can leave the room.
- Do what makes you happy.
- When you’re triggered, be mindful of what’s going on in your body. To reset high emotions, try running your hands under cold water (the temperature change gets you out of your head and it gives you a minute to pause too). Or press your feet into the floor. Or feel the weight of your bum on the chair.
- Create a physical trigger for positive feelings, such as the five-finger relaxation technique. This may sound woo-woo but it works. In fact, we’ve heard rumours that Microsoft execs are taught to use the technique to calm presentation nerves.
- Carry your partner’s sock in your pocket. It’s a grounding connection.
- Make sure you’ve got at least one line of support – a friend or an online forum – that you can vent to.
- Map out what you’re doing next. If you know you’re going for hot chocolate with your best friend straight after the family reunion, this can help you get through the hard times.
- When you get back to normal after the holidays, you can process the experience. Do more journaling, get back into yoga, meditate…
Having a family is a complex journey. Whatever this month brings your way, remember to be kind to yourself.