Trying To Conceive Is Excruciating

We shouldn’t have to go through the inability to conceive all in silence.

  • Sarah Stroh

Written on Jul 18, 2023

couple defeated on couch Rachata Teyparsit/ Shutterstock

When I got my period last month, I thought, "Well that’s okay we haven’t really tried tried yet anyway."

And then a week went by and another. And then it was time to try again. And this time we were going to try try.

So in honor of that, my partner Flo and I both stayed as healthy as possible in the weeks leading up to those fertile days and afterward.

As much as possible, I wanted my body to be an inviting home for a new life.


So I continued my regular exercise, my meditation practice, and on top of that, I moderated my drinking and stopped using all chemical drugs.

And I know what you might be thinking, "So what? This all sounds for the best."

And yes, you would be right.

RELATED: The Hard Truth No One Tells You About Trying To Get Pregnant

But at the same time, by denying myself things I would normally indulge in, I felt this childish sense of injustice.

This whole process of trying to get pregnant could take months, a whole year, or even longer (if it works at all).

Am I really going to limit myself indefinitely? Only to be disappointed over and over again?


And to add to this sacrifice of worldly pleasures, there’s the whole planning part.

My partner and I don’t live together.

This means we had to actively make sure we were spending a lot of time together during those fourish days of peak fertility.

"Yes, this whole weekend we should spend together. And don’t ejaculate in the five days before we meet, please," I said, based on some offhand advice from my gyno several months before.

And from Flo’s side, because we’re non-monogamous, he was worried about me having sex with other men during those peak days (marked in light and dark blue on my cycle tracking app). Even with a condom, there’s always that small risk something goes awry.


And then, who knows? He ends up playing father to the child of some Irish guy.

Fair enough.

RELATED: 10 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Even Considering Having A Baby

And this is all to say, that this whole trying to conceive thing felt a bit weird and contrived.

Like I was now the CEO of a new enterprise called Operation Baby that required research and planning and tactics.

Not the romantic way I’d imagined finally getting to remove all birth control methods and do it like animals do.

And then there’s the simple act of "trying" in general. Just the very fact that we are attempting something that we thought was supposed to be easy.

A few Sundays back, my favorite writer on Substack, Haley Nahman wrote for the second time about her (yet unfulfilled) desire to get pregnant. In explaining her struggle, she says: Trying is not very cool.


"So far, in my life, effortlessness held far greater appeal — in dressing, in poise, in making a baby. To appear effortless meant to never outwardly cop to a condition of lack. And yet that’s exactly what I felt last fall: weird, isolated, lacking. A little bit like a loser…I was embarrassed first and foremost by myself — by my simple desire to have a baby, which I’d deemed hokey and prosaic compared to my other ambitions."

In a world, or perhaps more so, the internet, where we are inundated with "success" stories, it is almost embarrassing to publicly want something, to try for something, and admit that it hasn’t and may never work out.

Especially when it’s this very thing we’ve been trying our best our whole lives to prevent.

Something we hear about teenagers doing all the time. Easy peasy.


When it doesn’t work out, what does it say about us?

I’ve worried that an inability to conceive could reflect my very value as a human being, an organism fit to be on this planet. As opposed to one that could very well be discarded, genes not good enough.

This insecurity is reflected in my feelings when a few friends have asked how the baby project is going.

I know they ask with the best of intentions; they’re curious and they care about me.

But I’ve noticed myself get angry in response.

I’ve thought, "No, it hasn’t worked yet, and you’re just reminding me of that. When there’s news, you’ll hear about it!"

RELATED: I Wanted A Baby My Whole Life — And Now I Regret Having One


And that makes me question my decision to have told people I was trying in the first place…

But then I remind myself why I wanted to tell people I was trying.

First off, I think making the decision to conceive is just as important as getting pregnant itself.


And I also believe one of the reasons we might feel this shame of trying to conceive and it not working is that we don’t really talk about that in-between space.

If you’re in your thirties, your newsfeed is flooded with baby bumps and one-year-old birthday celebrations.

Yet where are the posts about people trying to conceive for the months or years before? Or of the miscarriages happening to 10–20 percent of those who manage to get pregnant in the first place?

I want to help change this. We shouldn’t have to go through this all in silence.

On a night out a few weeks back, I decided my goal would not be to get pregnant anymore. It would be instead to try to make peace with the process. To settle into (relative) sobriety and to a state of sustained not knowing.


The former, I have no real control over; whether it happens or not doesn’t say anything about my character.

Whereas the latter is something to aspire to.

RELATED: 7 Unexpected Reasons So Many Women Can't Get Pregnant

Sarah Stroh is working to create a world where people have the confidence, tools, and education to pursue the romantic life they truly want.