In the midst of packing up our apartment, moving into the in-law’s place, and beginning our housing search, my period was late. Very late and very abnormal for me. With the exception of a missed period, though, I didn’t feel pregnant. But, the days kept passing regardless. Alex constantly asked if I was feeling “different,” he patted my belly and hounded me to take a pregnancy test. Still mourning from the month before, I couldn’t bear the thought of taking a pregnancy test, so I waited.
Though I doubted that my missed period meant I was pregnant, Alex’s excitement took hold of the part of me that so desperately wanted him to be right. I had gone a significant amount of time with no period in sight…which is why I began furiously scouring the Internet, looking for cases of other women who were symptomless and did not feel pregnant, but were.
Eleven (long) days later, I got my period in the middle of viewing houses. When I began to bleed, I began to consider the possibility that I might never get pregnant.
Rational or not, I could no longer keep my calm. Instead, I became obsessed with conceiving—reading hundreds of stories on message boards, studying every aspect of fertility and conception, monitoring every minute change that occurred in my body on a daily basis.
I had reached my threshold for being relaxed and letting things happen naturally. Four months may not seem like a long time, objectively speaking, but when you are trying to conceive, time is not the same “time” you are used to. When you are trying to conceive you go from believing you just need to have a bunch of sex all the time to knowing an egg must be fertilized within 12-24 hours of it being released or it will die…..along with your dreams of being a parent.
There is also a lot of waiting involved, and that further distorts time. First, you wait for that holy time of the month when you are fertile, then you wait two weeks (give or take) to either bleed or take a pregnancy test (or maybe both if you are like me and you don’t even trust a period anymore, because what if it’s implantation bleeding or you’re one of those random people who still get a period, or or or?!). Then, if you fail to get pregnant that month, you start the waiting game all over again.
I used positive visualization and meditation to try to will it to happen. I painted paintings of pregnant bellies and babies. I imagined the moment I would see two lines appear on a white stick, probably several hundred times. I read books. I googled all things conception-related, reading the same material over and over, and researching new possible reasons for my lack of bun-in-oven status. I tried to make my body less acidic and more inhabitable for sperm. I tried glutting myself on full-fat dairy products because that can help protect against infertility. Alex and I had sex every day. Every other day. Every 36 hours, on the dot. I made an emergency appointment, sure that I had some sort of infection that was keeping me from getting pregnant, only to have a midwife swab my cervix, put my cells under a microscope in the same room and report that the only thing living inside me was a very abundant population of sperm, which was equal parts relieving, embarrassing, and semi-gross.
I wanted to step outside of the body I had been living in all my life, because it was empty and not doing its job. I would stare at women carrying their babies in slings in the grocery store, wondering why they were able to do what I could not. The sight of swollen bellies was almost too painful for me to bear. Yet I was constantly looking for signs of pregnancy.
My skin is breaking out. I must be pregnant! I’m feeling crampy. It’s got to be fertilization! I’m tired. It must be the teeny, tiny baby in me sucking all my energy away!
Then there were the pregnancy tests. I went through so many boxes of them, I’m fairly certain I ended up making money on them given all the rebates and coupons I collected over the months. I never trusted the results, or maybe I didn’t want to believethe results, so I rarely took just one. Regardless of the frequency of my test taking, though, the suspense existed each and every time. Those moments before you pee on a stick are the safe zone. It’s the window of time after you’ve already done everything you could that month to conceive, but before the timer goes off and you have to actually look at the test and know whether you succeeded or failed. Every month, the anticipation became incrementally more intense during that window, and the subsequent disappointment of one line compounded by all the months of one line that had come before it.
There was the all-too-familiar hug that Alex would be waiting with outside the bathroom door. I’d silently bury my head in his shoulder, a few tears falling from my eyes, and he’d tell me that everything was fine and that we’d have a baby soon.
I tried talking to friends who had children to find perspective. There were the friends who tried for years, rather than months, before they conceived, but their stories didn’t erase the impatience and fear. Consequently, there were the friends who got pregnant after only two months yet they cried and feared and 100% lost it during the entirety of those two months. Every couple had a different story, and a different emotional reaction to the process. As much as I wanted to find some sort of solace in it all, I knew that none of it could predict what would happen to me.
Our sex life began to change drastically once we moved into mom’s place. There was no more baby making on the kitchen floor, it was much trickier to have sex at the specific time intervals suggested by my OBGYN, and there was the total awkwardness of having sex in your mother/mother-in-law’s house. Sure, it used to be fun to occasionally do it in her guest room, but that was when we were visiting, not living there.
Long gone were the days of romantic, exciting, fun procreation. Now, the reality was mom walking by our bedroom door, or coming home in the middle of the day when she had told us she’d be out late. It looked a little something like…
“I read that I should be lying perfectly flat while we do it so just….no….that’s not good….”
“Wait….move this….no….I mean….WHAT do you want me to do?!!”
Perhaps the joy would have been slowly sucked out of the process at some point even if we had been doing it under our own roof. I don’t know. But, it was happening now. We were stressed out, feeling a little creeped out about our sex life at mom’s, and not sleeping at night on account of the insanely bright city street lights, transparent blinds, and bus line that ran all night outside our window. This is when the fighting began.
Not having a job or home was overwhelmingly stressful for Alex, but moving in with his mother was somehow a much greater challenge. He had always had a combative relationship with her, and found it difficult to remain calm in her presence.
We were both on edge and uncomfortable in our “home” and it became difficult for us to connect. Connecting had always been the easiest thing in the world for us to do, but we were suddenly living in a PDA-free zone, feeling awkward or unable to express our love or talk privately. Our weekly dates and summer road trips were a thing of the past now that we had to save money for a house. And other than having sex, the only time we spent alone was when we took our morning walks through the park, during which we mostly vented about our living situation.
Despite the fighting and regular bad moods, we were still committed to having a baby. We began following my OBGYN’s recommendation to have sex every 36 hours, rather than the somewhat lax approach to that rule we took earlier on. We set up a calendar in our bedroom that marked the days and times we were scheduled to get it on. Though this was far from the romantic daydreams we had had about conceiving a child, we were getting nervous. What if something was wrong with one or both of us? All the books and doctors and well-intentioned friends told us not to worry until we had been trying for a year, but that seemed like such a long time.
To be continued…