The Unexpected Dark Hole of Trying to Conceive: An Account of My Descent Down that Hole

Saturday, August 3, 2019
the dark hole of trying to conceive a child
I

I see the red in the toilet bowl, distinct in the froth of urine. I pull up my underwear and flush. I have no more sanitary pads at home. I didn't think I would need them this month. It is the fourth of July. I am not pregnant and I don't know what to feel.

I ask my husband if he would like noodles for breakfast. He says yes, with some plantains and eggs. He’ll be at work today and there wouldn't be power supply at home. The power company load-sheds my neighbourhood. We get two days of supply and one day of outage, in that order. I pack the meal in his flask and hand it to him in a Shoprite bag. He walks out the door after we hug and I lock the door. There is a stickiness between my thighs as I walk back to our bedroom. I pick up my phone and check the Ovia app. The internet is poor and the app loads slowly. A notification comes in. You are on your period. I'm mildly surprised Ovia projected my period date correctly. I highlight the ‘B’ on the app calendar, confirming that really my period has started. I feel the seeping, a jelly like blob of blood. I should quickly buy a pack of Always.

II

In the shower, I smell the blood. I put more bath gel in the puff and scrub between my legs. My pubes are overgrown. I was going to use a depilatory after the last period but forgot. Now my skin is tender and I have to wait till the end of this period to get trimmed.

I walk out of the shower and get dressed. I should be on an intermittent fast but I'm famished. I want to stay trim and possibly loss some weight on my arms. I need a job fast. Something to get me busy and out of the house. Something to get me out of my kitchen and take my mind off food blogs, for a while. I boil two eggs, prepare a cup of Lipton tea and refresh my mail. No new mail. A job I applied for will hold an interview today. I did not receive an invitation for the interview. I'm disappointed. I've been expectant, holding on to hope that I would be contacted. I search for more jobs on the internet. Tabs and tabs of job sites are loading on my browser. Slowly. The poor internet is frustrating. I call my husband, ask him if I can come over to the office and continue my Excel tutorial. He says yes. I close my browser and fling my phone on the bed.

III

That was me in 2017, desperate, glum and sometimes morphing into an abrupt crazed state, trying repeatedly to conceive, willing my body to the do the one thing it was naturally expected to do. Writing this, I now think  of Dr Rainbow from the Black-ish sitcom series, when she was in the operating room for a c-section as a result of pre-eclampsia. She was saying to her husband Dre, sad and delirious, “I'm really good at this stuff . I'm a baby maker!” I was trying to be good at this stuff—baby making.


struggling to conceive

In 2014, my fifth year in the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, one of the questions asked in my Obstetrics and Gynaecology professional exam was this—“Reproduction is a luxury, hence abortion. Discuss exhaustively.” This question was worth ten marks or something even more outrageous. Fortunately, I made a distinction in that course. Now, years after that exam, here I was, a young woman in the first year of her marriage, hoping to prove that reproduction wasn't in fact such a luxury.

I didn't expect my gynaecology books to be correct. You know that Nigerian pentecostal optimism. My case is different. It's not my portion. I thought all I had to do was take away all barriers, present myself and honour the process. All our lives we've been inundated by the media, the church and family about how it takes just one time to get pregnant—an indirect deterrent to  stay off premarital/unprotected sex. When I was nineteen, I knew girls my age from church who were given the left hand of fellowship and sentenced to the solitary back seats for the sinners because they got pregnant outside wedlock. I was raised in a church where moral defaults like fornication meant assigning the offending member a solitary seating position at the last pew and no one would sit or talk to such an offender throughout church services until the church board felt the punishment complete. Church elders would often admonish us about how it took just one time to get pregnant, warning us not to be like the backslidden girls, speaking of them in Igbo— Ife gbasalu nwoke bido masi wa fa n’oge. Such girls loved the things concerning men too early.

So 2017. There was marriage. There was job-hunting and the Nigerian graduate disappointment. Then there were days of cooking and cleaning the home with the manic acuteness of an OCD sufferer. And then there was a call from home. My mother. She wanted to know how things were. Was I job-hunting? Any success yet?

I'm speaking into the phone, telling her how Owerri is such a small place with limited opportunities for a veterinarian and she's speaking into the phone, in that calm familiar voice, telling me not to give up, and I drift off, my mind wandering, restless. I'm thinking about Facebook, how it has become such a sad, intimidating place—friends making posts about new jobs, friends inviting you to like their business page, friends posting pictures of a new baby.

My mother is still speaking into the phone when I stop her midway into a sentence I've not really been listening to. I ask her if it's time I start trying for a baby. I don't have a job yet and babies are expensive but should I still try?
She exclaims and there is a certain quality to it. A quality that reads that this is not a question that is expected to come up—that I should have been trying by now.
She reminds me that I'm 25, that I'm not in fact getting younger and that it's best to rear children with the strength afforded by youth. She says many more things before saying goodbye and then I hang up.

With that call came the precarious dawn of a new purpose—trying to conceive (TTC). It was a malignant purpose, its growth metastatic—invading, consuming me. It suddenly seemed like it had become my sole life purpose. Trying to conceive became to me an oppressive multi-limbed fiend, and I, held down and possessed by it, roamed the desolate wilderness of fertility blogs and multiple Google search queries. I became an Internet crawler, spurred on by this formidable demon, in a frantic search of prized, guarded information (magic words of some sorts if you follow my drift) that would get me pregnant and free me from the vicious monthly cycles of disappointment heralded by the seeping of blood between my thighs.

I experimented on my body, putting things in it, bending it, moulding it into shapes unfamiliar to me, each exercise an output fresh off an Internet search. I became like the man from the Bible, possessed by a Legion, crying and cutting his body, waiting, hoping for a day of salvation.

Trying to conceive is like sitting at the edge of happiness. You can easily fall off. Each month I sat at the edge of happiness and hoped that a Power greater than me would secure me full seating. Trying to conceive is like sitting at the edge of happiness, waiting to rejoice or to be heartbroken.

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