(This is part 1 of a 2 part series on the Mask of Grief. Click here to read part 2.)
Have you had those moments when you look at another mom and you're overcome with envy?
She's so lucky.
She probably doesn't even know what a high-risk OB is.
She gets to wear maternity clothes.
She's in her third trimester.
She's having a baby shower.
She's probably never even heard of the NICU.
It's not fair. She's so lucky.
I know I have. So many times I've seen women walking around during pregnancy, totally oblivious to the complications that land 400,000 women per year on bed rest and felt that way.
Seeing photos on Facebook of a brand new family - a freshly born newborn being held by an exhausted but ecstatic mother and her partner crouched over the two of them - hits a nerve for me.
You know what I'm talking about?
We shy away from the word jealousy because it's a horrible feeling we're told never to feel. It's not nice. It's not helpful. It's bad.
But that's exactly what this feeling is. We're jealous.
The thing about jealousy is that behind it is the even stronger emotion: grief. (Tweet that!)
Yes, even if you are still pregnant or your baby is still in the NICU or even if your baby is home now, it is possible to grieve. (Tweet that!)
Jealousy is a mask for grief. You've experienced a significant loss even if your baby survived.
You are grieving. And that's ok.
Release the jealousy and heal from the grief.
Once you see that jealousy isn't the root but that grief is, it opens the door for healing.
Here are my top 5 tips on how to overcome jealousy of other pregnant women or moms.
1. Acknowledge your reality.
As superficial or silly as your triggers may feel, not being able to have a maternity photo shoot or attend your cousin’s wedding is a loss. Take time to really acknowledge your losses.
What do you wish had happened that didn’t? What were your deepest desires for your journey to bringing home your baby that didn’t turn into reality?
These are very real losses that need to be acknowledged before you can heal from them.
2. Stop judging yourself.
The more you tell yourself you shouldn’t feel a certain way or try to push it aside by minimizing it, the more pain you are causing yourself.
This judgment can come in the form of "shoulds" like, "I should be grateful" or "Things could be worse". It can also come in the form of tough critiques of yourself. "My contractions are my fault" or "My body is broken".
This criticism and judgment prevents you from truly healing from the grief that's fueling the jealousy.
Give yourself time every day to sit with your emotions and accept them as neither good or bad but just that they are. Show yourself the same compassion you'd show a friend in your situation.
3. Be aware of what your triggers are.
Grief is a fluid process that ebbs and flows day to day and can be exacerbated by triggers. If you are still fighting for your baby, you are living your grief every day. Going to a friend’s baby shower may make you feel much worse.
Make a choice to avoid triggers until you feel strong enough to manage them. I promise in time you will.
4. Give yourself permission to need time.
Sometimes we talk ourselves out of grief. We believe that unless someone dies or something tragic happens, we don’t have the right to grieve.
Just as you start feeling bad, you quickly shut it down with “at least….” and try to move on. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel and to take care of yourself. You would do that for people you love right? Well, you deserve it, too.
5. Give yourself props, mama!
Jealousy often comes out of insecurity and when you’re fighting for your baby in a way that you never imagined you may feel really insecure with your abilities as a mom.
What comes off as jealousy at a mom who can exercise during her pregnancy may actually be insecurity that your body isn’t doing a good enough job for your baby that you’re able to do that.
Take time every day to give yourself a pat on the back for what you are doing for your baby. The sacrifice of bedrest, the weekly cervical exams, the daily trips to the NICU to be your baby’s voice are all things you are doing to protect your baby and they are no small tasks! You deserve to celebrate!
Are you ready to be rid of jealousy, and the grief that it's masking?
It's not hard, I'll be honest. In fact, it's a lot simpler than you'd think. But it does take work. Time alone does not heal grief, contrary to pop psychology.
When you have the right tools in place, baby shower invitations won't break your heart and seeing pictures on Facebook won't feel like a gut punch anymore. If you're ready to take your healing to a deeper level so you can let truly overcome the grief, guilt and trauma that you've been through, join me and other strong, amazing women in my Postpartum Healing Program.
You are not a bad person for feeling jealous. There is nothing wrong with you. You are still a kind, loving, strong woman who's feeling vulnerable from the losses you've experienced and this is your body's way of protecting you from more heartbreak.
You can heal from this, faster than you thought possible. I believe in you.