Sunday, February 19, 2017

Feeling the Envy...And Then Letting It Go

When going through infertility and adoption, it is virtually impossible not to feel a bit of envy. I feel like it ebbs and flows -- it was sharper in the beginning.

In the beginning of this interminably long journey, every pregnancy announcement was a double-edged sword. If I knew you, I was happy for you and sad for me. I could legitimately be happy for you and your new family or, as time went on, added-on family -- I could compartmentalize that away from the feeling of "Oh, okay. Everyone's going to get pregnant except me. I see how this goes." Sometimes I felt a little more sad, or even a little irritated -- if someone had said, "I'm going to get pregnant by X" and then, doggone it, they DID. It seemed massively unfair, all these easy babies.

But then it became just par for the course. People got pregnant around me all the time. It got to the point where I knew people who had met their person, gotten engaged, gotten married, AND had a baby all in the span where we were still trying to have one, ONE baby. It's hard to say whether that was more painful than when I was still doing IVF and failing miserably and people I knew who got pregnant when I'd been trying for a while were coming back for their second. Those weren't easy babies, but it was proof that IVF worked for some people but not for us. That was also painful.

But that is how life goes, right? You don't always get what you want, and you get to see so many people seemingly have it easy all around you. You get to see bellies appear like magic, and people saying things about newly married couples having babies soon, and very infrequently does anyone go, "oh, but you could be infertile." It's taboo to suggest that maybe it won't be so easy. Even within the infertility treatment support groups it seemed wrong somehow to talk about the possibility of things NOT working -- more "never never give up" and less (or none of) "what would life look like if this didn't work?" or "When do you decide enough is enough?" All of which made me feel even more like a horror story, like a tale gone horribly wrong.

When we moved away from trying to get pregnant and into the world of adoption, I felt a little less pang when other people got pregnant. That wasn't for me anymore. And if someone successfully adopted? Well, it was proof that it could happen. I could still feel a little sad for me, and depending on what was going on at the time it would affect me more or less, but mostly I was like, Okay. Life goes on. Be sad and then move on, it's okay.

I feel like we are told not to be envious, not to let that jealousy sneak in. That "comparison is the thief of joy," and so we are not to entertain thoughts about someone else having what we want when we're still left empty-handed. I don't think that's realistic. I mean, you can't sit in an envious place for long, because it starts to poison you. But I think it's perfectly normal to have a little Woe-Is-Me Moment, to feel the absence, the nothing, especially in the overabundance of SOMETHING, seemingly everywhere else. Especially as it's proliferated on social media. Even knowing that people put a different version of themselves up on those sites than is actually true -- most people, anyway.

It's not just related to infertility.

I thought about this a lot around Valentine's Day. So many "share about yourself!" memes or frames for your pictures with hearts or "I Love Us," EVERYWHERE. What if you don't have your person yet, and you're feeling pretty down about it, and then all of a sudden you are blasted with "when did you meet? how long did you date? when did you get engaged? when did you get married?" question posts, and you're like, Hmmmm. Does not apply. You see your feed scroll through with so many happy couples surrounded by hearts or cute frames about "us" and think, Hmmmm. But I don't have an "Us." It is LONELY. It is ISOLATING. To me, it felt like what Mother's Day feels like for me. An explosion of reminders of what isn't in place.

It is hard to not have the milestone. It is hard to watch other people achieve it, seemingly so easily. I know that we don't always know all the pieces of a person's story. I mean, I am so very lucky to have the love I have with Bryce. We have so much in each other. We hit the jackpot on that one (although things were certainly not easy for either of us before we met). I can see how our relationship could be painful to see for someone who was going through a divorce, or single and not wanting to be, or in a relationship that is having a lot of difficulty. That could be hard. The people I see who have managed to have children, some easily and some not, may have that piece together in their lives but may struggle in other ways that we are fortunate not to. But all that aside, it's okay to feel sad or want what you don't have in the face of someone (or large masses of people) who's achieved it.

I had a moment, the night we went out to dinner after finding out that the blind profile we were considered for wasn't going to be our opportunity. Getting ready for bed, I just wailed.

"Why couldn't we have just GOTTEN PREGNANT? It would have been SO MUCH LESS COMPLICATED than this. We could have had advance notice when a baby was coming! We could nest for a limited time, not this multiple years of uncertainty! We wouldn't have so many other people involved in our family building, even with all the doctors! There'd have been so much less COMPLEXITY to our eventual parenting! We haven't even GOTTEN to that part yet, and I am just so EXHAUSTED by this, I am just SO FREAKING JEALOUS of everyone who got to get pregnant by whatever means!"

It seemed so freaking unfair, all of it. But...shoulda coulda woulda. That is so off the table, if it ever truly was a menu item from the beginning. And of course pregnancy is not without complications.

I am grateful for the adoption process, because we can become parents this way. It's a difficult process for so, so many reasons, and while yes, it is the best way for us to have our family, it's also...the ONLY way. There aren't other options for us. So yeah, I get jealous from time to time when I think about how long we've been at this with no guarantee that it will work out before we just can't subject ourselves to shattering and gluing over and over again...and so many other people don't have to go through this.

But jealousy is like any other tough emotion -- you need to feel it, and acknowledge it, and then let that shit go. You can't hang on to it forever. As my amazing therapist said once, "Sometimes you need to sit in the shit. But you can't stay there forever." I presume this is because the longer you stay in the shit, the more the smell attaches itself to you and then when you move away from the pile of shit, you still reek. The bitterness grows. But, the world is full of shit. You can't avoid it. There will always be something that you want that someone else has but it just eludes you. Maybe it's a relationship. Maybe it's money. Maybe it's a fulfilling job. Maybe it's a baby. Maybe it's a family of more than one child. Maybe it's a house that seems to have all the space in the world and miraculously stays clean. Maybe it's health. Maybe it's not suffering the loss of a loved one. So, you step in the pile of shit, and maybe you go ahead and sit in it a while. But then you get up, burn those clothes, shower thoroughly, and keep walking until the next pile drops in your path.

In a way, envy can be constructive, if you can stop to think about why you're so upset. You can reflect on your own areas where you have something someone else might be envious of. You can unpack that feeling and get to the root, and figure out how to find acceptance with where you are and an action plan for anything you can do to make your own situation better, or at least bearable.

Feel the feels. Step in the shit. Just don't stay there and fill up with stench. Find a way to let that shit go. I feel like we live in a society that's all about the letting go but not acknowledging that if you are letting something go, you had to hold it first. Feeling envy or jealousy just means that you are human, and that the truth is messy. It's impossible not to feel those uglier feelings, but it's so important to realize that everyone, EVERYONE does and it's okay, honest.


  1. Jess, these last posts have come when I'm needed them. Thank you for writing and sharing so openly.

    Your final point about society being okay with the letting go, but not acknowledging the thing that is being lost. People want you to move on so they can continue their usual program. The letting go suits them. The first part doesn't because it means that we have to start acknowledging loss.

    I'm finding that the process of letting go and making peace is something many really don't know how to do. Sure we want people to do so, but it is an involved process that requires time and space to do so. And we need to be taught on how to do so as it's something we've lost the ability to do.

    1. I'm glad the post speaks to you! After I hit "publish," I was like, "hmmmm, I wonder if people are going to think I'm bitterpants for this one, or feel like it's too negative." I think that a lot after some posts, even though when I reread them they really aren't so negative after all, just real. To me, at least. :)

      Yes. I feel like our society is so much about moving on and not getting through, about letting go and not acknowledging the loss or the not-so-attractive feelings that can accompany loss. Letting go and making peace are so important but also so hard. I agree it should be taught and practiced instead of squelched. So often these kinds of feelings are squelched and then you feel guilty for having them, but you can't work through without having and acknowledging these feelings.


    2. That's supposed to be a heart, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It's not some weird mathematical notation... :)

  2. I didn't detect a bitter tone to this post, Jess (just read your comment above). It made me dwell on my thoughts about single people, and how there are "tiers" of not-having - for example, one single friend of mine has never entertained any empathy for me over my infertility travails: as she put it, "I don't even have anyone to be infertile with". I am very wary about putting couple-y stuff on social media because I have several other single friends and I know they feel the same way about couple-posts as I feel (felt) about pregnancy announcements. Lately I've been preoccupied about this when I've been writing blog posts - here's me saying I'm fine with being childfree, but what would I be saying if I had no partner? Can people without partners even relate to what I write at all - am I excluding them, I wonder? Would things be different if I lived alone? I've been distracted by this because I noticed a comment on the Italian blog post that Klara recently wrote about. The piece is "We Mothers Without Children" (she talks about the process of coming to terms with not having children) - the commentor below the post says: "And then if your husband leaves you as well....It's the limit. But I got over this too". The author of the post responds: "Yes, that's another story altogether". It had been in the back of my mind that I have it good, that it could be so much worse, and whether I was acknowledging this enough on my blog... but what can you do, you can't really write for every demographic. But yeah, after infertility I won't post anything that I think might "trigger" someone else, and I would have kept any children stuff (had I had them) private. But is that the right approach - I don't know. Should we have to repress things in this way? And I do agree with you - envy is constructive sometimes: you can take it and make it into something else. I see gushy mother-child posts on Facebook now and I think "get a life" - I've turned my envy into disdain, a bit, for servile parents that obsess over their kids. That's better than envy, I suppose...
    A thought-provoking post and sorry if I rambled off topic!

  3. I wrote a long comment on here that must not have saved. Arg.
    So I feel like Cristy where I read this at just the write time. I needed to read it and give myself permission to sit in the shit (LOVE that btw) and then get up and let it go. So many things I get so envious of others for. I have to put myself back and realize that I have things others probably wish they had and it all balances out. I also fee like social media perpetuates the jealousy cycle and makes the little green monster roar his ugly head mich more often.

  4. Doesn't come across bitter-pantsy at all. Comes across very wise: "But jealousy is like any other tough emotion -- you need to feel it, and acknowledge it, and then let it go."

  5. Such a good post! The last paragraph really brings it all together. My favorite part was, " I feel like we live in a society that's all about the letting go but not acknowledging that if you are letting something go, you had to hold it first." A thousand times yes! To really let something go, you have to identify it, acknowledge it and validate the feelings that come along with it.

    Once upon a time, someone told me that sometimes the bad stuff in our lives has a way of resurfacing. It will always be part of who we are. But, you pick it up, acknowledge it and then let it go. Over time, the reminders or triggers of that bad stuff will likely happen less frequently and as you change and grow, your feelings and response will likely be less intense. You will learn how to pick it up, hold it for a moment and then let it go.

    Hope your recent bout with tough feelings has resolved.

  6. I like your Valentine's Day/Mother's Day analogy. I have a friend, divorced, who posted something snarky about Valentine's Day on Facebook. I was tempted to comment, "Now you know how some of us feel on Mother's Day" ;) (but I resisted). I think some jealousy/envy is perfectly normal & understandable. The trick, as you point out, is to acknowledge it but not let it consume us. Like the other commenters, I like your point about the fact that people will encourage us to let those negative feelings go, without acknowledging why we might feel the way we do. Great post!

  7. I would say that there is a big difference between adoption and pregnancy (when you are talking about feeling jealous). With pregnancy, you could at least be logical and say just because that person got pregnant doesn't mean that I won't get pregnant. But with adoption, that baby could have been your baby. Does that make sense?

    Either way, the jealousy is normal. But like you say, you can't sit in the sh*t forever.

  8. I have so many things that I'd love to say to this post (all good, I promise!) but I have a suspicion that it's a discussion for another place, so I will just comment to say I liked this post a lot. I used to read infertility blogs a lot--always wished I could be more a part of the community, but I'm really bad at that--but I never ended up on this one. I haven't read them regularly in a long time, now, and I only just found this blog, but I really wish I had then. The little I've read so far is so kind, and dear. Your voice is a good one to be out there. Please keep going as long as you have the energy and means to do so.