Most of the time these days, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, it almost looks like I’ve been crying. I haven’t, but my eyes are just a bit too puffy, the whites just a bit too red. I’m normally an almost annoyingly positive person, but right now I’m tired, and I’m sad. It’s something I have to carry around with myself all day, and no one is supposed to know.
No one can know because…I don’t know why. Here we go: I’m trying to get pregnant, and it’s terrible, and also, I’m supposed to keep it a secret for some reason.
Let’s back up. I met my husband young — I was only 22, but he was 27-going-on-Dad. I used to joke about his “ticking biological clock” and how he told me he wanted to have kids by 30. While I wanted children eventually, I knew there was no way in hell my uterus would be occupied in three short years, so I (correctly) assumed he’d slow his roll. I didn’t worry about it too much. I got married at 26, and felt smug and self-congratulatory for getting it out of the way early enough to have “a few years to just enjoy being married.” And, all sarcasm aside, we really did: We Instagrammed our two cats, we traveled, we went out to eat a lot, we had a well-stocked and frequently-used home bar, we changed jobs because we wanted to, I went freelance for a while. When I thought about kids, they seemed like a far-off to-do list item: something to keep in mind, but nothing to put too much energy toward just now.
Gradually, things changed. We started talking about buying a place. I got closer to 30; he got closer to 35. My best friend became pregnant, then my sister-in-law. I got a staff job that happened to have a decent maternity leave policy. Before long, I’d gone from wanting kids “someday” to being ready to go, no hesitation. I made an appointment and had my IUD removed. I bought prenatal vitamins and a used copy of Expecting Better. In short, in September, I went from 99.9% incapable of getting knocked up (luv u, Mirena) to actively trying, basically overnight.
And through it all, I lied. I told my team that all the fertility and pregnancy story ideas I was coming up with germinated “from my time working at a pregnancy magazine” or “because my best friend is expecting.” I did Dry January partly because I really did want to try it, but partly because it was a convenient excuse to avoid drinking alcohol during the wait between what I hoped was ovulation and what I hoped wouldn’t be, but always was, my period.
When I didn’t lie, it felt like I was breaking the rules. I told my family when I planned to start trying, because I was excited, and I don’t like to keep things from them. I told my best friends for the same reasons. I got drunk and sad during my period and told my downstairs neighbors, because they are smart and funny and had a kid when they were like 35, and I knew they’d make me feel better. I told a colleague just before she left for maternity leave because I figured my secret was safe with her. I told another when I was asking her for real estate advice, because it’s hard to hide the reason why you’d be shelling out for a two-bedroom NYC apartment and why you care so much about school districts. Each time, my mind spun, wondering whether I’d made a huge mistake, trying to tabulate how many people knew, obsessing.
Each time, my mind spun, wondering whether I’d made a huge mistake, trying to tabulate how many people knew, obsessing.
Meanwhile, my period kept coming, and I read more books and downloaded more apps. I took my temperature every morning and learned a lot of things about cervical fluid. I gained five pounds and cut down on CrossFit just in case extra body fat could be helpful. I debated whether I should see a doctor about all of this, and kept putting it off because I knew I hadn’t technically been trying for long enough to warrant real concern. I got even sadder.
And then, I asked a colleague (who has an adorable kid) whether she used the Ob/Gyns in our office building and which hospital they were affiliated with — I guess I was in a bit of a DGAF mood, because could that question be any more obvious? She asked if I was pregnant, I said I was working on it, and she said, “It took me forever. It sucks.”
I hated hearing that from her, but I also loved it. I needed to hear it. I also needed to read Christene’s brutal and beautiful essay about her multiple miscarriages. I needed to find out that Chrissy Teigen was doing IVF when she shot Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition. I need to know that people try for years, that they give up, that they maybe try again, that they go through hell and that they’re still going, still living a life, whether they’ve added a new person to it or not. And I need to hear this from real people — not just anonymous women on message boards who use acronyms I don’t understand.
I need to talk about this because I need to get it off my chest, but also because I need people to talk to me about it. Of course, my husband and I discuss it all the time, but I need something from outside the bubble of our relationship, too. And when I think about the mind-spinning I’ve gone through when I’ve revealed it in the past, I realize my concern wasn’t actually about me. So someone’s going to know my husband and I are having semi-scheduled, tactically-timed sex. Who cares? They’re going to know I’m not 100% happy all the time. So? They’re going to find out there’s some potential that something strange is going on with my luteal phase or with my husband’s sperm count or something. I truly don’t give a fuck.
What I have been giving a fuck about, I think, is how everyone else feels. I’m concerned not because they’re going to know a secret about me, but because that secret might make them uncomfortable. I’m freaked out that they’re going to have to experience my sadness secondhand, or that they’ll feel awkward not knowing what to say, or that they’ll start worrying that this might happen to them someday. This isn’t about protecting my feelings — it’s about protecting everyone else’s.
A friend of mine from high school (who has four kids btw, shitttt) revealed on her blog last year that she was pregnant — four weeks pregnant. And that even though it’s against the rules to go public with a pregnancy that early, it was simply too difficult for her to stay in hiding about such a joyful and terrifying life moment. After all, she wrote, she’d blogged about miscarriage before, and would do it in the future if it were to happen again, and it’s just so much harder to struggle with the challenges of the first trimester in secret.
So real. I may not be in the first trimester (yet, or to be honest, maybe ever), but I’m struggling. And if I — someone who has realistically only been working on this for five months, and who’s still years away from “advanced maternal age” — am struggling, surely others out there have it much worse. So, dammit, let’s talk about it. The secret’s out, and I’m done caring what that means to everyone else. Or at the very least, I’m trying.