Walking a Tightrope of Fragility: Pregnancy Announcements After Infertility
Why didn’t I ever consider this?
I sink to the cold linoleum floor in a breathless, heaving heap.
After almost three years of fertility struggles, fighting my own body, taking drug after drug, supplement after supplement, tests and tears, and bargaining with God daily, the day finally came when I found out that I was pregnant.
You’d think that after all this time, my announcement would be full of enthusiasm and gushing about how the end justifies the means, how the journey was all worth it. But when it came time to make my announcement to the world, and to this group of women I fought alongside, I panicked.
How do I leave my comrades in the quicksand, only to save myself?
And then furthermore, how do I turn around and tell them?
One of my closest girlfriends went on a grueling three year fertility journey with her second child. She and her husband had begun the adoption process when she fell pregnant — one of the first things they warned you about. She didn’t take a test for two months. She refused to believe their luck.
“How?” She asked me once, on the phone. “How can I tell these women who I’ve consoled, cried to, bonded with over all this time, how can I tell them my news? Of course, they will be happy for me, but I am heartbroken for them. I feel like somehow I am turning my back on them, even in the thick of my joyous news.”
This made sense to me, but in a tertiary way. I was not yet pregnant even though I pined for it every second of every day. I had walked my own journey alongside her for years now, so in every part, except for being the one who had to break the news, I understood.
And then, when my turn came, I can’t say I felt any different.
After spending five days in elated shock — I got the two blue lines the exact day we were supposed to sign our IVF consent forms — a cloud descended over my miraculous news. How would I tell these women who have become my support system? Who would I tell? When will I tell them? And what about the other women in the midst of their struggle whom I don’t even know personally, but will likely see my social media announcement? How could I break their hearts, just as I had mine broken so many times through the last few years?
I vividly remember the night I found out that my sister-in-law was pregnant. I was watching the Oscars with my dad when my husband, Adam, called and I jovially picked up. He sounded shaken.
“Are you sitting down?” He asked, and I was immediately confused.
“Yes…” I replied. “Why?”
He said that he wanted to warn me that his brother and his brother’s wife would likely be calling me tonight to tell me that she’s pregnant. I’m not even sure how the conversation ended because the next thing I remember is heaving, a primal, guttural cry, and what seemed like a never-ending explosion of tears. My dad rightfully assumed that someone had died because it took me ages to get out the words. He held me all the while I shook and gasped for air in between wails.
Can you be simultaneously joyful for another person, and also in a state of such festering pain and jealousy? Yes. God yes.
Is that terrible? Am I selfish?
Is it one more thing I simultaneously feel shame for and turn the barrel towards myself about?
And that was only one of many times throughout my journey that an announcement rocked me. Sometimes I took it like a shot straight to the face– it flattened me, but I got right back up, and no one even knew. Other times it hit me like I was splayed out on a round wooden table, propped up with a blindfolded man throwing knives at my strapped down, ill-prepared body.
I spent part of my journey off Instagram and Facebook because the hurt cut too deep to see announcements and month counts, every passing second. A constant barrage of smiling faces exploring the world and under the watchful eyes of their loving parents.
At certain points during my struggle, I even muted very close friends and family with young children. Scrolling through their picture-perfect, sepia-toned pumpkin patch photoshoots made my heart hurt something fierce, and I knew that while I was that fragile, nothing good could come from being continually bombarded with what I ached to have.
A close friend of mine became pregnant after walking this fertility journey with me, though she had begun hers earlier than I had. We spoke regularly about the clinic visits, the invasive testing, the drug side effects, and all the questions left unanswered. When she decided to tell me, she chose to send me a beautifully worded text message. At first, it confused me that such a personal message between best friends was sent via text. But she explained in the message that she wanted to give me the space to grieve or be mad or angry, without having to mask my first reaction for her. She said she knew I would be happy for her, but she also knew how hard it could be to hear that someone has finally gotten the gift you have longed for.
I read her message through joyful tears, simply because she had caught me on a day when I was feeling better at coping with where I was on my path to motherhood. Had it been a different day, or even a different hour, my reaction may have been incredibly, well, different. It doesn’t make sense, but grief rarely does.
Thinking about my own announcement, I have an overwhelming sense of dread to share my news with all the women who have shared their stories, tears, and fears with me. How on earth can I load my gun and aim it at their hearts in the midst of their struggle?
Maybe it seems self-serving to think this way. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have given the announcement another thought before my own experiences. I would like to think I would have, but how could I have known? The deep throb of grief becomes a frenemy you just can’t shake, who visits so often that eventually you leave the front door wide open. You set a place for them at the table, because at least then you’re not as alone as you feel.
Every one of my friends who I have told thus far has been so joyful and supportive, but I know I have been keeping my secret from a select few, and it’s eating away at me. It’s eating away at me because right now, I am saved from the battlefield. I escaped the quicksand that was devouring me. I let go of their proverbial hands and ran as fast as I could once I got the news. I wish with every fiber of my being that I could turn around and yank each and every one of them out.
I know they know this. And somehow, even knowing this, it doesn’t make it any better.
I know I will tell them, one by one. Some through messages, like my friend did to me, and some through phone calls. But every announcement will be tailored to each incredible woman who has been there for me and walked beside me these last few years. I will do my very best to respect the reaction of each and every one of them. In my heart of hearts, I know that they are thrilled to receive my news because they know the trials and tribulations I have had to face to get there. But I will also carry in that same sentence, in that same breath, the sting and the weight of my announcement on their beautiful, fragile hearts.
Unsplash image by Insung Yoon