There are approximately 6 million pregnancies ever year in the United States.
2.1 million women of the same age range are considered “infertile” (unable to become pregnant naturally over the course of 12 months).
An average woman in her mid-20s with excellent reproductive health has approximately a 20-25% chance of becoming pregnant each cycle.
The average couple in their mid-20s will try for five cycles before conceiving.
On average, 20% of couples do not get pregnant in their first year of trying. 95% succeed within two years.
If you had asked me six months ago how a woman conceives, I would have told you step 1) toss out the contraceptives, step 2) get it on till the break of dawn with your main squeeze, step 3) pee on a stick, step 4) baby.
Today, I could give an impromptu presentation on Basal Body Temperature, cervical mucous, various positions that could increase the odds of conceiving, how charting can improve a woman’s understanding of her cycle, what supplements can prolong the luteal phase, and the evils of a blue dye pregnancy test.
Essentially, now I realize how absolutely ignorant I was about how the reproductive system actually functions and what a miracle it is that anyone gets pregnant EVER. If you think you learned anything in that 2-week long unit on Human Reproduction in your high school Health class, I expect you’ve also got a lot to learn.
Six months ago, I thought you either got pregnant or you were infertile. I didn’t think about this secret group of women who were on a long journey of just “trying”. That despite the informal poll I conducted in my head of all the people I knew who went off birth control and got pregnant overnight, statistics show that there is a silent majority who spent months and months on the process before they finally got those two pink lines. It’s just that no one likes to talk about that part.
After one month of trying unsuccessfully, we were disappointed, but still optimistic. Two months in, and my optimism began to wilt. Three months in, I was charting my brains out and “trying” was verging on a military operation. As we enter the fourth month, it’s becoming increasingly difficult not to obsess, and the beginning of every cycle has become an enormous kick in the gut. Particularly when my body has decided to get its jollies by faking pregnancy symptoms like the past three months of near constant nausea and the joys of tender and swollen boobs post-(alleged) ovulation.
I’ve struggled with how much I want to publicly share this journey. It’s certainly a very private struggle for most women, and I think every woman who wants to have children, has this dream of blushingly and joyously announcing to an unexpecting world, that she is pregnant. That biology hasn’t failed her. That conceiving was a magical, dreamlike experience. Not that she cried every time she had to mark the start of a new cycle on a new chart. That she peed on seventeen sticks over the course of a particularly promising week. That she choked down horse-tranquilizer sized supplements on a daily basis. That she spent almost every evening with her hips elevated, hoping fervently that this time it would take.
That every month it didn’t work, and another friend announced her pregnancy, she bought a gift for a baby shower, or held an infant in her arms, she didn’t feel like a complete failure as a woman. Knowing that others have had to endure much greater trials, but recognizing that at a certain point, they probably also clung desperately to the same dwindling hope as she does that this month will be different.
But I feel compelled to share this experience. That there needs to be a voice saying, no, not every woman gets pregnant just from being in the same room as her husband and that is normal. Sometimes it takes time. If you are feeling this sense of defeat, and the world is telling you to “just relax”, you are not alone. I am not alone.
I would never equate what we are going through right now to the struggles of infertility. I know, and hope against hope, chances are good that we just need a few more months and we too will be making our joyful announcement. If it’s true that the average couple spends five cycles trying to conceive, we’re still well inside the window of “average”. But I also know that every month that ticks by puts us closer and closer to a frightening diagnosis. That something real might be wrong. Something that might not be fixable. Something that I’ve been afraid of since the moment I realized some women just can’t make babies.
I’ve spent so many years doing everything within my power to not get pregnant—cooing over other people’s little bundles of joy, then returning thankfully to my child-free life with my freedom to travel, plan a last minute date night, sleep in all day on a weekend, spend a rainy day with a book and silence. I don’t regret a single day of the past years that Colby and I have had to be selfish and to worry only about our own wants and needs. I treasure that time, and every day that goes by without a baby is another day that we can focus on strengthening our own relationship and relishing that freedom. But there is a bitter irony in the fact that for so long we tried so hard not to have a baby, and now that it’s what we want it has become such a struggle.
In a perfect world, this week I would be sitting down right now to write a sappy, but heartfelt, post announcing how thrilled Colby and I are to be entering the second trimester of a pregnancy. Instead, there is this. My truth. Still somewhere deep below all of the pessimism, there is that belief that our time will come. Maybe this month. Maybe next month. Maybe in a year. And the slimmest of silver linings is that now we know for certain, when our time comes, we will be two of the happiest, most thankful, and excited future parents the world has ever known. And I know in my heart that all of this sadness, frustration and disappointment will have been so worth it.