Buns in the Oven Part 7: Symptoms of the -1st trimester
Updated: Aug 4
Our lives are all segmented into multiple, invariable cycles. Monday’s minor depression high tides into Friday’s fleeting joy. The stress of paying bills by the 15th of the month leads straight to payday’s debauchery on the 31st. The colors of the farmer’s market in June fade to dull November stands that force you to get a little more creative with your menu.
The universe gifts you a new cycle when you are trying to get pregnant. Yes, most women’s bodies already adhere to cycle, but a new psychological cycle is added to the already infuriating physical one. It doesn’t help that you might be filling yourself with pretty potent hormones.
Everyone handles their getting-pregnant adventure differently, and your emotional responses can change month to month. That said, here is my guide to understanding the Trying-to-Conceive Emotional Cycle:
1.) The cycle begins on the first day of your period. Indeed, the whole emotional cycle follows the physiological cycle. On the first day of your period, there is excitement and hope. This is a completely new reaction to the first day of your period, and it’s one of the few positive aspects of this whole ordeal. Before you were trying to get pregnant you always dreaded this day. Now your period is now a source of joy.
This is the day that you call your doctor to announce the beginning of a new cycle. She tells you to come in to the office in three days.
2.) The excitement about your period doesn’t really end. For the next three days, you anticipate the doctor’s appointment with a smug satisfaction because your body is doing something right all on its own. You are not entirely sure you can trust your body these days, so there is satisfaction when it shows you it can give you more than disappointment.
3.) Day four of your cycle arrives and you head to your first blood test, intravaginal ultrasound, and medicine prescription. This is where the cycle takes on a sort of noble characteristic. The next two weeks are filled with certain rites that make you feel in control of the situation. Visiting the fertility clinic feels like going to church. Taking your hormones becomes a sacrament. During these two weeks, the joy you felt at the beginning of the cycle transforms into the comfort of having a routine. Certain aspects of your life are high up in the air while you are trying to conceive, and these two weeks are a welcome moment of stable repetition.
4.) Suddenly, the quiet devotion you’ve been offering to your unconceived child through needles poking at your arms and ultrasound wands poking at your uterus is interrupted by the doctor noticing that you have a mature follicle in one of your ovaries. You now have two days before insemination. Edging up to this high point in the cycle is both exciting and stressful. It is exciting because you did it! You made that follicle happen! You can feel like a well-regulated human female! And now you get to test it out and maybe conceive a kid. It is terrifying because you aren’t just going through the motions anymore, genuflecting in front of the tabernacle of hormone regulating pills. You feel like one misstep over the next two days will ruin your chance of conceiving and it will be all your fault. You talk to your doctor about this and she tries to comfort you by saying that you’re doing nothing wrong, it’s just statistics working against you. You nod and your brain understands, but the anxiety doesn’t dissipate.
This day is a turning point in your emotional cycle. The joy and comfort you felt during the first two weeks make way for worry and stress.
5.) Maybe you have to trigger your ovulation with a shot in your belly. You are scared that you will give yourself the shot in the wrong place. You are scared that you will not get rid of all the air bubbles in the syringe. You are scared that you will lose too much of the medicine in the syringe when you try to get out the air bubbles. You are scared that some of the medicine escaped because you injected it too slowly. You are scared that it won’t work because you have no way of knowing what is happening inside your body. You empty the syringe into your belly and try to relax because there is nothing else you can do now except try to harness the power of positive thinking.
6.) Your appointment for insemination is early in the morning. There is a general feeling of excitement for you at the clinic. When the nurses in the clinic say, “Good luck!” you are wary of thanking them with too much confidence because you know you will probably see them in two weeks to start the cycle over again. You try to push away thoughts of all the sperm they just put in you suddenly falling out of your uterus because you know that is a ridiculous and unhelpful thought. You cannot stop thinking about it. At the same time, you start touching your belly more often. You make your wife carry the heavy things because you have a maybe-baby and need to be careful.
7.) The dreaded two-week wait. This is the shadow twin of the previous two weeks. While earlier in the cycle you felt in control and you felt that you were doing everything right, now you feel like you are doing everything wrong and you are very, very not in control of anything. The most sinister thing about the two-week wait is that all of the early signs of pregnancy are identical to the early signs of getting your period. Sore tits, fatigue, spotting. It’s cruel, and it drives you crazy.
Herein starts the delicate dance that sways back and forth between cultivating positive thoughts and preparing for disappointment. You think about the research that claims positive thinking can have physiological effects, so you try to imagine your egg being fertilized and implanting in a cozy spot on your uterus. You focus on being mindful and happy and letting go of any stress that might make a zygote think twice about staying put in your body. But here’s the thing with the two-week wait: if the egg doesn’t fertilize within a day, all your positive thinking is worthless. If a fertilized egg doesn’t implant within 12 days, it doesn’t matter how happy you are. About one week into the two-week wait, you decide to slowly start bumming yourself out. Maybe you say to yourself, “I can’t drink today because I might be pregnant, but don’t worry, I’ll be drinking this time next week!” Then a few days later you start calculating the due date if you get pregnant next cycle. By day 13 of your two-weeks, you are simply saying out loud to your mirror, “You’re not pregnant. It’s ok. It won’t be sad when the nurse tells you you’re not pregnant. You already knew, and it’s totally cool. Now you can get totally loaded this weekend.”
It’s a dance that is difficult to master, and it gets increasingly difficult each time the music starts playing.
8.) If you’ve been fastidious in preparing yourself for disappointment, the day of your official pregnancy test arrives as if it is a chore. Perhaps it is more correct to say that it feels like one last hurdle before you can start the cycle over and get back to the happier two weeks of hormones and vagina wands. The nurses take your blood and ask how you are feeling. You respond with a classic line such as, “Well, my breasts are tender, but that could mean anything,” and even though you are actually thinking, “It means I’m getting my period,” you don’t want to be that guy at the clinic. Everyone working in the clinic says, “Good luck!” to you as you leave, and you can’t think of anything to respond.
As the day carries on, assuming you don’t get your period before the nurses call you with your test results, all the work you did to prepare yourself for disappointment unravels. You start to think, “Maybe I am pregnant. My cramps are normally much worse than this. This might be my uterus expanding to accommodate the embryo that I definitely have inside of me.” The later it gets without seeing blood, the faster your emotional force field disintegrates. Sure, you keep practicing in your head, “Hi, I have your test results here. Unfortunately... Hi, I have your test results here. Unfortunately…” just to be ready, but more and more you are thinking about your reaction if the nurse says something different. It’s harder to imagine since you have no idea what words she would choose.
9.) “Hi, I have your test results here. Unfortunately, the test was negative.” Sometimes the nurse will add a little flair to the script such as, “I’m really sorry,” and you feel compelled to cheer her up, “Oh, that’s ok! That’s what I was expecting!” or “At least I get to enjoy the holiday now!”
10.) You weren’t expecting to be so sad. You weren’t this sad last time. You assumed you would be as sad as you were at the end of the last cycle, but it seems that the cycles keep sinking lower into the pit of your stomach. You ask a friend if she’s free for happy hour – a simple way of saying, “I’m not pregnant,” without having to be so explicit.
11.) The sadness comes from two places.
One – the feeling of helplessness. There is nothing you can do to make it work any better than it did this last time. There is nothing to do but try again.
Two – the feeling that you are broken. You know this is irrational. You know it takes many people a long time to get pregnant. You know you are still under the average number of tries. But the average person is not paying $1,400 per try and the average person is not cancelling vacations so they don’t miss a ten-second date with a glorified turkey baster and the average person isn’t geographically confined to places where it is legal for dykes to access fertility treatment. These things make you angry. And besides which, month after month you are inching closer to being above average.
1.) The cycle begins on the first day of your period. The sadness dissipates quickly as you let the rhythm of the cycle rock you back into excitement and hope.