I first wrote about trying to conceive with Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) in Nov 2017. Back then I’d only been trying to get pregnant for three months or so, and due to a very long menstrual cycle and a new found hyper-sensitivity to my body, I’d convinced myself I was pregnant. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple.
It’s now been 19 months since I’ve been trying to get pregnant, and about 21 months since I first got my PCOS diagnosis. Since then, I’ve made some lifestyle changes that are meant to reduce my PCOS symptoms and help me conceive. I’ve cut out all sugar and carbs that quickly turn to sugar in your blood stream (anything made from white flour, white potatoes or white rice). This was a major diet change for me, carbs were my staple and chocolate was my comfort. I’ve also stopped drinking alcohol, when I used to drink 2-3 bottles of wine a week. I’ve joined a gym for the first time in about 10 years and I’m actually going to it three times a week, except when my fatigue and depression knock me sideways I can’t.
All of these lifestyle changes are difficult to start and hard to stick to, but I’ve done it, because my drive to have a baby seems to have taken over my weak will power and given me the strength to resist, and the motivation to work out. I feel now like I’ve worked so hard for so long, and it’s still not happened. I’m still not pregnant.
For the past year it feels as though I have just been treading water, like I’m stuck in this period of my life and I can’t grow or move on because I’m trying to achieve a goal that my body just isn’t capable of. I feel like a failure, and I absolutely hate myself for prioritising pregnancy and letting the rest of my life coast by.
Fundamentally, I disagree with what I am doing. I think cis women are often pushed into believing that their priority should be creating and maintaining a family, and I hate that’s the way society is set up but I now feel like I am part of that horrible system. I’ve stayed at my job, even though it is very low paid and doesn’t excite me, because I’ve worked their long enough to be entitled to full maternity rights. I don’t want to seek work elsewhere because I wouldn’t get maternity pay if I fell pregnant at a new job. I feel like I’ve become this dull, baby-obsessed creature who does absolutely nothing, whilst the people around me are busy advancing in their careers and going on exciting adventures, some at the same time as raising their own children.
I just want to say fuck it, and stop focusing on trying to get pregnant. Delete the app that tracks my cycle. Stop taking my temperature every morning, just be left with evidence that its unlikely I’ve ovulated. Stop forcing the sex when I’m really tired and not in the mood or my husband is really tired, just because medical advice is to have sex every other day. Just have sex when we both feel like it!
You can’t have a post about trying to get pregnant without a discussion about sex. I love sex. My sex life and sexual pleasure are really important to me. When we first started trying to get pregnant, the sex was great. We just chilled out and had fun and enjoyed not needing to bother about condoms or any other contraception. But as the year mark with no positive pregnancy test drew nearer, things changed. I grew more desperate, marking in my fertility app the days we had sex, and trying to make sure it didn’t go more than two days without sex. I could feel the stress this put on my partner, it was damaging our relationship, and the pressure I put on him to have sex when he was tired from work was making him more resistant to have sex at all. There have even been times when I have focused all my energy on turning him on, so that he will have sex with me, whilst I completely ignore my own pleasure. That’s the saddest thing in the world for me, that I have sacrificed my own sexual pleasure and intimate connection with my husband because of my obsession with conception.
Although I am desperate to conceive, sometimes I look forward to my period starting, just so I know we can stop, have a pause in the scheduled sex and just relax. I think my husband looks forward to that too. If that wasn’t a big red flag for an issue with our sex life, I don’t know what is. Sex has gone from this, fun, intimate shared experience, to this scheduled, forced process. I can step back and view it with remorse, but I can’t seem to stop myself from powering on, from struggling through, each time with a little less hope. Maybe this month? Each pregnancy test I take seems to mock me. It laughs at all my false symptoms and temperature spikes. Yet I keep taking them, weekly once I get past 30 days in a cycle, sometimes more than that if my breasts have been particularly painful, or I’ve spent a morning feeling sick. I’ve started sharing some of these tests on Twitter, to try to offer some support to other people who are going through what I’m going through.
I’ve also become jealous, and I despise myself for feeling this emotion. I’m jealous of my friends with babies, or children, or who are currently pregnant. I’m jealous of my friends who know they don’t want children. I’m jealous of people with regular menstrual cycles that only last 28 days, people who can pin point when they will ovulate within five days. People’s who’s cycles don’t last up 65 days, where they have to force the regular sex for weeks and weeks and take pregnancy test after pregnancy test only to have them all show up negative and to have PMS that lasts for weeks and seems so much like those early pregnancy symptoms they can’t help but google, only to have their period suddenly arrive in a flood in the middle of a work day.
Jealousy is a bitter and ugly emotion, one that I was always good at getting on top of (I’ve had some practise when navigating my husband’s other polyamorous relationships in the past). I still am, I’m really overjoyed for all the joy in my friend’s and families life. It’s just this automatic, gut-wrenching first reaction that I’m having to work harder and harder to quash. I don’t want to be an ugly, bitter person. I have so much compassion and kindness inside me, and I want that to be what shines out first.
I’m at the stage now where I know something has got to change. I need to face up to the fact that if I keep going the way I am, I’m going to seriously damage my relationship. I’ve also got to come to terms with the idea that pregnancy might not be an option for me, or that it could take me years and years to achieve. I’m not ready for that yet though. I’m not ready to let go, or move on and re-prioritise. Part of me thinks if I did let go, it’d probably just happen one day when I wasn’t thinking about it. But that’s a gamble I’m not willing to bet on.
I also feel so alone in this. I feel like I can’t talk about it with friends and family, because it’s awkward and people don’t know what to say. Or they say something really hopeful, all about how it will happen one day and I just need to be patient, which although might be true, it makes me feel like all these strong emotions I am feeling aren’t valid, and like they don’t get it. I know they are trying to comfort me, but all I really want is for them to agree that this fucking sucks right now.
What makes me feel worse is when I get well-intentioned advice from people who’ve already succeeded in getting pregnant. They tell me to take the vitamins I’ve already been taking for two years, or they tell me to start taking my temperature every morning, which I already do, just to see a chart like the New York skyline, or they tell me to get acupuncture, which I cannot afford. I hate getting this advice because it means they’ve made the assumption that I’m not researching and doing all that I can to help my chances, or they do not understand why it is difficult for me when it was so easy for them. I weep.
I’m not really sure how to end this post. It feels, much like my life right now, incomplete and incohesive. I don’t have a straight forward message or story to tell. Effectively, there’s no point to this blog post. But writing is cathartic and gives me insight into my own feelings. I don’t know how to solve this problem. But if you too are struggling, know you’re not alone. And if you just want someone to say “that’s a whole load of stressful shit you’re going through right now”, I’ll be your empathetic cheerleader.