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Why Can't I Stop Trying?

Everyone knows that trying to conceive is grim. Constantly counting days. The scheduled sex. Was that an implantation cramp I just felt? The monthly disappointment. Your entire world reduced to the size of an egg, everything else irrelevant. And after four years of this I feel I am stuck in a half-life, a sort of emotional limbo where nothing can change, nothing can move forward, and I’ve lost the person I used to be.


So why don’t we stop trying? We’re not the sort of infertile where you go to the hospital one day and they tell you that you can’t have a baby, and your life changes in an instant. We’re the sort of infertile where you get pregnant three times, and despite all your rational resources telling you otherwise, you can’t help wondering if there’s a chance you might again. Six months ago I thought we would stop when we couldn’t bear it any longer, when the desire to escape the miserable half-life pushed us through the pain barrier of stopping trying, for lack of anywhere else to go.


But now I’m not so sure. I honestly don’t think we are trying for a baby anymore, neither of us has any hope left. I try because I can’t do otherwise. I look across to what is on the other side of the decision and I can’t reconcile myself to it, to the permanence of it. Say to yourself the phrases “a couple trying for a baby” and “a couple who couldn’t have children” and just pause for a moment on those two contrasting mental pictures. Taking a conscious, self-directed decision to move overnight from being a couple trying for a baby to being a couple who couldn’t have children is just proving too much for me. And it is overnight. After all, one day you’re taking your folic acid, and the next you’re not (damn those trying to conceive rituals).


Slowly it dawns on me that the folic acid ritual may be all I actually have control over. I feel like I’m being kidnapped, bundled screaming and kicking into a car, forcibly dragged away from the life I thought I was going to live, and into a life I have no desire to live. But I know I have to surrender to the kidnappers and stop fighting.


What I see on the other side of the decision is hard work. How to learn how to be a good version, my version, of the woman who couldn’t have children? (And not be defined by it.) I have this dim sense that good things might be out there, things that I will never reach for as long as I turn away from the decision – strength, knowledge, empathy, peacefulness even. And a path to enjoying my life in other ways, ways I have almost forgotten exist. But right now they are just shadows compared to the sharp, deep desolation I know I will need to wade through to reach them.


It’s chastening to realise that, for me at least and at this point in our journey, it’s letting go of a certain self-image that is the kicker. It’s the husk that’s left now I’ve had to suppress my physical, visceral desire for a baby so many times, but it’s surprisingly powerful. And of course the irony is that most of the people with whom I play a social role – colleagues, family, friends – probably already see me as the woman who couldn’t have children (and love me all the same). But I haven’t caught up with them yet.

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