The Journey to Conceive

My husband and I recently announced our second pregnancy! We were so blessed to tell our families and friends on our daughters first birthday, sharing the joy of the milestone and the joy of our pregnancy all together.

But, for anyone who has been through the season of ‘trying’, you know that the days, weeks, and months before the exciting announcement are not all joy filled.

Although we didn’t try to conceive our first child (a happy surprise!) we weren’t fear-free when we decided to try for our second: I have endometriosis, a reproductive disease that cause difficulty conceiving. So even though we had the blessing of having one child already, I couldn’t help but wonder if she would be our only, if she was a miracle, if we would be able to conceive again.

And I know I’m not alone in this. Even if you have no known reproductive issues, trying to conceive is scary! It’s like the minute you and your partner decide to begin trying, the fear and the pressure begin to rise. And after the first month, maybe two months of no success – the internal questions come… What if something is wrong? What if this takes us years? What if this won’t happen for us?

I understand. I’ve been there. But more importantly, my dear friend Alisa has been and is there. So if you’re still on the journey, or have a friend on the journey, please: read her words.

Words for those who are trying to conceive, from a friend in the battle of infertility:

I don’t pretend to be an expert. I am not a doctor or mental health professional. But I know the feeling of getting bfn’s (big fat negatives) month after month. I know what it is like to ache and have a hole in your heart and life for a deeply desired baby. I am still on my ttc (trying to conceive) journey so this isn’t a ‘get pregnant miracle post’, but just what has helped me stay sane in the process. None of this will be new; Google can quickly lead you to thousands of blog posts that are similar. But maybe my words will still help someone in their journey, or give perspective to those on the outside.

First, it has been helpful for me to view my ttc (trying to conceive) journey as a pre-pregnancy pregnancy. We give our bodies and minds nine months to prepare for baby to arrive, but there is often preparation necessary for pregnancy, both physically and mentally. So this time, stuck waiting for that bfp (big fat positive) can be used as preparation.

Physically find ways to move your body. Maybe you are already active but if you aren’t, consider adding some basic activity into your regular life. I don’t mean strictly regimented work out plans (though go for it if that’s your thing) I mean getting out for a nice walk or taking up yoga. Find a way to move that you love and find happiness in. Think of things you could maintain throughout pregnancy and postpartum and built those habits now.

Mentally, evaluate your current self talk. What kind of messages do you give yourself on a daily basis? I’m not saying we can think positive and get pregnant magically, I’m simply saying if we don’t come to a place of deep love and acceptance for our bodies, dealing with infertility may push us over an edge. Our bodies are put on earth to house our souls, as instruments for us to go about life. As women, if our reproductive systems aren’t functioning as we want them to, we can very quickly doubt our value to this world. Make an effort to slowly change and retrain your self talk. Finding some positive things you believe about yourself and coming back to those when doubt or self hatred rings in your mind. This may take a long time so don’t feel guilty if you cant change those thoughts right away, just keep working on it.

Second, the ttc journey is a partnership. You are not alone in this, your husband is hopefully an equal partner. There is two parts to this: emotional support and physical support (sex).

For many months I kept my sadness around our waiting period a secret. I would not tell my husband when I got negative tests or wasn’t ovulating properly. I didn’t want to bring him down or disappoint him. But when I started to open up about my fears and hurt, I realized he had the same feelings. It brought us even closer. By sharing with him, I allowed him to support me through the journey. Let your husbands know what you are going through and also how they can best support you. Sometimes they don’t know how but they want to help. Something that helped me was dreaming about our baby and talking as if I was already pregnant, picking out names, talking about how we would raise our baby together. My husband was more than willing once I told him that this helped. There were also many nights where I asked him to just hold me as I cried. For better or worse, we are on the ttc journey with our partners so try to make it a positive journey for your relationship, not a negative one.

Now let’s talk about sex. This might seem opposite to the last paragraph but I hope you can hear how it is different. I chose not to share with my husband specific ovulation information until after I had ovulated. I never came home and told my husband that he had to have sex with me. If something didn’t happen organically, I would leave it. Turning our relationships with our husbands into sex transactions isn’t healthy. It takes the fun out of sex and can make our husbands feel used. We instead focus on spending more quality time together, being intimate in other ways, and the sex came naturally. We started having more sex but it wasn’t forced. Just part of getting closer to each other. Also don’t waste your time trying to worry about the “right position” and just have fun. Try to keep it exciting and enjoy this extra time with your partner!

Third, try to trust your body. Sometimes in the ttc journey we start to chart and track our cycles, taking temperatures and using ovulation test kits. None of these things are necessary bad. But obsessing over them and tying your self worth to them can become unhealthy. If you choose to track these things try to hold them loosely. Know that they are not 100%. A long cycle doesn’t necessary mean you can’t get pregnant, no positive ovulation kits doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t ovulate, or lack of sex around the “right time” doesn’t necessary mean this cycle is a write off. Just do all you can and leave the rest up to God.

Also trust your body if something feels wrong. Don’t be afraid to go to your doctor if things don’t seem right. You will likely have to wait a year for a referral to a fertility clinic, but a good physical and conversation with your doctor can help give you some peace. In my case I had very irregular cycles and after only three months of ttc I went to the doctor and had an ultrasound. At that time I was diagnosed with PCOS. Something was wrong. Your doctor may do a physical and just say you have to keep trying, but at least you have done all you can to make sure things are okay.

Fourth, try not to become a pregnancy test addict. This is easier said than done, but try to wait until you are late before testing. Every single early pregnancy symptom, can be a symptom of your period. So try to use all your self control to not test. It will save you lots of money, but also it can keep the hope alive a little longer. A negative pregnancy test can be one of the most depressing moments in this journey. Each one feels a bit like a small death you have to mourn. It is hard. No point going through it multiple times a cycle, especially if the same feelings of defeat are there when your period comes. (Side note here, if your period are irregular sometimes you have to take more tests and that’s okay. My cycles are crazy long (up to 96 days) so I wait until day 30 and then test weekly after that, same day of the week every week. It works for me)

Fifth, find what works for you. There are hundreds of different tips or tricks and it can be so overwhelming. Everyone you tell will have some other miracle story or advice for you. Don’t be afraid to ignore it all. Find what works for you and your partner and don’t feel guilty or ashamed for those choices. The two of you are the only ones on the journey. Others you allow in are there to support only. You know your body and relationship best! Take a break for a month if you need to. Give yourself permission to pull back from some relationships or activities. Protect yourself and find a tribe where you can be honest and safe. It is so helpful to have a friend or two who know what is going on and can support you well.

Finally, please don’t give up hope. I joke that you feel every emotion multiple times per cycle. Allow yourself to feel the pain and sadness and disappointment. And then try to find a small bit of hope and keep going. Change your language from “I want to get pregnant or have a baby” to “I am in the process of getting pregnant or having a baby”. You are on the journey already even if you haven’t gotten those two pink lines. Meditate on being fertile and finding gratitude for ways you already experience motherhood. Instead of feeling angry that everyone else is pregnant, instead remind yourself that most people do get pregnant (sometimes it seems like everyone around your is pregnant while you are ttc!) and that your turn will come. Don’t be afraid to dream about your baby and the future. Sometimes it’s the best way to find hope.

If you and your partner are on this journey you can find some hope in knowing you aren’t alone. Your are whole and worthy of parenthood. I have written this anonymously as my journey is not yet public to all but if you are struggling with ttc and need someone to talk to please ask for my contact information from Brittany. I would love to be on your team and help walk alongside you. Baby dust to you all!!

P.S. If you got this far and you aren’t ttc, but instead supporting a friend on their journey a few notes: Ask your friends if they are okay to talk about their journey before bringing it up. Don’t give unsolicited advice. If someone opens up about their journey it is unlikely they want your tips, they probably just want someone to listen. Listen well but don’t be afraid to check in. The texts I get saying that someone is praying for me or thinking about me are so encouraging. Give your friends permission for all their emotions (anger, jealousy, fear) and just love them the best you can.

I am so grateful to my sweet friend for guest posting, and for her support when TJ and I were ttc. Even though it only took us 3 months, Alisa was so supportive and never minimized my fears in comparison to her longer journey. I am so grateful for that. You can find Alisa online here and follow her journey with PCOS and her love for yoga and crocheting.

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