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The series, Pregnant over 40, continues. In this installment, columnist Bonnie Ho discusses control issues, illusions, staring at her shadow, and what to do when you don’t feel like giving up control.
So, I just got my period. For most women, this is uneventful, unless you are, like me, trying to get pregnant. As the one with the ovaries and the uterus, I get to be the one to share the disappointing news with my partner once again; not this month, maybe next. We’ve only been trying for a few months, which I know is not long. Most medical experts consider infertility issues to be occurring if you’ve been trying for a year or more. But I’m 42 and I know the stats, so we’ve been good little “tryers.”
In an effort to optimize our chances of getting pregnant, I’ve been tracking my ovulation, peeing on LH strips to pinpoint luteinizing hormones surgence and doing the deed punctually according to my peak fertility window. I thought I was quite clever by researching how exactly getting pregnant works, and getting all my ducks in a row in hopes for a baby duck. But now that it’s been a few months, I’m beginning to realize that even with all my due diligence, I cannot force that sperm and egg to come together to make that baby, (well, aside from IVF, but even then, there are no promises a viable pregnancy will happen). And I have to admit that not being able to “make it happen” makes me feel completely out of control.
It’s been a while since I’ve felt out of control, and I don’t like it. I like to be in control of my life or at least appear as if I am. In general, if I’m going to do something I want to be “on top of it,” and at least pretend to know what I am doing. My background in the corporate world has definitely given me a “go-getter” mentality. But what does it mean to be a “go-getter” when trying to get pregnant? You can only be so proactive when there’s a specific time window in which any action occurs to contribute towards getting pregnant. And I always feel like I should be doing more.
As I shop for tampons, those unhelpful and cliched thoughts creep in — Did I wait too long? Have I missed the boat? Until a year ago, I thought I would be content being childfree; then I met someone whom I felt safe having a family with. So why do I feel guilty for the choices I made as a younger woman with different values? Why do I feel shame for what my body potentially can or cannot do?
When I emotionally tune into all of this, I once again get that feeling of being out of control, and it scares the heck out of me. I can’t control the meeting of the egg and the sperm, I can’t control my body’s aging, and yet, I feel like I should be able to. For the last 20 years I used birth control pills to control my body from getting pregnant and that was easy, so the opposite should be just as easy, don’t ya think? Where’s the pregnancy control pill, so that we can just get pregnant when we want?
Control is like an old frenemy who Facebook messages you to grab a drink; you’re tempted but you know you probably shouldn’t. Control feels comforting and safe even though it’s an illusion. Even if we actually have little control over many things — other people, situations, outcomes; that’s not to say we don’t have choices. I can choose any way I want, preferably according to my heart, to influence an outcome, but the outcome is never certain.
I never considered myself to be a controlling person, until my mid-30s when my boyfriend at the time accused me of trying to control him in an argument. Whaaaaat?? Me??? Controlling??? My ‘poor little me’ view of myself hid me from seeing that I have a controlling side, so I accused him of not being able to handle an empowered woman. But now I realize that it’s not the empowerment that’s the issue, it was the constant nitpicking on how he did things because I thought there was a better, more efficient way of doing it, not realizing that everyone simply does things differently and that’s okay. I thought I was being helpful when I was hindering him from being himself. It was humbling to admit that the Type-A-ness that makes me a diligent employee had spilled over into my personal life.
After that realization, a Pandora’s box was opened in my mind; I couldn’t help but see how I tried to control everything — how things are done, how others saw me, putting extra efforts towards creating certain outcomes. This need to control, I realized, is the ultimate source of my anxiety, leaving me exhausted, when really at the end of the day it’s not that important. This need to control also isolates me from the people who care, refusing help and connection because I didn’t think how they did things was good enough. I had to stop and ask myself — is that the type of person I want to be?
Looking back, I can see how my past hurts, disappointment, and fear of being out of control, is what makes me control — I was attempting to protect myself, which is a noble endeavor when you’re young, heartbroken and are told that you’re not good enough. I was raised in a household where I had very little control. My mother was critical and had a temper, so I spent much of my energy controlling myself in hopes of fulfilling who she wanted me to be. In this compromise and abandonment of self, I always felt like a sideshow character in my mother’s life, rather than living my own — I felt utterly out of control.
When I finally went away to college, I made a commitment to myself that I would always do things on my terms, but really, this existential wrestling between power, control and true empowerment has been an ongoing lesson that includes emotionally toxic relationships, power struggles, the constant proving of my worth and eventually letting go by realizing that controlling everything is impossible.
I could go into the stories on how power plays with ex-partners, ex-coworkers and ex-friends was ultimately reflecting my own need to control, but they’re kinda depressing, and I prefer to be uplifting rather than ruminate. So then, what’s the answer to all this? I pondered intensely for a few days as I tried to find an antidote for this ‘out-of-control’ feeling. The Spiritual Counselor in me wants to counsel myself with lessons of trust, faith, hope and surrender — I’ve got oodles of inspirational quotes on the ready about letting go of what you can’t control and having faith in the Universe, yada yada yada.
And it’s not like I don’t believe ultimately that’s the answer; I do, but am resisting it. At this moment, to tell myself to simply have faith and let go of the outcome feels like I’m okay with this pregnancy thing not happening — which is not where I’m at. I would only be lying to myself to say I am in complete surrender to this situation.
As I was driving down route 101 this past weekend through the rolling hills of Marin County, California, the answer suddenly came to me. It was my inner voice that said “Can you soften the control a bit?” Hmmmm…. Soften the control felt right — it gave me permission to be where I am at — a tiny step that was doable.
And I realized I can soften the control a bit. I’m already getting acupuncture to balance the qi in my womb, tracking my ovulation and punctually do the deed in the days leading up to egg release, so do I really need to test my LH surge when I’m already doing all I can? Perhaps I head into over-control zones when I Google “sex positions for pregnancy” (which btw, doesn’t affect ability to get pregnant)! I gotta give myself some choice and agency to empower myself, but the more stressy, anxious energy I put into this endeavor, the more I’m attempting to control something I ultimately can only influence peripherally; I gotta give my efforts time to take effect and hope for the best.
At the end of the day, it’s up to the Universe to send the stork in if and when the time is right. Until then, my goal is to soften — soften the control, soften the vigilance within me, and take things one step at a time. Because the truth is, I better get comfortable with being out of control if I’m to be a mother; this type of lack of control is only the beginning.
Rev. Bonnie Ho is a spiritual counselor, energy reader, and author of the Living in the Third Eye column for Jumble & Flow. After spending most of her adult life trying to prove her own worth through an analytical career, Bonnie found a spiritual path that led her back to herself and her own heart. Now, Bonnie aims to help others heal their wounds, find their joy, and embrace their intuition and true desires, in a grounded, balanced way.
Bonnie is available for spiritual guidance and energy readings. Visit bonniehoinsights.com to learn more.
ON THE BLOG
In My Prime: interviews with women thriving in midlife
Pregnancy test and pregnancy over 40
Pelvic health: Everything women need to know
Adventures in Perimenopause, essays by women in perimenopause and menopause
What is perimenopause? An empowering guide to everything you need to know
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