How I'm Surviving Pregnancy After Years Of Struggling With Infertility
There was a time when I was romanced by the illusion that once I was pregnant, the haunting memories of our battle with infertility would quietly and peacefully fade into the background of my consciousness. And then I got pregnant. It took me the completion of two full trimesters to say "when the baby comes" instead of "if the baby comes." It took me 28 weeks to walk past the nursery we were (very) slowly assembling without reminding myself this may all be for nothing. (Don’t let yourself get excited.) The reality is that a disease like infertility comes with a myriad of morbid issues, which for me included what you might liken to PTSD—or at the very least, severe anxiety. As any woman who has undertaken the IVF process will attest to, once you have lost that inherent trust in your body, you never fully recover it.
As I write this, I look back at the last 29 weeks and wonder how I survived, what nuggets of wisdom I would pass on to another petrified infertility survivor who finds herself in the beautifully terrifying position of what comes next. After much cogitation, I realized there are four things that I wish I had heard before I saw that positive test:
1. Give yourself permission.
Do not let anyone tell you that you are obligated to "relax" or "stop worrying." My quickest and surest response to that kind of uninformed guidance was a retort that ended the conversation with a 100 percent success rate: "Did it take you X years to get pregnant? Did you have to undergo invasive fertility treatment? Until you can understand the emotions behind an experience like that, your support and encouragement are appreciated. Anything else is not."
Your confidence in your body is severely damaged, why would you not be skeptical and anxious? It's entirely possible to be full to the brim with gratitude while also feeling overwhelmingly scared. So when you find yourself doing your best to cope with those conflicting and exhausting emotions, cut yourself a break, drink your chamomile tea, get lost in your novel, take a brisk walk in the fresh air, and, for the love of God, please stay off the internet!
2. Find a provider you trust.
With your fractured relationship between mind and body, it so important that you invest your time with a practitioner that you are totally and completely comfortable with—who can help you nurture that relationship back to a healthy place. For me, this meant a group of midwives and a high-risk OB who work with IVF patients regularly. They answered my laundry list of excruciatingly detailed questions at every appointment, brought me in to hear the heartbeat whenever my anxiety was in the driver’s seat, and, most importantly, they never, ever made me feel high-maintenance or crazy. With their help, little by little, I began to notice a renewed appreciation of my body’s capabilities.
3. Sign up for a birth class.
For my husband and me, restoring some of the intimacy that IVF robbed from us was a priority. For us, that meant taking Bradley classes in the hopes of a low-intervention, partner-coached, natural birth. Our 12 weeks of class were not only fun but remarkably educational, providing us with detailed knowledge surrounding the biological processes of pregnancy and birth, medical consumerism, holistic pain management techniques, and a plethora of labor suggestions and ideas. We have both agreed wholeheartedly that it was worth every dollar and hour spent.
4. Connect and discuss.
Pregnancy is not an easy physiological or psychological change for anyone, but one of the best coping mechanisms I have found has been the power of connection. When women are vulnerable, open, honest, and supportive of one another, we are a force to be reckoned with. There have been an uncountable number of veteran moms who have given me advice, feedback, empathy, and compassion that have made the last seven and a half months so much more bearable and less isolating. Our greatest weapon in this world is our ability to support and be supported during a time like pregnancy. Use it and reap the invaluable benefits.
I would be lying if I said I am cool as a cucumber now and feel totally confident in my pregnancy and my body’s ability to support my daughter as we head into the home stretch. Our pregnancy wasn’t easy or uncomplicated and certainly wasn’t without the constant reminder of what it took to get here, but more frequently these days, I find myself in a place where there is room for optimism, and I’m less paralyzed by the love I feel for the 2½-pound being my body is working overtime to create. So for me, that is success.