• Thu, Oct 25 2012

Unbearable: I Finally Understand What ‘Stop Trying’ Means

stop tryingHaving a child is usually a happy time in a woman’s life. Unfortunately, as we wait longer to have children, infertility and trouble conceiving can become a part of the family making process. Unbearable addresses these difficulties.

In the first year of my infertility, I became especially frustrated by one omnipresent phrase in every conversation I had about trying to conceive. When I was still hopeful and optimistic, I could not stand to hear people tell me that I just needed to stop trying to get pregnant. They would tut-tut-tut and say that the stress of all this trying was making things more difficult for me. They would share stories of distant relatives who were trying to get pregnant for years, then they gave up and suddenly had four babies in a span of three years.

These comments were infuriating. I know the people saying them had good intentions, but it was a horrible thing to tell a woman who spent her months taking temperatures and counting days and peeing on sticks. More than anything, I didn’t think the people telling me to stop trying even understood what they were saying. Was I supposed to stop having unprotected sex with my husband? Because that’s how you try to have a baby and that seems like the only way I was going to get pregnant without medical intervention. And medical intervention definitely constitutes “trying.”

I’m sorry to tell everyone, I’m still not giving you a pass to tell any infertile couple that they just need to stop trying. It’s still an intensely idiotic and thoughtless thing to tell people who have every right to try to get pregnant. And more than that, it’s simply not true that if you just stop trying, you’ll magically get a baby. You want to know why people monitor fertility and visit clinics? Because those things give couples who have difficulty conceiving a better chance than they would otherwise have. Those tools are useful. The people who get pregnant will trying just don’t talk about it as much as the people who get pregnant right after they’ve chosen to adopt. The other stories aren’t as memorable. So everyone clings to those few exceptions and touts them like some unwritten rule.

So, you’re not allowed to go around telling people to stop trying. That being said, I can finally admit that as of now, I understand what the phrase means. I understand what it’s like to have hit the phase where I just stop thinking about my cycle or my tests or doing anything to consciously increase my chances of getting pregnant. I’ve hit a point where I think I might just need the break from all my trying.

To be clear, I couldn’t have stopped trying back when all of those people were telling me what a great idea it was. Back then, I was too dedicated to my cause. Obviously now, I would still be thrilled to find myself pregnant, but I’m finally able to stop thinking about how to get there. For the next month at least, my husband and I have stopped trying.

I don’t know that forgoing the fertility talk for the month will change much for us. We’ve gotten very used to the routine after more than two years. I don’t know that putting away the journal or ignoring the tests will suddenly lift some weight off my shoulders. I just need some time off.

To be honest, I really hope that I don’t get pregnant in the next month. It’s not because I don’t want a baby right now. It’s because I don’t want to add any fuel to the “You just need to stop trying” fire. I don’t want to give people one more example to rub in the face of a couple who desperately wants a child and is doing everything in their power to have one. I’ve been there, and hearing that phrase sucks. But for now, I just don’t have the mental strength or emotional capacity to keep the fertility pressure on. So for just this month, I’m going to stop trying. We’ll see where it takes me.

(Photo: Raywoo/Shutterstock)

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  • http://twitter.com/that_darn_kat Kat

    My aunt was one of those women who wanted to be pregnant so bad, but it wasn’t happening. She was a bit overweight, enough for her to be able to get bypass. While recovering from her bypass, she and my uncle quit “trying”. They had sex for the fun of it. They had made an appointment with a fertility clinic and, while waiting for the appointment, had sex without charting, or temps or anything. The day before her appointment, she discovered she was pregnant. Her doctor suggested part of it was she wasn’t stressed over getting pregnant which helped her body do it’s thing. Part of her getting pregnant had to do with her losing the weight, yes, but she also quit stressing over it. I understand why people use this phrase, but I also, sorta, understand why it might make a couple TTC want to smack the person who said it.
    As someone who’s closely watched a love one struggle with infertility, I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to say to make it better. I wanted to toss out suggestions, even though I hadn’t had any kids at that point. I just wanted to do or say something to make my aunt and uncle cheer up just a bit.

    • Jennn

      Did you read the article? The author is aware of examples of people who got pregnant after they stopped trying. Your anecdote isn’t helpful at all, the implication is that all she has to do is “stop trying” and that’s just obnoxious. No infertile couple is asking for your help to say something to make it better, what would be better is if you didn’t say anything about it unless they talk about it or specifically ask.

    • http://twitter.com/that_darn_kat Kat

      Wow, someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I never once said if the author stops trying to get pregnant, she will. I simply shared the story of my aunt, who, for your information, had spent a great deal of time talking to me about it, her heartbreak, hopes, fears, etc. What I was trying to say with my comment, was that, as someone who watched a loved one go through the process, sometimes you say stupid things because you don’t know what else to say. And yet, I don’t think this will placate you. I think you’re one of those people who get pissed off at people who dare to comment on your struggles when you complain about them, then turn around and get pissed off if you do complain, and no one says anything for fear of pissing you off.

  • Andrea

    Yeah it probably does suck balls to hear that phrase. But for one, when we are watching someone we love struggle with this, we don’t know what to say. We want to help but there isn’t a damn thing we can do. For two, I heard SO many stories about it that I am sorry, but I can’t help thinking that there might be something to it.

    • chomps

      You know, the person you’re just trying to tell this to has probably heard it before. As a woman who struggled with fertility all last year, it is something that is completely pervasive in society. In addition, please tell me what happens when I tell you to stop thinking about pink elephants? You immediately think of nothing else, and that’s a one-off thought experiment, not the intense longing to fulfill your biological purpose. I can tell you that infertility makes you feel less than human, less than alive, because you have the parts, and everyone else’s work just fine, but yours are hopelessly broken. Telling someone to stop trying, to stop wanting that thing they want more than anything in the whole world, the thing they’d give their right arm to have for sure, is beyond cruel. Those words do nothing but cut. If you ABSOLUTELY CAN’T STOP your mouth diarrhea and MUST SAY SOMETHING, you should keep it to “I’m sorry for your struggle”, and if you really need to DO something, leave it at “Please let me know if I can do anything at all to help comfort you.”

      Tl;dr – You can’t wrap “asshole” in pretty “concerned” ribbon and call it caring.

    • Andrea

      Well! And a nice day to you too lady.

  • Amy

    I don’t think this commenters read the damn story! Stop telling people to stop trying is the message! So stop! As someone struggling with infertility, I can attest that we know all about the stories. We know about the people who got knocked up on vacation after they decided they weren’t going to stress over kids, we have watched Teen Mom and seen irresponsible girls get pregnant while on on drunken binder, our friends have accidentally gotten pregnant. You think you are telling us these things for the first time? Just stop. Offer an open ear and a closed mouth if someone is talking to you about their struggles. Tell them you’re sorry, give them a hug and then shut your mouth. The success stories only make us feel worse, which is pretty hard to feel than we already do.

    • Patty Lennon

      Amy – I just posted a comment about my story and applauding the author for sharing. I did get pregnant after I “stopped trying” but as you’ll see from my story most people only share the “glossy” version of the “stop trying” myth. I want you to know that the only thing that separates me at that point and anyone that is still working towards pregnancy is that you still have hope and determination and that is a beautiful thing. You are right – ignore the ones that keep telling you to stop trying. You are invested in something so important – you deserve to feel good about that! Believe me if I had an ounce of willpower or emotional reserves left when I “stopped trying” I never would have stopped.

  • Beth

    Omg people used to tell me that all the time & it drove me crazy. You can’t freakin stop trying when all you want is a baby. On that note I will say we got pregnant when we stopped tracking. I also started taking Maca root (you should try it) and I like to think it was that rather than the stupid luck of not trying (ps- we are not telling anyone that we were not technically trying when it happened. If I heard I told you so I might punch them in the face!) :)

  • copycait

    My husband and I also took a “break” in the middle of trying to conceive through a fertility clinic, and it was wonderful! It was so freeing to stop worrying for a month, and all of a sudden we started to actually have fun sometimes. It also gave me a lot more enthusiasm and renewed hope for when we started trying again. And eventually, it did work out for us! So take a break! It really doesn’t hurt anything and can give you some much-needed sanity :)

  • Beth

    As someone who has been told in the past to stop stressing over getting pregnant, I can totally relate to this article. It always made me feel like I was being blamed for not being able to get knocked up. Most women struggling to conceive are already worried that it is their fault and the last thing they need is someone suggesting that their strong desire to have a child is in fact hindering their efforts.

  • WoahNellie

    Also fun is the response “It will happen when it’s meant to happen.” Why not just smack me in the face? So I’m not meant to have a baby, and all this money spent on vitamins, supplements, ovulation predictor kits and other tests is just pissing in the wind because obviously, the universe doesn’t want me to get pregnant.

  • Patty Lennon

    Lindsay I’m glad you’re sharing this story. I’ve held the hand of more than one person going through a long journey to parenthood and this is hard to hear. When I went through it myself it was hard to hear. I did eventually get pregnant after I “gave up” but what most people that have been successful in scenarios like this don’t share is that we didn’t choose to “stop trying.” We became so broken in the process that we had no choice but to give up. We were exhausted and had no more tears left to shed and so the only option we had left if we wanted to avoid a nervous breakdown or the end of our marriage was to stop watching the ovulation tests and pregnancy tests and refilling the chlomid prescription. And had I not gotten pregnant I probably would have started up again in a few months.

  • Lisa

    Great article! It is hard enough to bring up the topic to others, then to get the response that you’re basically incompetent to do something so simple in their mind is very rude! Fertility treatments do work, so a proper response to anyone talking about their struggles is to encourage them to find a doctor that will work with them to figure out the problems and work toward a solution!

  • Laura

    Ugh. I hope your break has been restful for you and your husband, Lindsay. You deserve it. TTC is hard, emotionally and physically grueling work, and you are beyond smart to take the time when you need it. As someone who STC for over 5 years before conceiving via IVF, I can tell you that the ‘stop trying’ comments made me see red EVERY TIME. Really? Stop trying? Why, thanks! Why didn’t I think of that, you backward-thinking idiot. Thanks for your trite, uninformed, unhelpful advice. And anyone who criticizes women who are STC for reacting bitterly to this ‘advice’ can, quite frankly, suck it. You have no idea what you are talking about; just be quiet, period. I will tell you that, unfortunately, the comments never end. I am currently beyond shocked to be 21 weeks along with a second, unexpected child, after being told 10 years ago that natural conception was all but a physical impossibility for us. Now I’m having to put up with all of the smug, “I told you that if you stopped trying, you’d get pregnant” comments, and it still burns me. Personally, you have my permission to physically or verbally smack anyone you please. I wish you tons of luck.

  • A

    I heard this again tonight, from someone who wasn’t trying and doesn’t sound all too thrilled for the “surprise.”
    Been ttc #1 for almost 2 years. It’s hard to not think about it when your medicines, tests, and intercourse are all timed. I’d love to give natural a go…but I fear I would derail all my progress.
    Anyway, thank you for this. I appreciate your candor and stance on the topic. I’m in tears after reading this…but that’s on me. ;)