I’ve started this blog because I’m pregnant, and the urge to talk about it is so strong that I can scarcely resist it. And as I’m only very newly pregnant, most people don’t know about it and I don’t want to send the few who have been told into a stupor by banging on about how weird/stressful/scary/exciting it all is. Instead, they can choose to read all about it here, or not.
Although I’ve got a personal blog already, I haven’t mentioned there anything about trying to get pregnant. This has meant that, for nearly four years, I’ve been apparently telling people about my life but neglecting to talk about the one thing that has become steadily all-encompassing, particularly during the past twelve months. It’s no coincidence that my blogging schedule has become somewhat erratic.
I have been reasonably reluctant to tell people about the difficulties we’ve had with trying to conceive, mainly because we value our personal privacy and don’t want the whole world to know our business (I may keep a blog, but I’m very selective about what I share).
I’ve realised that infertility is one of the hardest non-life threatening things that a couple can face. Seriously, it’s the pits. You see everybody around you having children, sometimes without even trying, and you can’t help but wonder what’s gone wrong and why it can’t be easy (or even possible) for you. It’s very hard to avoid become embittered, to be honest. Spending time with friends who have children can become challenging because you don’t begrudge them their lovely families, but you’re constantly reminded of what you don’t have. We have several friends who have met their spouses, got married and produced three or four children since our wedding in 1999 – it makes you wonder what on earth you’ve done with your time.
And it’s understandable that people with kids want to talk about them a lot, but it becomes quite difficult when you can’t manage to produce any yourself. I really believe that there’s a fairly unbridgeable gulf between the ‘fertility blessed’ and those of us who find it all challenging. I have been reading Jaquie Brown’s excellent book ‘I’m Not Fat, I’m Pregnant’, she describes being so disappointed after failing to conceive in her first month of trying. She then conceived in her second month of trying, which is amazing to me – I have met women who have been trying to get pregnant for ten years, and have had miscarriages, still births, failed IVF cycles and many other setbacks and disappointments on the way. And although I haven’t had all of that to deal with, I have had years of trying to get pregnant. To be totally honest, I’m virtually given up.
In the modern world we’re all accustomed to being able to control our lives to some degree, so it’s intensely frustrating to be told that there’s no apparent reason for your infertility: it’s just one of those things. Actually, in the past year various doctors have been clear about the likely negative impact of my great age (37), but given that I was only 33 when we started trying, it’s hard to accept that this might be the reason for our lack of baby-making success.
The thing is, infertility is hard on both the couple experiencing it and the people who know them. If you haven’t been through it yourself (and if you’ve been able to get pregnant within a year of trying, you haven’t been through it), it’s impossible to know what to say. Friends want to be encouraging and supportive, but there’s not much they can do beyond asking about progress on a regular basis, and all that does is remind the couple in question that they’re not getting anywhere.
I did contemplate writing a list of the dumb things that well-meaning people have said to me as I’ve tried to get pregnant, but I realised that doing so would be really mean spirited and ungracious: everybody does their best to be kind, after all. However, in case you ever find out that somebody you know is struggling to get pregnant, here are three things not to say:
- “Just relax/go on holiday/stop thinking about it – then it will happen”. When you have decided that you want to get pregnant and it doesn’t work, you never stop thinking about it – every month, you’re reminded of your lack of success. It isn’t relaxing, and trying to relax is even more stressful.
- “Well, at least you’ll get to have heaps of sex” (nudge nudge, wink wink). Yes, it’s lovely to have lots of sex, but baby-making sex is not exactly ‘swing from the chandeliers’ good times. It can be really difficult to relax and enjoy yourself when you’re perpetually wondering whether, this time, it will ‘work’.
- “Don’t go crazy and change your lifestyle/stop drinking/deny yourself treats: if it’s meant to happen, it’ll happen”. The simple fact is that, while plenty of people do get pregnant while smoking, drinking alcohol, chugging back coffees, eating junk food all day, etc, those of us for whom conception is not an easy task can benefit from making lifestyle changes. People need your support – they don’t need to feel like anything they try is a waste of time (and these factors can all have a significant impact on fertility, so it definitely isn’t a waste of time to give them up). You feel really powerless when you can’t get pregnant, and I believe that anything that enables you to regain some control is a Good Thing. And that ‘if it’s meant to happen, it’ll happen’ thing is a risky thing to say – it may be true, but it also suggests that certain people just aren’t ‘meant’ to have children, which is hard to stomach if you’re that person.
The only comforting thing to hear from friends when you’re in the infertility boat is a simple “I’m so sorry, that really sucks, it’s so unfair, I really hope that it all works out for you, you’d be amazing parents”. Luckily for me, I’ve had lovely friends and family members who have said exactly that, over and over again. Unsurprisingly, they’re the people who have known about this blog from day one!