Our carefully balanced emotions can easily be upset by baby news. At the time of writing this, a baby was due to be born in the Royal Family to Prince Harry and his wife Megan.
We may have been here before with other newsworthy people and I’m going to predict it’s the lead story in the UK news. I don’t begrudge them a baby and hope that all is well. It’s rarely the baby that’s the problem but attitudes that surround the news.
There will be a demographic of royal watchers who will be celebrating and probably stories of their own birth experiences, offering advice on parenting as self appointed experts with this news in common. They maybe friends of yours or family and it’s okay to walk away.
Pro-natal conversations are, in my experience, hard to stop and difficult to come out of well especially in a group. As we form communities that unite in support, grief and hope, so do other demographics. Very few will understand what it’s like to hear baby news when you can’t have a children apart from your own community and it’s to those I urge you to turn.
What I’ve learned is that however close those celebrating are to you, if they aren’t in your shoes, it’s very hard to understand that cold sharp pain. There’s a lot of questions about how your relationship will alter and those are valid worries. Many of us can relate to a time when we were judged to be less than for not being a mum and those concerns and fears come back to haunt us. They certainly do for me.
It’s never been jealously, isn’t that a much misunderstood emotion? I have never wanted to steal a child, yet have been asked if I would (I stood mouth open in horror, which turned out to be enough of an answer). It is not bitterness but a very private grief. For me, it evokes a memory of being pregnant and the loss of a life I wanted and small person. At gatherings I am fearful of any slight misjudgement by others which can leave me shaken for days, even months later. Your personal feelings may well be different. You may wonder about the sensitivity of the parents and your shared network, how you’ll cope with being a friend when the baby arrives.
Most of us have to deal with a lot of life reminders - Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, christening invites, family parties. They are all upsetting at first, and can be tiring and emotionally draining in the years that follow. What was once fun before you tried to be a parent, becomes hard work and the memories you have can be very different to other guests.
The media in the days that follow the births will undoubtedly have the strong message that parenting is depicted as more important, children are highly esteemed, and those without them can seem less than human. Media figures will talk about the fulfilment of parenthood, and imply that it is the ‘next step’ in the journey to becoming the perfect role model.
I have no magic wand, my friends and oh how I wish I did. I mentioned that very few will understand what it’s like to hear baby news when you can’t have a children, but there are those who do in your own community and it’s to those I urge you to turn.
With that comes a cautionary note. Be careful to take a break and don’t get too consumed in the online frenzy if you need space. Look to your life for comfort too. For me it’s honouring my freedom to say no, to accept that others do not understand and to maintain a right to privacy. I also understand what brings me peace, a good book, gardening, a walk with my dog and escaping to the sea and talking to well rounded, diverse friends who may or may not be parents.
You can find links to blogs and websites which offer advice on our support section here. I hope you find this helpful. If you’d like to share advice on coping please let me know in the comments or by getting in touch.