Friday, June 29, 2007

On Fertility

(First: I'm not pregnant, and not trying to get pregnant right now. I have just had some conversations that got me thinking about this.)

There are two schools of thought regarding how open you should be when trying to conceive.

School #1tell no one.
You never know how long it is going to take, and if you tell people you are trying, they’ll just want to know if it has happened yet. Even if it has, you might not want to tell people until the mysterious and powerful first trimester has passed. For those who are more private about their personal lives, this is a great way to go. It works less well for someone like me who lives through discussion.

You might not be able to tell if you only know me from the blog, where I am not quite as self-revelatory as I am in person, but I am a sharer. Plus, like many women, I like to talk with friends and strangers about important things. I like input. I might not always take the advice, but I want to hear it. On the up side, this gets me a lot of feedback that can make me feel better about my situation. As a consequence, I know a lot about friends’ and strangers’ fertility. Once I started to say, “well, we had Ada through IVF” I got a lot of interesting stories in return. The couple that had only one egg implanted but ended up with twins anyway. The people who never tried but got pregnant. The people who tried and never got pregnant. People want to share those stories, and it is nice to hear them. But I was talking about NOT telling people.

As I mentioned, I am a sharer. That said, since conceiving Ada the hard way, I have several times gotten annoyed at people who announced they were trying to get pregnant, as if just announcing it would cause the blessed event to occur. Should I congratulate you for having sex? I mean, isn’t sex it’s own reward?

As petty as it is, I have been annoyed at what felt like crowing, even before the fact, about a success in an area that was such a challenge for Chris and me. I haven't felt this way with friends, but I do think that with people you don't know so well, maybe holding back on the "we're trying" could be a good idea. (Blog posts are exempted, since by definition a personal blog is the place for that kind of thing.)

At this point let me reiterate:
(1) I am not pregnant.
(2) I am not trying to get pregnant.
(I know you are thinking about it, so I just wanted to remind you.)

School #2tell everyone.
Once Chris and I started trying to have a baby, it was hard to not think constantly and compulsively about fertility. Because we were trying and I was thinking about it, I told people. And then it went on for months, which turned into years. So I stopped telling people we were trying. And then we found out that we needed IVF to conceive. I wanted to talk about it, but the stakes felt too high. What if we spent all the money, injected me with hormones, had eggs extracted, fertilized and implanted, and it didn't take? Did I really want to tell people about what was going on? So I only told a limited group of people. ("Limited" is a relative term. In my case it meant more than four people, less than everyone I knew.)

It was hard not to tell people, particularly when I was hopped up on hormones and in a very stressful meeting at work. More than once I wanted to interrupt a meeting with "I'm crying because of the injections, and the stress, not because you are an asshole. For two years you've been an asshole, but it didn't make me cry before now." But I didn't want to tell coworkers what was going on, lest I have to tell them it failed.

Once we found out the IVF worked, we kept mostly quiet out of a superstitious fear that telling people would cause the embryo to flush itself out of my body. Well, I kept quiet. Chris said he would, but then he kept telling people. This actually made me love Chris even more. When a quiet guy like Chris can't keep his mouth shut, he must be very excited.

The thing I got out of the whole process is that I should have no fear of telling people about our fertility struggles. In fact, the whole process made me want to tell people about it. It was hard to be struggling with fertility and thinking you are the only ones. But we weren't the only ones. Once we knew what was keeping us from conceiving, I started talking to people about fertility again. Although I didn't tell too many people that we were actively doing IVF, I told people we were going there.

Once we'd finished with the IVF itself and we were really, truly on the way to having a baby, I happily told all kinds of people about our struggles, IVF and whatever else was on my mind. Until then I kept a private blog. I wrote to myself about what I was thinking and feeling, and once I was ready to share it, I added it publicly to this blog. I get found by people searching for IVF information, and what I really want these searchers to know is - You are not alone. Whether you tell people or keep it to yourself, you are not alone.

For me, talking is good. Not talking has its place, but since I am not good at it, I won't beat myself up for sharing what others might keep to themselves. It feels too good to share, and I can hope that it helps someone else once in a while.


  1. I'm so glad you're a sharer. It's such a nice quality. You wear it well.

  2. glad to have found you this early morn...not even sure how...but oh, you are a link to my dear brother who is in portland...

    and i am totally #2.

    : )

  3. Who would of thought this post would be this funny, eh? Your voice rings so true in it all. And so funny