What are the things no-one ever tells you about trying for a baby…when you don’t get pregnant?
And NO, this isn’t a surprise pregnancy announcement or a stealth hint that we’re trying for a third baby (don’t get too excited, mum!).
But I was writing about Fertility Week for work, and one of the things that struck me is although more and more people are talking about fertility issues, there is still a lot of silence about when you don’t get pregnant.
And I realise that as someone with two children, it doesn’t look like we would have had any issues. But one of the things that struck me so much at the time was that I felt like we were the only ones, which I’ve found out since couldn’t be further from the truth.
I knew I wanted children, but always at some point…way off in the future…after we were married…then after we’d bought a flat…then when I was done with drinks after work and lie-ins having a social life and guilt-free trips around Topshop. Then I hit 30 and it was like a switch had been flicked. All of a sudden, I really wanted a baby.
But my husband didn’t, not quite yet.
So we waited.
And by the time he felt vaguely ready, I was really really ready, and had read a lot about it already, so we didn’t start off from a relaxed, ‘let’s see what happens!’ point. But even then, nothing happened. And nothing continued to happen. We tried everything. There were a lot of tears before bedtime and and negative tests. And a lot of just, well, nothing.
We were, in hindsight, incredibly lucky. Even though it felt like forever, it didn’t take other as long as people we know, and in the end we lucked out with a really good doctor, and only needed minimal intervention, especially compared to other people we know. But it still remains in my mind as the greyest time, one which had all the complicated emotions.
So here are all the things that no-one ever tells you about trying for a baby, when you don’t get pregnant:
You don’t really expect to get pregnant the first month (but you’re disappointed when you don’t): The first month is fun, a test run really, but when you’re brought up on a diet of teenage magazines telling you to never, ever have unprotected sex as you will definitely, absolutely get pregnant it sticks in your mind that when you’re actually, actively ditching the birth control and *going for it* them, bam! You’ll get pregnant straight away. We didn’t, obviously, get pregnant the first month. I also learned a lot of facts about fertility really quickly (why don’t they tell you this in teenage magazines?)
Everyone thinks TTC is exciting, but: You don’t get pregnant the first month, fine. The second month, oh… OK. Then the third month…?! When you keep getting negative tests and a nagging, growing sense that something’s catastrophically wrong, definitely with you, it’s not exciting and it’s not fun. If feels like you’re stuck in a space where you’ve left behind your old life, but you’re never quite at the new one.
There’s a lot of peeing on sticks, and you quickly learn all the tricks: It’s not just pregnancy tests for you to wee on, there are also ovulation sticks. Then there’s temperature charting and cycle tracking and identifying which one is the most fertile cervical mucus (sexy!). You know everything from when in the day to drink water and the best time to test, pretty quickly, because…
It’s easy to fall down the fertility rabbit hole: Once you start researching, and really taking an interest, it’s so so easy to become obsessed. I spent hours combing through message boards for hints, tips, tricks, anything. My commute was dedicated to reading the entire fertility-related internet and most other times to agonising soul-searching about it all. We tried everything from months of fertility acupuncture (which I loved and would totally recommend, but I still wasn’t pregnant) to various ridiculous diets that involved eating food at various cycle points (avocado toast obsessives, I was way ahead of you!).
Your life gets sectioned up each month: Starting with the letdown of day one of your cycle, then there’s the waiting, right times to try, more waiting and guessing and you’re back to day one. All tinged with anticipation and hope and disappointment.
Sex gets really routine…Having a lot of sex is great, but when it’s your wife manically texting you ‘you need to come home NOW, I’m ovulating soon!’ it does put a dampener on it slightly. I imagine *side eye*.
Everyone else will be pregnant: There must be some kind of natural law that states when you really, really want a baby, everyone else will suddenly be pregnant. Which is lovely, but it’s a constant reminder that they’re in the club you can’t get on the list for.
Talking about it helps… There’s a LOT of secrecy about trying for a baby. You’d often find me sneaking around the Boots near work, buying ovulation kits and pre-natal vits in bulk while looking around furtively to check my boss wasn’t behind me with a meal deal. People don’t, as rule, talk about pregnancy till the 12 week mark, so telling people you’re even trying is out of the question. But it really, really helps.
…however, people will say the wrong thing: Like ‘You’ll just have to face up to never having children,’ or ‘So and so you vaguely knew twenty years ago who didn’t even want children just had her third, and loves it’. Or that timeless classic ‘When will you try for a baby?’ Ouch.
‘Just relax, and it will happen’: Most annoying advice? Advice most likely to have you tense up out of sheer frustration? Most nonsensical non-medical advice ever? Yes, yes and yes.
When you get pregnant, it doesn’t seem real: You spend so long thinking and hoping and trying not to think about hope, when it does happen it’s overwhelming. I did one test and didn’t believe until I did ten more the next day, when the shop re-opened. Even after ten tests and lots of early pregnancy signs, I couldn’t really relax. I carried on testing for weeks, I obsessed about my symptoms. I think it definitely contributed to pregnancy anxiety. At ten weeks, I was sat in a clinic waiting room surrounded by women with 30+ week bumps and texting my mum ‘I feel like a fraud!’ She replied ‘You do deserve to be there, you know’.
You think it’s just you, but it really, really isn’t: When you don’t get pregnant, it can be a really isolating time. You feel like it’s just you and no-one knows what you’re going through. But as soon as you’re pregnant and have a baby, it turns out that at lot of people you meet have had fertility issues or been through treatment at some point. Most people I know with children did. It’s not just you, I promise.