If you felt just about undone by the news of Kylie Jenner’s pregnancy, then the surprise baby announcement by Khloe Kardashian (swaddled together with the confirmation of Kim’s baby via surrogate) could push you right over the edge. For women who are trying to conceive (#TTC), it often seems like everyone around you is pregnant, but now with a spotlight on the Kardashians’ pregnancies, it feels even harder to manage your emotional wounds.
In my private therapy practice alone, I’ve noticed an uptick in individuals feeling triggered by these recent celebrity revelations. Here’s how to cope if you cannot physically “Keep Up with the Kardashians.”
Jessica,* an account director in Manhattan, has been #TTC for over 2 years. In a recent therapy session, she shared that the Kardashian Klan loosely existed in the periphery of her social consciousness, but that she felt intensely shocked and offended to learn of these pregnancies. We uncovered that her feelings of jealousy and outrage made perfect sense. First off, when an individual puts in so much effort but has yet to conceive, and then learns that someone who they perceive as “less deserving” easily gets pregnant, it can feel like a betrayal of the universe.
Furthermore, the public discussion around these pregnancies is a persistent trigger. Jessica privately expressed feelings of vulnerability around her fertility issues, which were amplified by the media’s response to these pregnancies. Many women also find it exhausting to constantly protect themselves from these public conversations on pregnancy and fertility. It takes a lot of emotional bandwidth to contain the underlying emotions around your unique situations (ex: anger, sadness and jealousy). These feelings are valid and it is necessary to carve out space to process them. If you fail to acknowledge them or attempt to repress them, they will pop back up in unexpected or undesirable places…like out at a happy hour (no one wants to be the girl crying in the bathroom when you could be enjoying a cocktail with your coworkers).
Restore Rational Thinking
The day you start #TTC, a switch gets flipped and pregnant women start falling out of the sky. Yesterday there were none, but today they are everywhere, so what’s going on? Turns out, you are seeing more pregnant women because you are noticing more pregnant women. It’s a phenomenon called the frequency illusion, where your brain gets activated by a new thought, and unconsciously redirects your attention to selectively search for it without your knowledge. Then, your awareness is further magnified because, thanks to the Kardashians, you are seeing it all over the media. From tabloids to your tablet, from social media to your social circles, it can be hard to escape the notion of pregnancy. Having an understanding of this psychological phenomenon can help you manage your emotions by restoring a healthier perspective.
Getting Pregnant is Harder than Inflating Your Lips
Regular visits to the doctor’s office (for lip injections or fertility injections) does not mean you’ll end up pregnant. Jenner’s seemingly unexpected pregnancy reinforces some unfortunate fertility misconceptions about the ease of conception. While her age fuels rage, it also puts her in the category of women in their most fertile years. While a woman's "fertility age" may be somewhat unique, it is not helpful for a woman over the age of 35 to compare herself to a 20-year-old.
Khloe Kardashian documented her initial fertility concerns on her show, which included low ovarian reserve. However, as soon as she went off her birth control, she received a fairytale-like conclusion from her doctor: abundant egg supply restored. While it’s wonderful to think the fix for infertility is as easy as going off the pill, the truth is that it can be a slow, arduous experience.
Interrupt "Compare and Despair" Thinking
Upon learning of these pregnancies, a common reaction is “I’ve been working so hard for that positive EPT test, why not me?!” Unlike other achievements, the effort you put into your fertility does not guarantee the desired outcome. This conflict is regularly experienced by the #TTC community. There’s a feeling of injustice, that Jenner, who is not even old enough to drink, is unworthy of the privilege of becoming a parent. While you may feel more deserving, it is important to remind yourself that her pregnancy status does not affect your ability to conceive. It’s important to catch yourself having these "Compare and Despair" thoughts, and break apart that unhelpful thinking. The competitive feedback loop does little more than reinforce your feelings of low self-worth and anguish. Break the cycle by reminding yourself that pregnant women are not your competition, and then try to reflect and express your emotions in a more constructive way.
Tune Out Next Season
At this rate, the Kardashians conceive so frequently (read: series spinoff potential) that they could give birth to their own network. Before you set your DVR, disrupt your thoughts from going too far into the future. One of the most difficult parts of fertility is the uncertainty. You have no idea how many more cycles it will take before you become pregnant. Instead of expending energy worrying about when you’ll see that second line on your EPT, try taking it one day at a time (eh, I know, it’s easier said than done). Find ways to seek gratitude and savor pleasure. People around you will continue to announce their pregnancies, but giving yourself greater control over your emotions will allow for a more peaceful journey. Oh, and one last tip, feel free to tune out “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” next season.
*Name has been changed
Lindsay Liben, LCSW, has a private therapy practice near Union Square, focusing on women’s issues including infertility, depression, anxiety, and life transitions. She believes that by helping her patients get in touch with their most authentic selves, they can make choices that set them up for personal and professional success. Learn more about Lindsay and her work on her website.