The title of this post gave me some difficulty. It turns out that I’m still somewhat hesitant to use the word “infertility”. It’s not simply about wanting to deny the situation that we’re in, or that the definition fits. It’s more about a fear that by applying that word to our current situation I might somehow be belittling those whose situations are far more complex, more difficult and have gone on for much longer. I’m very definitely a newbie at this.
That said, I’ve already learned a awful lot about struggling to conceive. And I can already identify several distinct phases in the trying-and-failing-to-conceive journey. So here’s my round up of the six stages that those of us in for the long haul seem to pass through on our journey to conceiving a child. (And here’s hoping that anyone reading this never gets beyond stage 1 or 2 before they see that second pink line!)
It starts with impatience, almost universally. You make the decision to start trying for a baby and it’s pretty natural that you want it to happen straight away. So you start off by wondering how long this is going to take and wishing the weeks away. This is the stage in which you happily pee on a stick a couple of days before your period is even due and watch the test with a rising sense of excitement. Because although you’re impatient, you’re also expectant. We all know people have trouble conceiving, but yet often manage to convince ourselves that it won’t happen to us and we’ll soon get the longed for positive. After all, we also know plenty of people who got pregnant on their honeymoon, and we’ve all attended secondary school sex-ed classes that taught us the “dangers” of “un-protected” sex.
So, when it doesn’t happen after the first few months, the frustration creeps in. We’re doing everything right, tracking ovulation, plenty of sex so why hasn’t it happened yet? This is also the point at which all the stops are pulled out. You find yourself researching supplements and scouring eBay for the best deals on bulk buys of ovulation predictor kits, cross that you need to buy them at all because you definitely should be pregnant by now.
But that gives way to optimism, when you realise that you’ve been at this for several months and so probability dictates that you must be getting closer to success. “This month” is definitely going to be “the month”. After all, statistics suggest that around 60% of couples will be pregnant after six months of trying.
Of course, that leaves 40% of us still waiting, but, given that you’re doing everything right, it’s pretty hard to believe that you’re not in the other 60%. In fact, it becomes pretty hard to believe a lot when you’ve been trying for nine months or more. It’s hard to believe that the egg you’re certain you’re releasing (after peeing on so many sticks that catching your wee in a cup is now a conditioned reflex) is not getting fertilised by the plentiful supply of sperm that you (or your partner, to be more specific) are providing. How is it possible that so much “unprotected” sex can result in nothing when high school biology, and the problem pages of teenage magazines, would have you believe the briefest of fumbles behind the bike sheds would get you up the duff?
After disbelief comes anger, jealousy, bitterness and the “it’s not fair” syndrome. All the negative and slightly destructive emotions come tumbling in one after another. It’s hard to maintain sight of the fact that this is actually quite common when you are surrounded by pregnancies, some unplanned, others achieved lightening fast. It’s hard not be at least a little bit jealous when other people have something you desire so strongly and have worked so hard to get but without success. It’s natural to question why this is happening to you, and to feel it’s not particularly fair. It’s all too easy to forget that you never really know any body else’s story, or how hard their road to pregnancy really was.
When the anger burns out, you land somewhere between depression and resignation, depending partly on your character and personality, and partly on the particular day. It’s hard to turn practical to solve the problem, because that is what all the charting, testing and frequent bedroom antics have been about. Once you start down the road of fertility investigations, it feels, in many ways, even more out of your control. The desperate longing for a baby doesn’t go away, but it becomes equally balanced by the fear and belief that it won’t ever happen forcing you in to an odd neutrality and an awkward acceptance of the situation. Well, on a good day at least.
Which is exactly where I found myself just prior to receiving a definitive verdict on our situation. Funnily enough, that diagnosis has sent me right back to square one. We have the answers now, and so I want to get on and do something about it. I’m impatient to start down the assisted conception road that we now know we need to take, and I’m cursing Christmas, and the popularity of our chosen fertility clinic, for slowing things down. I’m back to anxiously counting out the days of my cycle, working out when we might actually be able to start the treatment we need.
I can foresee that the stages above could easily transform in to the “Six Stages of Fertility Treatment”, but right now I’m bypassing frustration and heading straight to optimism – optimism that we won’t get as far as disbelief, anger or resignation in the IVF process.