Do you have any idea of what it is like to try to conceive a child when combating PTSD flashbacks of your sexual assault?
Let’s just start with what is a stressful scenario for so many couples. I am over 30, so for the past year or two I’ve had the vague sensation of an invisible ticking clock hovering over my ovaries, whispering in my grandmother’s voice “you’re not so young anymore…”Then, in the past 9 months, I started to think more seriously about trying to conceive. Which, for me, required much more than just “hey ditch the pill and get to work!”
In my situation, I had to ditch not just “the pill” but many of them. I weaned off of my daily anti-anxiety medication over a year ago, but my anti-depressant remained. I have written in the past about my not-so-successful attempts to wean off my anti-depressant, but, with the help of my psychiatrist, and a pretty intense yoga and jogging regimen, I slowly, slowly tapered down my celexa. And now I’m anti-depressant free! A huge accomplishment all on its own!
But we’re not done yet people. I was now to the point that most normal couples start at.
I then ditched my birth control pill. And HELLO HORMONES. My first period was delayed by 3 weeks. And during those 7 weeks, I had mood swings and the acne of a teenager… in other words, I gained a new respect for my mother dealing with my teenage self, and felt great pity for my husband.
My cycle regulated. I tracked for a few months my cycle length, monitored for physical ovulation signs, and read about optimal timing for having sex in order to conceive.
I won’t go into all of vast swaths of information that is out there about timing sex in order to conceive, but let me just boil it down to this: you have basically three to four days every month constituting your “fertility window” where your chances of conceiving are pretty good*: the two days before you ovulate, the day you ovulate, and maybe the day after you ovulate. That’s it. Miss that window, and you have to close up shop til next month.
*pretty good = about a one in four chance… which is, by no means, a guarantee of any sort
So here we are. My husband and I are ready to start trying, I’ve got a pretty good idea of when I think I am going to ovulate, and all we have to do is have lots of sex around that 4-5 day window. Easy-peasy, right?
Enter the PTSD and anxiety.
Closer to the time of my BFD (aka my sexual assault), anxiety and sexual activity went hand in hand, and I would have intense pangs of fear before and/or during sex, which would mean I would have to stop. With the passage of time (it is coming up on the 4 year anniversary of my BFD), and after graduating from some pretty intense therapy, this has significantly decreased. The number of instances in a row that sex would be untainted by any pangs of fear increased.
Over this time I’ve learned some triggers that would increase the odds sex would be wholly enjoyable. The later in the day it is, the more likely I am to be tired and to become afraid in the dark. Also, if I am not ‘feeling it,’ for any reason, going ahead to try to have sex anyways is just a bad idea.
See the problem I’m having now?
I want a child. My husband wants a child. But during a normal work week, my husband and I both work late, meaning sex at night is our only option. And given the aforementioned small fertility window, no matter if I am ‘feeling it’ or not, if I don’t have sex on those 3-4 days, I have lost my chance at conception that month.
So, despite knowing better, I have been pushing myself. Even when I am not always ‘feeling it.’ And the results, somewhat predictably, have not been great.
We have been actively trying to conceive for the past 3 months. And each one of these months, I’ve had these PTSD-based pangs of fear associated with sex. Not every time. But often enough.
These fear pangs are awful on their own. But then, that same night, when/if I want to continue, my husband becomes frustrated with me for prioritizing conception over my mental health. (Which, if I am totally honest with myself, I have been doing).
So then not only have I had flashback-esque fear, I am disappointed with myself for missing my window, and my husband is frustrated and upset that I’m not taking care of myself.
In the understatement of the year, it is not pleasant.
Here’s hoping things work out this month. I don’t know how many months of this we can take.