I’m not taking the “go off the pill and see what happens” approach. I’m taking a more active approach. I’m thirty-four, and I think I want to have two kids. I’m not exactly worried about making that happen, but I figure that all else being equal, it’s best if we knock out the first one as soon as possible.
It turns out that just by taking your temperature every morning, you can pinpoint pretty closely when you are ovulating, especially if your cycle is regular. I started doing this in October because I ran out of birth control pills. I thought my then-fiancé and I would start trying to get pregnant sooner rather than later, and it didn’t seem worth it to go to the doctor and get a refill just to take the pill for a few more months. Instead, we just avoided having unprotected sex during the four or five days each month when I could have gotten pregnant.
We changed tacks in March, when we got married, and started having sex on purpose on those same four or five days. Like many other things about trying to get pregnant, having sex on a schedule can be really strange.
Most sources recommend having sex for the two or three days leading up to ovulation and the day of ovulation as the best strategy for getting pregnant. If the man has a low sperm count, every other day is sometimes recommended. But because we got pregnant — though I had an early miscarriage — our third month trying, I don’t think that is an issue for us.
So every day for those four days it is — or at least that’s the plan. It’s surprisingly challenging.
The first two months, we couldn’t do it. The first month felt like a warm-up, anyway, and it was at the same time as our wedding, so we were really busy spending time with guests, finishing work and last-minute wedding preparations, and then flying to Bhutan. We only managed to have sex every other day. The third month, we finally managed four days in a row, and we got pregnant, though as I mentioned, I had a miscarriage at five weeks.
So now, of course, I feel like we need to make it happen every day. There is a lot about getting pregnant that a couple can’t control, but this is one thing we can control. Why not tilt the odds in our favor as much as possible?
We started trying immediately after the miscarriage, but our hearts weren’t in it and it felt like a chore. My doctor seemed skeptical that I would ovulate so soon, and it seemed impossible that we would get pregnant two months in a row, so we were doubtful that anything would come of our efforts.
The next month, we were backpacking for three of the key nights, which added an additional element of difficulty. Aside from the fact that we were in a tent on a crowded beach, it is messy having sex every day without showers or bathrooms or even toilet paper. We were sandy and sweaty, and I felt leaky.
I tell him I appreciate his efforts, and he reminds me that he also wants to get pregnant. We’re on the same team.
This month, we were inspired. It’s the third month since the miscarriage and we got pregnant on our third try before. At least I was inspired, and my husband seemed cooperative. I am the project manager of Operation Fetus, though he takes the laboring oar, as it were. I tell him I appreciate his efforts, and he reminds me that he also wants to get pregnant. We’re on the same team.
So we started with renewed energy on day 10 of my cycle, three days before I usually ovulate. The first night was fun. Afterwards, I patted myself on the back; I had been a good team leader.
The second night, my mother-in-law was sleeping in the living room of our one-bedroom apartment. No matter; the air conditioner running in the bedroom would mask any suspicious sounds. We aimed for efficiency.
The third night, we were backpacking again, but instead of being on the beach we were high in the mountains and it was cold. We were both gassy from the freeze-dried and processed food — Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Deluxe, I’m looking at you — we’d been eating all day, and we were tired from hiking and all the fresh air. We tried to arrange our sleeping bags as best we could to cover us both and keep us warm. We had left the rainfly off the tent, and though it was next to impossible that anyone would stroll by, they would have been treated to a surprising view. I was not leaving my warm position on the bottom, where I was mostly in the sleeping bag. Without a soft bed with some give for me to sink into, I felt like I was being crushed. I tried to prop my husband up with my arms so that I could breathe, and we laughed a lot.
The fourth night was a business transaction. We were home, but even more tired after a night of fitful sleep on the ground, a second day of hiking, and a pint of beer at dinner. I felt nauseated, probably from the aforementioned factors as well as my exclusive consumption of cheese and crackers, Cheetos, and chicken strips that day. My husband’s breath smelled terrible. We considered these factors in a brisk negotiation, calculated the approach with the lowest chance of my vomiting, and got the job done.
I don’t mind any of this. I like projects, and this is an easy and interesting one with an exciting payoff. It’s just interesting the way it changes sex from a fun and voluntary activity to an item on our to-do list. I know it’s nothing compared to the challenges we’ll face when our sex campaign is finally successful, but I’d like to think I can take some heart from knowing that we can approach at least this small challenge with humor and teamwork.