This is a post I’ve been thinking about writing for a while, and I think I’ve just about got my thoughts together enough to put them into words.
Some people might say this is a bit of a “first world problem”, particularly when pregnancy is what everyone in the infertility community started out aiming for. Although the journeys of others panned out somewhat differently – some are still on the road, some have made the decision to live child free and any other combination, I think there’s a very unique set of issues faced by those of us going through pregnancy after infertility.
I have to be honest and say I didn’t see this coming. I thought that, aside from the usual pregnancy gripes, pregnancy after infertility would be a walk in the park. I also know that I’ve had a pretty good time of it. I haven’t had any bleeding or major scares. Nothing at all has been wrong with me or her – except for my blood pressure but that is a minor problem. Every day I am thankful for this as I know there are a lot of people out there having very difficult pregnancies after difficulties conceiving. I count my blessings regularly.
What I didn’t see coming was the semi resentment and anxiety. Obviously there is the constant anxiety about loss, which I am assuming comes from having had a loss. I can’t wait until we can hold her and she is safe and well, because at the moment all I have are her kicks to take a guess at her welfare. At least when she’s out, she is there in front of us and we can take a better guess at her health.
The resentment is new for me. Take this as I say it, but I’m finding it so difficult that some folk who weren’t interested before we got pregnant suddenly want to be involved in every aspect of our pregnancy journey. There are people in our lives who changed the subject every time we mentioned our infertility or loss. There are people who we had not seen for a VERY long time before we announced this pregnancy. Then we announced and suddenly these people are right back on the scene like they never left and want to know EVERYTHING about everything. It’s difficult for me, because although I understand that infertility and loss is very much taboo and that might be what these people found difficult, at the same time I’m very much thinking “where were you?” Where were these people when we needed them? Where were they when we were going through court after sexual assault? Where were they when Amy and I were heartbroken over the loss of our first little one? Where were they as we tried month after month without a positive test? Where were they when I was taking clomid (which made me crazy!) to help us have the baby we dreamed of? Where were they when we needed support? Why were they not interested in Amy and I, but are interested in this new little human? Most of these people knew what was going on as well, so ignorance is not a reason…
The fact that people are suddenly interested is very difficult for me. Not just those people who weren’t there when we needed support, but complete strangers as well. I struggle a lot with the fact that perfect strangers will ask me about my choices for feeding. Strangers will ask when she’s due. Strangers will comment on the size of my bump. Strangers will ask all sorts of things and it is bizarre! Personal things. Not just “when are you due?”, which is a pretty standard question, but personal questions about birth preferences and feeding preferences. Personal assumptions about our circumstances.
I guess I’m not used to being the centre of attention and I don’t really like it all that much. It’s hard to go from just floating around in a city like London, which is so anonymous, to suddenly having people who you have never met before interested in you. To go from just going about your business without being that interesting to anyone, to having people ask very personal questions just out of the blue. That goes for strangers and people we know.
I think I forget that infertility is very personal to the couple, whereas pregnancy is almost considered to be a very public thing. I can’t hide the fact that I’m pregnant. Not that I want to, but what I mean is that I can’t stop people commenting and I can’t keep the pregnancy just for Amy and I. It’s hard to go from feeling the crushing hopelessness of infertility as a couple to feeling the joy of pregnancy but suddenly having everyone else wanting to share it. Wanting to share their experiences. Their opinions and their judgements. I’m finding that no matter what your choices are, people always have something to say about it.
I’m not a big believer in “mommy wars” – I think a lot of that is only for people who purposely involve themselves, but I do think there is a lot of unsolicited advice floating around. Take Facebook for example. A couple of weeks ago, Amy posted a status asking for advice on an electric steriliser. To be clear, the post was something along the lines of “People of Facebook. Does anyone have any recommendations for an electric steriliser?” How this managed to turn into a breast vs bottle debate I will never know. First there was the assumption that we weren’t going to attempt breastfeeding. Then there was the assumption that we didn’t know anything about breastfeeding. Then there was the “you should google colostrum…” and all of that kind of “advice”. All from “can anyone recommend a steriliser?” Crazy, right? The way I see it is, if you don’t have a steriliser to recommend, shush! If you do, feel free to share. It almost feels like as a parent to be, you are shoved under the microscope and very few people think that you know anything. Very few people are willing to accept that you have reached decisions through research and through taking into account your personal circumstances. Everyone always assumes that you’ve just picked decisions out of thin air. Apart from anything, my boobs, my body, my choice, right?
Another classic example of this is when I mention that we may have to do a planned caesarean section as Eden is very much breech and very much refusing to move. I’ve had everything from “you should try a breech vaginal birth” (not you could, you should) right through to “Oh my god! The scar is so ugly!” and a healthy dose of “are you too posh to push?” and “Oh god. I can’t think of anything worse.” These folk don’t consider that this might actually be the safest option. I have an arcuate uterus, so manual turning would be very unlikely to be successful. And apart from anything, we have spent the last eight months doing (in my opinion) a great job of growing this little girl. Who actually cares how she comes into the world? I mean honestly, whose business is that except for mine and Amy’s? But no. Just like the “you’ll be begging for an epidural” people, there is always someone who wants to tell you about their friend’s sister’s uncle’s cousin who had the worst c-section ever and always regretted it. Like that would change the medical advice…
I quite often feel very overwhelmed by everything. I worry that we are not up to this. I guess part of me worries that because conceiving her was so hard, parenting will be too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who think that having a baby will be all rainbows and unicorns, but at the same time I do give a lot of thought to when people say “you don’t know what you’re letting yourself in for.” I know we’re ready. We’ve been ready since the moment we decided that we wanted a baby. We’ve wanted this for a very long time – three years in fact. But that anxiety is still there and people weighing in doesn’t make it easier. It’s going to be a steep learning curve because, like all new parents, we’ve never done this before. Are we up to the challenge? Of course we are! Will it be the best and most rewarding challenge ever? Definitely! Is it ok to be anxious about that? One hundred percent. Because it’s new to us. And it’s ok to be anxious about new things.
I guess that’s the crux of it. A lot of things are harder to deal with after infertility, in my opinion, because we legitimately started to believe that it might never happen. We had started to talk about what happened after clomid. Was IVF an option? Would we adopt? Would we live child free? Would we get another puppy (because that’s the same!)? So, the fact that it happened was a whole new curveball. The fact that it didn’t go wrong was a surprise. The fact that we are potentially just six weeks away from meeting OUR daughter is insane! She’s all we’ve ever wanted, but at the same time it’s utterly terrifying because we never thought it would happen. And I think that’s what makes these little things that little bit harder.
I’m learning that it’s a case of one day at a time. Letting people’s interference go in one ear and out of the other and just keep counting down the days until we meet her. No doubt those people who weren’t there before will get all excited, meet her a couple of times and then go on with their lives because it won’t be exciting any more. It’s weird that her being born will be the end of this part of our infertility journey. I don’t know what the future holds, but I am so grateful for this little girl. Just a few more weeks and she will be safe in our arms and we will be mummies!