People Google all the things they won’t ask anyone. Researchers have taken millions of data points, searches for things like “Why did I get cancer in pancreas” or “Just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer” and then worked backwards to learn that up to 15% of the time, earlier searches could have predicted this diagnosis. What does this mean? Well, first of all it means people have so many questions they are afraid of asking for fear of being judged. It also means that our own observations, or perhaps our intuition, gives valuable data about what’s happening in our body.
Ten cycles and six months have come and gone since we started “trying.” This is not a pity post. There are so many people who are further along in this process and have much worse stories. As I declared in earlier posts, this is not an infertility blog (yet). This is also not a daily diary of what’s happening in my uterus. This is the story of regular, healthy, willing people trying to get pregnant. And today we’re talking about periods.
Let me tell you, in the last six months, Google may have a million data points just from my search history alone. At first it’s the easy stuff. The stuff you think you should know from middle school health class, but let’s face it, in middle school health class the one day you talked about “reproduction” everyone is just squeaked out looking at those charts of penises and vaginas, most of all the teacher. So if you’re anything like me, as smart as you think you are or as many friends who have had babies, when it’s time to pull the goalie you realize you’re a complete imbecile. First someone clues you in about an app to track your cycle. That has a week highlighted in green to let you know that’s when you should have the sex. Easy right? Have sex during the highlighted week. I think I can manage that. So you have all the sex during the highlighted week and then two weeks later you get your period or you don’t. Well, that’s how it’s supposed to go…
But, you don’t get your period on Day 28, you get your period on Day 24. Google search. Cycles anywhere from 21-36 days are considered “normal” according to all the medical websites, but then there are all the other websites that say anything less than about 26 or 27 days is really just too short to get pregnant. And then the other websites say it’s not the length of the cycle, it’s the length of the luteal phase. Google search. The luteal phase, the phase after ovulation, is governed by your progesterone levels. Short luteal phase may signal endometriosis (google search), polycystic ovarian syndrome (google search), thyroid disorder (google search), stress and excessive exercise (google search, google search). Lengthening the luteal phase can be done with changes to diet (google search), changes to activity level (google search), changes to stress level (google search) and natural herbs and supplements (google search). But then there’s another potential reason you’re not getting pregnant….you’re not ovulating. Google search. Mom forums say start taking your temperature every morning (google search), start using ovulation predictor kits (google search), monitor your cervical mucus (google image search). So you think, yeah, I can do those things. And for the first few days of taking your temperature, everything is cool, it all seems real normal and then…there’s a dip or a spike (GOOGLE search!), and then you have a positive ovulation test four days in a row, which isn’t supposed to be possible (GOOGLE SEARCH!), and then you have a positive ovulation test three days early which means you haven’t been having sex (FRANTIC GOOGLE SEARCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!). But then you start noticing that your boobs hurt, and you’re feeling a little unsettled stomach, and your cycle stays longer this time, and your temperature is doing all the right things…Google search…because you are sure that this finally means you’re pregnant.
And then you get your motherfucking period.
And all the while, life is just happening. You’re supposed to get up every day and go to work and pay your bills and be a good friend and be a good family member and be a good partner and you’re supposed to do it all with a smile and a relaxed-but-confident knowing that this is all going to work out.
If you google “how does it feel to get your period after you thought you were pregnant?” there is one article. One. The article is really about coping. Here’s what it actually says about how it feels, “It’s disappointing. And heartbreaking. Even if you’ve gone through this over and over for months, it still hurts.” Well, that’s something I guess. But here’s how it feels. How it actually feels:
It feels like failure. It feels like the universe is taking you down a peg, reminding you to be humble and not to want what you don’t have. It feels humiliating. To have convinced yourself that those were the earliest signs of pregnancy and not PMS. To have looked at or maybe even bought that baby toy knowing you’d need it in 9 months. To have planned how you were going to tell your partner and your friends. To now be wrong… It feels like a violation. To have to attend to your bleeding and be reminded every time you pee that your body failed you this time. It feels shameful. To have these thoughts of self-pity and, worse, envy. To literally feel you cannot.handle.this.right.now. It feels exhausting. Pulling yourself together and doing all the things every day so that in the end you know you’ve done all you can…a month’s worth of energy is just, gone. It feels like revenge. For all the mistakes you’ve ever made. A reminder that you are not worthy of this privilege. It feels like mistrust. Of every instinct you have and every desire to be a mother. Maybe I don’t really want this. Maybe this isn’t my path. Maybe this is a sign I wouldn’t be good at this. It feels like anger. At all those people who tell you how to do it right. For telling you not to worry, they’re sure it will happen. For telling you to have faith or believe in what’s meant to be. It feels like sadness. Such profound grief for the life you thought was yours. This moment that was supposed to be yours. This first step in the rest of your life. It feels like hopelessness. To do e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g in your power, all the right things, and have it not be enough. Why? Why would you ever think this will work if it didn’t work this time?
But, there is no time for this now. Because as hopeless as you feel, you still have that tiny glowing ember. Clean slate. Maybe this time. Must be just one more month away. I’ll get it right this time. And so, you can’t lose yourself in Ben & Jerry’s and you have to keep taking those vitamins and stay connected to your partner so that when that green highlighted week comes back up on your app you’re ready to have all the sex. And because you know that whatever feels so personal right now has literally come and gone for millions of others, who now can barely remember what it feels like because the feels of motherhood have replaced them.