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Coping with Infertility After Pregnancy

Sarah Preston Gorenstein

Someone left a comment on last week’s post—"What Kate Middleton and I Have in Common"—that I wanted to respond to in this blog. The comment was: “Sometimes, I just don't understand that you are posting to women who have gone through infertility . . . I could write a WHOLE lot more, but will just let it go at that point. JUST do not understand.”

Here’s the thing: I did go through infertility for almost two years, which I chronicled on the Fertility Files blog. But I have not turned my back on infertility, or the infertility community. It’s come to define me in a lot of ways—everything I went through, and everyone I came into contact with through that blog, has had a profound effect on my life.

When I found out I was pregnant, I reached out to my editor at Parenting—she was one of the first people I told actually—and I asked her if I could continue writing for Fertility Files, even though I was pregnant. But she felt Project Pregnancy was a more appropriate place to chronicle this next phase of my journey, and she was right.

I still care very deeply about the topic of infertility, new developments in assisted reproductive technology, and the amazing women I’ve met along my path, many of whom I still keep in touch with. The doctors, my embryologist(!), the other women like me… Infertility will always be a part of me, because without these wonderful people and procedures I wouldn’t be pregnant.

But now I’m writing for Project Pregnancy, about—what else—being pregnant. I thought my pregnancy would be overshadowed by my fertility struggles—I assumed that’s the way it works—but it didn’t happen like that for me. Probably because I got sick almost immediately after finding out—this pregnancy has been difficult, with acute morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum) the last four months. I’ve been very sick to the point of being on bed rest. Do I feel guilty even complaining about that? Of course I do. Every day I hear myself bitching and moaning to my husband about how sick I am, this little devil on my shoulder taps me and says: How dare you complain after what you’ve been through!

But here’s the other thing: Going through infertility and having acute morning sickness have nothing to do with each other—it took me a while to process that. Even while I was my sickest these last couple of months, I never lost sight of how grateful I was to finally be pregnant again—I realized, it's possible to be sick AND grateful at the same time. But I don’t believe I’m any more grateful or deserving of this pregnancy than the next person who didn’t have to go through infertility. (Therefore, I don’t believe I get to complain any less—see how that works?) ;)

Being sick with HG has had other, emotional side effects too—it made me incredibly sad that my body wasn’t allowing me to enjoy this, the pregnancy I’ve been longing for. All I’ve wanted for the past two years is to be pregnant again—then I finally get pregnant, and I get sick? After already being sick from the fertility treatments for the better part of two years? Without going into too much dark detail right now, depression is a little-known side effect of both infertility and HG, respectively. Here's an interesting article on HuffPo that helps shed some light on what an emotional toll HG can take.

Much of the way I view things now is through the lens of someone who went through infertility. But even though I went through it, I still experience the same things every other pregnant woman experiences—I have the same bad days, the same fears about how I’m going to deliver (more on that later), and the same anxieties about raising two kids. As a pregnant woman, I’m no different—and that may be hard for some people to understand. I’m not this super-human person who can only see things from one perspective—that of a woman who almost didn’t get a chance to have another child. It’s unrealistic to expect myself to live every moment like it almost didn't happen—that's too much pressure. I have to allow myself to feel the good and the bad, and cut myself some slack (especially while I'm barfing in my sink!).

I assure you—I am very grateful that I’m getting this chance again. I wouldn't have just gone to such great lengths to get pregnant if I didn't want this with every ounce of my being. And nothing I say in jest—no sarcastic comment I make to lighten the mood—has anything to do with how thrilled I am to be having another baby. More than I am even able to articulate right now…

If you’ve gone through infertility, did you find it overshadowed your pregnancy in any way? How did you continue coping with it once you were finally pregnant?

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