When I found out about this pregnancy, I went straight to PCOS/infertility forums for first trimester support. I learned very quickly that when you’re infertile or fertility challenged in some way, it’s taboo to talk about the bad sides of pregnancy. Everything is happiness and rainbows! Our babies aren’t just babies, they’re miracle babies! Pregnancy is beautiful no matter what happens! Those aren’t stretch marks – they’re tiger stripes! Ok, ok. I get it. Babies are awesome. Pregnancy is a magical thing. You know what, though? It’s also really gross, and I’m tired of being told that I’m a bad person if I complain. After 8 long months, I have complaining to do.

The last 4-6 weeks of pregnancy bring indignity to a whole new level. I thought about suffering through this portion of the third trimester in silence due to aforementioned infertility taboos, but I feel like the silence must be broken. I’m sorry. This is gross, but I need to get it out there so I can laugh instead of cry.

Things that have been said in our house today:
“We must never speak of this again.”
“What exactly are your butt problems?”
“I’m not sure it’s ok for that part of me to bleed.”
“We can leave after I email my midwife about my, uh, anal disturbances.”
“I’m going to leave my boob out all day. My nipple feels like fire.”

Yesterday, we spent 15 minutes at Target weighing the pros and cons of maxi pads vs Depends and then deciding on what size and absorbency of pads to get after I refused to go down the adult diaper path even though they’ve been strongly recommended by women I know who had to suffer through both heavy postpartum bleeding and incontinence. I figure if we have that problem, we’re overnighting things from Amazon. And I will be checking the “this is a gift” box so that I don’t get suggestions based on my history of buying adult diapers. Pregnancy isn’t pretty. It’s just not.

After leaving the “feminine needs” aisle feeling very unfeminine, we headed on over to the aisle full of products for my previously mentioned anal disturbances. First thing I saw in that aisle? A pretty young woman quickly stood up, averted her gaze from the Tuck’s medicated pads she’d been eyeing, and started pretending to compare fiber supplements. It’s ok, honey. I understand. I do the same thing. Since my last shred of dignity was left behind somewhere between the Depends endcap and the wall of Always, I dove right in to loudly weighing the pros and cons of medicated wipes vs pads and Tuck’s vs Preparation-H vs generic. The pretty lady beside me seemed relieved, as she was able to stop wasting time at the fiber pills and resume her hunt for the perfect butt medicine. For those dying to know, I went with the Target brand witch hazel and aloe wipes, economy size. She got the Tuck’s.

This is how it really is, people. It’s not all crib assembly, nursery pictures, gently cradling a blossoming belly in maternity photos, baby showers, and shopping for adorably tiny clothes that make you cry when you hold that soft, sweet fabric up to your face. I mean, there’s that, too. Sure. But all of that is sandwiched between the half hour I spent naming my hemorrhoid (his name is Roy), the long trip to Target, and emailing my midwife to ask when a bleeding ass warrants a trip to the doctor. Speaking of hemorrhoids: as tempting as it is to get a mirror and check out what’s going on down there, don’t do it. Now I’m grossed out AND I have to think up a name for the second one I didn’t know was down there.

Nipples. Oh god, the nipples. They feel like someone chewed them up like pieces of bubble gum and then lit matches under them.

Heartburn. That’s back. It went away during the second trimester but in the third, you get all hormonal again. Progesterone and relaxin, they kinda loosen everything up. You get burpy and burny. The baby grows and presses into your stomach and that increases both of those things. You get to make fun decisions after a meal like, “Do I want to hold in this painful burp that’s making my heartburn worse, or do I want to burp and get relief but risk vomiting?” That’s a decision I make after almost every meal, which is partly why I snack a lot these days. I have to plan meals around heartburn so I can go to sleep at night. Indian food? Can’t have it after 5pm or I will never sleep.

What else is there? Oh, right. The post title.Waking the baby. Progesterone also causes gas. Lots. Of. Gas. I woke the baby, you guys. I actually farted so loud that I woke up my sleeping fetus. She startled awake with a jerk and then kneed me in the bellybutton and kicked me in the rib. No fucking joke.

Remember when I thought not reaching my feet to clip my toenails was my biggest problem? That was cute.

April 22nd-28th is Infertility Awareness week. This year, I am incredibly lucky to be marking my 30th week of pregnancy during this time. I didn’t think I would be – I’d been told for many years that I’d never be here without a multitude of interventions that me and The Daddy weren’t ready to try.

I still count myself among the infertile not only because this pregnancy was a post-research trial fluke but because in order to get to where we are today, I prepared for years. I’ve been preparing and preserving my fertility for the past ten years, even during the times when I was actively avoiding becoming pregnant. I live a life of high medical bills, daily prescription medications, frequent monitoring, supplements, too many hands and wands up in my lady parts, constant risk vs reward assessments over the simplest of diet and lifestyle decisions, food monitoring, research, specialists, and appointments at fertility clinics for assessments and options for the future as well as early preservation/prevention strategies. Still though, I’m lucky for two reasons: one, I knew ahead of time and had those ten years to try and make things right and two, I didn’t have to take the next steps.

Many couples aren’t so lucky. Some make the decision to wait and try when their lives are where they want them to be, and they discover that it doesn’t happen how they had planned. Others know going in like I did, but they try for years and years with with no success. Either way, they’re forced into an expensive, stressful, sometimes physically painful, often heartbreaking situation. Even with my background, I can’t fully understand it. People who’ve never lived with the threat or reality of infertility understand even less.

Now that I’m pregnant, I often find myself thinking about my friends dealing with infertility. For those that are open about it, I follow their blogs, Facebook updates, emails, and stories with great interest, empathy, and hope. I find myself almost as excited for their potential pregnancies and/or adoptions as I am about my own pregnancy. I cry for them – even the ones I’m not particularly close to – because I know at least a fraction of their pain. I can’t imagine the full spectrum of their emotions and their struggles though, and I hope that I never have to.

To my friends struggling with infertility: I’m thinking about you, crying with you and hoping that someday you find what makes your life complete whether it be a biological child, an adopted child, or acceptance and closure on this chapter of your lives.

To my friends who have never struggled with infertility: I hope that you will take a moment this week to learn a little bit about the struggles of those around you. I hope that you will also remember that the struggle is often silent, so sometimes the best thing you can do is be aware that that great couple that you know and love and would love to see as parents might be trying and may have been trying for a very long time.

Some things you can do:

  •  Don’t ask your childless friends when they plan on having kids or why they don’t have them. They might not be ready to share their struggles.
  • As hard as it is, refrain from the “so when are you popping them out??” jokes and inquiries immediately after your friends or family get married. They may already know that they will have problems. They might have already been trying before marriage. Also, marriage does not always = desire for children. It’s best to just avoid that altogether unless you are close enough to the couple to know their plans.
  • If you have friends that you know are struggling with infertility, be there for them if you can be and they want you to be, but be sensitive in what you say.
  • Don’t tell them how lucky they are to be able to sleep in, stay out late, drink, etc. They know what the childless life brings and don’t need a reminder.
  • Don’t suggest that “It’s not meant to be.”
  • If they decide to stop trying, do be supportive in their next step, whether it be to have no children or to adopt. Adoption is a perfectly valid way to start a family and it’s not “giving up.” Remaining childless is a very difficult decision and should be respected and supported.
  • Do educate yourself on infertility etiquette, especially if you have friends or family that you know are struggling. Some things that are seemingly harmless may cause them great pain or at the very least, be platitudes they need a break from after hearing them many times before.

Some resources: