Because Conception and Pregnancy Aren’t Easy

by
4
Jun

Social media, cell phones, tablets, online ordering. So many parts of our society contribute to the “want it now” mentality. For some reason, that philosophy seems to apply to conception and pregnancy. That instant gratification mindset is becoming ingrained. When we want something, it’s at our fingertips, whether it be that cute shirt at Target, a toy on Amazon or the groceries you can get delivered to your door. Want a baby? Conceive on your first try! So unrealistic, but it’s how too many people think.

 

I’m no exception to that mentality. When we decided to try to conceive, I remember thinking that we’d be pregnant in six months tops. I freely shared that we were trying when people asked because I knew we would be pregnant soon. Then the months stretched into years and instead of wanting a baby now, it became a yearning for a positive pregnancy test. I’m proof of what our society doesn’t acknowledge enough: conception and pregnancy are not easy.

 

Despite what we’re taught, pregnancy is not a given. Historically, how many examples are there of women who struggled to conceive? Think about the queens and all the pressure on them to birth an heir. There are so many who only succeeded in producing one or two offspring. Infertility is not new, and thankfully, the taboo surrounding it has started to lift, especially as celebrities like Jaimie King, Hugh Jackman, and Sarah Jessica Parker talk about their struggles. And yet, it seems that every woman feels like pregnancy should happen within months of trying. After all, pregnancy is a natural thing for our bodies and has been an expectation for our gender since humanity began. The problem now is the weight of that expectation often makes becoming pregnant more stressful and emotional than it needs to be.

For example, I know someone who stopped trying to conceive her second child after two months. She said that it was too hard to see the negative pregnancy tests. Her words have stuck with me, and today I realized why. It’s not because it blows my mind that she’s giving up after two negative tests when I had who knows how many. It’s that she only tried for two months. That sense of instant gratification and the emotional toll of not fulfilling the desire for a pregnancy led her and her spouse to choose to focus on the beautiful little boy they already have.

 

Think about this: how many people do you know with one child? Have you ever asked them why they have only one? I can think of four couples off the top of my head. Here are their scenarios:

  1. The first child was a struggle to conceive, and they never succeeded again.
  2. The first child was a struggle to conceive, and they never succeeded again.
  3. They’re happy with just one child and want to focus on him.
  4. They conceive their first child almost immediately and decided to focus on him when baby number two wasn’t conceived quickly (the aforementioned example).

Notice that only one couple made a decision to not have another child without any other factors. Now I don’t know if my sample set is the norm, but I’m willing to bet that many only children don’t have siblings for a lot of reasons outside of “we only wanted one.” Because conception and pregnancy aren’t easy.

 

On the opposite side of the spectrum, I’ve talked to two elderly women recently who have been surprised when I’ve said we are stopping at three kids (honestly, with a toddler and baby twins—all IFV babies—I can’t imagine adding another). Those lovely women have large families of seven and ten children. But you know what else? I know at least one of them had a miscarriage. Yes, they were blessed with a large family, but loss was also a part of the journey. Because conception and pregnancy aren’t easy.

 

Do you know someone who has dealt with the heartbreak of a miscarriage? Even if you say no, I would bet you’re wrong. We talk about how overlooked infertility is, but miscarriages happen way more than I ever expected they would. Yes, many of those people go on to have a rainbow baby, but the miscarriages still happened. The struggle was still there. Odds are that you know more than one person who has gone through that tragic experience.

 

But, Ashley, you may be thinking, what about all those teenagers who seem to pop out babies like it’s their job? Trust me, I know exactly what you’re thinking. I’m an alternative high school teacher. A high percentage of teen parents and soon-after-high-school parents walk through my doors. It’s got a whole lot to do with their age and their carelessness. And, frankly, if you surveyed the entire world, my thought is that there would be many more who struggle than who had children early. And don’t forget secondary infertility. How many of those teen parents struggled to reproduce once they found their forever partner? Because conception and pregnancy aren’t easy.

 

The age old story is stamped into our minds. Boy meets girl. They fall in love and get married. They have kids and live in house with a white picket fence. Simple. Pretty. Delusional. Although, ironically, I’m sitting in a house with a white picket fence watching television with my mother, a woman who easily conceived both of her daughters. But is she the norm? Maybe she was in the 1980s, but she is not anymore. Maybe life has gotten more complicated or maybe or society has opened its eyes. Look at the world around you. Think of your ten closest friends. How many have kids? How many conceived right away? The answer may surprise you, but it shouldn’t. Our society has hung on to the idea that conception is a given. You decide to have kids, stop using birth control, and voila, baby! (Cue sarcastic snort.)

 

Look at the statistics:

1 in 8 couples (about 12%) can be clinically diagnosed with infertility[1]

10-15% of pregnancies end in miscarriage[2]

About 11% of American woman suffer from endometriosis[3]

PCOS affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age[4]

Over a third of infertility cases result from male infertility[5]

And those numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more factors that affect conception and successful pregnancy. One of the reasons I started writing about being infertile was that I was sick of the attention that infertility was not getting. I was sick of the illusion of the picket fence scenario, which works out beautifully for some but sets an unrealistic expectation for so many more..

 

 

Our society has become a place of contradiction: clinging to traditional views, like the picket fence, while also making room for all the wonderful differences in each piece of humanity. When I think about this in terms of infertility, it blows my mind a bit. Think of all the different ways people have conceived children: random intercourse, timed intercourse, failed birth control, fertility treatments, etc.. And yet, when we think of how to make a baby, the age-old story where unprotected sex results in a child sneaks in. But it is so much more than that. Because conception and pregnancy aren’t easy.

 

Despite the contradictions, one of the things I love about our current society is the push for people to embrace their best selves. Which is why I would be remiss if I didn’t point out an obvious truth: so many people in the LGBTQ community would be and are fantastic parents. Have you seen Neil Patrick Harris’ family’s Halloween costumes? Seriously, though, there is an entire group of people who cannot conceive naturally. If they want to have biological children, they have got to seek out fertility treatments. In their case, conception and pregnancy is not only not easy, it also needs medical science to happen.

 

No matter the circumstance, the fact remains that we need to rethink conception and pregnancy so that they are more of a journey than a sprint. If I could, I would stand on the rooftops and scream my story: I needed help to have babies! Honestly, I enjoy the shock on some people’s faces when I talk to them, and they learn that all babies aren’t made from intercourse. One of the reasons I love that eye-opening discussion is that people are often fascinated by the scope of what can be done to assist in conception, once they open themselves up to learning about it. Even with my twins, people seem surprised when I say they’re IVF babies.

(Sidenote: I find myself assuming most multiples are fertility treatment babies, which isn’t fair since some people just have crazy reproductive luck. Hence, my surprise when people don’t immediately think that fertility treatments helped me have my twins.)

Anyway, my point is that this is a message that needs to spread: pregnancy and conception aren’t easy. If you’re struggling, you are not alone. We have to get out of the mindset that pregnancy is easy and a given.

 

Take a deep breath and say it with me: pregnancy and conception aren’t easy.

 

Now go tell the world.

 

[1] “What Is Infertility?” CNY Fertility Center. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.cnyfertility.com/ttc/what-is-infertility/.

[2] “Miscarriage.” March of Dimes. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/miscarriage.aspx.

[3] “Endometriosis.” Womenshealth.gov. April 01, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/endometriosis.

[4] “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.” Womenshealth.gov. April 01, 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.

[5] “Male Infertility.” Mayo Clinic. September 20, 2018. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/male-infertility/symptoms-causes/syc-20374773.

 

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