Infertility: Why I Felt Relief When I Found Out I Couldn't Get Pregnant This Month

3 years ago
Nora and Neal Wimmer in the LeavesThe other day I mentioned that I was both disappointed and a little relieved that this cycle was cancelled (meaning that I did the first half of fertility treatments but circumstances forced us to stop trying this month). I think that everyone can easily understand why I was disappointed, but I’m guessing that my relief befuddles at least a few of you. I would like to explain it.
 
It is my perception that there are some assumptions made when someone is undergoing fertility treatments. One of them is that they actually want to have a baby. This is a fair assumption, and it also happens to be true in my case. Another assumption is that the desire for this child is all consuming and generally obsessive. I think that, to a certain extent, popular culture pushes this myth. I know that even a simple Google search about infertility brings up a number of archived virtual bulletin boards composed almost entirely by people whose desperation to conceive appears to rival that of a man lost in the desert’s need for a drink of water.  I am not one of those people. (At least not yet...)
 
Please don’t misunderstand, I am not condemning any of those people. I’m not even saying that I don’t ever feel how they appeared to be feeling when that snapshot of their life was taken. I’m just saying that, for me, things are a bit more complicated. I also think that it just might be possible that a lot of other people feel the same way.
 
I have known for a long time that I wanted to have children. It was one of the first things that John and I talked about when our relationship was getting serious – the desire to have children someday. (I am the sort of person who tries to be clear about potential major issues right away. I don’t want to get too invested into any sort of major endeavor when there is no chance of it working out long term. Luckily John is the same way.) We were quite young when we got together, so someday was understood to be a while away, but it was on our radar even then.
 
There really is no doubt that John and I both really want to have children of our own. Ones we don’t have to share with anyone else (a la the child I won in a Monopoly game – it turns out Monopoly pledges are inadmissible in a custody hearing, meaning that my parental decisions always have to be cleared with his actual parents… so tiring…). Ones we won’t have to give back to anyone else right in the middle of their lessons about Daleks, Red Shirts, the Force, or any other really important stuff.
 
So, if I want kids, why was a part of me relieved that I couldn’t get pregnant this month?
 
Well, to understand the answer to that question, it is important to understand that the odds of me getting pregnant without medical assistance are quite slim, and other medical issues mean that if I don’t do it soon then the odds go down. All women face a certain amount of “use it or lose it” at some point in their lives, but mine is probably approaching more quickly. I know that there is no “perfect time”, but I don’t really even have the chance to see if there will ever be even a slightly better time.
 
I know, none of that answers the question. Sorry, I sometimes get caught in the backstory.
 
Bottom line: When someone gets pregnant naturally, even when they have been actively trying for just that outcome, then it is still considered perfectly normal and acceptable for them to freak out a little bit. To freak out about pregnancy, labor, and parenting. These are big issues, so people accept that it is only natural for expectant parents to have a little bit of freaking out.
 
When you’re going through fertility treatments, though, things seem a bit different. I feel like if, after you have gone through all of this effort, you freak out a little bit then people seem less inclined to accept that as a natural part of the process. They are more likely to say something like, “Well, you said you wanted this, why did you do it if you didn’t? Seems like a waste. I feel sorry for your kid.” I think that we’ve all gotten so used to the picture of the desperate infertility patient that we forget that emotions and reactions can be complex. Infertility patients don’t get to be complex, they only get to have the one reaction. If they show any other reaction then they are fair game for criticism.
 
All of this might just be in my head, but it IS in my head. The simple fact is that I am ALREADY freaking out about everything involved. I am worried about the general creepiness of having another being growing inside of me (pregnancy is both beautiful and super-creepy, can we all just accept that and move on?), I am worried about being stuck in DC traffic on my way to the hospital when I go in to labor, I am terrified of giving birth in general (growing up people seemed to take a certain delight in telling me horror stories about labor – and yet still never hesitating to tell me that getting an epidural would be a supremely selfish decision equivalent to making my child a cocaine addict), I am frightened about whether it will negatively impact my marriage and overall happiness (what is with all the studies lately telling people that having children will make them miserable sad sacks?), and I am frightened about  becoming one of those parents whose lives seem to start a long decline into death when they have their kids – as though they have decided that their lives ceased to be of any importance once these new lives came in to the picture so they stopped doing anything enriching to their own lives. The last one is the easiest to refute with reason, but the rest are less so – and when did reason start really coming in to play with regards to fears?
 
I am just now really starting to grasp the fact that my life will never be the same again. The medication and treatments are stressful and difficult, which is really hard, but the simple fact is that the goal is even more stressful and difficult. Pregnancy is the goal. Once I hit that goal, I also have to do everything I can to keep that pregnancy squared away over the next nine months – and I am at a higher risk for miscarriage. What if that happens? To say not to worry about it isn’t helpful because the simple fact is that it is my job to do everything I possibly can to prevent that from happening – and at some point I will have to accept the fact that I can’t control every factor. I may not be able to prevent something terrible from happening… and, guess what, that’s not ever going to stop being true because once we make it safely through pregnancy then there is this other person who is going to want to climb things and then jump from them, see what happens if you stick a fork in an outlet, and somehow manage to get hurt in a bouncy house – which is literally a cushion of air.
 
 
So, you see, I didn’t feel relief because I don’t want to get pregnant and have children. I do. I want that a lot (probably a bit desperately). It’s just that part of me was glad that I could put off those other worries just a little bit longer, and give my brain just a bit more time to sort things out.
 

Also, from a less philosophical standpoint, I was glad I didn’t have to give myself a shot. I wasn’t/am not looking forward to that.
 
 
Thank you to all of you who so kindly allowed me to use pictures of your adorable children. Seeing their cute faces really brightens my day and reminds me why all of this other stuff is so worth it.
 
 

I Try: The Additive Property of Happiness http://www.theadditivepropertyofhappiness.com

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