Pregnancy after Infertility is Neither Here Nor There

10 years ago

If only Babies R Us could start up a special registry for those pregnant after infertility. In the left column next to the pictures could be soothing thoughts for the jittery parents-to-be: "it's okay to look at bumper patterns." And an extra right side column could be notes from the parents to anyone shopping early for their child: "Thank you so much for considering purchasing this breast pump for us. If it isn't too much trouble, please don't tell us that you bought it or give it to us prior to bringing home our baby."

Infertility doesn't end with getting pregnant. The excitement and confidence from that first beta usually wears off after a day or so and each milestone reached--the second beta, the sac in-utero, seeing the heartbeat, feeling the first kicks--only brings a modicum of relief; a shorter and shorter pause to the worrying since the stakes are raised as each week passes.

It's no better going the adoption route. Some social workers caution against setting up the room ahead of time though others give the advice to use the waiting period to prepare as one would during any gestation. Those pregnant after infertility swing on the same pendulum--do I buy a glider now? Wait until the baby arrives? Order items and keep them on hold? Bring a pack-n-play into the house?

My advice is to disregard the helpful advice of what experts or your mother thinks and go with your gut--what feels right. If painting a room is going to bring you peace, then grab peace wherever you can get it--even in a 2 gallon can of Behr paint. If having the room finished and no child to bring home will simply haunt you day in and day out, rest easy that there is always time. Somehow a room always comes together.

If the worst happens--and I am sending out hope to anyone reading this that the worst never happens--it will not be because you washed some onesies or didn't welcome your child into the house with a fully prepared room. Putting away baby items will not be the thing that undoes you because after a loss, you are already undone. Undoing a room is salt on a very open wound, though even without the salt, the wound still exists.

If you make the decision to start shopping, you do so with what you know at the moment. And that is all any of us can ever do--make our decisions based on what we know in the moment and what we hope happens in the future.

I think the most interesting response to shopping for pregnancy is the guilt. It is not just the worrying that setting up a room brings but also the worry how others will view the act. Is setting up a registry going to be the floodgate that signals the showers and baptism preparations you weren't ready to discuss yet? Will your infertile friends see you as someone who has moved on? Do you look foolish in the face of knowing how much can go wrong? When the infertile community is the base where you are drawing support, the question comes whether there is an end to infertility and is there a time to leave the community. Do those pregnant after infertility have more in common with their infertile friends or their pregnant counterparts?

Personally, I've always felt that it was so much in the eye of the experiencer--some people wish to have nothing to do with infertility once they achieve those double lines. Others still feel their heart is decidedly infertile even if their belly is consistently growing. After all, another pregnant woman probably wouldn't understand how setting up a registry can be a major act of emotional turmoil though an infertile woman--even one who has not yet achieved pregnancy--is probably better equipped to understand those sentiments.

Miss E's Musings compared her trip to Babies R Us as Alice dropping down the rabbit hole:

But as soon as I walked into the store, I was ready to leave. I hadn't set foot in a baby store in so long, and I had forgotten how totally overwhelming it can be, with everything so bright and plastic and cluttery. Plus, all the most expensive, adorable clothes were front and center to grab at the heartstrings and wallet. And pregnant women were everywhere, of course. I felt a little panicked, and then I remembered, "I'm pregnant now, too; I can be here." But it was too soon. I couldn't, not yet. I felt like Ellen in Bellyland, wondering if things would turn on me and sensing that an invisible cat was smirking high upon the shelves. It was all ridiculous, impertinent, even malicious.

From the Peanut Gallery whispered her thoughts from an early shopping experience: "I bashfully concede that I have been indulging in an activity most die-hard pregnant infertiles leave for the third trimester (and the end of said trimester if at all possible). I have been shopping. For my babies. I bought a few clearance clothing items for winter/spring next year. *gasp* The words 'bold' and 'overconfident' spring to mind."

But she followed the post several days later with an explanation for her anxiety, and it didn't just have to do with the idea of how shopping plans for a future:

I guess I feel a little self-conscious. I feel sorrow. For my fellow infertile sisters that have not yet had the chance to pick out crib bedding. And may never have the chance. Somehow I felt that I was dishonoring my not-yet-knocked-up-or-adoptive-parent-infertile sisters by being excited and positive about this pregnancy. I am aware that logically such a concept makes no sense. But then again, much of what I have felt through my infertility journey hasn’t really made “sense” to me. So why should this be any different?

Not exactly related to shopping, but in the same vein, A Little Pregnant mused on why she hasn't been writing as much anymore. As an infertility blogger currently pregnant, she asks, "What do I have to say about infertility these days that has any relevance whatsoever? One and two-thirds children later, I can no longer speak of the loneliness and isolation infertile people feel on a daily chronic basis with any kind of immediacy." And she continues with the ultimate reason for her extended time between posts:

But then my second thought was sincere puzzlement: What am I doing here, then? When pregnancy, a pregnancy in which I am fairly confident, is all I have to talk about, am I alienating people I care about every time I post? I mean, more so than usual...? Are infertile people coming here, reading my petty carping about veiny legs and pregnancy magazines, and feeling slugged in the gut by someone who used to get it? This uncertainty has made me feel somewhat muted.

Pregnancy after infertility is a strange place to be--neither back in the trenches with those who were offering you support weeks earlier before that positive beta nor over at Babycenter comfortably debating bottle-feeding or breast-feeding. It is about having a little more hope and also a deeper distance to potentially fall. And it is a balancing act--a breath-holding, look-neither-left-nor-right balancing act of enjoying every moment while not enjoying it at all.

Melissa is the author of the infertility and pregnancy loss blog, Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. She keeps a categorized blogroll of almost 1300 infertility blogs and writes the daily Lost and Found and Connections Abound, a news source for the infertility blogosphere. Her infertility book is forthcoming from Seal Press in Spring 2009. She is also running NaComLeavMo--National Comment Leaving Month--which begins May 25th. Come join the conversation.

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