The Awfulness of Trying
I bought a book about infertility. We'd been trying to get pregnant for 3 months. That about sums up how well I handled the "trying to get pregnant" phase.
No one told me how hard "trying" was. I know how hard infertility can be, how hard loss and miscarriage and pregnancy can be, but I had no clue that "trying" would be just as hard. It always looks so easy. Well, it doesn't really look like anything, you usually don't know people are trying until you see their adorable pregnancy announcement on Facebook, everyone looking happy and excited, and you sort of fill in the gaps yourself.
Every time I saw one of those pregnancy announcements I'd be filled with jealousy, assuming they'd been trying for a month, maybe 2, that they'd had no trouble, no stress, that it was easy and simple and that everyone's life was better than mine.
They say it takes most people less than (or about) a year to get pregnant. I knew that, I knew the statistics, I knew logically it might take some time. But after that first negative test I lost my ability to think logically. Or to wait patiently. Or to not be filled with fear and dread that something was wrong.
Full disclosure, it only took us about 6 months to get pregnant. I say only because most people think that's not long. And it's not, by most standards. But it felt like forever. It felt like years. I went through stages of hopefulness, stages of grief, stages of giving up and deciding it wasn't worth the stress. I literally spent a week looking at adoption, how it works, how much it costs, etc. because I was so convinced we couldn't have a baby. I listened to podcasts about fertility. I read books about fertility and infertility. All of our good friends (and even some strangers) knew we were trying to get pregnant. I couldn't not talk about it. I almost started eating liver (LIVER) because I heard it would help with fertility. I exercised. I got acupuncture. I felt desperate.
Liver. I almost ate that. I was clearly desperate.
Now most of that says more about me than the process of trying. I know there are people who don't have a hard time with this, who can try for a year and still not be worried or stressed or anxious. So I know this doesn't apply to everyone. But the more people I talked to the more I realized this is hard, like really hard, for most everyone. Anytime I'd say "Trying to get pregnant is seriously the worst!" I'd be met with chants of "Oh I know" and "I hated it so much" and "It's probably the most stressful thing I've ever done!"
This awfulness, the excruciating process of trying to get pregnant, is apparently widely known and accepted as one of the hardest things women have to go through. But no one talks about it!! I honestly had no idea it would be so hard until I experienced it myself. Why? Probably because once you get pregnant (which most everyone does eventually) all of that goes out the window. You're excited, elated, looking forward, and filled with a whole new fun set of worries about the pregnancy. And the stress of trying just magically disappears. And you don't think about it again until someone asks you and you remember how awful that whole season was.
So I guess that's one reason for me sharing this. For those of you who are getting ready (or will one day) to start trying, just know it's hard. It doesn't have to be as hard as I made it (I'm extra good at making things more difficult than they need to be) and I'm not trying to scare you, but it probably will be emotionally draining, stressful, and sometimes kind of awful. And that's ok. It's worth the effort. But I just really wish someone had given me a heads up before I plunged headfirst into the insanity.
My other reason for sharing this is for those of you who are are currently in the midst of the insanity. Whether it's been one month or one year, it's hard.
And let me just make this clear, even if you're not technically infertile, even if you've only been trying for a month or 3 months or 6 months, it's still hard. And you're allowed and entitled to feel that. When we were trying I'd occasionally talk to people who (well-meaningly, of course) would say "Oh it's only been 4 months? Stop worrying! My friend has been trying for 4 years!" I understand they were trying to make me feel less worried, but instead it made me feel like I hadn't earned the right to be upset or stressed or worried. I hadn't "suffered" enough yet, that since I wasn't actually diagnosed as infertile yet I had to just deal with it. That no one would take my hurt or my anxiety seriously because it hadn't been long enough.
And that's just simply not true. This process is hard. And everyone handles it differently, so if you're in the middle of it and you're struggling, just know you're allowed to feel sad. You're allowed to be worried. You're allowed to admit this is hard. No matter how long it's been.
And seeing people post their pregnancy announcements or their new babies and wondering if you're ever going to have that is even harder. But it's important to remember that behind every pregnancy announcement is a story, a struggle, hardship you'll probably never know about. And remembering that is what made it easier for me to handle those announcements, to be happy for friends who told me they were expecting or who just had a new baby.
It helped to remember that each of those women had their own struggle, whether it was infertility or miscarriage or just struggling through the trying process. And remembering their struggles made me WANT to celebrate with them, because I knew what they had been through and their joy was so deserved.
So for the ones we see on Facebook, for the ones where we'll never know the full story, I tried to remember that they struggled, too. I may never know how, but it probably wasn't easy. It may not have been as hard as it was for me, it may have been way harder, but knowing that each pregnancy announcement most likely comes from a story of pain or hardship or stress made me feel less alone, less jealous, and more joyful, more hopeful, knowing that my day would eventually come too.
So I guess that's the whole point. Trying is hard. It was super hard on me. Don't see the happy announcements, the weekly bump posts and assume it was always so carefree and fun. It's a struggle, it's a process. For everyone. So just know you're not alone, just know it's hard for others too. And just know that there is hope, one day it will get better and you'll probably forget all about how hard it was until someone tells you they're trying and struggling and you say "Oh yeah, that was the worst."