So it has been a long while since I had been to my fertility doctor’s office. After the IVF failed in August due to a lack of viable embryos (see “Our Journey” blog post) my husband and I decided to take a break from fertility. The very next month I needed surgery to remove my gallbladder, a result of the type of birth control pill I was on coupled with all of the “pregnancies” I had. Then in November I surprisingly and unintentionally got pregnant naturally and went in to see my fertility doctor only to miscarry on Thanksgiving Day. After taking a real break for almost a year, my husband and I decided it was time to test our luck once more with trying to conceive through IVF.
While waiting to see the fertility doctor on my first day back to the office, I spotted a familiar nemesis in the waiting room. Let’s call my nemesis, “To Become Pregnant” magazine. Goodness, I really dislike this magazine. I have to see it not only at my fertility doctor’s office, but always at my regular ObGyn’s office as well. The magazine just sits there on top of some sort of unnecessary office furniture, mocking me, with an unnaturally adorable baby on the cover, followed by many more adorable baby pics and pregnant bellies on every other page. I have since come to peace with this magazine. But back before I knew everything that I had going against me fertility-wise, this magazine would haunt me, as it may haunt many of you. Every magazine always details an overwhelming, unreasonable amount of tasks to complete in order to have a better chance at conceiving. And it always STRESSED ME OUT. I decided to go through this magazine and put together all the things I would have to do to increase my odds “To Become Pregnant,” that is, according to their advice and the advice of their advertisements.
First, I wake up and take pills that some woman testified gave her a “miracle baby”. I cook all of my meals according to the recipes found in a “how-to-cook-for-infertility” book. I make sure I see the dentist in order to avoid gum disease, which could not only prevent conception but cause stillborns. I check all carpets, electronics and household items that are fabric, foam or plastic because they may have a chemical that is effecting my ability to get pregnant. Since I can’t take 5 months off from work to complete a fertility spa program to increase fertility, I get that same program’s recommended exercise DVD and routinely work out my “core”. On top of that, there is a Yoga Ball I use to help and some regular yoga positions with more accompanying DVDs. I eat a lot of Greek Salad or anything that can be considered to be a Mediterranean diet. But of course I cannot diet in general because that will thwart any initiatives I take towards conception. I eat healthy, though, and there are many healthy snacks I choose from. But I also eat chocolates which have been prayed over that could help with my fertility. Finally, others are doing acupuncture, herbs and massage, so I do that as well.
Not only are there tips for me in this magazine, but many tips for my husband and I to follow together. There is a lubricant we have to use that was developed by a Sperm Physiologist(???). One woman swore the lubricant helped her achieve her “miracle baby”. We chart cycles, use a fertility monitor, track cervical mucus, and I simply listen to my body. We “don’t start messing around with alcohol, hormones or drugs” when we are getting ready for pregnancy (!!!!!). Around the time we are trying to conceive we eat foods that are sexy (on top of snacking on non-diet, Mediterranean recipes from the “how-to-cook-for-infertility” book, with a side helping of prayer chocolates ). We exercise around this time, but not too much. I also buy new lingerie. Before doing an IVF, we ask the embryologist to rock the embryo before implanting it because it worked with mice. Oh, and we also relax.
Okay so why does this magazine irritate me so? Simply because it reminds me of that vulnerable, unsure, uninformed desperate young woman I was many years ago. I would read these articles and try to do everything they said to get pregnant. I would mostly follow every word, but would slip up here or there. If I didn’t get pregnant at the end of the month I would ask myself, ”Did I not have enough prayer chocolates?” or “Maybe it was those few glasses of wine?” or “Maybe the foods we were eating simply weren’t sexy enough?” Month after month of getting my period, I would second guess myself and try to figure out what more I could have done to get pregnant, or what rule I didn’t follow. With every issue of “To Become Pregnant,” there were more and more guidelines I had to worry about.
My fertility journey has taught me a very hard but vital lesson. We can twist ourselves into pretzels, change our whole lifestyle, inject ourselves with many, many hormones, but when it all comes down to it, we are still trying to bring a life into this world. There is a great mystery to all of this and it is frustrating as all hell. It makes me feel like I am repeatedly banging my head against the wall. But I would rather be frustrated and baffled than blame myself month after month for not being pregnant because I didn’t chart my cervical mucus right (gross!). I guess what I am trying to say is that I am clearly an advocate for being proactive, considering all the lengths I have taken to get pregnant, but I feel like we can’t blame ourselves for our inability to conceive. We have to be at peace with all of our efforts or non-efforts and accept (albeit begrudgingly) the mystery of conception. “To Become Pregnant” and magazines like these have an incredible opportunity to touch the lives of women who are on this difficult fertility journey, but instead they just make us crazy(er). They prey upon their vulnerable readers, all the while selling ad space to ridiculous companies. But I guess, “What you can do to try to improve fertility slightly although it may not even matter in the end” doesn’t really sell. But I must admit those prayer chocolates sure do sound good.