What does a woman go through when she decides she wants to try to have a baby?
I can only speak for myself, but in general, I would say she goes through a lot. Different women have all sorts of different journeys as they step into this process, but I thought I would chronicle my journey of trying for baby #2. It has helped me process my feelings, and perhaps will resonate with others on a similar journey. The following are journal entries of significant dates and events throughout this process – it was how I was feeling at the time, not right or wrong feelings, just feelings.
Today is July 15, 2019. By the time I post this draft, if I ever do, it will be a much later date. This is in part because it’s a little too fresh for me to share publicly. I’m taking time to write today mostly to process my feelings on the matter – but as I think about the purpose of my blog, I really want to let people see inside my mind and be able to experience what I’m feeling. I know I’m not the only person who has ever felt this way, so maybe some of what I write will speak to you and be something you can empathize with. If not, maybe it will at least give you a bit of an idea of what a woman might go through when she decides she wants to try to get pregnant. My experience certainly does not fully encompass everyone’s experiences, but I think it’s worth sharing. Thanks for reading.
Today is July 15 – it was day 30 of my cycle, and I had been waiting to take the pregnancy test I bought a few days ago. I told Dean I was 90% sure I was pregnant – I could tell. I had been feeling slightly nauseous for the past week, and I had even had spotting the day before – which I attributed to implantation spotting. I had planned on taking the pregnancy test this morning, but when I took my basal body temperature upon waking up, there was a drastic drop from the sustained high temps. I had gone from a 97.8 temp to a 97.1 in twenty-four hours. If you’re a BBT charter, you know that’s a big shift. You would also know that a temperature drop can signal that your period is about to start. I told myself that maybe it was a fluke, but I decided not to take the pregnancy test since I knew what it probably meant. The bleeding started a few hours later.
The first time Dean and I ever tried to get pregnant (before Calvin), I experienced the same thing. I had totally convinced myself that I was pregnant, but that time I confidently took the pregnancy test, and was shocked when it resulted in a single line instead of the positive plus sign. I felt like I had experienced a loss, even though I had never truly been pregnant, I just fully expected to be.
It’s a weird thing to feel like you’ve lost something you’ve never really had. I know this feeling does not compare to the experience of having a miscarriage or loss of a child – I have a hard time even fathoming the level of pain and loss on that scale.
So here I am, not actually on day 30 of my cycle, but back to day 1 – starting over again. Attempting to get pregnant is a huge waiting game – you wait for the right window of fertility (which is a bit of guessing game) in your cycle, hope that your attempts go well, and then you have to wait a few more weeks before you can find out if you succeeded or failed. Because that’s kind of what it feels like if you don’t get pregnant: failure.
I read something the other day that said only 38% of women will get pregnant the first month they try, and this number refers to women actually trying to time intercourse correctly for the purpose of getting pregnant. This percentage increases to 68% over 3 cycles of trying – but that still means almost one third of women actively trying for a baby won’t get pregnant even after three months.
Those numbers are both discouraging and comforting to me – discouraging because I know my chances of getting pregnant right away are slim, but comforting knowing that the majority of women are experiencing the same thing. Why am I holding myself to an impossible standard and feeling bad for not getting pregnant on the first try? This is my perfectionism kicking into overdrive and rising up to an unhealthy level. I know that and recognize it for what it is, but yet is is still hard to let go of.
Hopefully I will have the courage to post this soon – it might not be until after pregnancy is achieved and has been announced – though some have called me “brave” for writing and sharing about such sensitive topics, I typically only share when the bad times have passed, not while in the midst of them.
Second month of trying to get pregnant – I again tried to time our chances right by tracking my morning temperatures. We didn’t try as often as we probably “should have” to maximize our chances, but you know, life can sometimes get in the way. Due to knowing that we hadn’t maximized our chances, I wasn’t really expecting to be pregnant. That being said, I still acted like I was possibly pregnant – I mean I cut out caffeine and other things it’s recommended to avoid in the first trimester. I knew there was a small chance I could be pregnant, so why risk it?
About a week after trying to conceive, I got pretty sick. I had a fever for 5 days before going to the doctor to find out I probably had a sinus infection and strep throat. The nurse practitioner wanted to give me a steroid shot and antibiotics. (This was day 22 of my cycle.) I told her there was a chance I could be pregnant, so she wanted me to do a urine test. I should have refused the test, because whether it said positive or negative, I already knew I wanted to play it safe. I wasn’t sure if a urine test at the doctor’s office was more sensitive than the over-the-counter ones, but I didn’t think a home test could tell that early if you were pregnant or not. (Normally even the “early detection” ones say to wait until 5 days before your expected period.)
The nurse came back and said the test was negative, and so she’d give me the steroid shot – to which I then said I didn’t want it. I felt awkward turning her down and basically questioning the test, but I knew I was the one who would have to live with my choices. The nurse told me she’d get me a list of safe medications for pregnant women (I couldn’t tell if she was being condescending or not, but it seemed a little weird.) When she came back, she told me they had actually done the wrong test, and hadn’t even tested for pregnancy. To which my thought was, “what if I had been pregnant!?” They tested it again and she said the results were still negative.
I told her I still didn’t want the steroid shot, I wanted to just play it safe. I felt like I had to apologize for my choice, and I tried not to seem like I was some know-it-all, but at the same time I didn’t feel like the nurse was really that concerned. I asked her how early urine tests could detect pregnancy and her response was, “I have no idea.” My thoughts and emotions were running high at this point. (What was the point of even doing the test if you have no idea how early it can detect pregnancy? Are you telling me you really know that little about treating potentially-pregnant patients?) Basically at this point, the nurse had lost all credibility in my book. I was mad. I knew my chances of actually being pregnant were slim, but I still wanted to keep my (probably) non-existent baby safe. Why was I being made to feel like an idiot for doing that?
I played it safe and took the safe antibiotics and pain medication while recovering. I knew in another 5 to 7 days, I would know for certain if I was pregnant or not, and I could stop being so careful at that point without worrying. Day 25 of my cycle, I had a tiny bit of spotting, and nothing else. I had told myself I wouldn’t convince myself I was pregnant like last time, but suddenly I was really wondering if I was. (For reference, when I got pregnant with Calvin, I had spotting on day 27 of my cycle and then had a positive pregnancy test 2 days later.) I decided I would just take a pregnancy test in the morning and be done with the what-if game for a while. I assumed it would be positive.
So, here we are to earlier this morning, August 9th. I took my temperature before getting out of bed as I always do, and noticed a temperature drop (like last month). This should have been my clue that I wasn’t pregnant, but I had already decided to take the test, so I did. It almost instantly showed up as a negative, I didn’t even have to wait longer than 20 seconds for the single line to appear. I then noticed I had started my period – the spotting had not really been spotting, it had been my period getting ready to start.
Sitting on the toilet, I’m laughing at myself for being so blind – I saw what I wanted to see and again, got caught convincing myself I was pregnant. Another 4 weeks and maybe I’ll see a plus sign instead of a single line. The wait begins again.
My period finally started today. I knew it was going to happen, I had a temperature drop yesterday, but it took longer for my period to start. I had two days of barely anything spotting, which has never happened to me before. This hyper-awareness of your body, always looking for things to cue you into the fact that maybe you’re pregnant, is kind of exhausting. I actually took a pregnancy test 4 days ago, and it was negative. I wanted to convince myself that there was still a chance, and even when my temperature dropped I just wanted my period to start already so I could really be done with it and move on – I needed closure. It was bittersweet when it did start, I was relieved and frustrated at the same time.
I have started a tradition the past two months of treating myself to something when my period starts, as a way to console myself. Since I had cut out caffeine for two weeks during the waiting game, I thought maybe I’d get a latte from Starbucks. Instead, Dean and I ended up getting bubble tea at Little Ninja, one of our favorite restaurants in town. Typically, as the last two months have shown, the first day of my period is a sad day. Today started out a bit sad, but it actually ended up being a really good day. I genuinely felt God’s presence with me today, reminding me to have faith and not be discouraged. I felt thankful for my family, for our time at the zoo this morning, for the bubble tea… I’m thankful that God gave me this gift of peace today, it’s nice knowing that He cares about me, one person out of billions – but he saw me and knew what I needed today.
I’m trying to hold onto this feeling – to somehow contain it and keep it with me for other times that I need it.
To make matters more complicated, I’m currently in the midst of getting my ankle sprain (that I’ve been dealing with for 4 months now) evaluated, and I may possibly need surgery soon. I have an MRI scheduled in a week, and my doctor will tell me what to do after that. Though I still really wanted to be pregnant this time around, I know that if I do end up needing surgery, it will be a good thing that I’m not pregnant. So… we are planning on holding off on trying until I know if I need surgery or not. While I’m waiting to hear back about my ankle, I’ll probably miss the next window of fertility – and if I need surgery, I’m sure I’ll miss one or two more opportunities after that. It’s disappointing, I’m ready to get on with my life and with each month that passes by, it gets harder to be patient with the process.
Today is not a particularly special or significant day, but it’s a day I had time to write. I’m in the midst of a pretty stressful last semester of grad school, and I don’t get to write for personal reasons nearly as much, I’m usually too tired. I’m on day 22 of my cycle, but I already know I’m not pregnant. We skipped the small window of opportunity since I didn’t know what the results from my MRI would be. At this point, no surgery is on the horizon. As long as my ankle heals in the next 5-6 weeks, surgery will not be needed. I’m trying to decide if we should try next month or not – as I have already stated, this semester is ending up to be more busy and stressful than anticipated. I’m also thinking I may want to play it safe and wait until I can confirm that my ankle is indeed healing and that surgery won’t get put back on the table. I have a few weeks to make that decision, but that’s where I’m leaning.
TODAY – 12/19/19
Today is December 19th. I haven’t journaled about this in almost 3 months. I am NOT pregnant, by the way. I am scheduled to have surgery in early February, so we have decided to continue to wait. I’m not sure when the time will be right again, but for now, we wait.
I still feel very much at peace about it, for which I’m thankful for. I finished my final semester of grad school and have been enjoying the life of no homework and reading for fun! My family enjoyed a fun weekend visiting TWU’s campus for my graduation ceremony. I cannot tell you how sweet it was to see my three-year-old son cheering for me as I walked on the stage.
For those of you on similar sagas, I hope you can feel peace too. As I stated at the beginning, I know my thoughts and experiences are just mine, but maybe someone out there can connect with my feelings. Whatever you’re going through, you’re not alone.
Brené Brown in her book ‘Dare to Lead’ talks about how shame can only exist in the absence of vulnerability and empathy. Being vulnerable allows people to develop empathy, and it gives people a chance to dissolve shame when they say “me too.” Thanks for reading all the way through and allowing me to be vulnerable.