A few months after our daughter turned 2, my partner and I decided to try for a second baby. Because of how unintentional and easy is was to get pregnant the first time, we hadn't really thought about the alternative. What happened next would become a lengthy, frustrating battle with more than one loss. I know my partner struggled with his role, his own anxieties, and his personal pains over things not going according to plan. However, I'd simultaneously been hurt by questions no dad should ask a partner who's trying to conceive. It's not his fault — I know this now — but some questions are better left unspoken.
After that first conversation of "let's do this again," I discovered I was pregnant late Sept. 2009. Hopeful and delighted, I went to that first appointment with the same mindset I had when pregnant with my daughter, only the news I received wasn't expected. I lost the baby. Before I could fully celebrate, he, or she, was gone. Devastated and defeated, it was the first time I felt the realness of infertility. While I'd always struggled with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) that left me in endless pain from cysts and irregular menstrual cycles, along with a tilted uterus, my first pregnancy spoiled me into thinking it's easy to make a baby. For some of us, it's not. I was lucky the first time but, after that loss, I wasn't so lucky.
More than year later, after sex had become mundane and my life revolved around peak fertile cycles instead of romance or desire, I still hadn't become pregnant again. My doctor talked to me about fertility drugs and, before I left, we made the next appointment to start using them. Then, to my surprise, I was pregnant again and cancelled that appointment. Within days, I lost that baby, too. I can only explain this portion of my life as paused. Everyone else, it seemed, floated effortlessly in motion while I watched from afar. I'd been trying to have this baby for so long, I'd forgotten how to live.
Weeks later (while on my period), I had the sudden urge to take a pregnancy test. Why? I have no real answer, except there was an intense of intensity I couldn't shake. It was positive, and when I went to the doctor this time, there was a heartbeat and it was strong. I had my son in Oct. 2011 — his sister's birthday, five years apart. Even now, when I think back on those days of wistful disappointment, I mourn. I lost so much more than babies — I lost myself. If only my partner had known, instinctively, to be more sensitive as we tried, and failed, to conceive, it might've made it a little easier. With that, if you and your partner are in the thick of this special kind of hell, this is for you.
"Did You Read The Ovulation Calendar Right?"
Listen, when we commit to wanting to have a baby, you better damn well understand we're on top of things. Not only do we know ovulation dates, we know your sperm count and how long our window to attempt conception within minutes of predicted accuracy actually is. In asking something like this, however well-meaning, it undermines my meticulous planning and, on top of that, makes me feel like you don't trust that I know what I'm doing.
Even when my periods weren't cooperating, I still had ovulation pegged to the best of mine — and my doctor's — ability. In the end, we made babies so, yeah, I did read it right.
"Are You Taking Care Of Yourself?"
At the time we first began trying, I wasn't my healthiest and I still had some baby weight to lose from my first pregnancy. After that first loss, though, I started exercising more, eating better, and doing what I could to manage my stress. My partner, on the other hand, wasn't doing much to better himself, so why is it when pregnancy wasn't happening or happened and the babies didn't survive, is it only on me? (Answer: it isn't.)
"Should We Think About Adoption?"
I applaud anyone who adopts. I have friends who've adopted, giving children a wonderful home they otherwise might not have had. I definitely would've thought about adoption if we'd tried for many years and still couldn't conceive, but after just a year or two? I can't even think about other options yet. Let me go through the process, grieve it if necessary, and then we can move on. Please stop trying to suggest alternatives while we're still in the thick of it.
"Can We Just Focus On Our Daughter?"
While trying to conceive can be all-consuming and hella taxing emotionally, I was always very aware of the fact that we already had a child. I did my best not to make her feel less than, and talked honestly about things that happened — like the painful losses — so that she could practice empathy and know that regardless, her mother was still there for her. My partner should always assume I'm there for my kids, no matter what we're going through. Always.
"Maybe We Should Take A Break"
At the time, I would've loved to take a break. Sex wasn't fun, I wasn't interested in making it fun, and all I could focus on was having a healthy pregnancy and baby. Super hot, right?
Taking a break, however needed it might've been, wasn't an option for me at the time. I remember the times my partner said this, and out of the goodness of his heart and sheer concern for me and our relationship, I know he meant no harm. Even still, it made me feel like he didn't want me anymore, and that's not something I needed to deal with on top of everything else.
"Have You Asked Your Doctor About..."
Yes. Before my partner could finish this sentence, I'd already discussed every possible option and angle with my doctor. So please, don't ask this. We've got it covered. What he should've done, instead, was offer to go with me to the doctor so that he, too, could've asked the doctor all the things.
"Do You Wonder If It's Not Meant To Be?"
It never once struck me that I wouldn't get to experience another healthy pregnancy again. I decided it so, and letting go of that dream (and control) wasn't something I was prepared to do at the time. If I had, I might not have had the losses, but I know I wouldn't have had my beautiful son, either. Sometimes you have to keep trying and hope for the outcome you're dreaming for. If it doesn't happen, and isn't going to, let me come to that conclusion on my own terms.
"Can't We Just Have Sex For Fun?"
While there may still be instances sex spontaneously feels fun, it won't always. That's just the way it is. Before all of this, I enjoyed our sex life and we had a pretty strong relationship. This didn't ruin any of that but, instead, simply put it on hold. In the beginning, I really tried my best to enjoy the lovemaking for what it was but after those losses, the frustration affected everything. It was a temporary situation that I now know could've had long term repercussions. In retrospect, I wish I'd tried to have more fun with it but I also wish my partner had been more compassionate with all my mind and body had gone through, too.
In the end, even though my partner played a part in the conception, it was me who endured the difficulties, emptiness, and hopelessness by the betrayal of my own body. So really, as a partner, all you should do or say if trying to conceive is whatever supports your partner. No more, no less.