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10/20/2004

The Bitter Girl's Guide to Pregnancy After Infertility

I was looking at baby books a week ago, trying to find one that didn't make me retch in panic, and it occurred to me that there's been very little written to guide the woman who's newly pregnant after infertility treatment. Because I'm feeling cranky and not funny, the following is too cynical by far. For what it's worth, however, I give you the first installment of The Bitter Girl's Guide to Pregnancy After Infertility.

(Don't read it if you're not currently mad at the world, or if you feel that those of us who're lucky enough to be pregnant have a lot of fucking nerve to be shaking a fist at the universe.)

Don't count on an easy pregnancy. If there were any immediate balance in the world, you would have a perfectly uneventful pregnancy. After all, you deserve one, as much as anyone and more than some. If you've gotten this far after treatment for infertility, you should know better by now: there is no balance. If there were, we wouldn't miscarry, our children wouldn't be born early or ill, and we wouldn't lose them after birth, ever.

There is simply no credit given for time served.


Don't count on your friends. They mean well. They wish you the best. They want to help. They truly do. But they can't.

Sure, you helped them — painting the nursery for their first, taking casseroles over in their earliest muddled days of parenthood, or offering cleverly designed babysitting certificates as a shower gift. And you did it without thought for reciprocation, as you are far too big a person to keep score. (Okay, well, pretend you are, anyway.) But now that you need help, where are they?

Well, they're elbow-deep in diapers and Brownies and car seats and tumbling class and plain old life with a couple of small children, just as you wish you already were.

You, my friend, are out of luck. They gave away the hand-me-downs while you were still slogging through Clomid. Their lives have moved on while yours stood still, and now you're on your own. They'll be full of useful advice, of course, but as far as practical, hands-on assistance? Forget it and get over it, or you will explode the first time you hear someone say, Oh, God, I know you can't travel, but I just don't think I can visit until March at the earliest.


Don't count on your body. If you're infertile, you may have thought that getting pregnant was your only concern. Maybe it was. Maybe, now that you're pregnant, your body will rush effortlessly into cradling the tiny life inside you, keeping it safe and inviolate for the next 36 weeks. Maybe you can begin to love your body again, after hating it for so many countless cycles. Maybe pregnancy will reaffirm what you had begun to doubt: that you are a strong and healthy woman whose body was made for nurturing a child.

But maybe not. Maybe your body will disappoint you yet again. Maybe you'll need supplements, infusions, injections to stay pregnant, to keep your baby healthy inside. Maybe you'll spend the next six months flat on your back like an invalid, praying that just this once your body won't betray you. Maybe you'll find yourself wondering whether your body knew something you didn't when it first refused to conceive.


Don't count on your feelings. You're happy. Sure, you are. But you might also be afraid, which will make you feel miserable, which will make you feel guilty, which will make you feel resentful, which will make you...

Get it?

Unalloyed joy is unavailable to pregnant infertiles. Even as your pregnancy continues, you may find yourself incapable of taking anything for granted, especially after a loss or two. You may not feel normal or secure. You may find it impossible to think in terms of when the baby gets here, spending your energies instead on praying she'll get here at all.

You're happy, yes, but you're broken. You'll never be that giddy newlywed plotting a cute way to tell her husband, "You're going to be a daddy." You may well be a mess, much as you've been since that first crushing negative.

Once a freak, always a freak, and don't you fucking forget it.

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