TTC: trying to conceive.
I think about all the women in my life who are mothers: my sister, my cousin, my friends. Some of them tried for years. They endured IVF. They endured painful egg-retrievals. I even documented an interview I had with my best friend and her infertility here on Thought Catalog to help raise awareness to what so many people — 6.1 million to be exact — are dealing with on a daily basis.
Then there’s friends of mine, or people I went to high school with, people I worked with, who seem to get pregnant without any trouble. It’s as if their fertile wombs were made for this. Motherhood has changed them in indescribable, unexpected ways. Emphasis on the unexpected.
It took my mother eight years to get pregnant with me, and at various points throughout my adult life, I wondered if I would follow the same path. It didn’t make it any easier when I was diagnosed with a uterine abnormality that makes me susceptible to second and third trimester pregnancy loss. It didn’t make it any easier when my husband was diagnosed with low testosterone. When we encountered negative test after negative test, it simply became the norm, despite being in the early stages of trying compared to those who’ve undergone treatment.
But this time, I really thought it was it. Tender breasts, bouts of morning sickness, backaches, peeing more than usual; I had all the signs. I woke up feeling bloated, belching (something I never do), simply “feeling different.” My core possessed this immeasurable calm. I felt this center of balance that I haven’t before. There was a tiny person inside me, existing as only cells that by Week 6 would have a heartbeat. I could just feel it.
And then I woke up one morning and I didn’t feel it. I felt normal. I felt the way I always had: eager to sip my morning coffee, healthy appetite. Did I just make up all these symptoms the way I did an imaginary friend during childhood? Was I that desperate for company?
Imaginary pregnancy symptoms (IPS) is not an authentic medical term, but it does exist. It’s how those who are TTC — trying to conceive — analyze and mull over every exaggerated symptom. Waking up tired in the morning is a result of a growing fetus, not having had a busy day or a bad night’s sleep. Feeling nauseous is because you’re pregnant, not because you haven’t eaten. Frequent trips to the bathroom is because your uterus is expanding; it has nothing to do with you staying well-hydrated.
The onset of these symptoms are to give women, TTC, the hope they need to get through that dreaded two week waiting period: the anti-innocuous time period when you’re stuck in the in-between, the dreaded AM I? OR AREN’T I stage of pregnancy. It doesn’t help matters that typical PMS symptoms mimic early pregnancy symptoms. It’s like Mother Nature’s cruel test to help you determine if you’re really ready for this; like the more you fawn over made-up symptoms, the better mother you’re going to be.
Like many women TTC, I have a host of apps that connect me with my fertility charts. I get to log my symptoms, track my period and fertile window, things that my 20-year old self would scoff at, believing it’s best to just let nature do its thing!
Yesterday was the first morning when I didn’t feel…anything except like my normal self. Despite being able to take a pregnancy test in three days to know for sure, I thought I could count on my body’s inner-workings. Who, better than myself to recognize the signs? Unfortunately, I’m too close to it. And I learned that many women often feel the same.
When I asked if my feelings were normal, I was met with dozens of responses from women who were in the same predicament: hoping this month was it, hoping that their aversion to coffee was the real deal, hoping their late period is due to pregnancy and not stress over hoping that it is. The one common thread I found was the sorrow emitted from their lips. These weren’t women who were looking to get pregnant for the hell of it; these were tired, fatigued women. Only it wasn’t their hormones that created the fatigue; it was their mental exhaustion. Mental exhaustion over wanting and waiting for months, sometimes years on end.
Yet, these women pioneered on, as women all throughout history tend to do. This letter’s for you.