WHEN TTC ISN’T EASY
Procreating ain’t easy. It’s “supposed” to be, but for a lot of people it simply is not. So for the women out there peeing on one million sticks and wondering why their high school health teacher made it sound like if you looked at a guy funny you’d be with child, this one is for you.
The Great Wide Trying to Conceive In-Between
It’s no secret that Glen and I struggled to start our family. I have written about our losses before and the pain we experienced after, but haven’t tapped into the in-between time that characterized many of our days, and weeks, and months. After speaking with so many couples who have suffered miscarriage or infertility, I’ve realized that the in-between is really important to talk about too.
Much of the trying to conceive experience (fondly “TTC” in many an online infertility forum) is living in the in-between, and not the Stranger Things version. It’s the in-between that leaves you waiting, hoping, wondering if you are pregnant, knowing that you’re not pregnant, over analyzing, and Google searching. The in-between that leaves you feeling like the brass ring on the carousel is taunting you, just out of reach.
Now there isn’t a lot that is funny about the trying to conceive in-between, but I’m going to try to lighten this up a bit because for anyone going through infertility or miscarriage it is so very heavy. Sometimes too heavy to carry. So let’s try to laugh just a little and divide the weight among ourselves.
A Control Freak Without Control
I was 27 when Glen and I decided to start trying to have a baby. That’s a pretty adult age and an age that I should have known about things, but I had no idea what I was getting into. None. I honestly believed that I would go off my birth control pill and probably be pregnant within a couple months. I even planned it so that I would have a baby in my preferred timeline and the birth would not coincide with any major holidays…
Let’s just say that didn’t work out. And for anyone reading this whose trying to conceive experience has turned into a journey, you are probably nodding along. We spend much of our lives feeling like we have at least some semblance of control. We choose our friends, our college, our major, our jobs, our apartments, our spouses. So I didn’t think it was unreasonable to think that I could control this too.
When it quickly became clear that I had absolutely no control, and in fact was spiraling out of control after each loss, then each two week wait, then each period, I felt like I was losing a part of myself. I couldn’t just “work harder” at this. I couldn’t do anything.
The Waiting Game
There is so much waiting when it comes to trying to conceive. Waiting for ovulation, then waiting to see if you feel a symptom, waiting to take a pregnancy test, waiting for your period to show up, waiting for your Doctor to call back, waiting for test results. So. Much. Waiting.
Have you ever had a time in your life when you wish you keep speed up time? Like maybe after a break up that you knew would heal eventually? Or while watching the “After the Final Rose” episode of The Bachelor because you really just want to see who the next Bachelorette is going to be?
It’s like that.
But with sharp peaks and sharper valleys and the constant feeling that you really shouldn’t be wishing away time. I mean YOLO right? Experience the moment. Be Present. Mindfulness! Avocado Toast!
If only it were that simple.
Waiting For the Other Egg to Drop
I’m pretty sure I was too busy doodling in 6th grade to really internalize the lesson on ovulation because I definitely had to relearn this from Google. What I learned is that waiting for ovulation is this SUPER fun time during which you are waiting for that tiny window when your egg and one lucky sperm have the opportunity to tango and create life. And for those who are having trouble conceiving, there are lots of ways to help you figure out when exactly this is going to happen (read: stress you out to no end.)
Perhaps my least favorite was the temperature tracking. Did you know your body temperature will drop a minuscule amount right before ovulation and then increase a minuscule amount right after ovulation? So the trick is here to take your temperature before you get out of bed, every single morning, and try to figure out when ovulation typically occurs in your cycle. Oh, but don’t move before you take your temperature because that will throw it off. And take it at the exact same time of day, because time of day throws it off too. Then make sure you track it all on your handwritten chart or handy dandy mobile app that follows you wherever you go. I’ve heard this method be described as “I hated this so much that I wanted to back my car over the thermometer.” I concur.
Another pleasant way to track ovulation is through ovulation test strips. Silly me, I thought I would pee on a stick a couple times before having a baby. Oh no, instead I peed in about 200 cups and dipped small pieces of paper into them to see if I was approaching ovulation. On the plus side, your pee remains unaffected by waking up a half hour later. On the negative side, that’s a lot of pee in cups. Did they work? Yes. Did I hate them? Also yes.
This is honestly the tip of the iceberg. There’s more. And it’s helpful. But also, it’s exhausting.
Conceal Don’t Feel
Really the whole process is exhausting and it challenges a lot of what you had perhaps taken for granted. Your youth, your health, your relationship. Concepts that you had solidified in your mind start to look a little fuzzier around the edges.
I find what is particularly challenging about the trying to conceive experience is that you can’t talk about it. Of course you can, but most people don’t want to. I didn’t share about my miscarriages outside of a close group of friends and family, and a lovely online support group, until we were into the second trimester with Jack. Why? Because it was personal. Really personal. Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of it, (no pun intended) trying to conceive is basically about your sex life. And if not about your sex life, then your medical history. Personal with a capital P.
So as a collective group of Trying to Conceivers, we try to pretend like it’s not a big deal and maybe no one will notice. We attend baby shower after baby shower, cry in the bathroom, and then fix our faces. Or we take a hiatus from Facebook because pregnancy announcements make us feel nauseous. But we tell everyone that we’re “off the book” for a bit to focus our time on reading real books so that we don’t need to feel bad about not liking everyone’s posts.
All the while it seems like everyone around you is pregnant. Everyone. I can’t tell you how many train strangers I irrationally despised, but then immediately felt insanely guilty for despising because their happiness had absolutely nothing to do with my pain and it’s not like they stole my baby. These weren’t exactly feelings that I wanted to share at dinner parties.
I See You
So if you’re waiting right now, or tracking right now, or cursing out your fertility app right now, I just want you to know that I’ve been there. Right there in the sucky trying to conceive in-between. Right there planning sex a month in advance, and giving vile after vile of blood, and writing angry letters to the buybuy Baby advertising department. Right there over analyzing little blue lines, on something I just peed on. Ugh… wine me. Or don’t wine me? Gahhhh…
I can’t see the future, though I desperately wish we all could, that would make things infinitely easier. But I do know that whatever happens, I’m in your corner along with some really wonderful people at RESOLVE. Send me a message or check them out.
And I know that as much as it sucked for us, there are many others out there who waited longer and are still waiting. There are IVF warriors who are putting their body through everything I did times 1 trillion. I’m not going to tell you to “just relax and it will happen.” I will definitely not say that. Ever. I just want you to know that I see you. And this isn’t fair. I wish it was better.
With love and understanding,