It took me ten months to get pregnant.
I know it takes some people much longer, and some people are never able to get pregnant at all, but ten months seems like an eternity when it’s happening to you. Where I live, you have to have been trying for a year, or have had three miscarriages, in order to see a fertility specialist. Ten months and one mulligan can leave you feeling pretty helpless and alone.
That’s nearly a year of peeing on sticks, charting your temperature, online forums, old wives tales, doctor’s appointments, caution, disappointment and loss. I went an entire month where I ate sweet potatoes every day because I’d read they can stimulate estrogen production. I choked down glasses of whole milk after reading dairy boosts fertility, but low fat dairy can warp your hormones.
I exercised and tried to be fit. Then I stopped exercising and tried to gain weight. I quit drinking (eventually).
My doctor said I was healthy. Still, I thought I was broken.
I downloaded a fertility-tracking app after a few months of no results. You can find these in the app store if you search under “neurotic.” Before you could say “this cunt end well,” I was documenting the consistency of my vaginal fluids and recording my basal temperature in a daily charting system more detailed than the math required to land a Mars rover.
I swore I wouldn’t use the “community forum” section of the app, where only two kind of TTC (Trying To Conceive, not Toronto Transit Commission ) people exist:
People like “Maisie1992,” who post their charts every day and say they’ve already been trying for three long weeks and she’s feeling real discouraged but, dang it, they’re not giving up hope to add a fifth baby to their ranch.
And people like “MommaInMyHeart1981,” who’ve been trying to get pregnant for seven years and tell people like Maisie1992 to get fucked.
But I was desperate and, after four months of treating my body like a science experiment, I posted my charts in the community and asked for advice. Immediately, a MommaInMyHeart1981 suggested I might be in early menopause and no longer fertile, and a Maisie1992 announced her pregnancy and said she’d pray for me.
It is a cruel joke of nature that the symptoms of PMS and early pregnancy are essentially the same. Especially if you’re coming off birth control after a decade of hormonal intervention and suddenly have the periods of a teenager.
So, the end of every month for ten months went a little like this: Oh, my boobs are tender! Oh, I feel a little queasy! Oh, my skin is breaking out! Oh, I’m a little bloated! Oh, I’m tired! Oh, I just bled through my shorts like a 13 year old at summer camp.
At least periods were an excuse to get drunk and eat sushi, two things I didn’t allow myself to do during the second half of any cycle just in case we had a keeper. Name a sushi restaurant in Ottawa, and at some point I’ve visited it in sweatpants and cried about my old AF eggs into a half litre of terrible house white.
Everybody wants a good conception story, right? Something meaningful, or at least humorous, to tell your child some day? For instance, I’ve known since I was a teenager that I was conceived by accident after my parents got drunk on a bottle of Baby Duck.
…what do you mean most people don’t know this about themselves? No, YOU’RE damaged!
Well, anyway, during those first few months you really try to attach meaning to all of your attempts. And everything is sexy and exciting – You’re making a baby! Out of love! – but the longer it takes to get pregnant, the more your standards slip. Despite your best intentions, your conception story might be “we both hated each other but the thermometer said I might be ovulating so we did it as fast as possible with minimal touching and then watched TV in separate rooms.”
Here’s just a snippet of my potential conception story arc as the months went by.
June: You were conceived on a campsite, under the shade of a leafy maple tree, with the wind blowing through our tent, to the sounds of the lake lapping lazily at the shore. Afterward, we made coffee on an open fire and discussed potential baby names while cuddling.
July: You were conceived in a log cabin in cottage country, with the smell of bacon wafting under the door and the sound of birdsong outside the window. Afterward, we sat on the dock and held hands and discussed what colour to paint the nursery.
August: You were conceived on a rocky outcrop of the Canadian Shield, with the sun kissing our shoulders through the open top of our little tent as loons called out to each other on the lake below us. Afterward, we sipped wine and discussed taking you camping with us someday.
September: You were conceived in the car in a hidden field behind a vineyard, as the late summer sun embraced us like a warm hug and cicadas buzzed in the trees and Blue Rodeo played softly through our speakers. Afterward, we drove away giggling and discussed school districts.
October: You were conceived in the cozy bedroom of a log cabin resort in Quebec, with a fire roaring in the fireplace and the smoke alarm occasionally going off because your dad kept forgetting to close the flue, and the staff knocking at our door to make sure we didn’t burn the place to the ground. Afterward, we got surly on gin and I got so hangry that your dad got dressed and wandered the resort to find me a bag of chips before I straight up knifed him.
November: You were conceived in our own bed, after I’d decided the only way to make sure we did it when I was fertile was to do it every second day – WITHOUT FAIL. I DON’T CARE THAT YOU’RE TIRED OR THAT I SMELL LIKE ARMPIT – for the entire month, god dammit. Afterward, your dad watched House of Cards in the guest room while I lay with my feet in the air and caught up on some emails while muttering to myself.
December: You were conceived in the three minutes we had to spare while getting ready for work, both of us hungry and un-showered and with the breath of a rotting corpse, during month two of doing it EVERY SECOND GODDAMN DAY, I DON’T CARE THAT YOU DON’T LIKE IT, DON’T YOU EVEN WANT A BABY ANYMORE, I FEEL LIKE YOU DON’T EVEN WANT A FAMILY, NO I DO NOT THINK WE NEED COUPLE’S COUNSELLING, GOD YOU SMELL LIKE A DOG’S ASS, STOP TOUCHING ME. Afterward, we were so late for work that we had to skip breakfast and I was so hangry that I ate three office granola bars and told an intern that he was wasting his life.
…and that’s how you were made, baby.