Things I’m not supposed to do, but do anyway:
Drink tap water.
Stand up for more than 20 minutes.
Things I’m supposed to do, but don’t:
Lose 20 pounds.
Stay away from traffic.
Drink 2 liters of water per day.
Play with newborns.
Why does almost every book on fertility include a list of do’s and don’ts?** Is it just so that we can feel like we’re doing something while we’re running to stand still? Or is it more insidious? Is it to give us something to blame ourselves for when it doesn’t work? Taking these recommendations seriously makes it inevitable to turn inward when things don’t work. They are invitations to guilt: of course I know I should reduce stress and lose 20 pounds, and don’t you think I’m trying? It’s just one more failure to chalk up if I can’t achieve the ideal BMI and stress-free life. And no one can do everything right all the time. There will always be something to blame yourself for if you look hard enough.
On the other hand, I can’t even bring myself to feel guilty about some of these recommendations: I seriously doubt that it’s my exposure to traffic that is keeping me from conceiving–and I have zero expectation that playing with a newborn will help me get pregnant–but still there is this idea that if we only followed the rules, if we only did everything just right, things will turn out right.
It’s magical thinking and it’s poison. Am I supposed to spend the rest of my life wondering what would have happened if I had just stopped drinking coffee?
I really find this malicious. Infertility is something that is happening to us. We didn’t do it to ourselves; it’s not our fault, even if we can’t always toe the line.***
*Here I thought I was enjoying sex, but apparently if I were really enjoying it I would never have vaginal dryness, stress, or depression. Go figure.
**I’ve only listed the “rules” I’m breaking. There are lots of others with which I’m in full compliance, whether on purpose or in spite of myself–such as eating organic, getting moderate exercise, etc. I’ve also left out the ones that have a strong basis in medical fact–like checking cervical mucus and having sex every other day.
***Now ask me if this self-righteous analysis has helped me to feel less guilty. I think you know what the answer is.