You’ve married the man of your dreams, you’ve settled down to a life together, and now you’ve decided it’s time to start a family. It’s a joyous occasion! A time of emotional and sexual excitement! A phase of possibility and hope! Or… it’s a time of heartache, uncertainty, and grief.
The fact of it is, not everyone who wants to get pregnant gets pregnant right away — or at all. If you are someone who’s been trying for a while, it can feel like motherhood is slipping through your fingers. Maybe you’re watching — a smile pasted on your face — as all your friends get pregnant and become moms. Maybe it seems like every woman you pass on the street is visibly pregnant — while your own uterus remains achingly empty. Whatever your situation, struggling to get pregnant takes an emotional toll.
Whatever your situation, struggling to get pregnant takes an emotional toll.
A quick reminder: go see a doctor
I’m going to assume that, if you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a significant period of time without success — the general rule is 12 months for women under 35, 6 months for women over 35 — that you’ve already consulted a doctor. While this article is primarily about the emotional toll of infertility and how to manage it, I do want to say, up front, that if you haven’t yet checked in with your OBGYN, you should.
Consulting with your OBGYN isn’t the same as embarking on some really invasive infertility procedure. There are so many really low-key things your doctor can point you towards before anyone even mentions things like IVF. Are you tracking your ovulation using a digital ovulation test? (If not, you should be — we don’t all ovulate at the same time each month, even if our periods are regular.) Your doctor can recommend a reliable brand. Your doctor may also test your hormone levels, check your thyroid, and send you for an ultrasound of your uterus and ovaries.
None of these things are invasive, and they may point to something simple that will help you conceive — which you wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Your husband should get checked out too. If it seems like everything looks good but you’re still not getting pregnant, your doctor can go over your options for what to do next. Or you may decide to look into adoption.
If it seems like everything looks good but you’re still not getting pregnant, your doctor can go over your options for what to do next.
Everyone deals with difficult situations differently, and that’s okay
But, let’s assume that you’ve done all that and you’re following your doctor’s advice or your own plan for the future. Now the question becomes how to handle this difficult and stressful time, emotionally. The monthly cycle of waiting for the right time, then trying to have sex on just the right day, then the agonizing two-week wait followed by disappointment when your period arrives can take a real emotional toll. And, if you’ve had a pregnancy, but it ended in miscarriage, there’s an additional level of grief. There’s no getting around it: this is a really difficult time.
There’s no one “right” way to deal with your feelings around trying to get pregnant. You — and your husband — should do whatever feels most supportive to you.
It’s okay to grieve
The fact that you’re not pregnant and you want to be is a really difficult thing. There isn’t really a positive spin to put on it; it’s a raw deal. It’s okay to feel sad, angry, hurt, or any number of other feelings this might bring up. It’s okay to grieve the fact that you’re not yet a mother. And, if you’ve had a miscarriage, it’s more than okay to grieve the baby you’ve lost.
It’s okay to grieve the fact that you’re not yet a mother. And, if you’ve had a miscarriage, it’s more than okay to grieve the baby you’ve lost.
You may get pregnant eventually, but it’s also possible that you won’t. And that’s no small thing to have to deal with. Well-meaning comments like “I’m sure it’ll happen!” or “Just relax,” from people around you can feel like twisting the knife. No one but God knows what’s in store for you. Prayer is always a good idea in times like this, as is allowing yourself to feel your feelings. And grief may be one of them.
It’s okay to talk about it
There’s a lot of secrecy around pregnancy and miscarriage. Women are frequently told they should wait to tell anyone other than close family and friends until their second trimester just in case they suffer a miscarriage. And since “trying to conceive” is just another way of saying “having a bunch of sex with your husband,” it’s not really something people bring up in polite conversation. But talking about what you’re going through may actually feel better than not talking about it.
Certainly you want to find people — family members, close friends, etc. — whom you trust to share your feelings with. What you’re going through is a really big deal, and having a support system is important. But you may also find that being open with the inevitable nosy strangers is also more appealing than keeping quiet.
You may also find that being open with the inevitable nosy strangers is also more appealing than keeping quiet.
When a well-meaning but nosy old lady comes up to you at church, say, and asks you why you haven’t had a baby yet, it may actually feel helpful to say something like, “It’s not as easy as it looks,” or “We’re trying but no luck yet.” This lets the person know that these questions aren’t just light-hearted jests to you — they’re painful and hard to field — and perhaps that will elicit some compassion or even an unexpected dose of comfort.
Similarly, if you’ve had a miscarriage — or several — it’s okay to say so if you want to. There’s no reason not to, other than your own comfort level. You may find that answering a well-meaning “So, when are you going to start a family?” with “It’s actually been hard for us, we lost a baby last month” feels better to you than just smiling and nodding and aching inside. And it’s also an opportunity to ask for prayers, which are often comforting in times like these.
You may find that answering a well-meaning “So, when are you going to start a family?” with “It’s actually been hard for us, we lost a baby last month” feels better to you than just smiling and nodding and aching inside.
It’s okay to not talk about it
That being said, you are by no means obligated to tell strangers the state of your uterus. If your struggles to conceive feel deeply personal and private, then it doesn’t matter how many people ask you, you are under no obligation to share.
If your struggles to conceive feel deeply personal and private, then it doesn’t matter how many people ask you, you are under no obligation to share.
It can be hard to know, in the moment, what to say to someone who’s asking about your plans for children, when you really are trying to get pregnant. A simple, “Yes, wouldn’t that be nice,” could work, if you’ve been told (for the millionth time) that you really should start a family. Or a smile, a nod, and a pointed change of topic could work too.
It’s okay to ask for help
Trying to get pregnant can feel like an all-consuming task. It’s easy to let it take over your life. And it’s easy to find yourself wondering what path your life will take, and worrying about how to plan for the future with this giant question mark hanging over everything. It’s okay to need some help to deal with it all. There’s nothing shameful about seeking therapy or speaking with someone you trust.
It’s true that talking about it with a professional won’t solve your problem with getting pregnant, but it can help you find some emotional peace and a plan for dealing with the uncertainty. Even with the support of your husband, family, and friends, you may want an objective ear from time to time, and that’s okay. There’s nothing at all wrong with that.
It’s true that talking about it with a professional won’t solve your problem with getting pregnant, but it can help you find some emotional peace and a plan for dealing with the uncertainty.
Struggling to get pregnant is hard enough, without questions from nosy strangers, or the constant reminder that other people are getting pregnant when you’re not. Remember that you are allowed to share as much or as little of your struggle with those around you. Take comfort in your husband. Lean on each other and pray. It’s okay to feel sad. Do what you need to do to stay strong. And don’t worry about what other people think or ask of you. This is between you, your husband, and God.