The word “green” can imply a host of meanings. Perhaps you correlate green with the eco-lifestyle you’ve recently adopted. Maybe you associate the hue with the gender-neutral scheme you’ve selected for the nursery. Shoot, green could even describe the shade of your face as you battle the days of sudden onset nausea during your first trimester. But there’s another sort of green that is also familiar amongst the with-child crowd: the not-so-attractive tinge of “green with envy.”
Surely you’ve encountered it a time or two. You know, like when you walk down the aisle at the grocery store, catch a glimpse of The Perfect Pregnant Woman, and subsequently freak out to your husband: “Did you see that woman? She’s 30 weeks and you can’t even tell she’s pregnant from behind!”
One of my favorite parts of my wedding day years ago was having that proverbial bridal glow, which left me feeling oh-so-beautiful. When I found out I was pregnant, I was thrilled at the prospect of taking on a similar glow, beaming with joy as I forayed into mommydom. Instead, I encountered the acne issues of a 15-year-old boy. And I suffered severe all-day morning sickness that had me losing my lunch (and breakfast, and snack … ) and appearing pale and sweaty rather than radiant.
When I confessed my woes to my mommy friends, most of them offered words of comfort: “Mine ended at 12 weeks—don’t worry!” “Since your sickness is so severe, it won’t last as long as if you were just a little nauseated.” Then I told a friend who simply said, “I’m so sorry.” A little prying revealed that in all three of her pregnancies, she hadn’t endured a moment of queasiness. I thought daily worship of the porcelain gods during the first trimester was a rite of passage required to join the ranks of motherhood? I wanted a breezy pregnancy. I wanted to feel super. I wanted to get tons accomplished while simultaneously growing a child inside my body. I wanted, quite simply, what I didn’t have. Just like that, jealously had reared its ugly head.
Interestingly enough, I had a run-in with Mr. Green again a few weeks later, only this time, I was the envy-inducer. When I asked a long-distance friend why she hadn’t posted any baby bump pictures on her Facebook profile, she retorted, “Not everyone can be as cute and pregnant as you. No one wants to see me this swollen.” And there it was: I wasn’t the only person experiencing pangs of pregnancy jealousy. As it turns out, prenatal resentment is far more common than any of us baby-makers care to admit.
In fact, jealousy even stretches into the baby daddy zone. My friend Carrie recently confessed that while her husband was supportive of her every nursery decor decision, he didn’t have any input himself—and it was driving her crazy. To make matters worse, she found out another pregnant friend’s husband had ideas about everything from sheets to rugs to curtains. “I told her how lucky she was that he had opinions about [the nursery], and she burst out laughing … she said she’d kill to be in my shoes and be able to pick out everything herself,” Carrie laughed.
Like so many other unpleasant side effects of pregnancy, the nine-month incarnation of one of the Seven Deadly Sins is rarely discussed but regularly occurring. (Was I just living under a rock, or was anyone else surprised to find that pregnancy and constipation come hand-in-hand?) Just because no one ever talks about it doesn’t mean it’s not there!
Fortunately, it seems we’re in the clear as long as we take a healthy approach when struck by covetous compulsions. “A certain amount of this type of jealousy is normal,” says Nadine Kaslow, PhD, ABPP, professor at Emory University School of Medicine and Chief Psychologist at Grady Health System in Atlanta. “If you see [another pregnant woman] you think is beautiful, and you feel fat and are vomiting, some level of jealousy will be there, but it’s on a continuum. When it becomes extreme is when it’s a concern. If you are obsessed with being jealous of someone and start acting inappropriately, then it’s a problem.” She continues, “When you’re 5 feet tall and gain 55 pounds, and you see someone who is 6 feet tall and gained only 30 pounds, of course that makes you feel awful. The thing is, women who look like they are having a perfect pregnancy can feel jealous too.”
Kermit the Frog may have said it’s not easy being green, but when it comes to pregnancy, the fact of the matter is that sometimes it’s all too easy to be green. Keep in mind that The Perfect Pregnant Woman is more than likely jealous of some aspect of your experience as well. And remember, no matter how many days you were sick or how many pounds you gained, at the end of it all, you get your very own bundle of life-changing joy—and that part will most certainly be flawless.