I’m staring at my screen at work having one of those moments of extreme boredom that often happen to office workers around three o’clock every day. I feel like all my energy has been sucked from me from the two screens in front of me. I’m slumping further and further down in my seat.
A pop up on our messenger system shows up on my screen from my pregnant colleague. OMG she’s in a really weird position right now. It’s so uncomfortable.
My sympathy for my colleague has been replaced by bitterness lately. I’ve been trying to get pregnant for some time now. I’ve just gotten my period, showing once again that I’ve failed at what women do every day “by accident”. I don’t know what to say to my colleague in response to her complaints. I want to say Fuck you. Stop showing off. Instead I type back That sucks.
I want to vent to my colleague about my frustration at how long it’s taking to conceive. How it makes me feel incompetent and inadequate. How the pain of period cramps seem like such a frivolous complaint when her pain is serving a higher purpose. Her discomfort is because she is doing something holy, something incredible, something otherworldly. She is complaining because she is growing a child. I am complaining because my body has decided to not grow a child. Of course, I don’t share this with her. I don’t tell her what I’m feeling because I don’t want my bitterness toward her condition to be revealed. I also know that her path to pregnancy wasn’t smooth. She also had trouble conceiving. I know she’s had a miscarriage. Who am I to complain to her after only six months of trying? For all I know I could get pregnant next month. Then my feelings of frustration, bitterness and hopelessness about my situation would be disrespectful of women who have real problems. I am not at the stage yet where we need to contemplate IVF or adoption or a future without children. I should be grateful rather than bitter. As far as I know I am healthy. Just not pregnant.
I try to think of who else I can talk to. I’ve been finding it really hard to get through the work day. Things are slow at work lately. Normally this would be relaxing, but instead the long afternoons just make me more and more despondent and lethargic. I have too much time to think and not enough people to confide in.
My good friends nearby are single and don’t have kids. I feel like talking to them about my frustration would just be a case of Too Much Information. Some girlfriends and I were having wine recently and one of them revealed she had unprotected sex during a one-night-stand. This led to a conversation about what her chances of getting pregnant were. I realized that they had no idea about when and how long ovulation was. I didn’t want to be the old married lady in the room explaining this to them, so I just kept quiet. I didn’t want to ruin the fun vibe of our conversation by talking about basal temperatures or cervical mucus. My single friends would likely be confused or repulsed, much like I was until recently. So I can’t talk to my single friends about it. The world of trying to conceive is so foreign to them.
I consider texting a good friend of mine across the country. But then I remember the phone call I got from her when she found out she was pregnant. “It happened right away. It’s like my body just knew what to do.” This memory leads to another “fuck you” dialogue in my head. No, I can’t talk to her. She’s the enemy. The other side. The people who get pregnant right away. She’s also mentioned that she is “thinking about the second one”, which might mean she’s already trying. If the second is anything like the first, she might already be pregnant again. Then if I complain about my difficulties she might feel back for her good fortune. I don’t want her to feel bad. I don’t want her to have difficulties either. But I know that if I phone her and she is pregnant it might upset me. Correction, it will upset me. Who gets upset over a friend’s good fortune? A bad friend. That’s who. So I don’t phone her. That way I can still be a good friend.
Everyone I know who has kids seems to have conceived pretty quickly. All those stories of “We weren’t even trying” and “we had no idea it would happen so quickly” repeat it my head on loop. Sometimes I hear of people who have had difficulty, but it’s through the grapevine. No one tells me directly. When I have a meltdown to my husband after a negative pregnancy test, he tells me that we have barely begun trying that we shouldn’t worry yet. When I complain about how easily pregnancy come to “everyone else”, he says that it seems that way since they are the only ones who talk about it. People who have difficulties don’t gush about how their bodies didn’t work the way they thought they would. I know that my husband is right. I know my worrying is premature and that the stories people easily share are the positive ones.
I think about the stories of my friends who have conceived quickly and how these stories torment me. I kind of wish they hadn’t told me that part. Yet, I wouldn’t want my friends not to be able to share their experiences with me. What type of a friendship would that be? It makes me wonder how women are supposed to talk to each other about fertility. How can we have conversations that don’t evoke jealousy or shame? How can we share our experiences without inadvertently hurting each other? Even my thoughts here might upset people on longer journeys to conception or who are dealing with infertility. Maybe they are thinking You’ve been trying to conceive for six months and you’re complaining? Fuck you. I know I should be grateful for everything positive in my life. But it’s hard not to worry. It’s hard to wonder whether it will happen for me next month or next year or never.
Finally I text a friend who has two children. Although she appears to have conceived fairly quickly, I haven’t actually heard the details. I think it makes it easier for me not to know. I text her about what’s happening. She responds Apparently it’s normal for it to take a long time. I know that. But I can understand how it would be stressful. Let me know if you want to talk. That’s what I wanted to hear. This is how women can talk to each other.