A funny thing: you spend the better half of young adulthood taking precaution against insemination — electively allowing foreign rubber into your most private orifice, consuming synthetic hormones to double up on that motivated measure or praying when you don’t — making deals with some deity about the outcome of your plan B. About a quarter of that time is spent celebrating the arrival of symptoms (fire-coming-out-of-your-ears frustration, chin pimples, tight pants) that confirm you’ve done it. You’ve succeeded to live another month without getting pregnant.
And then, one day, you decide you’re done with contraceptives. So you start “trying,” as they say. And you don’t quite understand what they mean by “trying” (high school effectively taught us that you can practically get pregnant from a member of the opposite sex so much as glaring at you, so be safe), but you do it anyway.
And then a year passes
And every time you have sex — which, when done deliberately, and particularly with a partner you care for, is supposed to feel like the physical manifestation of what motivates humanity: to love and to feel loved — you turn over after the fact and you ask yourself: did I fail again?
And then you get what they mean when they say, “We’re trying.”
But see, here’s the thing. No one ever talks about that part. It’s kind of like getting married; I remember so vividly in the six months that led up to my wedding feeling so profoundly afraid that I thought I was making the wrong decision. No one told me about the anxiety that invariably circumscribes matrimony, about the relinquishment of selfishness — a hard, hedonistic right to surrender — that is inferred by the union. No one talks about how challenging it is to consider the nuances of on-boarding a second set of parents. Yours are hard enough. No one tells you that in the first six months you’re married, some mornings you wake up and feel like you don’t know the person next to you — because you kind of don’t! Yeah, sure, you dated for however many years (or months, or days, or hours! Whatever, I’m not judging), but they weren’t family.
And then everything begins to fall into place and life seems better than it ever did and you realize that you were clutching the past — holding on to what you knew out of fear of swinging forward into the unfamiliar cleavage of the future. And no one talks about it because you forget. Things get great, so you tuck it away until ultimately that incipient feeling becomes a memory that dissipates and you can barely remember how visceral it was.
But see, now that I’m “trying” — that it’s been 17 months since I told my ovaries to stop dropping those fucking eggs and just let them stick — I remember that feeling again, and it’s reminded me of another reason we don’t talk about it: shame.
You start to feel shame.
And this shame is tricky, you know, because often it clouds vision and distorts goals and removes us from that backroad that we’ve discovered as a shortcut down Route Happiness.
What they also don’t tell you is that everyone deals with this. My own conversations have confirmed as much. And don’t get me wrong, I get the whole jinxing thing — this is private and sacred and between you and your person, but what if you want to talk about it? Why can’t you? So far silence hasn’t helped me get any more pregnant, or feel any less ashamed.
So I’m trying to beat shame by talking about it. By answering honestly when I’m asked how I’m doing. The truth is, I’m frustrated. Annoyed that I have to haul ass to a fertility specialist on the Up-up-upper West Side almost every week for hormone-level checks. I feel vaguely useless and sorry that my husband has to have blood drawn so often, and I feel like a huge asshole because every time I hear that someone else is pregnant, my heart kind of tenses up and I start to tear and I feel like Carrie Bradshaw in that episode of Sex and The City where she delivers a poem at a wedding and starts to cry because she’s upset about her relationship with Big, but writes the tears off as wet drops of joy.
Mostly, though, I feel scared. Because as much as I want children — and believe me when I say that no thought is so comforting as the one that finds me communicating with human appendages that are as weird as I am — I can’t picture being a mom. And I wonder if that’s because I’m starting to doubt that, logistically speaking, I can be a mom. I’m self-aware enough (or have been seeing a therapist long enough) to understand that I’m only in the opening credits of my movie, so I know that realistically, everything will be OK. But until I’m there, and until it is, I refuse to feel shame. Because that’s the whole thing, right? There’s no shame in trying.
So we’ll keep trying.