As long as you’re healthy, getting pregnant is easy, they said. Have sex a few times around ovulation, they said. It’s exciting and it’ll happen faster than you expect, they said.
Around cycle 4, I was getting impatient.
Around cycle 8, I invested in a fertility monitor.
Around cycle 10, I suspected something was wrong.
At cycle 12, I stormed into my doctors’ office shouting about how they lied to me.
Getting pregnant is hard work. You pee on sticks almost every morning. Your calendar is full of little numbers. You learn a new language, one filled with acronyms like OKP, BFN (lots of BFNs, sadly), DPO, CD, RE, LH. Also BFP but BFP never happens. You’re also off birth control so your mood is all over the place, you ache everywhere and you’re exhausted because HOT FLASHES ALL NIGHT EVERY NIGHT. (Not very conducive to reproduction. Mother Nature really dropped the ball there.)
Your mind is blown as to how anyone can get pregnant by accident.
Anyway, I think it’s time a voice counters the Cycle 1 Unicorns and talks about what it’s like to be on the other extreme of the bell curve.
1- Your Cycle Consumes Your Life
I paid attention during high school biology. I was good at drawing the “menstrual cycle hormonal” graph and all that. The fine details slipped my mind after high school and even after learning it again in pharmacy school, but I had a general idea of how it worked and I certainly remember learning it.
(As a side-note, I have explored the “Trying to Conceive” communities and I’ve come across a disturbing number of women who don’t even know what a cycle is. Like wtf, your body tries to KILL YOU every few weeks – slight dramatization – and you’ve never been curious? Also kinda confused how the US – I assume everyone in those communities are American given the metrics they use and how they talk about medical costs – manages to produce some of the best biologists in the world yet basic biology doesn’t seem to even be part of the general curriculum.)
Remember that menstrual cycle hormone graph?
I pretty much have one printed out and framed above my dresser. Or at least I would if it wasn’t burned into my brain after all these months.
At any given time, I can tell you what cycle day I’m on, what my estrogen levels are like, when my last LH surge was and how many days prior or post ovulation I am. And I’ve forgotten all about social appropriateness. You know how people with irritable bowel syndrome shamelessly talk about their bathroom habits? Well, I’m pretty sure ever waiter, cashier and hair stylist in town has received, at some point in the past year, a detailed report on my fertility status.
2- Perceived Reproductive Rates in Your Environment Greatly Increases
The longer it takes you to conceive, the more people around you will be announcing pregnancies and births. Take long enough and people will be announcing second and third pregnancies and births.
I’m pretty lucky in that I don’t actually feel bitter but I certainly notice it. My advice to those who are thinking about taking the leap and trying to conceive? Find someone you know who’s past Cycle 6. Guaranteed you’ll get pregnant just to spite them. I believe my lack of fertility has triggered at least a half dozen pregnancies in my social circles.
3- The “Just Relax” Cliché Is An Actual Thing
Yeah, I’d seen the occasional infertility testimony where someone complains that they’re told to “just relax”, but I didn’t think it actually happened. Or perhaps it’s something old people say because they’re from an era where, if you couldn’t conceive, there was nothing you could do beyond relax and hope.
Rude awakening for me, it happens all the time. And from people who are well aware that biology doesn’t work that way.
I mean, I suppose if you were too stressed to eat or have sex, you’d have trouble getting pregnant, but once you’ve reached that point, “just relax” isn’t going to cut it anyway. Anything less than that, the human body can mix reproduction and stress quite well. People in warzones, or who are struggling to make ends meet, or coping with illnesses, mental or physical, or who are in really unhealthy relationships, reproduce ALL THE TIME. Human history is brutal. If stress sterilized us, we’d have died out a long, long time ago.
In their defense, however, given how outspoken and graphic I’ve been about my struggles, “just relax” is likely a roundabout way of saying “please, please, please stop talking about your uterus.”
4- The Video Game References Come Easy
The game got a lot less fun after about the fourth dungeon reset.
(I couldn’t find a definition for reset, but it’s when everything in the dungeon comes back. Some dungeons can be reset manually, some reset after a day, some after a week. The getting-pregnant dungeon resets every cycle.)
5- The Scientist in You Will Be Fascinated
The process of trying to get pregnant has been an exercise in frustration, however, there’s this part of me that quietly and defiantly enjoys the learning experience.
I will always remember the day I bought my fertility monitor.
The monitor and 3 cycles of strips set me back about 300$ (this is with my staff discount, you will pay more unless you find a used monitor). I had mixed feelings of “I can’t believe it came to this” and “Shit, this machine is so cool! I can’t wait to use it!”
I’ve gotten to know a whole new side of my body. I was always very familiar with my cycles (if you looked up “regular cycle” in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of my endometrial lining, which is the main reason I was shocked when I discovered I couldn’t get pregnant on my own), but actually being told when my estrogen starts to increase and when my LH surge happen is freaking amazing. You know those videos on Facebook of very young deaf children getting hearing implants for the first time? That’s how I feel. Like I’m hearing my body’s voice for the first time.
Yesterday, I went for an HSG and got to see a picture of my uterus! I mean, I’d seen lots of pictures in textbooks or powerpoint slides, but it’s different when it’s yours. Body didn’t cooperate, making the test rather brutal, but it was totally worth the 1-2 minutes of screaming like a banshee. Reaction? It was a lot smaller than I expected.
And my blood test results! I could talk about them all day.
I’m sure the novelty will wear off eventually, but for now I feel like I’m receiving a top-notch hands-on course. I can’t wait until more test results come in!
When I think about it, I feel like a curious mind is the best coping mechanism for every day struggles. So many times in my life I’ve felt like “This is awful…but also utterly fascinating…”
On The Tone Of This Post
The post was many
cycles months in the making. I definitely wanted something light-hearted because there’s just so much about the trying to conceive business that’s absolutely ridiculous and that stuff needs to be pointed out and laughed at. Plus, there’s already lots of doom and gloom writings about conception difficulty. Joking around allows for sharing different aspects of the adventure (is it inappropriate to call it an adventure?). And, after all, I prefer to write humour. I’m just not very good at it so it’s all labelled “light-hearted”.
It took a long time, however, to properly organize my thoughts and collect material. Besides, I didn’t feel qualified to write anything until I was past the hump of normal conception time. As the seasons goes by, though, as I gather other people’s experiences and I realize that the RNG may never be on my side, my demeanour has changed from goofy to more…. thoughtful. I still wanted to get the goofy post out there, but I expect to follow up with something a bit more substantial and closer to what’s actually going through my mind. So yeah, if you like reading about this stuff, stay tuned for next time.