Turns out, trying to get pregnant is hard.
I wish I could go back in time and whisper that to myself.
If I had known it was as difficult as hitting a bull’s-eye while blindfolded, I would’ve had one less thing to worry about in my twenties.
I come from a long line of fertile women. When my mother found out she was pregnant with me it was a big (not great) surprise. My paternal grandmother accidentally conceived my father when she was 42. My great-grandmother’s first child was “premature” but weighed 9 pounds.
So when my husband and I decided to start trying for a baby I calculated we would have a Norwegian/Mexican/German/French/Italian/American bundle of joy in nine months.
It’s not exactly turning out like that.
I think most people don’t like to admit they’re trying to get pregnant. It’s a private thing. Not something that should be shared with people or written about in a say, bimonthly newspaper column.
At first, I was that way too. It felt secret, private, like I didn’t need the extra pressure. But after a very short while I was bursting with the need to talk about it.
People say this should be a magical time but it doesn’t feel very magical. Instead, it feels like I’m playing Russian roulette with my ovaries.
Now that my initial excitement has worn off and I’m still not carrying around an heir, I’ve had some time to think this whole thing through a bit more.
Sometimes I want to get pregnant so badly I’ll stare at a stranger’s child for an obscene amount of time until the mother secretly takes a picture of me “just in case.”
Other times I see a child having a melt down in the middle of Whole Foods and feel grateful I don’t have a kid as I waltz out carrying nothing but my organic yogurt.
This contradiction is confusing.
The truth is, not getting pregnant is just as terrifying as getting pregnant.
I want to build a family. I want to be someone’s mother. I want to give my parents grandchildren and my grandma another great-grandchild. (Although, when I spoke to my grandmother about this last week, she kindly reminded me that I am “getting pretty old” to have a baby.)
On the other hand, being childfree is pretty great. I get to be 100% focused on building a career, I can leave town at the drop of a hat, and I’m the only one who ever cries at Whole Foods, usually when I see a super model buy juice as her dinner.
Am I ready to give all of that up?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Each time I discover I’m not pregnant two emotions compete for space in my head. Disappointment (obviously) coupled with the super-fun feeling of being a failure as a woman. And relief. Sweet, sweet relief that floods through me like the gin I can still have.
One of my favorite quotes is by writer and original hipster, Walt Whitman. “Do I contradict myself? Very, well, I contradict myself. (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”
This has been true for so much of my life (LA vs. Midwest, Writer vs. Actor, Wine Vs. Tequila) that it makes sense it would apply to pregnancy too.
What are we ever 100% sure about, anyway? I can’t think of a single thing.
I want a baby. I don’t want a baby.
So, we’re trying to have a baby.
That’s okay. I contain multitudes.
Apparently, I have weak ovaries.
My husband, Jason, and I have been seeing a fertility specialist for a few months to try and figure out why we’re unable to get pregnant and this was the latest discovery.
Sitting in my doctor’s all-white office surrounded by her medical degrees, I imagined my ovaries with wimpy arms – the kind of ovaries that always getting picked last in gym.
Over the last few months, I’ve been poked, prodded, and had my blood drawn so many times I leave the clinic looking like a drug addict.
Good-humored questions about when Jason and I are going to start a family, have been replaced with eyes full of pity and questions like, “How are you holding up?”
At first, I was proud of myself for being so candid about our fertility struggles. “Look at me, “ I thought. “I’m so brave and strong and completely comfortable talking about something so intimate.”
But then I found out about my ovaries.
After that doctor visit, I realized I’d been holding out hope that our fertility issues were just an anomaly. That I would write a few articles about how hard it was to get pregnant and then, a few months later, get knocked-up after a night out drinking.
“We weren’t even trying,” I imagined we’d say, laughing and rolling our eyes.
It hasn’t really worked out like that and I can’t stop wondering if it’s something I’ve done.
Should I have laid off the drinking in my twenties? Or spent a lot less time with my laptop on my lap? Is it the specialty shampoo I use? I know it’s full of chemicals but it makes my hair so silky.
I’ve done a deep Google dive into each of these questions and so far I’ve discovered that yes, it’s all the alcohol. Yes, my ovaries have been microwaved by my laptop. Yes, my shampoo is bad for me. And yes, my runny nose means I have three months to live.
In other words, some really helpful stuff.
Our doctor recommended IVF.
She said it casually, like we were discussing where to eat, but as I sat there, staring at the carefully chosen painting behind her, I was hit by a tidal wave of shame.
It whispered to me that I was broken. Faulty. Not a real woman.
My husband stayed positive – it’s how he’s been through this whole thing. In fact, after the doctor tested his sample and told him he was below the fifth percentile in viable swimmers he threw his hands up in the air and said, ”Yes! I’m not infertile.”
But to me, every new piece of information feels like a punch right in the gut, another validation that I’m not holding up my end of the biological bargain.
After explaining this to my husband he hugged me and said he didn’t care if they have to shoot a rocket into space to get some magical moon dust. Who cares as long as we have the baby?
I’m working on sharing that attitude. I’m trying to imagine past all of this struggle to our baby. A baby we’ll hold in our arms and share important things about the world – like how to be kind to each other and where to find the best tacos.
And someday I hope to look at our little family and realize how none of what we’re going through mattered.
Because really, all of this is just a long, winding road that will lead us to watching our children eat tacos in the sun.
And that’s something that matters.
This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum. You can find them (and me) here.