Dear Women Who Are TTC: I See You
I see you in the aisle at Target, tossing ovulation kits and pregnancy tests into your cart, hoping this will be the last time you have to shell out money on these pee sticks. I know how frustrating it is to buy test after test, because every new pack signifies that you have yet to see the elusive plus sign on the end of your stick. I see you stopping by the kids' aisle because you just have to check out the tiny dresses and onesies that your future child will wear. You are struggling, but you cover it up with a smile. You are hopeful, but you're also breaking inside. That's why I wanted to write you this letter: to let you know that I see you, because I was you once.
I remember feeling like I was the only woman on earth who couldn't get pregnant. I felt like it was my fault that I was unable to have a baby, and I eventually stopped telling my husband about every negative pregnancy test because it made me feel like a failure. I peed on ovulation sticks, tracked my menstrual and ovulation cycle, stopped drinking wine, and stopped working out every day. I took folic acid and prenatal vitamins in the hopes of helping the process along. But nothing worked, and I knew it was because of me. It had to be because of me. I felt like my body, my ovaries, and my eggs were making TTC so damn difficult.
So I secretly shouldered the blame. I became a pro at hiding my insecurities by acting indifferent when people asked if I had gotten pregnant yet. It was so hard to pretend to be happy. It was so hard to act like trying to conceive was not taking up all of the space in my mind. I was moody and sad. I was incredibly hard on myself.
That's why I want to tell the women out there who are also TTC: please be kind to yourselves. Whatever the reason behind your struggles to conceive, you have no control over your own anatomy, and you didn't do anything to make your body not perform the way you want it to. Society has always taught us that women's bodies are inherently designed to make procreation simple and easy, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Getting pregnant can be incredibly difficult for lots of people, and that’s what I need you to know: You are not alone.
It's frustrating as hell when something that seems so easy for so many women is much harder than anticipated.
I need you to know that there are many of us out there just like you, who are TTC for months or years before we finally get that positive sign. Others (like myself) required infertility treatments to get pregnant. TTC is a tough process, and it's frustrating as hell when something that seems so easy for so many women is much harder than anticipated.
You might not be able to articulate everything that you’re experiencing. Maybe you're tired of talking about it, or maybe you just don't want to talk about it all. That's fine. This is an incredibly personal process, and it's your right not to answer other people's nosy questions about your body.
That's why I want you to know that I see you. I see how your body tenses up when someone asks if you’re pregnant "yet." I see you offer the same rehearsed response, time and again: "Not yet, but we're hopeful this is the month," or "No, but it's OK, we aren't worried." Maybe some people will believe you, but I know the truth: that these questions are hurtful and annoying, because you're tired of having to explain your situation, over and over again.
You cry quietly when you get your period at work, wiping your eyes and reapplying your makeup so no one will know.
Don't these people understand that asking you if you’re pregnant only reinforces the reality that you are not pregnant? Don't they understand how truly exhausting trying to conceive is? How can you put into words those feelings of frustration, disappointment, and concern in a way that won't make people feel awkward or, even worse, pity you?
So you keep all of your feelings inside. You hide the fertility apps on your phone, and you don’t tell anyone how many times you’ve Googled "trying to conceive", "tips on trying to conceive"," or variations on the question "what if something is wrong with me?" You refuse to cry when friends announce their pregnancies on Facebook, even when that one person shares that annoying "It only took one try!" post. When you see babies at the store, you tell the mom how adorable her baby is, even though it makes your heart hurt because you want a baby of your own. You cry quietly when you get your period at work, wiping your eyes and reapplying your makeup so no one will know.
I won’t give you unsolicited advice, because I don’t believe what other people say about how it will happen when you stop thinking about it. I won’t give you a pep talk or tell you to keep trying. And I won't tell you that it's all in your mind, and that you're putting too much pressure on yourself. I think all of that's bullsh*t. I know I only managed to get pregnant with my two girls when I finally admitted to myself that we needed to see an infertility specialist.
But what I will give you is my attention. I will listen to you if you want to vent, or scream, or cuss, or cry. I need you to know that those of us in the midst of this TTC journey, and those who have been there, see you and understand what you’re going through.
TTC is so lonely. But you’re not alone. We are right beside you.