Half the fun is trying. That’s what everybody tells you. But for anybody who has ever tried to have a baby and failed, repeatedly, the fun goes right out of it when you realize that it isn’t a matter of when you succeed, but if.
Suddenly the stakes become higher. The pressure becomes greater. You’re trying to be intimate, but it’s hard to truly connect with your partner. You’re wrapped in a shroud of desperation that, oddly, unites the two of you in some ways and separates you in others, and only grows thicker and more impenetrable with each unsuccessful month.
People joke. They nudge you with an elbow and wink and guffaw, overtly implying that it must be fun having all that sex. You smile politely with your mouth but not your eyes and nod in mock agreement while something inside you withers. Eventually you stop admitting that you’re “trying” and come up with some stale excuse for your continued childlessness, like “Oh, we just want to enjoy each other for a while before we have kids.” Trite, to be sure, but it keeps the unsolicited remarks at bay.
Everything becomes clinical. Something that happens to most people after a night of passionate lovemaking happens to you in a doctor’s office – or doesn’t, even though you’re there all the time, it seems. Sperm becomes a commodity. It’s impossible to lose yourself in the heat of passion when the act itself has become so sterile and cold. You sacrifice the privacy of your most private act, because your infertility specialist needs to know what’s going on in the bedroom.
“Relax! Enjoy!” people eagerly advise – they’re always so generous with their “advice” – but how can you do either when you keep failing at the one thing you want most to achieve? How can you enjoy when your ability to have sex when the mood strikes has been replaced with the demand to have sex when the time is just right?
You’re forced to schedule it, like a dentist appointment, like an oil change, and it feels just as mundane and uninspiring as either of those despite your best efforts. Instead of your libido, your sex life now revolves around your ovulation schedule, the quality of your cervical mucus, the perfect body temperature, the timing of your hCG trigger shot or your IUI. You calculate how many days before ovulation that you can’t do it because you need to accumulate a decent sperm count. Chart and schedule, plan and graph.
Your body doesn’t feel sexy. How could it? It’s coursing with synthetic hormones, bruised and bloated from the pills and injections, and feels like it belongs to everybody but you – your spouse, the doctor, the nurse, and anyone else with whom you’ve shared any details of your very personal battle. Mostly, you’re just disappointed in its inability to do the things it was literally designed to do. You can dress it up in all the lingerie you want, but it’s still the same dysfunctional vessel you have come to both resent and feel sorry for.
You struggle to stay positive, which would be difficult enough without the hormonal roller coaster you’re subjected to. Your headspace is easily overwhelmed with despair, and absolutely everything you do – both in and out of the bedroom – you do in the hopes that it will increase your chances of having a baby somehow. Even breathing, because plenty of oxygen is imperative for a healthy body, right?
You hate yourself for being so obsessed, because the preoccupation sucks out all the joy. You’d change it if you could, but you can’t, because each negative pregnancy test fuels your singular fixation. You blame yourself for turning it into this. You worry – maybe unnecessarily, maybe not – that your partner’s eye may wander elsewhere, that there’s someone out there who’s still fun to sleep with. Because you know you aren’t, not really, no matter how much you wish you were.
You try to add some spice, switch things up, act like the fun and passionate couple you know you should be. But deep down you’re both painfully cognizant that you’re just putting on a show, that the end goal is not really to have fun and exciting sex. It feels like a charade, like you’re screaming to the universe, “SEE HOW RELAXED WE ARE? IS THIS RELAXED ENOUGH?!”
You know that nothing you do is going to guarantee success, but you also know that you’ll never quit trying even if all the fun is gone. This is just a trial, you tell yourself, and if your relationship can withstand this, then just imagine how well you’ll be able to handle parenthood. So through it all, despite it all, or maybe because of it all, you keep your chin up.
Oh, and your hips elevated. You don’t want even one sperm to go to waste, because – as you are constantly, agonizingly, singularly aware, every moment of your life – one is all it takes.