I got married on September 23, 2017. Besides being excited to get married, I was extremely excited to start trying for a baby. I honestly thought it would happen quickly. As a self-described go-getter and driven woman, I jump head-first into the things I really want. When it came to conceiving I had the motto "If you build it, they will come" attitude. I had my autoimmune system in a stable place, I was eating well, resting, reducing my stress, tracking my ovulation, and doing you know what. Check, check, and check.
As my Aunt Flow continued to make her monthly visit, I noticed the panic starting to settle in. What's wrong with me? Why am I not getting pregnant? What am I not doing right? Friends and doctors assured me that the average couple can take up to a year to get pregnant. I thought that these were strange statistics because everyone around me was getting pregnant rather quickly. It was everywhere, I mean everywhere. Baby everything—from social media to kid parties, to gender reveals and baby showers. Oh, and the ads on my Facebook... really? How does it know?
Getting married involves compromise. I chose to join my husband near our hometown which was a big adjustment from city life in Portland, Oregon. All of a sudden I was thrust into a family-centered culture. Everyone around me has kids... everyone but me. Meanwhile, my friends were busy being moms and they didn't have time for movie nights or day trips to the beach. I didn’t fault them for it, I just wanted to join this mommy club so I could be invited to kid parties and playdates too.
There was one catch to being part of that club. I needed a kid and I couldn’t order one from Amazon Prime. When my friends got together they talked about all things baby. And they should! That was the reality, relevancy, and exciting nature of their world. I wanted to hear them. But, I just want to have stories of my own to share instead of the awkward, "Oh yeah, my dog Tule, she pukes everywhere too. Oh and her poop, yeah, I have to clean her butt all the time when it gets smashed into her butt hair, so I totally get your baby challenges." In my head, I immediately imagine the emoji of the girl who slaps herself in the forehead. “Did I just say that to my mom friends?”
I never realized the emotional roller coaster I would embark on trying to conceive. The highs of seeing that you ovulated, to the lows of Aunt Flow coming for another visit. You repeat this cycle month by month and the anxiety grows, and the feeling of hopelessness is hard to deflect. You try hard not to be sad, but you are. You put a smile on your face in front of your friends and family because you don't want to seem gloomy. You feel a sense of isolation and disconnect from the world around you, and feel guilty and ashamed for feeling that way.
The two-week wait is the worst. You can't take a pregnancy test for two weeks and on top of that, you can’t help but dwell on the potential of a human being growing in your belly. One of my biggest complaints about sharing my fertility struggles with others is someone telling me not to think about it during those two weeks. Um hello, there could be a human in my body and you are telling me not to think about that for two weeks?!
If you know someone who is struggling to get pregnant I would like to share some helpful tips on what not to say.
- “Don't think about it.”
We went over this one already. Especially in the two-week wait window. Come on, we are talking about a lifelong event happening in my uterus! It’s on my mind.
- “You haven't been trying that long if you think about it.”
This always seems to come from someone who conceived rather quickly. My first thought to myself is, "Yeah, you wouldn't know about that." And in case you haven't noticed, I'm entering my late 30s.
- “Don't stress about it, it will happen when you just go with the flow.”
You are right, let me check fertility stress off my morning to-do list. Done! Wow that was easy, how come you didn't mention it sooner?
- “Have a lot of sex all the time.”
Did I already mention I am not in my 20s anymore?
- “It will happen.”
Last time I checked you didn't have psychic abilities. Thank you for the confirmed confirmation, anything else exciting going to for sure happen in my future?
- “Women have babies in their 40s.”
That is great for women who want to be pregnant in their 40s. I, for one, am not one of them. And let’s not forget that the risk of miscarriage and abnormalities go up the older you get, and your chances of getting pregnant go down, with each passing cycle. My vision board doesn't have a grayed hair woman with a baby bump.
- “You have plenty of time.”
Hmm, actually I don't. But more importantly, I would love for my children to know who their grandparents are before they die. Plus, I would love for my kids to grow up with my friend's kids. But hey, maybe by then they could babysit mine.
- “Just focus on other things in your life.”
I am trying. I am trying to focus on anything but the fact that I can’t get pregnant. Thank goodness for 90-Day Fiancé on TLC. At least I have a real husband, right?
- “There are medical interventions that could help you.”
There are really expensive options. Just thinking about that makes me want to cry, vomit, or both. Of course, I have $30,000+ in my shoebox for things like this, who doesn’t?
Okay, so that was a tad dramatic but I hope you get the point. We understand you mean well, we really do. We know that you want nothing more for us to experience the joy of becoming a mom. The thing is, many times it makes us feel worse. Here are a few responses that might help validate and console someone struggling to conceive.
"That must be really hard for you."
"I don't understand what you are going through, however if I was in your position, I would probably feel the same way."
"What can I do to be supportive?"
A hug. No, really! Sometimes a sweet hug is all I need to know that someone hears me.
I hope this offers a new perspective on the struggles of infertility. Most women suffer in silence. Hey, we aren't even supposed to tell people we are pregnant until three months in. There are thousands of women doing everything in their power to get pregnant and each month the visit from Aunt Flow separates them further from that dream. This doesn't even address the women who experience miscarriages—something I have not endured myself—but I can't imagine being handed the gift of life, only to have it taken away.
What I do know is this: I am sad, I am hurting, and I am working diligently on figuring out some of the potential barriers to conceiving. I also believe that sometimes there aren't any barriers; it just isn't the right time. I also believe that perhaps I was not meant to experience motherhood of a human child in this lifetime. I don't like to admit that, but I do believe it. I can check off the medical issues, but after that, it is truly a lesson of letting go. And with that letting go, a realization that I will get to be a mom, maybe just not in the way I originally envisioned. In the tough moments, I have to make a list of all the wonderful things I have in my life, and there are so many, yet they are easy to lose sight of when you're hyper-focused on something else. In those challenging moments, I have to remind myself how lucky I am to take a nap on a Saturday afternoon, or to binge-watch Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman each night with my puppies happily by my side. To come back to my art because, not only do I have the time, but more importantly, it is medicine for my soul. And to spend more time with my parents, because being a mom is demanding, and I’m lucky to have extra time to share with them. To my husband during this "waiting" period: let's go on adventures, let’s strengthen our marriage, let's do all the things we want before our life changes. Lastly, I have to remember that I am already a mom to two beautiful fur babies, a cat, and 12 chickens.
I’m sending love to all the other women who can relate. If you need a virtual hug or to vent, I’m here.