As I sit staring at my screen, I'm not even sure where to begin. After two and half years of trying to conceive, I'm pregnant with my second child. Pregnancy after infertility has been an emotional roller coaster and I want to share my story for others who are in the same boat, or who will be in the future.
Unexplained infertility was a life-altering event that I never thought I would have to go through. I always imagined that if we ever conceived again I would be thrilled. In reality, when I saw the positive pregnancy test, I was overwhelmed with doubt and anxiety. I thought of all the reasons this couldn't be true or how it would probably end in a miscarriage. I was so used to having my hopes dashed every cycle it seemed dangerous to trust that everything would be ok.
With my first pregnancy, I immediately felt a bond with the new life growing inside of me, without a doubt, I knew I was going to be a mother. This time around I couldn't connect with the new little one in the same way. I had to keep any positive emotions for this baby at arm's length. I didn't want to tell anyone and it felt like a burden to carry this news (and nausea) by myself. As I got over my initial surprise my feelings transitioned from fear to grief over the ways my new pregnancy would dramatically change my relationships. Some of my closest friends over the last 2 years I had bonded with over our shared experience of infertility. And how would this change my relationships with my son? my husband? my body?
Even though I knew my pregnancy was progressing, I still felt the same old feelings of anger and loss at seeing other pregnant women and mom's pushing strollers around green lake. Then I realized I was going to become one of those people. I felt like a traitor somehow. When I finally told a few friends, I had to hold back tears when they congratulated me, I could barely put on a smile. Congratulations for what, I wondered? For betraying my friends who still can't conceive? For putting myself in a situation where I might have to go through more loss? For "achieving" something after two years of crying in the shower with every period? For forever altering our family with such a big change? And of course, I wondered "Why?" Why me? Why now? Why not others? Why not 2 and a half years ago? Why not after acupuncture and herbs? after cycle charting? after IUI #1 or #2 or #3?
Another unexpected impact was on my relationship with my "imaginary baby." I think other women who have experienced infertility can relate to this. After about 6 months of trying to conceive I started to imagine the baby I wanted and wasn't getting. I would daydream about being pregnant and having a beautiful infant in my arms and my son having a little sibling. I imagined the color of her hair and her smile. Perhaps most importantly I imagined the timing of this baby's entrance into the world. I knew what their birthday month and year would have been if we had conceived with the timing we planned. I wrote letters to this baby in my journal of how much I loved them and how I would go to any length to make a welcoming home for them. But the truth is, the little person currently kicking me while I write this post, is not the baby of my dreams. This is not the pregnancy I had envisioned or planned for and this new baby will not be the same as the one I created in my mind. I needed to say goodbye and grieve the permanent loss of my imaginary child so that I wouldn't hold this new flesh and blood person to the standards of perfection I had set in my daydreams.
Now that I'm almost halfway done with this pregnancy I'm not wrestling with the really tough emotions as much as I was at first. They're more balanced with some excitement and anticipation. Feeling little kicks and rolls brings a smile to the corner of my lips. I'm still open to the possibility of unexpected birth outcomes and I still haven't pulled the baby stuff out of the basement. I'm just starting to make eye contact with new moms and babies again. I'm feeling the emotional weight of my infertility gradually lightening, but I know it will always be there in some way, even as a scar in my memory.
Moving forward I know there will always be a part of me that will wonder why I had to go through the suffering of infertility. But I can say with certainty that it has shaped me into the person I am now. Someone who doesn't jump to conclusions so quickly about the lives and desires of others. A better person, with more empathy for the unspoken journeys we all take.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. If you experience pregnancy after infertility I want to share that it is ok to not feel positive and excited through it all. If you are looking for more resources RESOLVE has a wonderful page. Of course, if your feelings of depression or anxiety are interfering with your health or your ability to go about your daily life, don't put off seeking help. It may be beneficial to talk to a therapist who specializes in perinatal or maternal mental health. You don't have to go through this alone.
Sending love and positivity your way,