It Happened to Me: Infertility Drove Me Insane

My focus wasn’t on my very real husband, but on imaginary offspring. I became a sperm junkie.
Publish date:
May 11, 2012
pregnancy, family drama, infertility

Until I turned 33, the idea of having a baby was ridiculous. Pregnancy and its inevitable outcome symbolized everything I feared -- missing out on fun, being trapped in a bad relationship, having to take a well-placed foot of a career ladder -- and I wondered if I would ever do the motherhood thing.

It would not be an exaggeration to admit that throughout my teens and 20s I would have viewed getting pregnant as the worst thing that could happen to me.

Suddenly, freshly and happily married a few years into my thirties, everything changed. Overnight, I felt a baby was all that was missing from my life. I’d just resigned from a stressful, 24/7 job, as the editor in chief of OK! Magazine in New York City, and moved to my husband Russell’s sweet house in Louisville, Kentucky to work as a freelance writer.

As my life lazily shifted down a few gears, and family and friends started to announce their imminent arrivals on a daily basis, I felt an overwhelming need to reproduce.

We lost the condoms immediately. I was impatient to be impregnated. When, to my utter disbelief and dismay, six months went by without a positive sign appearing on a pregnancy test, I became a depressed mess.

My new husband and I stopped having loving, exciting sex and started "trying," which is code for perfunctory, pressurized sex that neither of you enjoys very much.

"Trying" to have a baby is indeed trying. I trained us to conceive like we were training for the London Olympics. I changed our diet (less coffee and wine, more leafy vegetables and fish), lifestyle (no more hot baths or sneaky cigarettes) and I had to become positively acrobatic.

As my neurosis that I was infertile heightened, so did my legs -- over my head. After each attempt, I’d hurriedly get into a shoulder stand to allow gravity to give us a helping hand, and stay there, upside down, until I got pins and needles in my limbs.

Of course trying for a baby also tries your nerves and your relationship. My focus wasn’t on my very real husband but on imaginary offspring. I became a sperm junkie.

I couldn’t believe that after 12 months of carefully timed shagging, I was still bump-less. I was finding it increasingly difficult to smile and congratulate friends who seemed to be announcing their happy news, and going to visit newborns or partying at baby showers became impossible. I’m not a jealous person, but the baby thing got me in a way nothing else had in my life.

"I’m 34 years old!" was my constant battle cry to Russ, who was baffled by the peeing-on-a-stick pressure I was putting us under, "time is running out!" My beloved would try to ignore my deafening biological clock, taking refuge in Deadliest Catch and playing football, or occasionally sympathise with me, while thinking, I’m sure, that he was now legally shackled to a hormonal lunatic.

He wanted to be a father, yes, but he’d also made it clear from the start that he could be happy if children eluded us and we had to live a deux forever. I knew I couldn’t.

At the one year of trying mark, I insisted, due to our dotage (we’d both be 35 years old shortly) that we take all the fertility tests available to us. Russ’s sperm was judged to be perfect, strong and abundant, while I had a cyst on one ovary and excess fluid in my womb.

I wasn’t sure what either of those things meant but my diagnosis unleashed a wave of self-hatred. It was my old, failing body that was holding us back so who else could I blame? This propelled me onto a new level of desperation.

All common sense and sanity got bundled up and carried away by a giant stork. I literally lived by my ovulation monitor, running our sex life with an unnatural military precision and then holding my breath with anticipation for the last two weeks of each cycle.

The phrase "two week wait" won’t mean anything to people who haven’t struggled to conceive, but those 14 days between ovulation and menstruation took over my life.

I soon found thousands of other women out there like me on the Internet, supporting each other through these 14 days of torment, hoping beyond hope that this month was the month. Instead of working, sleeping or socializing, I’d spend hours in front of a blinking computer screen, screaming "Me too!" and "Yes, I’m bloated!", as comments from other defeated, desperate women popped up in front of me.

I even started hallucinating symptoms, imagining morning sickness before my period was even due despite knowing from the copious amounts of books I’d read that nausea didn’t kick in until about six weeks.

I do have a happy ending and his name is William. We got pregnant with him after 18 months of trying, on a husband-enforced vacation. For the first time in ages I chilled out, and we had sex to make love, rather than to get pregnant. And maybe that was the trick, because nine months later, on a sunny afternoon in May, a beautiful little boy with huge blue eyes was laid on my chest.

Sarah’s humorous memoir about her journey to motherhood,Amerikarma: Good Things Come to Those Who Can’t Wait, is out now on