Other former infertiles (FIs) report similarly heightened levels of fear and vigilance right from the get-go. It took Jen Matz, 30, of Tega Cay, S.C., 19 months to conceive, during which she had surgery for endometriosis and took fertility drugs.
“Right after I peed on the stick,” she recalls, “I called my mother and announced, ‘Hi, Mom. I just got a positive pregnancy test. But don’t freak out, because I’m going to miscarry.’ I wanted to protect myself and was sure the test was wrong.” (It wasn’t: Her son, Wyatt, was born late last year.)
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Blanchard blames the reluctance to share or celebrate the good news on the fact that FIs have often exhausted themselves emotionally, physically and financially, creating “a deep-seated fear of losing the pregnancy or of something going wrong with the baby’s development.” Indeed, my husband and I waited until we were 10 weeks along to tell our families, and 25 weeks before posting a Facebook bump pic—all because of the “what-ifs?”
An Unexpected Identity Crisis
FIs must also tackle a critical shift in how they view themselves, transitioning from “infertile woman” to “mother-to-be.” Notes Blanchard: “Your identity used to be defined by your role in your family,your relationship, career, hobbies and friends. Once you realized that getting pregnant would be difficult, your identity became increasingly defined by your infertility.”
There’s also anxiety about “leaving behind” infertile friends. “Many women feel they don’t fit into the world of their infertile friends, nor do they fit into the world of people who conceive easily,” explains Barbara Collura, executive director of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association.
Consider Christine Otte, 32, a charming, warm, redhead I met in the waiting room during our first IVF attempt. We became fast friends, constantly texting each other messages of worry and support as our doctor synced our cycles. I dubbed her “My IVF BFF.” She got pregnant that round; I didn’t.
“I felt horribly guilty,” Otte remembers. “That’s why, when my shower invites went out, I emailed you and told you not to come.” (I didn’t.) Four months later, when carpal tunnel syndrome rendered her hands nearly inoperative—a particularly wretched pregnancy symptom for a professional photographer—she didn’t complain to me. “After all, I was pregnant and you weren’t,” she says.
Blanchard, who herself delivered twins after four-plus years of infertility, echoes this hesitancy to gripe about morning sickness, weight gain and stretch marks. She experienced an “unbelievably horrible pregnancy” marked by extreme nausea, joint pain and depression. Sadly, she recalls feeling too guilty to grumble to friends and family. “The mentality is, ‘You’re finally pregnant and now you’re going to complain?’ You’re expected to simply be grateful for whatever kind of pregnancy you have.” When she did relay her near-intolerable symptoms to her fertility doctor, he responded, “Enjoy it.”