Trying, and Failing, to Conceive

Of Clomid, tedious sex, secret resentments, and unresolved longing.

Trying, and Failing, to Get Pregnant

by Maya Silver

photo courtesy of Melissa Ross

filed under Sex, True Stories

We planned it perfectly. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a May birthday for our first child. So in August, exactly 12 days into my cycle, we started trying to make a baby. How naive we were.

My husband and I had recently moved from a big city to a smaller suburban area in beautiful Northern California. I had seen moms struggle with strollers up and down dirty subway steps while strong men walked by. I was usually the one offering help. I loved living in a big city but I didn’t want to feel exhausted just getting from one place to another with babies and toddlers in tow.

So we had sex and he came inside of me—something we had never done in our 10 years together. And two weeks later I got my period, right on time. So okay, maybe a June baby. We tried again, focusing on days 12 through 14. My periods were regular. We were both healthy. We had no reason to think it wouldn’t work right off the bat. And I got my period again.

Just a bit of bad luck, maybe. We were still hopeful and excited. Our sex life was on a strict schedule, but at least we had a sex life. We had gone through long phases when we didn’t have sex, and now this gave us a new reason to make it happen. As a sex educator, I’d learned to tell couples that often in long-term relationships, spontaneous sex is unrealistic. The stress of everyday life can take over, so you have to plan it or it won’t happen.

So the good news was we were having sex. The bad news was I wasn’t getting pregnant. Four months, five months, six months: It started to wear on both of us. When we visited his family in a small town in Central Mexico, they sent us right away to the doctor. He was to take a semen sample to a clinic down the road. His family cleaned out a food jar for him to use. I was sent to a different clinic for an ultrasound to make sure all of my parts were in place.

The whole family eagerly awaited the results. All good news. I was fine and he had enough swimmers, only a small amount sin cabeza o cola (without a head or tail). The whole familia was rooting for us. I was 35 years old, which in baby-making terms is almost over the hill, and he was 42. We became acutely aware of time.

It wasn’t easy telling both of our families every month about another failed attempt. I have a very small family. My father had passed away suddenly at the age of 53 from a heart attack, and I felt the pressure to give my paternal grandparents this great-grandchild. They had suffered so much losing their son. We all had. A baby in the family. Something we’d never had. This would be the healing we needed. A new life.

Back home I took myself to the ob-gyn, where I saw a midwife named Cecilia. She was tough. She took one look at my age on my chart and said, “We gotta get you on Clomid, now.” So I started taking Clomid to help with ovulation although I was pretty sure I was doing that fine on my own. I could actually feel when I ovulated and I definitely manufactured more goop during that time and felt sexier. My body knew what to do, but for reasons that later became labeled as “unexplained infertility,” it just wasn’t happening.

We both began to feel resentful, not of each other but of couples we’d see on the street pushing strollers, or wearing their babies in creative and colorful wraps and slings. Why did they get a baby? What did they do to deserve it? It was irrational, but we both had the same reaction: Why them and not us?

I stayed on Clomid for months. We hit the one-year mark. We were still trying but had lost some hope. We had to start considering the possibility that it might not happen, that we might need to consider other options. Meanwhile, my grandfather passed away. I felt I failed him, but at least he knew we were trying.

At one point I went for my Clomid refill and was told I needed to see the doctor before getting any more. Sex had become mostly a sad chore. Because we were used to disappointment, we still tried every month but mentally prepared ourselves for another failure. Sex was completely about procreation for us. It had no other purpose.

And then it happened. Just like that. No Clomid, no intervention. In our 18th month of trying, it just took. I think of couples who suffer through years of infertility and I can’t imagine. A year and a half doesn’t sound that bad when I say it out loud. But when we were going through it, it felt like forever.

I’m pretty sure we were watching The Daily Show when the baby was conceived. That’s how tedious sex had become. We kept the TV on and did it on the couch while we watched our shows. I like to think that John Stewart had something to do with our little miracle.

I found out because I had some old college friends visiting and they brought some marijuana to smoke, something I hadn’t done in years. I thought okay, why not have a little toke. My period was a few days late, but I was so used to it coming anyway that I hadn’t taken it seriously. But the thought of smoking pot while there was even the slightest possibility I was pregnant made me pause. I had given up on taking pregnancy tests a while back, but decided what the hell, I’ll waste a test. I couldn’t fucking believe it when I saw those two little lines. I made my friend take the other test in the packet as a control group. She hadn’t had sex that month. Hers was negative.

Nine months later, after 40-plus hours of labor, we had a healthy baby boy. Now he’s 9 years old and he’s still healthy and still my baby boy.

He’s an only child. We tried again for years, even did five inseminations at the doctor’s office, but nothing took. I started avoiding all of the baby showers at work. And I get particularly annoyed when strangers who think they’re just being friendly ask, “Is he your only one?” Or when he has a project at school that includes something about brothers and sisters. At one point I even contacted an adoption agency. I thought maybe we would go that route for him to have a sibling. But after so many years, it became hard to imagine going back to days of breastfeeding and diapers. It felt like that time had passed for us.

Even so, at one point, I started secretly blaming my husband. It must be his fault. My periods are regular. I can feel myself ovulating. I think this resentment had been growing for a while but I didn’t want to voice it even to myself. It seemed cruel. Sometimes when we’d argue he would accuse me of emasculating him and I thought this would be the ultimate emasculation. You’re not virile enough for me. You’re not man enough.

We opened up our relationship about two years ago and started learning to navigate that new territory. I must admit I fantasized about other men’s sperm. When I met a new guy I’d wonder: Does he have swimmers? I mentioned it to a friend who is an ob-gyn and she said maybe that was part of my desire to open the relationship, that I was feeling my biological clock ticking and my body was looking for sperm.

I fantasized about getting pregnant by some other guy. But that soon became a stressful thought. What if a condom broke with some other guy and I had had sex with my husband in the same month? What if I didn’t know whose baby it was? Could I have it, not knowing? What a mess. I decided to start taking birth control pills for the first time in my life. It felt like a big decision. I knew I couldn’t do anything permanent like tubal ligation. But a pill a day, which I can stop at any time—that I can handle.

I’m 45 years old now, the proud mother of a beautiful boy, and with this I will be satisfied. I’m not calling the adoption agency, nor am I looking for young men with swimmers. I’m ready to close that door. But for the time being, I’m not going to your baby shower either, so don’t bother sending me an invitation.

Maya Silver is the pseudonym of a sex educator living in Northern California.


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