Women who struggle with infertility are a secret society unto themselves. We have our own language filled with strange terms like FSH levels, trigger shots, and Clomid. We understand better than anyone else the devastation you feel when you see a negative pregnancy test. Every time science wins and one of us gets pregnant, it gives the rest of us a tiny bit of hope that we could be next.
It seems logical that having first-hand experience with the pain of infertility would mean that I’d be ecstatic to find out a friend is expecting, but some recent news unexpectedly brought out the green-eyed monster in me. A longtime friend and partner in infertility told me she’s unexpectedly pregnant. I’m not proud to admit it, but my first reaction wasn’t happiness, it was pure jealousy.
As I read the text message that contained her happy news, my vision clouded with tears, not of joy, but of anger and even betrayal. Although she struggled to conceive her first child, this second baby was a complete surprise. In fact, she was actively trying to prevent getting pregnant, but despite her medical issues and the use of contraceptives, it happened anyhow.
I ultimately won my battle against infertility almost three years ago with the birth of my twin boys. After going off the pill with the expectation of getting pregnant naturally, I never got my period. At first I thought my husband and I had broken the record for world’s fastest conception, but as it turns out, my hormone levels are abnormal and my egg quality is nothing to brag about. Thanks to in vitro fertilization and months of daily injections and pills, I’m now a mommy.
No matter how much I cherish the children I have, there will always be a piece of me that wonders why my body failed at naturally doing something women’s bodies are supposedly designed to do.
And I’ll always be a bit envious of friends who can use “see what happens” as a family planning method when expanding my family requires months of carefully timed shots, tens of thousands of dollars and the very real chance that after all that I still won’t get pregnant or carry a baby to term.
Even though I now have two beautiful boys as the result of advanced reproductive technology, I still relate to and lean on my comrades with less-than-stellar reproductive systems. I’m young enough that many of my friends are having second and third children or starting their families. Having other infertile women who understand how I can simultaneously be so grateful for the family I have and still be disappointed that I’ll never have a surprise pregnancy makes me feel less like a biological outlier. Turning to my tribe of fellow infertiles makes me feel like I’m not the only one who struggles with feeling grateful and regretful at the same time.
I know my friend didn’t get pregnant to hurt me.
Even if her pregnancy had been planned, I’m not conceited enough to think that my feelings would weigh into anyone else’s family planning decisions. And while I’m typically nothing but overjoyed when other friends share the news that they are expecting, the news stung coming from a fellow infertile. It’s difficult not to internalize what’s happening, hard not to feel betrayed or deceived. After countless hours spent discussing and empathizing over our mutual struggles with trying to have children, this sudden, unplanned pregnancy makes me feel like those heartfelt conversations were a lie. Instead of feeling a kinship with someone who has been in my position, I felt like I had been pitied. I had been heard by my friend, but was no longer understood.
Along with feeling cast aside, I admit hearing about her good news gave me an overwhelming sense of false hope. Every craving for chocolate or sore chest muscle of late has been interpreted as a reason to run out and grab a pregnancy test, even though I know PMS or my workout routine is the more likely explanation. These moments when I allow my fantasies to get the best of me and wonder if I’m pregnant add insult to injury. It’s like having someone you know win the lottery when you both had a ticket. Sure, you’re happy for them, but you still wonder why it was them who was chosen over you.
Some would label me as a horrible person for having such an ugly reaction to a friend’s joyful news, and I understand that. There’s a big part of me that can’t help but think my capacity for jealousy is the reason my friend has received this gift instead of me. Despite knowing it’s medically impossible, a part of me thinks if I had only been a kinder person, perhaps I, too, would be rewarded by the universe with my own miraculous pregnancy.
You can’t change your reaction to something just because it’s not an ideal response. And if there are any other women struggling with infertility fighting back tears of anger and frustration while they see yet another sonogram post on Facebook, it’s important they know their feelings are not only normal, but valid.
My friend is an amazing mother. I’m looking forward to seeing her daughter become a big sister, and I hope she knows that I’m trying my best to be happy for her. I’m sure that in time I’ll be able to knit something soft and adorably tiny and welcome this new baby with a happy heart. I hope that any woman with previous fertility problems who finds herself suddenly pregnant will understand how sharing the news with friends who’ve had their own infertility issues can lead to a complex reaction.
Please be gentle with us. It’s not that we’re not ecstatic for you; we are. It’s just that we have a tiny bit of grieving to do for ourselves too.