Most recent example:
Two friends and I went to Stations of the Cross at my parish last Friday, and we decided to attend the simple supper held beforehand in the Church hall. None of us had been before, so none of us realized that the simple supper is almost exclusively attended by the large families at our parish. Seriously, just about every table was one family – parents and 3-6 kids. I felt out of place at once, but thankfully saw a friend, who is also my Creighton teacher. We sat with her and her husband and their three young kids. At the last session I had with her, she told me about a trip she and her husband were going on, so I asked about that. "Oh, it was fun!" she replied. "Except I'm pregnant, so I had some morning sickness. But we still had a good time."
"Oh. Wow," was all I could manage. I don't even think I got "congratulations" out.
To her credit (I mean, she works with people struggling with IF, like me), she didn't dwell on the pregnancy news or seem miffed that my response was rather lackluster. I don't put her in the category of "insensitive people" – she's always been very sympathetic to what me and Mr. M are going through. But really? They're pregnant again? Four times in as many years, give or take one?
Enter jealousy. Big time. I excused myself to go to the restroom and stood in the stall for a while, looking at my shoes (which I could see very clearly over my non-existent baby bump, ha ha) and feeling...barren. Barren as a brick. Barren as a desert. Lifeless. Barren. And bright, kelly green with jealousy. "God, seriously? You give her another pregnancy, a fourth child in a row, and we can't even have one? Why?"
At Stations a few minutes later, everywhere I turned there were more pregnant women, more babies, more toddlers, more large families. I guess that's a positive thing about our parish. (I know it is, really.) But I feel so left out, so jealous of everyone else's abundance. So angry at their nonchalance about their tremendous blessings (at least that's how it seems to me).
My goal was not to cry during the Station prayers, and I mostly succeeded. My meditation was poor though, unless it counts to meditate on one's own suffering. Certainly a lot of the prayers and Scriptures resonated with what I was feeling: "Lord, have you forgotten your servant?" "My soul is weary with grief." and so on. I tried to unite my longing, my sadness, with Jesus' infinite gift of love on the cross, but to be honest, my thoughts kept being overshadowed by thinking that all the mothers in the room have a special insight into the Station prayers by being mothers and so knowing more viscerally what Mary was experiencing (so I feel left out there too).
God bless the friends I came with. (Both single, by the way, and so also sensitive to being surrounded by large families.) Afterwards, one asked me whether I was okay. She's so thoughtful.
I'm not quite sure how to deal with jealously. I do acknowledge that it's first a passion, an emotion that I don't choose or ask for. Rather, it hits me over the head unexpectedly, especially with suprise pregnancy announcements. I feel suddenly overwhelmed with grief and longing and I feel a vivid sense of cosmic unfairness at all the people who get to experience pregnancy multiple times (in a row!) when I haven't ever experienced it once.
I know jealousy harms relationships. To be honest, I now dread my next Creighton appointment – maybe dread's too strong a word. But it feels like this safe space for venting about IF has been infringed upon, now that my instructor is "one of them" – the growing list of people who have gotten pregnant in the time we've been trying. And I admit that I sometimes consciously avoid people who are pregnant because of feelings of jealousy. Hopefully it hasn't been noticeable to them, but for example I don't walk past my pregnant coworker's office anymore, and I don't seek out a pregnant friend after mass to chat anymore. (I really like her! - but after mass I feel so vulnerable already that I just want to be with Mr. M and get out of there.) I'm not proud of that, but it is what it is.
My hunch is that the antidote for jealousy is two-fold: one, sincerely thanking God for my own blessings and, more profoundly, for His unfailing love for me. IF really threatens my trust in God's love. Horrible, but true. I pray for the gift of faith often, to truly believe that He hasn't forgotten us, even as He showers the very blessing we want on other people.
And two, pray for the person I'm jealous of, for their pregnancy, their family, etc. I don't always feel like praying for them, but it does seem to neutralize the jealousy and I think it's a way to foil the devil's attempts to foster division through jealousy.
On further reflection, I guess I would add a third: remember that everyone has a cross to bear, at one time or another. Come to think of it, I've never met a person who hasn't had a difficulty or two: if not IF, then their husband's work schedule. Or a child with special needs. Or trouble with in-laws. Or unemployment. Or whatever. The people I was jealous about at Stations - those big, beautiful families - they probably all have their own trials they're going through too.
And as a corollary - I think it's safe to say that there's always going to be someone who has what you want, and always someone who wants what you have. For example, my two single friends I went to Stations with. They desire so much to be married, but haven't found the right man. Since going through IF, I try to be even more sensitive to the fact that I have a BIG blessing that they've only dreamed of having - a wonderful husband.
And I guess I should throw confession in there too =) Nothing like a sacrament for healing emotional wounds! (When jealousy is truly a conscious, chosen sin, of course - excluding the spontaneous feelings, just like you don't have to confess unwanted feelings of lust, or greed, or whatever.)
If anyone has any other advice on how to deal with jealousy - I'm all ears!