I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit, nursing a glass of champagne under a cabana bed in Mexico when my best friend told me she was pregnant.
Though we aren’t lucky enough to see each other very often, we have a way of staying in contact despite the miles—and the years. She’s been my buddy throughout the many milestones I conquered and braved in my 20s. There to support me when (yet another) guy broke my heart, there to celebrate when I was featured in a major newspaper, there to drown in wine with me when I went freelance full-time, there to throw me a ‘see you abroad’ party when I decided to travel for a year, and there, in Vienna, Austria, to ring in my 29th birthday.
Also a writer, our careers have been similar—almost eerily so—and we’ve encouraged each other to negotiate better rates, take leaps of faith, and to be bold enough to stand as female solo-preneurs. In so many ways, we share the same feminist ethos, serving as one another’s cheerleader and sounding board anddancing through any hurdle to the beat of Beyonce, knowing, duh—we do run the world.
Only a few months apart in age, there has only been one major area where we differ: she met the love of her life right out of college, and I’m still on my journey to meet whoever-he-will-be. She’s done her best to keep me positive through the ebbs-and-flows of (the lack of) love, and I’ve found inspiration for happy endings by watching her relationship grow with her now-husband. (And my now-friend, also.) Standing next to her as a bridesmaid on her wedding day was a moment I’ll never forget, thoroughly believing with all of my heart that these two people were meant for each other, and being so happy to share in their joy.
I felt similarly when she let me in on the not-so-little secret that she was expecting.
Why I Struggled
Like me, my bestie has dreamt of being a mother her whole life. Call it intuition, or the connection between two women who know everything about each other, but I sort of already knew she was expecting, even mentioning it to my mom a few days earlier. As I asked her a million questions, my heart started to race, and I couldn’t believe someone I adored so dearly was going to have her greatest dream come true. She was going to become a mom—and a wonderful one, at that.
But as I walked back to the hotel room I was reviewing for yet another travel publication, at yet another fancy, 5-star resort, I felt the flood of envy wash over me. As a travel and lifestyle journalist, dictating my own schedule and witnessing the many wonders of the world is something I’m grateful for, but is also something I worked very hard for. And though it does look Instagram-filtered from the outside (and it is), it’s not always something to be jealous or envious of, since it makes it difficult to build a community. On that note—I think it’s important to distinguish between envy and jealousy, since the latter often carries a negative connotation. A deadly sin, sure, envy is more about craving what someone else has, while still feeling genuinely excited for him or her. Jealousy on the other hand, is wishing they didn’t have something.
Though I’d really love to be in a relationship (and I hope to be soon), I know I’m not ready to become a parent quite yet. Even so, being a mom is an experience I can’t wait to have in the coming years. The fear of never having children is something I started to harbor in my 20s, when my five-year plan for love didn’t turn out as I anticipated. It doesn’t help that so much of what we read and hear about fertility is anxiety-inducing, warning women of their expiration date or telling them to prepare for a long road of treatment, procedures, and disappointment. While some of this advice can be valid, the ability to reproduce comes down to the woman and the couple, and the unique makeup they have. My friend reminds me of that when I start to spiral into the I’ll be alone forever mole-to-mountain frenzy.
And that’s partly why I felt so terrible about being envious of what is undeniably such a beautiful time in her life. Why was I even thinking of myself? Was I really selfish? What were these feelings?
Why We Feel Envy
Normal ones, according to clinical psychologist Dr. Stephanie O’Leary, Psy.D., who says envy (and jealousy, frankly) are innate human emotions, usually rooted in fear. She explains that this type of feeling has roots in the animal kingdom, and it’s sort of like feeling as though you’re being threatened—even though, of course you’re not—or you’re doing something wrong. It’s likely also partly competitive, even if it’s not a conscious choice to be.
“This typically arises because it is nearly impossible to interpret your friends situation completely separately from your own. That is, you are thrilled for her and want only the best, but at the same time her pregnancy creates a new difference within your relationship,” she continues. “She has—or is—something that you are not. That disparity can create feelings of jealousy, even if you are not necessarily trying to have a child at the moment.”
How I Handled Envy
A few months later, I was finally able to see her new home and catch up with her in person, after nearly a year of no face-to-face contact. From the moment we hugged, I felt the envy wash away. Being able to give her baby gifts from two countries I visited and feel the little kicks of her child-to-be reminded me that even if we go through different life stages on staggered time lines, our friendship remains just as strong. And arguably, even stronger, since I confessed my feelings of envy a few nights later, and she shared how she feels the same about other things, like my traveling. The grass might not be greener on either side—but we sure do create quite the garden of vivid, varied blooms together.
If you are trying to get pregnant and attending your pal’s baby shower, you’re single and worrying about making it to the altar, or you don’t even know why you’re envious, take these tips from a psychologist on how to deal—and to stop giving yourself a hard time. You’re not the only one—and trust us, you’re not a bad friend, either. You’re merely human.
Don’t judge yourself for feeling jealous
Licensed psychologist Dr. Sarah Schewitz says when we judge ourselves for having emotions, we don’t allow ourselves to accept and process the emotion. Instead, we make it tougher to bear by piling on shame on top of what we are already feeling. “This actually leads to the emotion getting stuck inside of us rather than flowing through us and passing,” she continues. “Acknowledge and forgive yourself for whatever emotions come up, remind yourself that you’re human, and let the emotion pass. It always will eventually.”
Think it through
Instead of letting the thoughts become overwhelming, Dr. O’Leary recommends putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and allowing yourself to process where the envy is coming from. “Jotting down your thoughts may help you discover what is fueling your emotions. It could be your personal desire to expand your family, to experience pregnancy, or even the underlying concern that your friendship may shift based on motherhood,” she explains. “Gathering facts is a great way to organize your feelings, and giving yourself permission to sit with your thoughts without judgement is a great way to obtain clarity and move on.”
Talk it out
Considering I’ve discussed nearly every last feeling I’ve had for the past six years with my friend, I couldn’t have imagined not sharing this new one. Since she’s ever-accepting and kind, she didn’t even bat an eyelash, and perhaps your friend won’t either. Dr. O’Leary explains there’s nothing that compares to an open conversation that allows you to breathe a little easier and let go. “You may be surprised to find out how common this dynamic is and you may also be relieved to hear that there is far less judgement than you expect,” she shares. “Talking about your emotions and experiences allows you to sort through them, dismiss what is not worth holding onto and create a plan for those themes and ideas you just can’t shake.”
Trust the timing of the universe
Is there anything more difficult than having faith in what you can’t predict? Or plan for? For Type A me, not having answers to what I consider some of the most important questions in my life has been a test of patience, confidence, and, as Dr. Schewitz adds, timing. “If you are feeling jealous because you really want a baby and don’t have one yet, remind yourself that everything happens for you and not to you. If you don’t have a baby yet, there’s a good reason. Perhaps you need to dig into personal growth and have some breakthroughs before you are truly ready for motherhood,” she explains. “We’re not always able to see the reasons why something is happening the way it is in the moment but looking back, you’ll probably see that the timing was ultimately perfect for you.”
But when I really need a reality check? I turn to this friend, who hey, the universe brought my way through a series of made-for-each-other events. And if it can deliver such a powerful and endearing soul as a bestie, I can’t imagine what it has in store for my love life and family one day.
In the meantime though, I’m proudly taking on the title of Auntie—and counting down until we finally get to meet the littlest star of the next generation.