Infertility challenges are hard enough as you go through everyday life. But they can feel insurmountable when you have to attend special occasions that celebrate other people’s bountiful fertility.
Baby showers are the worst. Everyone is there to fawn over the mom-to-be. And babies are the entire topic of conversation throughout the whole day.
Part of you wants to be happy for your friend’s pregnancy. Another part of you wants to cut off all contact with her because it’s so unfair that she’s pregnant and you aren’t.
Of course, baby showers aren’t the only tough trigger.
There’s the moment when your coworker announces that they're pregnant and everyone surrounds them with congratulations. And there are weddings where people inevitably talk about whether or not the happy couple will start a family.
Even on a regular day, it can seem like there are pregnancies and mothering ads everywhere, taunting you.
How can you cope?
Set Boundaries to Protect Yourself
The world isn’t going to change to ease your pain. However, you can put a few new boundaries in place to help you cope with your infertility challenges in the face of these experiences.
For example, you can make sure that you only say "yes" if you mean yes. In other words, you don’t have to attend anyone else’s baby shower if you don’t feel emotionally capable of doing so.
Of course, if you're close to the person, then there might be consequences. You may need to have a really tough conversation with the mother-to-be so that she can understand why you just can’t make it. But that may be easier than going to the shower.
Therefore, know your limits and express them clearly.
Some other boundaries you might want to set:
Briefly stopping in at baby showers might be okay. On the other hand, being part of the planning and set-up might be too much.
Give yourself permission to politely excuse yourself during baby conversations with acquaintances. Nobody questions a bathroom break and taking 5 minutes to yourself there might allow you to recharge enough to continue on with your day.
If someone asks about your infertility challenges, give yourself permission to only answer if you want to. “It’s going” is a perfectly reasonable answer to “How is it going?” and makes it clear that you are not interested in discussing these private details further.
Whenever possible, surround yourself with supportive people who know when to engage you on this topic and when to just be with you.
Be honest about how you feel, even if it’s hard, with at least one person in your life.
It’s fine to place limitations on how many baby-related events you’ll attend each month.
Pay attention to how things make you feel. And give yourself permission to leave situations if you need to. After leaving, practice good self-care by doing something gentle and nice for yourself.
Furthermore, protect yourself from people who are ignorant about your specific situation. For example, some people blame “older” single women who want to have children for not “snagging a man” and starting family building early (eye roll). Or if you’re in an LGBTQ relationship, it might not even occur to some people that you could possibly want (or give birth to) children.
You don’t need these kinds of people in your life right now (or possibly ever).
Be Gentle with Yourself
Infertility challenges bring up all sorts of emotions. You may find yourself having thoughts that you never thought you would have.
For example, you might:
Feel angry at your sister who got pregnant before you did
Think spiteful thoughts about your pregnant co-worker
Suddenly hate seeing babies in public and wish they weren’t there
Think that if you were a different race, gender, orientation, or age, then things would be easier
Feel secretly happy when you find out someone else has infertility challenges
Of course, you don’t want to have these thoughts and feelings. Nobody wants to be an angry, spiteful person who hates babies.
However, it’s important to be gentle with yourself and show yourself some empathy. Obviously, you shouldn’t and likely wouldn’t dream of acting on those thoughts and feelings. And you should do what you can to create situations that stir up your positive feelings.
That said, try not to attack or berate yourself for those negative thoughts either. They are so powerful because this is something extremely important to you. Allow them to happen and try to let them just wash on by like a wave. Notice them and use your awareness of them to gather information about your own feelings.
Dealing with infertility challenges can be a long, heart-wrenching, arduous process. You can’t expect that you'll cope gracefully with every situation. It’s okay to feel like a mess sometimes.
Remember, though, you don’t have to go through this process alone. Learn more about my approach to fertility and family building counseling here.