This is my therapist’s favorite word. Its abridged definition from the Encyclopedia of Philosophy reads,

…the logical development of thought or reality through thesis and antithesis to a synthesis of these opposites.

He usually throws it out in our various talks about the mind-fuck of infertility, treatment and loss, or the challenge of navigating relationships with family members who can arouse a diverse parade of emotions in any single moment. I loosely understand it as the ability to exist within the palette of muddy grays that make up human experience when what we crave at a primal level is the clarity of crisp lines and black against white – to iron out and reconcile a swarm of valid but conflicting ideas and feelings into a more sophisticated reality that feels logical and true (e.g. I can love my mother and hate spending time with her.) I declare ‘dialectic’ to be the official moniker for pregnancy after infertility and loss.

The truth is that I love being pregnant because of what it promises. I have been steeped in a euphoric kind of gratitude and glittering anticipation since August 4th, a secret Pinterest board already filling with tips for new moms and lists of what to pack in the hospital bag. After we saw two heartbeats blinking on the screen this weekend, the beans earned nicknames, morphed from Big Bean and Little Bean to Bacon and LeiLei. There’s also the relief, like the release of a screaming pressure valve, of decidedly not-trying at the present moment, of having dodged the threat of a failed beta after a two-weeks-wait electrified with an anxiety so intense it felt new. I am already watching my body change, the blush that warms the skin, the ballooning bosom, and this enables me to forgive her for so oft betraying me. I am smiles. I am possibility.

The truth is that I hate being pregnant because it promises nothing. I have already learned that this could all be little more than a tease, my Pinterest board an illusion. My body delivered a sharp reminder of this on Saturday night, when I barely slept, hours spent staring at the ceiling while I noted the spasmodic contractions of my uterus as I filled a pad with red blood and contemplated how I would survive another miscarriage; while I lay on the exam table bracing myself for the blow only to hear the whooshing rhythm of heartbeats instead. “Subchorionic bleed” they said, and so I confront the prolonged anxiety of yet another pregnancy plagued by hematomas that we pray the babies will survive. The truth is that ‘morning sickness’ is really all-day sickness, and I vomit daily, which sounds cute and small but isn’t when you’re about to kick off a school year and are desperate to keep this secret in order to not be so pitiful and overexposed as last time should this all end in tragedy. The truth is that the first trimester is fraught with worry and physical misery.

But I’m quiet about these things because I aware of my good fortune and responsive to the imperative to be sensitive and lead with a hushed gratitude. I know I am a walking, talking, typing trigger because I have been on the other side, where I was sincerely happy for ‘graduates’ while envying them bitterly. But I have been recently thinking of this post and this post, considering the line between compassion and self-censorship, wondering why women who conceive easily have permission from their communities to say, “I’m so happy but this is hard,” whereas I feel terribly guilty for admitting that aloud. Maybe it’s all in my head, and no one would begrudge me my right to own my space and write my life – in fact, this is probably also true – but I’m wrestling with the dialectic.

23 thoughts on “Dialectic

  1. Ah yes… The ability to “hold both.” Infertiles have the opportunity to practice this emotional aerobatic trick with every announcement, every pregnant stranger, and then during our very own pregnancies. F you too, Universe! (Clearly, I’m still bitter.)

    Knowing this dynamic is real for so many does not, however, make it any less crappy to balance. Best thing to do is feel all the feels, not just the ones you think you should. In between, search for peace.


    • Yes, I do agree that you just have to go through all the emotions without trying to decide what’s valid and what isn’t. It’s just the question of what is sensitive and appropriate to say here when I know many followers are still in the trenches.


  2. Yes. Yes. Yes. Thank you for so vividly articulating the chasm and life that balances on either side. Self censorship has been my constant companion of late. It is exhausting to be so throughly surrounded by the muddy greys. I love your “voice”.


  3. Two heartbeats? Hate to tell you, anything written for a singleton mom is going to be useless on your Pinterest board 🙂

    I think the best thing about the second pregnancy was being past … well, everything. I knew pregnancy was good and bad and nowhere near a guarantee. I knew having kids was good and bad. I was able to just be happy and sad and terrified and excited and say what I felt and to hell with the self-censorship.

    I hope for you that you get to that place. Just embrace it for what it is – people will understand, or not.


    • At first I was doubtful that the twin thing would come to fruition because the second sac was much smaller, but seeing the heartbeats + the CCS screening makes two babies a probability now, statistically, I think. I am a little freaked out by it TBH! Did you nurse? I wonder about so many things, like producing enough milk, leaving the house as one adult with two babies, needing two all of this really expensive stuff (car seats, cribs, blah blah) I’m sure it’ll work itself out, but definitely overwhelmed by the idea!


      • I didn’t nurse, but some twin moms do successfully. I had supply issues (as in, there was none for days on end) and the babies had eating issues, and after realizing pumping + feeding left me like 6 (broken) hours a day for sleeping and eating, I knew it wasn’t sustainable. I’m sure I could have “tried harder”, but sanity matters more than breastmilk.

        The truth just is: it’s crazy hard at the beginning, but like with anything you find your groove and a routine and figure out what works.

        And anytime you want to chat about any of it – from the pregnancy crazy to the twin logistics, let me know. I’m around.


  4. Oh, I’m so happy to read about those two heartbeats!!
    Having been on a similar yet different (one might almost say opposite) path, I can imagine a little of how hard it is. The promise and hope, and the knowledge that it can be taken from you at any time.
    Hang in there, one breath at a time. It can work. And I so much hope it will. Sending lots of positive vibes to you and your family.


    • Thanks! One twin has been lagging in the growth markers, and I have this almost Darwinian attitude toward him: like, if you’re not healthy, then just stop growing. Hard to shake the fear of getting to 20 weeks and finding out the worst so late in the game. One day at a time…


  5. You have captured the feeling well here with a perfect word for all of it, that mixture of excitement and fear and the self-censorship of those fears that creeps in. The first trimester is so rough emotionally and physically, especially after infertility and loss. Subchorionic hematoma(s) are straight up emotional torture in my book and I’m sorry you have to deal with that on top of everything else. Hope that you’re able to express whatever feelings you need or want to without people giving you any issues.

    And wow, twins! That’s wonderful news. Sending lots and lots of thoughts for peace and hopes for the best.


    • No one has given me a hard time at all. It’s just guilt and the conundrum of deciding how to use the blog once preggers. Thanks for the good wishes! May I survive the torment of SCH, which I know you understand too well.


  6. First of all, sorry about the bleeding. I had that too and it’s awful, and I’m sure much worse for you since you have suffered loss. Congratulations on seeing the heartbeats and having a bit of hope! As for the nausea, that is horrible and you can hate it as much as you like with no condemnation from me, at least. (I did not have the once a day thing….. When I started vomiting it would go on for hours, sometimes every 10 minutes or less. Was ver, very grateful for diclectin.) As for starting the school year pregnant, yeah that would be tough. Is it completely necessary to keep it a secret? Just saying because it made a world of difference to me to have the support of colleagues, to not have the stress of pretending.


    • Ugh, the sickness. I’m only 7w2d and my whole existence seems to revolve around surviving the day. I took Zofran last pregnancy, but it was not super effective (often threw up the meds) and I know that as bad as I feel now, it’s child’s play compared to 10 and 11 weeks. As far as telling at work, it’s not so much boss or colleagues but standing in front of kids all day with no disclosed reason for being tired and miserable, and I really don’t want to tell them early. My loss was a total spectacle last time because the kids knew. They were incredibly sweet, and I got an outpouring of letters, but I felt so conspicuous and exposed when I went back to work.


      • I see what you mean now. yeah I wouldn’t want the kids knowing either. I hope things go ok…..set your limits and focus on what really matters.


  7. Two heartbeats!!! Goose-bumps 🙂
    And now the worrying and anxiety between the cautious excitement… But statistically this looks GOOD!!!

    And moan away on this forum – I felt guilty complaining of nasty back pain for 4 weeks… Especially as I remember so distinctly wishing I could complain of pregnancy induced back pain and being so irritated with my pregnant friends and patients who complained.
    Suffice to say, we get it.


  8. I’ve been following you for a while. You put such beautiful words to so many thoughts and feelings I was never able to express very well through my so-called “journey” of IVF (8 cycles), miscarriage(s), stillbirth, and now *finally* after a second overseas donor egg cycle, a mother to a 14-month old amazing, beautiful little girl. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am still in disbelief and pinching myself that she is really and truly here.
    I remember finding it really hard to connect with my pregnancy out of fear of another loss. I also remember feeling too guilty to complain about any physical issues during my pregnancy.
    I don’t know you, but I have tears in my eyes, and so much hope in my heart.


  9. Pregnancy promises everything, and yet it promises nothing. Yes, only those who have endured infertility and loss truly understand this.

    I’m also glad you wrote this post. Years ago when I volunteered on a UK charity website, they set up a separate messageboard for those who were pregnant after loss, specifically so that they could feel free to express the things about pregnancy that they didn’t like – the morning sickness, the pain, the fear. It was an important step in respecting those who were triggered, and respecting those who were pregnant and struggling. So I’m glad you can do it here. As you say, why should easily fertile women be allowed to complain about the hard parts of pregnancy, yet those who have endured infertility and loss are supposed to be quiet in their gratitude?


  10. Perfect word. It is so hard to make sense of the conflicting forces exerted by infertility — the happiness in the new pregnancy, the fear of loss; the bodily reminders that it’s doing what it needs to paired with the knowledge that bodies turn on you… I’m sorry you have another hematoma. It would be so nice if a bone were thrown every once in a while. I completely agree with you that you should tell your story as it is, and that it is not fair that easily pregnant women get to complain or discuss the (many) unpleasantries of pregnancy, while infertile women are told to just be “grateful.” As someone who won’t ever have that experience, I certainly don’t begrudge you your honest story. Actually, Bryce told me that he was secretly happy I’d never be pregnant because it sounded so miserable even though it’s worshipped everywhere. I know there’s amazing things, but it’s okay to disclose the sickness, the swelling, the expansion pain, the bleeding anxiety…all those things that are your story now. Hoping for continued promise for Bacon and LeiLei.


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