Infertility and IVF were a long journey for us. After five transfer cycles, marked with gaps, attempted treatments, and surgeries, all I wanted was a baby. Every extra day I had to wait, every delay, cancellation, and failure felt like a knife. The day after our cycles would fail, I would lay in bed, unmoving, dreaming of that embryo that hadn’t stayed.
Finally getting pregnant brought me immeasurable joy. It also brought my anxiety, guilt, and fear. Having a baby had cured me of childlessness, but it had not cured me of infertility. I remember being a few months pregnant, and walking around the Target baby section. Mentally, I found myself separating myself from the other mothers – we were not the same, even though I knew nothing about them. And I was surprised at myself. In my mind, somehow their experience was different. In reality, I had no idea what they had gone through – it could easily have been the same as me. But in my head, I saw them as in a different world to me. Their pregnancies were joyful, and happy – mine were punctuated by daily injections, and “let’s see if this one lasts”.
My husband often talks about how he feels he missed out. There was never an innocence to us making a baby – everything was planned, deliberate, and scientific. We never had a moment where we both looked down at a pregnancy test, giddy and in awe. We never held on to that secret, waiting to tell family and friends our news and surprise them. Instead, we had medication regimens, injections, and text chains updating people on the latest numbers the doctors had given us. There was no surprise, no anxious and excited waiting. There was stress, and fear, and disappointment.
When I got pregnant, part of me had expected that all of that pain and trauma would disappear. Everything would be okay now. But it wasn’t. I still was fearful, constantly, that something would go wrong. I didn’t feel like other pregnant women. I felt different, halfway between infertility and parenthood. I was still jealous of other people’s pregnancies, even holding my own. I found myself still envying women with lots of kids, or who had ‘oops’ babies, staring longingly at the mom at Starbucks with her four kids under five. When friends told me of their pregnancies, I still had to swallow jealousy. And I didn’t understand – how could I still be or upset by their happy news? I had achieved what I wanted. I was ashamed of myself – how could I still feel that way?
I still often feel as if I exist in the ‘in between’. I feel as if I exist in the middle of two groups – an imposter among those who conceived effortlessly, but no longer entirely a part of the infertility community that hasn’t yet found success. On one hand, I decorate my baby’s nursery. I shop for baby clothes, I buy swaddles and pacifiers. And yet, often, pregnancy announcements still knock the breath out of me. I feel guilt if I even utter something akin to a complaint about the experience of pregnancy. I am pregnant, but still, the pain of what it took to get here exists somewhere in the back of my mind, rushing forward at the most unexpected of times.
It is hard to acknowledge these feelings, because you feel as if you aren’t entitled to them. After all – you are pregnant. You have the thing so many other people are dreaming of. You achieved the goal. You feel as if you shouldn’t still feel scared, or sad, or envious. You feel as if you shouldn’t complain that pregnancy is hard, that growing a baby is difficult.
I have to remind myself to be patient, and to give myself room. I remind myself I am allowed to feel how these feelings. I am allowed to grieve the ‘regular’ conception and pregnancy experience. Infertility doesn’t just go away, and neither do the experiences it gave to me. The memories, the procedures, the medications, they are still with me, always, and they shape my reactions to the world.
Below are some resources I have found helpful in this adjustment period. Whether they bring advice or just solidarity, I encourage you to also read them.