I once wrestled with religion, as my longest readers may remember; I spent a period of my life figuring out what I believed, or could believe. Nowadays, I’m wrestling with motherhood – with whether I can, and whether I should. In many ways it’s a similar process. For one thing, it’s plagued by anxiety: I’ve somehow managed to maintain a near-paralysing level of fear about being a parent at the same time as becoming desperately fixated on seeing a positive pregnancy test. (My partner, meanwhile, suffers from neither affliction. Maddening!)
Early on, I scared myself by stumbling across ‘trying-to-conceive’ forums. These have a culture of ruminating obsession, where posters think nothing of writing about various intimate bodily signposts, in a cryptic, acronym-filled language that I couldn’t even understand. The single-minded desperation that was being expressed there was not something I could relate to, nor did I want to.
But perhaps part of my horror reaction was that I knew I had it in me to be like that. The uncertainty of when and if, coupled with the succeed-or-fail nature of the monthly cycle of trying, waiting, and checking – these are the ingredients for neurosis. I was already concerned about a baby changing my life, and here was evidence that it could take over my life in an unhealthy way long before it was even conceived!
Trying to conceive is essentially a monthly gamble, and a fixation on “winning” can grow into a monstrous, disproportionate thing. To make matters worse, you are rolling a dice whose weightings are completely unknown. Every month is a rollercoaster ride of heady hope followed by crushing disappointment and the horrible suspicion that the odds may be much worse than you first assumed.
Because after all, when you don’t want to get pregnant, you operate under the assumption that even one little lapse in protection will be bad news. When you throw the protection in the bin and nothing happens, it naturally leads to a sense that something must be wrong.
The early days were quite intense. I lay awake at night grappling with the enormity of the knowledge that I might become pregnant soon. I daydreamed about having good news to share. I awoke early with random butterflies of excitement, as if it was Christmas. I found myself upset and worried, after just two or three months of trying. This disturbed me a lot. It seemed so pathetic, and considering that even being in a position to be trying is a privilege I’d waited a long time for, it seemed wrong to be feeling anything negative at all. (Not that it’s ever been possible to shame myself into feeling more positive, but I always try…!)
But I got used to the routine, and no longer think much about it, except at key points in each cycle. I check for the surge in my luteinising hormone right before ovulation; always fun at work peeing into a cup and dipping the little stick in. I can usually forget about it all for the following two weeks, but the beginning of a new cycle is always a blow, no matter how much I know it’s coming by then. I don’t put myself through the torment of pregnancy tests any more, except when I am looking forward to a big glass of wine. 🙂
Unfortunately, prolonged uncertainty feels like instability. Every month is a fresh chance to change my mind and let the ever-present fears and doubts about parenthood get the better of me. They never actually do. But they go unchallenged, untested, and grow arms and legs and teeth. If I’d got pregnant when we first started trying, we’d have a baby by now, and I can’t help but think I’d be better off.
Instead, the clock ticks on, and I drift through life like a traveller stuck at an airport. I wake up on the weekend feeling empty and bleak, looking for anything I can occupy myself with that might feel a little bit worthwhile for a moment. I have become desperate for pregnancy, to relieve me from this suspended animation; to set me off on a journey again that, however frightening, will at least give me direction and purpose.
I couldn’t wait for the laparoscopy, which seemed like it would end this uncomfortable limbo. Clearly that hasn’t quite been the reality. It has made me aware, though, that it may not be enough to grit my teeth and wait like this. I may need to be prepared to undergo invasive medical procedures to have a chance of getting pregnant – and still live with considerable uncertainty and waiting.
Since it seems my drive to have a child only just trumped my doubts and fears to begin with, would a need for risky endometriosis excision be the final straw that breaks its back? Or is its tenacity in the face of so much fear just a sign that it cannot be snuffed out; that ultimately I will do almost anything I have to do to make it happen? I don’t know.
It just seems so unfair. The last thing this anxious over-thinker really needs is lots more time to anxiously over-think.
But I suppose this process can be thought of as a journey in itself, that, no matter the outcome, will teach me something about myself. Maybe I will come out the other side a little wiser, even a little happier. Here’s hoping.