There is a saying that you can’t be “a little bit pregnant.” Andrea Syrtash disagrees. Amid a career of writing and giving dating advice, she married and decided to have a child, but instead discovered a tumor that would wreak havoc on her body and send her into six years of fertility treatments. “I’ve been a little bit pregnant for six years, and it’s not fun,” she explains. She recently launched a website called Pregnantish aimed at people of any gender who feel “a little bit pregnant”: those undergoing IVF, seeking surrogates, donating sperm, freezing their eggs, and waiting by the phone for daily updates on cellular growth in a petri dish. She visited New York Magazine’s Sex Lives podcast to explain how she went from writing books like It’s Okay to Sleep With Him on the First Date to injecting hormone shots on airplanes while praying for a baby.
This is a partial transcript of New York Magazine’s Sex Lives podcast, edited for clarity and length.
What does “Pregnantish” mean?
I think it’s a myth that you can’t be “a little bit pregnant,” because I’ve been a little bit pregnant for about six years, and it’s not fun. So basically what it means is, for the millions of people who are going through infertility or fertility challenges, when you’re undergoing treatment your body is jacked up on hormones, you actually sometimes are told by the doctor, especially when you have an embryo put in you, literally during an IVF process, you’re told, ‘Remember, you might be pregnant, so don’t drink, don’t work out. Don’t overexert yourself so your body.’ So you’re a little bit pregnant.
It sounds like you’re interacting with your body in a way that’s perpetually anticipating pregnancy?
Absolutely. Plus you’re on PMS-times-1,000 because you’re super hormonal. So [the website] Pregnantish was born from this world that I’ve unfortunately been in for a few years.
When did you decide that you wanted to have a kid?
I didn’t even know that I wanted to get married, let alone have a kid, until a few years ago. But then, once the instinct kicked in, I became that annoying person showing everybody my niece’s photo when they didn’t care, and I thought, Oh yeah, I guess sometimes babies are cool. I didn’t know that I had that in me. And then, sometimes it really crystallizes for people when they’re trying — even trying-not-trying — and it’s not happening.
By “trying-not trying,” you mean having unprotected sex and just seeing if it happens?
Going off the pill, and [being] like, “If it happens, great!”
How long were you on the pill?
Oh my gosh, I was on since I was 15. I actually had issues as a teenager, and that’s why they put me on the pill. I had endometriosis and there were other things going on. When I got off, I joked with my husband — in my case, I had an easy transition, and we just kind of thought it might happen. And then I went to the doctor and she said, “Oh my god, you have a massive tumor.” And that’s what kicked off this journey: I had a really large fibroid. I produce too much estrogen, which would be TMI if we weren’t talking about this —
Not on this show, right? So I produce a lot of estrogen. Ironically, that makes me feel super womanly, but it’s really sucky for fertility. Because I have all these fibroid tumors, I had to have open stomach surgery to remove it. That created scar tissue. That created secondary issues. And that’s why I’m here today.
How does fertility treatment affect your actual sex life?
Seriously, there’s nothing sexy about saying, “Get in here, I’m ovulating!” When you’re in your head and stressed, sex ain’t fun.
Does your husband react to being in his head, or to sex just being different when it’s for baby-making?
As much as women go through craziness with the shots and the pills and the appointments, men have to basically jerk off on command at a fertility clinic, to really bad pornography. So I’m always like, BYOP: Bring your own porn, because the selection there is ridiculous.
It must be the only place in America where you still see porn on pieces of paper, a fertility clinic.
I’ve always wanted to know how they curate it, because it’s usually really bad. With my husband I’m always saying, ‘Put it on your iPad.’ Because he’ll say, ‘Who picked this?’ And the lighting is awful. And they give you this tiny little cup. He actually asked the receptionist, ‘You know, I’m not trying to, like, show off my manhood here, but do you have a bigger cup?’ And she said, ‘No. We used to have bigger cups but some men said it made them feel self-conscious.’
[Laughs] So, yeah, it’s not fun. And, as much as I can find the humor in it, it’s also really painful sometimes for women to go through an egg retrieval. There might cramping, they might be dazed on drugs. And the man’s basically just masturbated to porn. So they’re in very different moods.
When people tell me about in-vitro fertilization, I always think about the lab technician who shoved the little sperm in. That guy chose! Or that girl.
It’s so bizarre when you think about all of these things.