Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, people had sex to get pregnant. They peed on sticks and waited with giddy excitement for two pink lines to emerge. And when they learned a baby was on the way, they were happy.
Not so much today. One in 8 couples in the United States will battle infertility, and 1 in 100 babies are conceived in a petri dish. Hospital gowns and progesterone suppositories have replaced frilly lingerie and wine-soaked romps. More husbands know how to shoot their wives up with meds that stimulate egg production than how to fix a flat tire.
I know from experience. My husband, Dan, and I spent two years trudging in and out of fertility clinics, plowing through treatments such as the ovulation-inducing drug Clomid, intrauterine insemination (IUI) and injectable medications before bowing down before the granddaddy of them all: in vitro fertilization (IVF).
For us, procreation swiftly morphed from a pleasurable journey to a daily grind. Our baby was ultimately conceived not in our candlelit bedroom but in a darkened lab, where a man I’ve never met introduced my husband’s sperm to my eggs. Five days later, I swallowed a Valium and had two embryos inserted in my uterus through a catheter before eating a Snickers bar and passing out (that’s what I was told; the drugs caused amnesia).
Eleven days after that third IVF attempt, we received the phone call that would change our lives: “Congratulations!” nurse Jamie proclaimed. “You’re pregnant!” Our bodies flooded with shock and elation.
Then, the fear set in, and instantaneously, I knew: My pregnancy journey would not be like most women’s.
An anxious reaction is common, says Amy Blanchard, Ph.D., a psychologist in Cupertino, Calif., who specializes in infertility. “Women who become pregnant after infertility treatments face more complex challenges than those with a natural pregnancy,” explains Blanchard. “They can’t relax; there’s incredible fear and anxiety over miscarriage or birth defects. They’ve usually spent years in infertility treatment, and are used to things not working out.”
Walking on Eggshells
I was certain the worrying and pain of infertility would vanish—Poof!—the moment we got our positive result. Instead, my concerns simply shifted from “Will I ever get pregnant?” to “Will this pregnancy last?”
At the risk of sounding like a crazy person, I managed to convince myself in my first trimester that I had doomed our pregnancy by, in no particular order, eating blue cheese, skipping with my toddler niece, inhaling nail polish remover and having a sex dream about Shaquille O’Neal that resulted in an orgasm. (Yes, I actually called the nurse to ask if I might have “squeezed the pregnancy out.”)