Anxiety + getting pregnant: 7 strategies for coping with the unknown

The uncertainty of trying to get pregnant won’t last forever. 

Anxiety + getting pregnant: 7 strategies for coping with the unknown

Many people are caught by surprise when they plan to have a baby... and it doesn’t happen.

Often, everything else in life has gone more or less as planned, and this is the first time they’ve faced a major road block. With lots of other things, a person can work hard and expect a given result—graduating with a certain degree, which leads to a specific job, for example. But then a person finds that the harder she tries to conceive, the more it doesn’t happen, which is incredibly frustrating.

I’ve been leading a support group for women going through the experience of infertility for 8 years. I’ve learned many helpful ways couples cope.

Be gentle with yourself.

Struggling with your fertility is hard. Really hard.

So this is a good time to focus on self-care. It might mean letting yourself cry if you are disappointed to get your period. It might mean getting more rest or downtime, journaling or treating yourself to something in which you wouldn’t normally indulge. You get a pass on going to baby showers if they’re too stressful.

People may or may not understand, but you can explain in a carefully worded fashion that you are happy for the other person, but because of your sadness over your own situation you simply can’t attend baby-focused events right now. You also get a pass on your emotional reactions to others’ pregnancies.

Almost every woman I’ve ever worked with has asked, “Does it make me an awful person that I got upset when I heard she was pregnant?”

Of course not. It makes you human. You had a reaction that gives you feedback about how much you long to become pregnant.

Nurture your marriage.

Trying to get pregnant, especially if it’s a struggle, is hard on a marriage.

Men can start to feel that “You don’t really want me, you just want my sperm.” Having to perform on cue can take the romance and fun out of sex.

Try to remember the things that you most enjoy as a couple, and do them. It’s wonderful if you can share with each other how you’re feeling throughout the experience, but it’s also important to talk about things that aren’t baby related. You each are going to process and respond to every step along the way differently, and that’s okay. Take away the pressure of thinking that you both have to feel exactly the same way.

Share with others, but choose wisely.

Sharing with others is a personal decision, and what’s right for one may not be right for another.

Some people know that they do better with having others to talk to. Sharing often leads to a revelation that the other person has struggled with fertility, too. Other people are more private. Honor what feels right to you. You can also choose how much to share.

You can say that you are having a hard time conceiving, but not share the details of every test and procedure done, essentially saying, “We’ll let you know when we have good news to share.” (Otherwise, you might find yourself saying, as one woman did in my group, “It feels really strange to have my father-in-law ask me if I got my period yet!”)

You might also want to share this article in order to cut down on responses that are well intentioned but hurtful. Give people clear guidelines about what you would like from them.

Consider joining a support group.

Women who come to group frequently mention that others in their lives just don’t “get it” and there is a huge comfort in talking with other women who are on the same journey. Not only do they understand the emotional stress and strain, but they also understand the medical terminology and procedures. Friendships that last well beyond the experience of infertility are often formed because of having gone through such an intense thing together.

Learn what you can from the experience.

This may seem a bit on the Pollyanna side, but I believe whenever you are in a hard situation, it makes sense to ask yourself what lessons you can extract from the experience that will help you down the road.

Loss, disappointment and coping with the unknown are, for better or for worse, woven into all of our lives. If you can learn what strategies are helpful for you, you come out a better person because of what you’ve been through. One woman said she felt that she was a better mother because of her infertility experience. Another said that she’s learned to cut others slack, because she has no idea what difficult thing might be going on in someone else’s life.

Consider what grounds you and makes you sane, and do it.

Relaxation exercises and meditation can be enormously helpful.

Maybe you enjoy acupuncture or feel your best when you go to church or pray. It could be as simple as taking a walk outside in nature, getting into an exercise routine or taking part in a hobby or activity you love. It doesn’t matter what it is. What matters is that it helps you feel calmer and better, and that you do it regularly.

Remind yourself that this is a time-limited experience.

I have yet to have anyone 85 years old still coming to group! Eventually, you will come to your resolution. You will become pregnant, adopt, use a surrogate, or embrace living child free. This particular part—the agony of wondering if, when and how you will become pregnant—is awful, but it will not last forever.

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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