Okay, kids, this one is personal. Yeah, I know…they are all personal. But this one is REALLY personal and I sort of can’t believe that I am writing this and I am not sure exactly why I am sharing this with you now— other than I am sure that I am not the only person that this has happened to. I am about to admit something very personal and something that I might not tell you if we were sitting across from each other. But the truth is that infertility ruined sex for me, and I am sure that I am not the only person that this happened to.
Pavlov, and the other Behaviorists, believe that a behavior will get stronger or weaker depending on what type of consequences follow it. When doing x can lead to y and you can’t make y happen it is likely that you no longer want to do x. If you keep up the x and eat yams, and go to acupuncturists, and change your Feng-shui and you still don’t get y then you might extinguish your desire for x altogether.
All of the trying-to-conceive made it impossible for me to have sex and not think of potential pregnancy. In the early days of trying to conceive the sex was all about being on a mission which made sex more monotonous than the missionary position. The sex was no longer about sex or making love or anything other than “trying to conceive”, which made it more of a means to an end than an end in and of itself. “I’m ovulating” became the stand in for seduction. Lingerie abandoned, as there were no studies that showed garter belts had any impact on conception rates. Ovulation monitors were the closest we came to any kind of sex toy. Positions were chosen not for their potential to please, but rather because they had a higher potential to impregnate. Post-coitus was no longer about cuddling, but rather it became a high-anxiety time in which I timed how long to keep my legs up in the air in order to up our odds of implantation.
The more we tried to conceive and failed to do so, the more I started to dread sex. There was just too much emotional weight to *sex*, there had been all those times we tried and didn’t conceive and “doing it” started to feel like a hurtful reminder of all the other times we tried and failed. It was impossible for me to have sex and not think immediately after, “I could be pregnant”—-even when the doctors told me that there was absolutely no way we could conceive naturally. I was never thinking about sex during sex—but I was thinking. I was thinking about the quality of the sperm and imagining if I really was ovulating and maybe that the ovulation thermometer had been wrong . I thought if maybe I visualized my egg accepting the sperm that we might improve our chances at conceiving. Instead of enjoying myself I thought about all the pumpkin seeds he had eaten and how maybe they had impacted his sperm production. The more I thought the less I was there and the less I was there the less I wanted to be there.
Once I got to the point of KNOWING that there was absolutely no way we could conceive, my ex-husband didn’t know it. He was immune to the hard-science and hard-truths we were told by our doctors. He, you see, had moved on to hope and faith. He took to praying after sex. No, he wasn’t praying out loud or even telling me that he was, I could just see it. When I would catch him I would call him on it, “It’s not going to happen and no prayers are going to make a difference.” “You never know,” he’d argue. However, I did know. I knew I wasn’t going to get pregnant and yet if we had had sex prior to the time my period was due I would join my ex-husband in this folie à deux . And then when I didn’t get pregnant I would grieve. I asked my ex-husband to stop hoping (which I know isn’t really fair, and yet he couldn’t help himself from the hope). But to see him hope after sex was extremely hard for me. And that made me even less interested in having sex than I already was.
If we had stayed together I feel sure it would have taken a lot of work and therapy to separate sex from the hope of having a baby. We weren’t even close to differentiating that when we broke up. And, please, hear me, I am not at all blaming him or the infertility or how the infertility f#$@!d up or our sex-life for our breakup–that’s not why we aren’t together. But I do think it has a lot to do with why we weren’t “doing-it” and “doing-it”, I think, and studies show, is important in the success and well-being of an intimate relationship.
For the past year-and-a-half I have been in a new relationship and thankfully, in this new relationship, there was no history of trying to conceive and I had really and truly given up on having a baby( okay, there have been micro-seconds of insanity—but happily they have all passed pretty quickly) and so…uh, yeah, this is where it gets embarrassing and hard to write about…so, sex is no longer about trying-to-conceive and I am extremely happy about that. Now when I have sex( and yes, I am having it) I am thinking about the sex and not about conceiving. For me, sex is no longer about babies and hence my sex-life is no longer f@#$%ed up. And, as long as I am being so extremely personal with you, I will admit something that will likely not surprise you at all, sex is better when you are not thinking about something else. X for x and not x for y is better x—at least in my opinion.