Lady’s Lesson on Infertility

Eggs

We have two hens now named Sgt Pepper and Lady. Our first hen was named Lucy, but since she didn’t seem to be laying eggs long after her last molt, I decided to re-home her. We lucked out and found her a retirement home where she could free-range on 2 acres of land. I felt badly because she was our first and also because it was like I was saying she wasn’t worth keeping now that she was no longer fertile. (One of my fears is that I am worth less since I am not very fertile.) We were going to max out on coop space by adding Lady, a beautiful blue French Copper Maran,

Lady

but I decided before we even added her to the coop that we didn’t have room for a non-egg layer. I believe we found Lucy a cushy retirement, but I bawled my eyes out after we dropped her off with her new owner. Anyway, this story is about Lady, not Lucy…

Lady stayed in quarantine for a month before we introduced her to the mansion. She is a great egg layer and lays beautiful chocolate brown eggs. Sgt Pepper, my baby raised from chick, sounds like a pterodactyl, but Lady purrs like a cat and also makes sounds like a MacBook or robot or something like that. One day last week, every time I checked their nest boxes for eggs, Lady was there and made one of her quiet-ish robotic squawks. I took them to mean, “A little privacy, please! I’m trying to lay an egg here.” By evening, she was still in there and puffed up her feathers in annoyance when I opened the door to the nest box once again. I didn’t make much of it, until it dawned on me that Lady was broody! She wanted little ones of her own–just like I do. After checking out my go-to website on all things chicken, I announced to Sean that “Lady is broody!,” and we had to break her of it.

According to The Chicken Chick, a broody hen can lay on unfertilized eggs or an empty nest for over 3 weeks while neglecting herself in a fruitless effort to have little chicks of her own. She’ll even stop laying eggs for up to 5 weeks afterwards. This made me think of my own fertility struggles. While I haven’t neglected my health, I know that our desire to get pregnant and have a child has become, from time to time, an overwhelming pursuit at the expense of some aspects of my life. While some of the changes I’ve made to increase my chances of getting pregnant–like cutting out coffee–are no-brainers, I question some of the other decisions I’ve made for my life at this point…

…the most major one being choosing not to work full time when I can. When Sean and I started to really actively try to conceive, I was working full time covering someone’s maternity leave. Sean was also just starting his business, so I was the main breadwinner. It was a half year period that was very stressful to me; I was just not in a happy place, pissed at my husband often, not getting pregnant, and experiencing tension and frequent headaches. I was frustrated with my body and blamed myself and the accumulated stress of growing up as an overachiever for my inability to get pregnant. When the person I was covering returned, my stress levels went down as I went from working full time to per diem, or as needed, by my company. Since then, I have not been highly motivated to find another job. I’m afraid that my level of stress will go through the roof again and decrease our chances of getting pregnant, but I also feel guilty not contributing more financially while we don’t have kids. It is a challenge to be as productive as I think I should be on my days off, and I am still trying to figure out the whole work-life balance thing.

In addition to choosing not to have a full time job for now, I’ve also struggled with giving up a hobby that I enjoyed immensely. I used to compete in weightlifting–bench press and deadlift–and I really loved it. But after we weren’t having any luck conceiving for a while, I decided to give up powerlifting entirely, knowing that if I did get pregnant, I likely would have to stop anyway. I couldn’t stand thinking that it might be affecting my fertility either. So, my state bench press record still holds, but I’m still trying to convince myself that my body getting softer is more feminine and fertile.

Since giving up powerlifting, I looked for other enjoyable ways to stay active. Before I found out I was pregnant last time, I had the brilliant idea that I wanted to start roller derby. But I never did, of course. Instead, I miscarried–through no fault of my own. I guess I could have become a roller derby girl after my D&C, but I put off roller derby orientation, looking into roller skates, and coming up with a wicked roller derby persona; I put it on hold in exchange for my dream of getting pregnant and having a baby instead.

Of course, my decisions have been weighed carefully, but Lady’s broody moment is a good reminder that it’s not super healthy to be so solely minded on this one goal of having kids at the cost of everything else. I don’t think that I’ll start roller derby anytime soon, but I’ve been re-inspired to live more in the moment and direct my thoughts and energy towards goals other than just getting pregnant.

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