Back in November of 2018, I was the person who announced her pregnancy on social media. My husband and I were elated to be sharing the cute picture of an ornament illuminated by Christmas tree lights, which said, “Mommy,” “Daddy,” and “Baby – June 2019.” I posted another picture of my husband and I cradling my mini bump, with huge smiles and literally no idea what we were getting into. We were celebrating, and we should have been.
Now, I am one of the many millennials on the receiving end of those types of pictures on social media. It seems like anytime I log onto Facebook or Instagram, I am seeing yet another happy announcement of friends or acquaintances who have made it to the “safe-to-share” part of their pregnancies. They hold their little bumps and beam with bright smiles, couples with no clue about how their lives will change in the spring and summer when their bundles of joy are born.
I’m happy for them. Having our daughter has been our greatest blessing. I’m obsessed with her. I wonder what I even worried about or did with all of my free time on fully rested sleeps before she came along. Life feels full because of her, and she is my sunshine. I hope that parenthood brings them that same feeling of love and pure joy.
There is also, though, this other feeling. It starts out like a butterfly fluttering in my belly, and then climbs all the way up to my lungs, pulling at them so for a moment I can’t seem to breathe exactly right. It reaches up to my throat and a little lump forms, and then moves to my eyes which fill with a little bit more water than usual. I blink it away, and remind myself, this is a happy post, Jamie, you are happy for them! The feeling recedes back into my stomach, and sits there quietly until I see the next happy post, when it comes rushing back up all over again.
I know, there were couples who felt that same flutter as soon as they saw our posts in 2018. I felt that feeling before I got pregnant with my daughter, after years of being told we would struggle to conceive, if we ever did.
I don’t think I would call it jealousy, and I know it’s not anger. I think, maybe, it’s grief.
It seems silly, but in the perfect world in my mind where I control everything, we would have gotten pregnant months ago. It would have been precisely timed according to my life as a teacher: a late spring, early summer baby so that I could have more than six weeks of newborn snuggles without going unpaid. Our second baby would have been only two years younger than our daughter, and their close age would have made them best friends. My daughter, who says “baby” anytime she sees a small child, would be able to look at her new sibling and hold them in her tiny arms, and say “baby!” in her little voice. She would try to share her Cheerios like she does with everyone else. She would not be a social butterfly who has to play alone anymore. My husband and I wouldn’t have to look at each other while we watch her playing by herself and say, “she needs someone to play with” or joke, “she’s going to be the sibling who gets everyone else in trouble and gets away with whatever she did!” It would be coming true. We would be posting holiday themed pictures with some witty comment, sharing the news that our family was growing, and the next world’s cutest kid would be born in summer of 2021.
But that ship sailed months ago, and we know that no matter how much we want things to be perfectly timed, life doesn’t follow the imaginary calendars we set for ourselves. Trying to conceive has consumed me over the last eight months, and I constantly hear from other people that I just need to let it go and let it happen when it’s supposed to happen. That’s easier said than done, especially when it feels like everyone you’ve ever met seems to be pregnant at the same time.
For those of us who feel that painful flutter when we see baby bellies and pregnancy announcements, I think it’s okay to feel grief. I think it’s okay to let yourself feel what you’re feeling. It’s not normal for us to see everyone we know every day, and that really is what social media does for us. There’s probably all kinds of algorithms at work that make it seem like you can’t open an app without someone’s quirky pregnancy message on a letter board. It is okay for it to feel a little painful. It’s okay to be upset. It’s the one thing you want in the world, and it seems like it’s happening to everyone else even though it’s really not.
There are ways we can try to get through the pain of navigating the holidays while TTC:
- Remember, you are NOT alone. I am right there with you, and there are so many others. Opening up about it has helped me connect with a lot of women who have been in the same position. Even the picture you see on social media could hold the story of another couple’s hurdles to get where they are.
- Take a break. Turn off the social media and try to just be present with your people. Or, unfollow the people who seem to be triggering you the most. They won’t know, and you can follow them again when and if you want to.
- Recognize the feeling, but then release it. You’re not wrong for feeling what you feel, but it is like a moment. Let it pass. Recognize, then release. Start with letting yourself have a few minutes of those feelings once a day. Then work yourself down so that you’re only allowing yourself to recognize the feeling for one minute, once a day.
- Remind yourself that this isn’t the only thing that defines you. I’m a list maker. Make a list of the things that you feel good about or that bring you joy. You are made up of wonderful things.
- You don’t have to do anything that is too much for you. Baby talk, baby showers, baby shopping – you don’t have to do it. More than that, you don’t have to explain yourself. If you really can’t miss something – send a box of diapers (size 2 or 3) and wipes for delivery through Target. A gift they’ll definitely get use out of and appreciate with minimal prep. Done and done.
- Do something you love for you. And enjoy a glass of wine while you do it.