Infertility affects 1 in 8 couples. That’s huge! Chances are that you know someone, or are someone, that will struggle with infertility at some point in life.
Infertility can take many forms, from difficulty conceiving, to trouble maintaining a pregnancy, in varying degrees of both.
For those lucky enough to come out of the other end of the infertility and pregnancy loss tunnel, you might think that pregnancy wipes the slate clean, that having a baby fixes everything, but you’d be wrong.
Here’s what I wish I’d known before I got pregnant with my son after 3 years of infertility and 4 miscarriages…
1. Panic, not joy
Yup, you’re pregnant. You must be over the moon. I bet you jumped for joy when you saw that positive pregnancy test…actually, no.
Instead, panic hits, and it hits hard. Infertility and recurrent miscarriage steal the elation and the innocent joy of a new pregnancy, and replace them with fear and paranoia of the worst happening. You’ll not just take one pregnancy test, you’ll take repeated pregnancy test (I took more than 50, yes, you read that right). You’ll take them to make sure the first one (two, three, and four) was correct, and you’ll take them to make sure you’re STILL pregnant…then you’ll doubt them anyway.
2. Pregnancy symptoms are the best
No, really. You’ll be wiping sick off your chin with a smile on your face (lovely mental image, isn’t it?) Anything that confirms that you’re pregnant will be greatly welcomed. My husband would get texts from me saying, ‘I can’t drink water anymore because it makes me sick…things are looking good’. There was genuine elation in those updates, for him and me.
3. Dr Google will wreak havoc on your sanity
No change there then. You’ve already done the infertility thing so, chances are, Dr Google has misdiagnosed you a few dozen times before, but, now, you’ll find yourself typing things like, ‘miscarriage risk by gestation’. In fact, there is a website that lists the percentage of chance, by day, and week. You’ll both love or hate that site.
4. Goodbye, friends
The wonder of social media is that you may well now have a wealth of friends, from all over the world, who you have found whilst going through infertility. These women know more about you than any human being should ever know (seriously, they know how often you have sex, your husband’s sperm count, and your cervical position at any given moment). These have been your family for however many years you’ve been going through this nightmare journey of trying to start a family, but, all of a sudden, they don’t want to talk to you.
You get it; it’s hard to see someone else get what you so desperately want. You’ve felt that way when other friends have graduated from TTC to pregnancy. They are genuinely happy for you, and were your biggest cheer leaders in those early, most terrifying days, but they need to keep their distance for a while now, to protect themselves…and your friendship.
5. Hello, Limbo
So now your fellow infertile friends are keeping a safe distance, you will fully immerse yourself in the world of the pregnant mamas…but you don’t quite fit in.
You’ll be bombarded with excited ‘Expectants’, brandishing early buys for their bundle of joy, discussing which buggy (stroller) is the best, and working their way through a list of gender prediction myths. And you’ll sit on the side-lines, running off every now and then to take another pregnancy test and make sure there isn’t any blood in your knickers.
Yeah, you’ve not quite got the unadulterated excitement thing down yet and, when asked if what kind of baby you’d like, you’re still struggling to wish for anything more than ‘alive’
So you’ve peed on ALL the tests, you’ve had the blood tests from the hospital, you’re rattling from the medications they’ve got you on, you’ve even seen that little alien looking thing peering at you from a sonographer’s screen, but something isn’t quite right.
It’s not you and baby against the world. It’s still just you, with this possibility. A possibility of a long life ahead, of splashing in puddles and finger paint on your walls, but there’s another possibility too, which isn’t as nice. The possibility that it won’t work out, that you’ll lose this baby, either before or after birth. Every exciting possibility is fast replaced with a terrifying one, and you find yourself disconnecting from your baby.
You don’t want to. You want to hold on to every second, even more so considering you are convinced that these seconds are fleeting, but you find it hard. You talk about the future, and you talk a good game, but you feel like you’re acting, as you wrap your heart up in yet another layer of bubble wrap.
Yup, you don’t get to leave the bitterness of infertility behind just because you got pregnant. Heck, if you’re like me, you’ll have that bitterness even when your baby is in your arms.
Like those friend’s who’ve had to take some time, like you when you were in their position, you’ve gotten used to greeting pregnancy and birth announcements with a level of despair that is all consuming. You find yourself feeling bitter towards the announcers, no matter how much you like them, and, feeling a need to convince yourself to be happy by justifying their pregnancy. It’s manageable if they, like you, have struggled. They are the goal, the hope, the proof that dreams can come true, but those who get pregnant easily are the reminder of your struggle. Their success, somehow, highlights your failure, and pulls you further from your dream that you thought possible.
In the disbelief that this pregnancy will bring anything more than devastation, this bitterness remains. You’ll need your baby to help you finally move forward from this one.
8. But it’ll get better
When my son was about a month old, I looked at him, lying in my arms, a sweet smile on his lips, and the words, ‘You’re mine. I get to keep you’, escaped me.
It was in this instance that I finally, and really, accepted that I was a Mum, that all the years before had come to an end, and I finally had my baby. Not until this day, was I able to move my mind past all that had gone before, and let it go. I still think of my angel babies, of course, and I know that getting and staying pregnant will never be an easy thing or a guarantee, but I got the whole world when I had my son, and, though he didn’t erase the past, he gave me a future. Like the rainbow after a storm, he made the world good again.
I can honestly say that the bitterness has left me, that I am happy when I see pregnancy and birth announcements (granted, I’m happier when they are from my friends who have struggled, but solidarity is a powerful thing), I feel completely connected to my incredible child, and I am excited about every aspect of the future with him in it.
Infertility is hard, there is no 2 ways about it, and pregnancy loss is horrendous, no doubt, but there can be life after, and that beautiful life can make the world better again.
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