So, you’re trying to have a baby. You had never planned on being someone who was “trying to have” a baby, you had expected to simply be someone who “got pregnant”. Unfortunately life does not always follow the plan we have set out for it. Now here you are, tracking your ovulation cycle, wondering how many eggs you have left, trying to learn about the best things you can eat to be as fertile as possible, and nagging your husband to make sure he doesn’t wear tight pants or let his bits get too warm. You have crossed into the adventure of Trying To Conceive.
Becoming a part of this group puts you in the midst of a lot of great people, as 1 in 8 couples (or 12% of married women) have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy [2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, CDC]. You may be at the beginning of this adventure or you may be well into the journey and already considering that you (and/or your husband) have infertility issues. Just for clarity if you have been trying to conceive without luck for over a year (or six months if you are over 35) you are considered to have infertility issues. Don’t lose hope though, you can still get pregnant it just may take some more time, and may require a little bit of help. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (www.asrm.org) says that approximately 85-90% of infertility cases are positively impacted with drug therapy or surgical procedures with only 3% needing advanced reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization.
As you traverse this road full of sharp turns and steep climbs up, there are many feelings that you will have to deal with as you try and stay positive to achieve your goal. Let us take a look at some of the possible obstacles and rough roads that will try to slow you down and how you can combat them to keep your goal clear and your thoughts positive.
Guilt is probably the biggest emotional obstacle that you will come up against as you realize that you are not getting pregnant as easily as some of the people around you. It is very difficult for women, as the vessel of the baby, to not feel that somehow it was their duty to be able to get pregnant quickly and easily. As women we have been told that producing offspring is one of our primary purposes for existence. You may feel any of the following things:
Like you’ve done something wrong, or that you are not trying hard enough.
That you are somehow at fault for your body not working properly.
That you aren’t allowed to be upset about it, because it’s your fault.
As you can see each of those sentiments has blame in common. This is the first thing we really need to step away from, because, in this situation, there is no one at “fault”. When we think about whose fault something is we are assigning agency. That means we are deciding who it was who was responsible for the action and then we are telling them they dropped the ball, and the action is their “fault”. In this situation, infertility or difficulties conceiving, there is no one responsible. It is a terribly frustrating thing. It would be so much more fulfilling if you had someone you could call up and yell at. Why didn’t you build this body correctly?!? But, there isn’t, it’s just the luck of the draw and you best find a way to be positive about it so you can still work to achieve the goals you want to achieve.
It is very important to look very rationally at these facts. It doesn’t mean it won’t be a struggle to make yourself believe it, and sometimes you need to just cry at the world, but it’s important to come around to tell yourself, no one did anything wrong here. You did not screw up. You didn’t drop the ball. If you are having real issues with guilt use cognitive therapy to your advantage, train your brain to know you have no reason to feel guilty. Decide on a statement that will convince you not to carry the guilt, to feel ok about just being who you are and doing your best to make that baby. Every morning (or afternoon, but at least once a day!) look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself “This is not my fault. I will stay positive and just keep on trying!”, or whatever statement works for you. Just a basic “I’m awesome and doing my best!” is also very useful. We all need to remind ourselves that we are we are fine how we are, and we are doing our best. You really have no other choice but to accept who you are, you can’t change it.
It would be very difficult not be angry at the world sometimes when you are having trouble conceiving. It was something sold to us as being easy, in fact often too easy, with teens getting pregnant and shotgun weddings having to take place around us. You could find yourself bitter at friends who are getting pregnant easily (or by accident!), perhaps they are not sensitive about your having trouble either and seem to flaunt their conception in your face; it can certainly feel that way sometimes.
If your partner is the one who has some infertility issues you may find it very difficult to not be angry at him. You know it’s not his fault… but you just wish everything worked the way it was supposed to. These are all totally normal feelings. You are a human being, and we have emotions. Again, rational thought is your best defence here. It is ok to have these emotions, and recognise them, scream into your pillow sometimes because life isn’t fair, it can be very freeing; but then it’s time to move on, meditative breathing can be helpful. Holding on to anger helps no one, it causes tension and stress, which does not aid fertility. Remind yourself that the person you are annoyed with isn’t thinking about it, you are. Let the feelings go, if you need to go outside and yell really loud, do it, it doesn’t hurt anyone and it can be very cathartic. Allow yourself to feel the feelings you have (without being mad/guilty yourself for having them), recognise them, and then let them go. Breathe those feelings out, and breathe in strength and positivity. You decide what you feel, and you would rather feel good, it’s so much nicer.
Remaining positive through the TTC journey is no small feat, do not punish yourself for your feelings, just do your best to let the negative ones go, and work hard to find all the positivity you can. Best of luck on your adventure!