By Kate Potvin, Fertility Coach & Certified Holistic Health Coach
The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult your doctor, or a mental health professional, for the most appropriate treatment.
The fertility journey can feel like one big, long waiting game. You wait for ovulation, you wait to feel signs or symptoms of early pregnancy, you wait for your expected period (or a positive pregnancy test), you wait for appointments at the doctor’s office or fertility clinic, and so on.
All of this waiting makes it easy to feel like your life is on hold, especially when you’re so focused on everything that has to do with your fertility. This can take a toll on your emotional and mental health.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help manage these feelings. You can’t make the waiting go away completely, but you can do things to make it more bearable.
1. Keep living life
This one may sound obvious, but it can be more challenging than you’d think when you’re on the waiting rollercoaster. You may find yourself staying home waiting for a call from your healthcare provider instead of going out with friends. You might stop planning things, thinking you might be pregnant, or in the middle of an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle, and it just feels easier to not make plans.
Instead, it’s important to keep up your normal patterns and routines. This will lend a sense of normalcy to a time when things feel really up in the air. Always consult your healthcare provider about how much activity might be too much (or too little) but try to mostly keep things “as usual” if possible. When we feel like the rest of our lives are normal, we often feel more in control of this unpredictable trying to conceive (TTC) process.
2. Find someone you can talk to
The fertility journey can be a tough time, and having someone you can talk to about all the ups and downs is essential. All you may need is one person who can listen to you without judgment or interruption.
This can be a friend or family member if you have someone like this in your life. And if you don’t, or if you want or need additional support, find a fertility coach or mental health specialist who is trained to hold space for all your feelings. You can also find a support group with other people going through the same thing.
The bottom line is to find a safe space and an open ear. We’re not made to do this alone, so make sure you have support.
3. Make time for joy and pleasure
When you’re stressed and waiting for things to happen in your fertility journey, it can be easy to let fun things fall by the wayside. But this is the time you need your fun, hobbies, and interests the most.
Try to carve out 30 minutes a day to do something that brings you joy. Get out the guitar you used to play, start knitting again, or get a good book from the library. Whatever brings you pleasure and enjoyment can help distract you from all the waiting, and at the same time fill your cup. Making sure you’re taking care of you is essential during this time.
4. Go on a date
Baby-making usually starts out fun, but if it goes on too long or you meet any challenges, it can become stressful. It might start to put a strain on even the strongest relationships. That’s why it’s important to really nurture your relationship while TTC.
Try to schedule a fun date night at least once a month doing something you both enjoy. Keep the baby talk to a minimum, and instead talk about other things going on in your lives. It will help remind you of the other things you have in common—and the fact that you have more going on than just waiting for a baby.
When we carve out time to connect with our partners, it can help us build intimacy and feel more supported throughout the process.
5. Manage your stress
The stress can be real during your fertility journey, especially during the 2-week wait (TWW). And feeling like there’s “nothing to do” when you’re just waiting can be even more stressful. Usually, at the beginning of your cycle, especially if you’re in fertility treatment, you’re doing blood tests, ultrasounds, and possibly taking medications on a regular basis. This can feel like you’re actively “doing” things and allows you to feel slightly more in control. The second half is, as noted, more focused on waiting. It’s important during that time to manage stress throughout the process and try not to focus on those all-too-familiar internet searches, like “signs of pregnancy” or “symptoms of early pregnancy.”
This looks different for everyone, so you may have to experiment a little before you figure out what techniques work best for you. Maybe that’s going for a walk in nature after work, or meditating for 15 minutes in the morning. Maybe it’s a bubble bath before bed, or going to your favorite yoga class. Perhaps it’s listening to your favorite music and taking some deep breaths, or even dancing around the house. Whatever works for you, and helps you unwind and destress, will be essential for helping you get through the fertility journey.
6. Have something to look forward to
When we feel like life is on hold, it can be hard to look forward and make plans. But having something (non-baby related) to look forward to can really help when we’re feeling stuck and lost in the fertility process.
Plan a girls’ night with your friends or a vacation with your partner. Schedule a spa day for next month and put it on your calendar. Studies show that anticipating positive events helps us cope better with stress, so try to create an event coming up that you can look forward to.
Always try to have something on your calendar that gets you excited and remember that you can always reschedule or cancel things if you’re not up for it, if the timing doesn’t work out with your egg retrieval, or if you do get pregnant. But in the meantime, the mental benefits of looking forward to something will help you manage the wait.
7. Stay focused on the present and take it one step at a time
The other thing that’s easy to do when we don’t know what’s around the next bend is planning out all the possible outcomes.
We spin out scenarios of “What will happen if the test results are positive?”, “What if they’re negative?”, “Should I take an early at-home pregnancy test just to see?”, and then we try to plan out the next steps we’ll take. This spiral gets stressful really fast.
It totally makes sense that we want to know what’s coming and try to plan and prepare. The thing is, there’s no way we can plan for every situation and outcome, and we may feel and do very different things in reality than what we expected. But staying focused on the here and now and letting go of all the “what ifs” can help us relieve some of that stress and anxiety about the unknown future.
So, next time you find yourself worrying about your fertility journey 5 steps from now, come back to this moment and try to focus only on what you’re dealing with right now. When you know what comes next, you can think about and address your options.
8. Keep up with your social life
It can be easy to start to isolate when you’ve been on a long journey through infertility or struggling to conceive. Maybe you feel like your friends and family just don’t get it, or you’re not ready to tell anyone you’re going through this, especially if it’s your first time or round of treatments. Plus, it can feel easier to sit at home than make plans when you don’t know where you’ll be in your fertility process.
Keeping up with friends helps us have something to look forward to, and having social support can be so important during this time. You don’t have to tell friends about what you’re going through if you don’t want to, but sometimes sharing does help relieve some of that burden that you’re carrying—if and when you’re comfortable enough to do so. Regardless, doing something as simple as joining a bowling club or going to trivia night and interacting with other people may help you manage your stress and make you feel less alone.
9. Journal about your fears and hopes
There can be a lot of feelings on a fertility journey, and bottling them up rarely helps. When you feel particularly stuck, or if the waiting seems unbearable, get out your journal and write it out.
Write your frustrations, your fears, your hopes—get it all out on paper. Sometimes just having an outlet for all your feelings helps clear them and can help you process what you’re going through as well.
Just releasing all those feelings can feel like a weight has been lifted, so try to spend 20 minutes every now and then and get it all off your chest.
10. Remember that fertility is a process
Yes, we all wish it was a one-and-done situation. But the truth is that for many, fertility is a process, and processes take time. Think about your own fertility process as a journey—there usually comes a point in any journey where things get hard. You encounter a snowstorm, the car breaks down, you feel like you’ll never make it to your destination.
Most of the time on long journeys, we do make it to the destination. It can take way longer than we think and it may look very different than we planned for. Sometimes the destination itself is even different than we imagine, but we always land somewhere. Until then, buckle up, do the things listed above, and trust you’ll find your way.
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