There are so many things that they don’t tell you about trying to make a baby. So. Many. Things.
For instance: It is actually quite spectacularly difficult to get pregnant. No kidding. All those years we spend trying desperately NOT to get pregnant, thinking that it’s just a simple Tab A to Slot B kind of venture – as it turns out, the odds of a sperm fertilizing an egg that then implants properly in the uterine lining and grows to term are astronomically low. The female reproductive system is in fact a finely-tuned sperm killing machine that will only allow this whole messy conception business to occur for a period of about 48 hours out of every month. Who knew? I didn’t, when two years ago we decided to start trying, threw away the condoms with joyous abandon and began rapturously bonking 47 times a day, savoring the thrill of danger because we were allowing these two highly radioactive agents – his sperm and my egg – to encounter each other unfettered. Pro-creation. Let’s fucking create some shit, baby.
And then the months go by and every time you’re sure it’s happened, your body feels full and ripe and ready and full of life and all your folic acid and prenatal vitamins and yoga and hydrating and what-the-fuck-ever is going to pay off and then pthfffft. That test comes up negative and the bleeding starts and the whole thing goes down the toilet with the sound of a raspberry blown by a David Lynch backwards-walking scary dwarf. Over. And over. And over.
And nobody tells you about the miscarriages. You hear about the rare example and it sounds properly gothic and bloody, replete with the rending of garments and the gnashing of teeth and the gathering of relatives by the bedside, like it must be this one-in-a-million kind of tragic misfortune that never actually happens to anyone you know.
In fact, a staggering number of pregnancies – 15% of all pregnancies in the US – end in miscarriage. They never tell you, for instance, about chemical pregnancy, which is basically a fertilized egg that begins to implant in the uterine lining but then, for some ineffable reason, stops. So you get a few days of positive pregnancy tests and then that little line gets fainter and fainter until it disappears entirely. The first time I got pregnant, in May of 2011, was a chemical miscarriage. I hadn’t ever heard of it, had no context or containment for such a thing. I was just pregnant and then not pregnant, and the OB brushed me off with impatience when I called and called and called for my hCG readings because I could not understand what had just happened. I had never heard of a 4 day pregnancy. You don’t, really.
And nobody tells you about what a later stage miscarriage feels like. I’m not really ready to tell about that either, but it seems like I’ll need to eventually because every month, every blood, I relive it. In my head and in my body, the shock and grief, the searing, shredding pain that grips you in all your limbs and pushes out the dead decaying thing that you’d already dreamt a life for, gone and slipping out and away, gone and gone and gone.
I’m not there yet.
And in the midst of it all, there is the anger. No one tells you about the anger. You walk around with it like a serpent coiled around your throat, like a pacing tiger that keeps everyone else at bay. You’re angry at women and at children, at people who try to give you advice and sympathy but end up sounding utterly asinine and heartless, at doctors, at advertising, at your family, at your spouse. You’re angry in the grocery store and at the mall, in movie theaters and in airports. You’re angry at the women who conceive despite meth, despite alcohol, despite rape and violence and war and prostitution and destitution, as if these are fabulous talents they are rubbing in your face to make you feel even more inadequate. And most cripplingly at yourself, at this body that has failed so completely to protect and nourish a life in the way that you believe other women’s bodies can. There’s self disgust, self punishment, the final triumph of every cruel internal voice that’s ever told you you weren’t good enough in the fanged and sleepless dark of night.
There’s all this that they don’t tell you.
Maybe because if you knew how much pain was in store you’d never open your legs.
I’m in a place of remapping right now, trying to find a way to live with all this instead of dying every month. I have to figure it out or I have to stop trying, because it is too much death time after time. And I have to find a way of feeling less alone in it. I know that if I feel alone in it, countless other women must feel alone in it too. I don’t know what else to do but write.
This morning, on the advice of a fellow therapist and feminist and thinker, I saw a new therapist who specializes in infertility issues. She suggested adapting the concept of “scheduling worry”, the idea that a highly anxious person might get some relief in their daily life by scheduling time to obsess and be anxious at strategic points in the day, when they’re doing something comforting or mindful, so that the worry doesn’t just rampage around taking everything hostage. Her idea was to have “scheduled angry time”, when I could focus all this anger and impotent rage into something creative. If not pro-creative, then at least creative.
So here it is. Thanks for listening.