On Failing to Get Pregnant: A Reflection

Alright. Last post was a light-hearted take on how trying to conceive isn’t as straightforward as I expected. This is the more… hmm…philosophical follow up post.

This is a super touchy subject because everyone who fails to get pregnant has a different experience. I mean, I feel like I have different experiences every day and I’m just one person! So yeah, I’m worried I’ll come across as flippant or preachy because that’s not my intent. It’s just me, reacting to things I read and musing on the bits floating in my mind right now. Ask me again in two weeks, or had I written this two months ago, the tone would be something else again.

Semantics

I don’t say “infertility” yet. I believe the technically is, barring known medical conditions, no pregnancy after a year of unprotected intercourse. The year timeline seems really arbitrary. It only makes sense as a measure for couples who aren’t actively trying but aren’t preventing. Because if you’re actually trying, a year can mean anything from 10 to 17 cycles (assuming regularity since for someone who’s not regular, the year measurement doesn’t really apply) and let me tell you, if you’re actively trying, you know what cycle you’re on and you know something is wrong well before cycle 17.

This is cycle 13 here and less than a year, so I’ll just wait until the test results finish coming in before slapping a label on myself.

Raise a Child Or Be Mom

I see this all the time in conception or parenting communities: “I’ve always wanted to be a mom.

It occurs to me that I have never wanted to “be a mom”. The thought never even crossed my mind.

I have always wanted to raise children. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved teaching, having little brothers (though I only started admitting that recently), keeping bits of wisdom to pass on. I’ve had stashes of toys and old school assignments kept “for my future children”. Every time I disagreed with my mom, I would think “that’s not how I’ll be with MY kids” and whenever my mom said “I hope you have a kid just like you” I’d silently agree because having a kid like me would be awesome.

Maybe it’s just semantics, or an English-speaking culture thing, but I never thought of having kids as something to “be”. Rather, to me, it is something to “do”. I still don’t care about being a mom, but I definitely want to raise kids, teach them to talk, show them the world and give them opportunities that weren’t available to me 30 years ago.

The Mood Follows the Cycle

One thing I’ve learned by reading “Trying to Conceive” testimonies is that the stress can come on really early. I’ve seen plenty of posters (not just women btw, I think we do everyone a disservice by forgetting that men are also affected by the process) on cycles 2(!)-4 talking about how emotional and upset they are.

Personally, I thought cycles 8-10ish sucked the most. I’ve been really outspoken about my trials, because…well, that’s just me. Queen of too much information (TMI). Probably makes me detestable at times but I don’t care enough. Anyway, the predictions at work were that I would be pregnant in August. My reaction? “Geez, I hope it doesn’t take THAT long.

August came and went, as did the realization that if the early cycles had worked out, I would have given birth already. That was the worst. Once that hump passed, I realized nature wasn’t going to be on our side, which meant going to the doctor, which mean taking some control over the situation. It helped with acceptance.

For the most part, though, and still today, mood follows the cycle. Day 1, you receive the message that you aren’t pregnant AGAIN and you’re in pain and uncomfortable because periods are just your body’s way of giving you the finger. It’s miserable. About a week in, the fertility monitor changes your status from “low” to “high” and eventually “peak”. This part is great, you feel empowered, you’re bonding with your husband, you’re full of hope. Then you have two weeks of helpless waiting. You hate the world, you don’t want to go to work, you just want to be left alone and play video games. You hold off on the booze, on the Advil, on the melatonin (am serious insomniac, I avoid the heavy sleep aids because they’d kill what little ability to sleep I have and, besides, melatonin works really well for me) so you’re really hating life. Then Day 1 comes along again, reminding you that your suffering was all in vain.

Dealing with People Asking When You’re Having Kids

Probably the #1 complaint of trying-to-conceivers. Actually doesn’t really apply to me. Everyone close to me knows way, waaaaay more than they ever wanted to and most strangers in Canada are too polite to ask about that sort of thing. And if they did ask, ha! would they ever be served!

On the rare occasion where it comes up and I need to shut it down, I just say something like “When Mother Nature/Biology cooperates.” It’s short and sweet and difficult to reply to.

Trying to Conceive and Your Partner

Lots of rants about how the pressure of not getting pregnant wrecks havoc on relationships. That makes me sad. Those people are missing out.

For us, so far, it’s brought us closer together. Talk to me again in 2 years and we’ll see (haha) but for now it feels like we’re working on a team project. We have a common goal, something to talk about, commiserate over. It also gives us an excuse to be extra nice to each other and share ice cream.

I think it’s important to remember that both partners have their challenges. Us women have the downside of having to use strips almost every morning, the invasive tests, watching what we eat and drink. But we have the upside of feeling like we’re taking action and being first to know if anything changes. Our partners have less to do, but they’re like stuck in the post-ovulation part of the cycle: waiting, waiting, waiting. It’s not a suffering competition. There’s nothing to gain in that. Or any kind of competition. We’re on the same team with different roles and we have to help each other be the best we can be.

On Bitterness

The other day I was talking to a friend I’d met on the Epic Journey. She’d recently announced that she was expecting in a few months, so I congratulated her. She asked me how things were on my end so I told her how we were also hoping to grow our family but had no luck. We talked about that for a bit and I noticed she totally clammed up about her own pregnancy. (She’s a very considerate person. She’ll be a great mom.) It then dawned on me that I was genuinely happy for her and actually wanted to hear about her experience. For the first time, I sort of regretted being forthcoming because I was disappointed by how she was worried about upsetting me.

I certainly notice all the Facebook announcements and baby photos. It bothers me in how, if we do eventually succeed, our kids will be so much younger than all our friends’ kids. There’s a bit of pouty “not fair” mixed in too. I’m fortunate, though, that I don’t seem to have the same strong feelings that others report. I am genuinely happy for the people who’ll be great parents.

Someone who probably shouldn’t be having kids right now used to kind of bother me in a “why is it so easy for them but so hard for me” and a “could she donate her uterus to me” sort of way. You know, the struggling 20 year old on her third pregnancy with father #1 missing, father #2 in jail and father #3 an asshole. I work in health care so I see this, ugg, far too often. One day, though, it occurred to me that I was just judgmental, not envious. Their experience of parenting is not the experience of parenting I’m striving for. The only thing their pregnancy and my desired pregnancy have in common is that it involves a baby. While my pregnancy would be an exciting adventure full of hope and dreams, theirs are little other than heartbreak and stress. How can I be envious of that?

On Adoption

I’ve actually been looking forward to tackling this topic. Before meeting Ed, I was very vocal about wanting to adopt as a single mom. Ironic? Maybe. However, years of consideration have given me some perspective I’d like to share. We’re still open to the possibility except for, this is 1) 2017 and 2) Canada. The “possibility” is very small.

For practical purposes, there are two types of adoptions: infant (<1 year) and older child (1 year +).

Infant adoption is the closest experience to having a biologic child. You get to witness milestones, your influence is there from day 1 and you get to grow as a parent alongside them. It's also very rare.

Lets pull up some local numbers. In the 2015-2016 year, there were 69 agency adoptions and 22 infant international adoption (out of 90 total international adoptions). Now, we don’t know that all agency adoptions are infants and many of the international adoptions could have been adoptions of family members. So, for a population of about 4.2 million and about 56 000 births per year (based on 2014 numbers, page 8 on the pdf), Alberta saw less than 91 non-family infant adoptions.

Given the sparsity of opportunity, I think infant adoption should be given in priority to those who have no other options. It makes my blood boil when someone describes IVF as “selfish”. No. Denying someone the chance of experiencing the early parts of parenthood is selfish.

There are more opportunities to adopt an older child, but they come with a different set of challenges. You miss out on all the early milestones, you can’t witness their personalities develop from the beginning, you don’t have any input on their most formative years. Plus, if you’ve never had a child before, you learn to be a parent by being tossed in the middle. Learning to parent is rough enough, just expecting someone to jump in half way, taking on a child with extra needs (all older children are considered to have special needs to varying levels because all of them have experienced significant loss) is absolutely ridiculous.

Would I still consider it? Yes, but I would not expect someone else to. Besides, as much as older children need homes and families, taking in a child when you aren’t prepared or 100% on board doesn’t do them any favors. Personally, adopting an older child would mean we’d have to move house (our current house can accommodate a baby or a toddler that is biologically ours but not a child who needs their own room) and possibly to the city (our small town may not have the necessary resources, and if adopting from social services, we wouldn’t want our child to have to change schools). If the option exists, I would go to great lengths to have raised a child from infancy first, before assuming I have what it takes to adopt an older child.

Conclusion

Like I said earlier, these are just my reactions, in this time and place. In a couple of weeks they’ll probably change. Trying to get pregnant is essentially a hopeful succession of disappointments. There’s a lot of soul searching, of comparing yourself to others, of alternating between frustration and acceptance. Regardless of how my version of this story ends, I hope I don’t forget the things I’ve learned from it.

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