When You Want a Baby so Bad It Hurts
I'm not going to give you some insensitive mantra disguised as comfort like "It'll happen when you're not stressing about it," whether that "it" means getting pregnant, getting your partner on board with the whole baby thing, or getting the funds together to adopt. Because whatever "it" is, it's definitely going to stress you out if it's keeping you from having the baby that you so, so want.
Instead, I'm just going to tell you how I dealt with the season in my life where I wanted a baby so bad that it hurt and hope it helps you feel less alone.
When the Timing Isn't Right
For a long time, the reason I couldn't start a family is that the timing just wasn't right because I didn't have anyone to start a family with. Then, when I did, he wasn't so sure he was ready for a baby.
If You Don't Have a Partner
I'll admit, I wanted a baby before I wanted a husband. After years of dating duds and focusing on my career, I briefly looked into solo adoption.
After about half a year of seriously considering it, I met the guy I ended up marrying so those plans went to the wayside. But I learned that while there's obstacles to solo adoption, you can make them feel a lot less scary if you start planning ahead by getting your finances in order. Do you have debt looming over you? Meet with a financial adviser (or just a money-savvy friend!) to create a list of just three things you can do to become more financially stable so that when you approach adoption agencies, your bank account won't trip up the process.
Solo IVF or Surrogate
Even after talking with a friend who majored in finance and putting together a list of things I could do to pay off debt, I realized that I honestly just didn't have the funds. Adoption is expensive, and so are IVF and surrogacy, which were my only other options for becoming a parent when I was single. But for some people who are financially secure and ready to go it alone, it's a viable choice, especially if experiencing pregnancy in some form is important to you.
What's keeping you from having a baby?
If Your Partner Isn't Ready for a Baby
When my husband and I got married, I was ready to start trying for a baby well before he was. He had a whole laundry list of stuff he wanted to get done, career- and school-wise, before he felt comfortable starting a family.
If this is what you're going through, rest assured it's pretty typical for men to hesitate when it comes to starting a family. It doesn't mean your husband loves you less than you thought or that he'll never want a family—what it does mean is that you'll probably be having a lot of heart to hearts. If it ends up causing issues in your marriage, consider seeking out a marital counselor to help you get back on the right track.
Working With Children
When I was in my mid-twenties and beginning to have serious baby fever, I also happened to be working with children in a private preschool. While I thought this job would stave off my desire, it actually did the opposite and lit it on fire. Every time I looked into the kids' big, lash-lined eyes, my ovaries stung. I wanted to go boutique shopping for baby layettes, pack baby carrots in lunchboxes, and budget for diapers, not go home to an empty apartment.
After a couple of years of this, I recognized that working with the children—something I wanted so badly for myself—might have been unhealthy considering having a family wasn't in the cards for me at the moment. I had to jump ship and switch jobs, but of course that wasn't something I could do right away.
If you're working with kids and it's making your desire to have them even worse, try these things I did to distract myself:
- Make plans with single friends for directly after work. Do not give yourself time to go home and wallow in your childlessness. Run home, let the dog out, change into some heels, and do something fun where there will be absolutely no children involved.
- If you must wallow, set a timer. Literally. I would set a three-minute timer on my phone and sit in my car to let myself feel sad. As soon as the timer went off, I forced myself to snap back to the present, at which point I would . . .
- Name three things about being child-free I was grateful for. Some days this was easier than others, but during flu season I was honestly always really grateful to not be stuck at home with sick kids like my friends with children.
When There Are Fertility Issues
As with most things in my life, I went into the TTC Journey armed with years of research, a fertility journal, basal body temperature (BBT) thermometer, and a boatload of confidence.
When getting pregnant didn't happen right away, I still had high hopes. But as the months grew, my gusto waned. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NIH), after a year of trying to conceive, between 12% and 15% of couples will still be facing negative pregnancy tests.
Here are some of the most common causes of infertility in women:
Men can also suffer from infertility—things like Celiac disease, alcoholism, and hormone imbalances can cause low sperm count in men.
Marriage and Family Therapist Kati Morton on Dealing With Infertility When All of Your Friends Are Pregnant
How to Answer When Someone Asks You When You're Going to Have a Baby When You're Struggling With Infertility
Ever since Emily Bingham's 2015 viral rant against those "When's the baby coming?" comments exploded, you'd think that people would back the heck off from asking a woman when she's going to start a family.
There's so much pain in answering that question when you're struggling with infertility. So how should you answer? The person asking hopefully means well, but the truth is that, as Bingham said, it's really no one's business and it's okay to answer them that way. Of course, you might not want to do that either, especially if it's someone who you know has been through something similar.
Here are some jumping-off points for politely handling the question while stopping unwanted advice in its tracks:
- "It hasn't worked out for us yet. I don't want advice right now, but I know that if I ever do, you'll be there."
- "At the moment, it's not the right time for us."
- "I appreciate that you care, it's just something I'm having a hard time with right now and don't feel up to talking about."
Dealing When Your Friends Keep Getting Pregnant and You Aren't
One of the hardest parts about not being pregnant when you want to be so badly is watching people you're close to experience new parenthood and feeling a mix of joy for them and sadness for yourself.
When my best friend told me she was pregnant, I felt jealous, angry, and frustrated for myself but thrilled, relieved, and even a little worried for her. I knew that as much as I wanted this thing she was getting, it was new territory for her. Honestly, I didn't handle it as well as I could have, so I'm not going to give you advice on what to do, but I can at least give you some advice on what not to do.
Don't Express Your Jealousy
Literally, don't say, "Omg I'm so jealous." It's okay that you are jealous, and it's okay to express it to someone who is more neutral in the situation, like a friend who isn't pregnant or even to a therapist, but expressing your jealousy to a newly pregnant friend will probably make her hesitant to share any more details with you and could create a wedge in your friendship.
Don't Spend Too Much Time Indulging in Her Pregnancy
That being said, being a good friend doesn't mean you need to be there 24/7 for kick updates. It's easy to live vicariously through your pregnant friend's joy if the news doesn't drive you away completely. Be as good of a friend as you were before her pregnancy, but make space for yourself and friends who are in the same stage of life as you. Go out for a margarita and a late movie and enjoy where you're at rather than being constantly reminded of babies.
Don't Get Caught Up in a Fantasy
It may be pretty, but try to remember that what you see on social media is not what anyone is really living. Those pictures of women peacefully breastfeeding their babies don't show the mess of dishes in the kitchen or the tub that needs to be scoured from bath after bath. The posts of mothers going on about what a journey motherhood is don't admit to the moments of yelling, of possibly literally tearing their hair out with frustration and worry.
Yes, motherhood is special to those who choose it, but it's also not sunshine and rainbows. That doesn't mean you should want it less, it just means that it comes with its own new challenges. Getting the baby doesn't end the tough feelings—it replaces them with new ones.
How to Relax When You Have Baby Fever
- Practice guided meditation. I like the Mindful Meditation podcast, but in this era of streaming you can really take your pick. Learning to breathe without thinking about anything is incredibly helpful when your heart is focused on something out of your control.
- Find something really binge-worthy to watch that's not about kids or families. I'm totally into Judd Apatow's Love on Netflix, which is the meet-cute about a neurotic guy named Gus and an addict named Mickey.
- Vent! Find somewhere to vent your frustrations. Friends and family aren't always the best people to talk to about wanting a baby because they love you and they'll just want to spit advice out at you. I love the BabyCenter community for this because there's lots of different forums there. Whether you need a place to talk about trying to conceive or to vent because your husband isn't ready yet, you'll find other women who are in the same boat.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
My sister is pregnant and I'm totally jealous. I want to be happy for her, because I know she's excited and deserves my support but I've wanted a baby for years and it feels unfair that this is happening for her and not me. How can I be more supportive even through my jealousy?
I just found out I'm pregnant last week and when I told my best friend she didn't seem very excited. She was actually rude about it and told me I should have waited until I had more money saved up and a better job. I think she has pregnancy envy, how can I handle it gracefully?
© 2019 Holly Howard