Baby Shower Dilemmas During Infertility

How do you feel about attending baby showers? Is it easy to celebrate people’s pregnancies?  Or do you have times where you struggle? What helps you work through your triggers?

I have a baby shower in my calendar scheduled for a couple of weeks’ time. Since we are still in a partial lockdown, it’s a virtual baby shower, which will be a very interesting first time experience for me. I’ve become temperamental about baby showers in recent years. In some cases, it is easy for me to be happy and excited for someone close to me. I tend to be glad that they didn’t have to go through the hardships that I have and I feel grateful for the opportunity to share in the joy of their pregnancy. The person in this particular case is a dear friend who is expecting her first baby, so it’s been heart-warming to see just how fulfilling the experience has been for her. She was very thoughtful in the way that she shared her news with my husband and I, a level of sensitivity that I’ve not always been afforded, so I deeply appreciated the consideration. I’ve also appreciated being included in her journey, and have done my best to offer support where I can (bearing in mind that it isn’t easy to be navigating pregnancy in the midst of a global pandemic). Seeing my friends or family members journey through pregnancy and evolve into new mothers is always a learning experience for me. It opens my eyes to things that I didn’t know and makes me excited about what my own experience will be like when it eventually comes. I’m always quietly taking notes as my awareness expands. I also love being an aunt, babysitting and getting to be a fun and supportive part of a child’s life.

On the flipside, there are times when a baby shower can feel more like an emotional trigger than a celebration of joy. Depending on the situation and what I am going through at the time, it can be more of a struggle. In the infertility community I often come across the saying “I’m happy for you, but sad for me.” In those moments of struggle, this saying rings very true. At times the idea of a baby shower shines a light on one’s own pain, or loss and grief. It triggers sadness, anger and the thought of attending feels overwhelming or stressful. It could also trigger the fear that you may never get to experience your own pregnancy or baby shower as well. I was reminded of this earlier in the year when I was invited to a baby shower that happened to fall around the anniversary of my ectopic pregnancy loss. I felt guilty for having mixed feelings about going, but I also knew that I’d be in an emotionally vulnerable space. All the other women attending were either pregnant or had young children. So, I had some anxiety about being the only one who wasn’t a mother, surround by pregnant bellies, toddlers and listening to stories about birth and motherhood while the grief about my own loss felt very pronounced. After deliberating about it for a few days, I opted not to attend the baby shower. I wrote a note of apology and sent a gift instead.
The guilt and mixed feelings can weigh on you. You may even feel ashamed for wanting to decline an invitation or for not being excited about someone else’s blessing.  I do feel that it is important to nurture your own wellbeing just as much as you do other peoples. Yes, I do want to be a good friend. I put effort into nurturing my friendships and relationships. I want to show up for the important things in their lives, offer my love and support, share in their joy and be involved as much as I can. There are situations where my obligations to others require me to summon up the strength to set aside my own emotional baggage. However, I accept that there are times when I just can’t, and that is okay too. It is important to acknowledge your feelings and to allow yourself to prioritize your own wellbeing if the moment calls for it. Sometimes you will feel happy and able to partake in celebrating a loved one’s pregnancy, in other instances preserving your mental health is the bigger priority. It is a natural consequence of dealing with infertility.

Things That I Do When Triggered By Baby Showers
1.      Acknowledge and Accept My Feelings. It is natural to have mixed feelings. As mentioned, often we feel guilty or ashamed for not reacting in the way we are expected to. Check in with your emotions and acknowledge the feelings that are rising to the surface. Try not to be self-judgemental and be kind to yourself. Take some time to process, journal about or talk to someone about what is triggering you.
2.      If it’s too overwhelming, I opt out
. I am not always able to show up and celebrate in the way that I would like to. Remember that you don’t have to say yes to every single invitation. It is okay to say no sometimes. If you decided not to go, send your heartfelt apologies and a gift ahead of time. In my experience, most people are understanding when you let people know that you care about them and are happy for their joy even though you are unable to attend.
3.      When I can’t avoid it, I take steps to help myself manage better. Sometimes there are key people in our lives who would definitely notice or feel hurt by our absence. I find it so much easier to partake in their celebrations because these people mean so much to me. However, on the rare occasion where I am feeling triggered but cannot avoid a baby shower, then I’ve found it helpful to prepare myself mentally so that the event is less overwhelming. Sometimes it means taking the focus off myself and rather focusing on making the mom-to-be feel special and loved. Sometimes it means going to the event and leaving early. It may mean anticipating questions about my fertility or making peace with the sense of being excluded from conversations about people’s experiences with pregnancy, birth or motherhood. One helpful bit of advice was to plan something fun and uplifting for myself to do before and after the baby shower so that I have something to look forward to and to eliminate my stress.
4. I visualize what my own baby shower will be like. To alay my fears of never getting to have my own baby shower, I tap into the power of visualization by allowing myself to dream about all the things that I would like to do when I eventually get to celebrate my own pregnancy. I make mental notes of things I love and inevitably learn more about what resonates with me. It feels good to dream and imagine positive possibilities. 

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