Self-care is not optional.
Twenty-eight months ago my husband and I began trying to make our own little human.
There's a lot of excitement, curiosity and questioning when you start trying to conceive with your partner.
Most people don't take so long to get pregnant. I've watched countless friends pop out multiple kids in the last two and a half years while we've been unable to create one.
Saying that, even six months ago, was somewhat painful. Now, however, I see it in a different, softer light, one that allows me to look at our journey with loving, compassionate eyes.
That's something I think we all deserve.
Since I've been speaking more openly about our experience, a lot of people have asked me for advice on how to navigate the path to parenthood. (I even wrote a book about it, called The Two Week Wait Challenge: A Sassy Girl's Guide to Surviving the TWW.) I first hesitated to answer these questions, concerned I'd become just another person in the TTC community with an impassioned but totally biased opinion. This is mostly because I'm not an expert in this area. I'm just a chick who speaks freely with good intentions. But I've learned a lot in my journey, and I'm happy to share.
Here are my 5 favorite strategies that can help anyone trying to conceive (even in the very beginning).
Don't trust everything you read on the internet.
Write this down on Post-it notes and slap it up everywhere you find yourself stopping to think about the what-ifs. When you're beginning your journey toward parenthood it's very easy to find and swallow obscene amounts of information online. Don't get me wrong—some of it will be good. But the rest will likely serve as a confusion cocktail so potent and paralyzing you won't follow through with anything consistently. Yes, you will inevitably have questions that need to be answered. That's normal. But you can't assume the same type of “just Google it" mentality we carry in this century.
Trust your doctor (or team of doctors).
They will have worked with countless couples who are trying to conceive and will be able to give you the best information possible. They'll tell you whether eating pineapple cores or pomegranates will help your fertility, and they have a level of expertise that many people you'll encounter online don't.
If you're worried about drinking after ovulation, ask your doctor.
If you're wondering what types of foods will help you consistently ovulate, ask.
If you want to know whether wearing yoga pants will restrict blood flow to your nether regions, then please, please, please don't head to a forum for answers.
In the end, there will still be little choices you make along the way that won't be something you've asked about. The easiest way to navigate these situations, in my experience, has been to ask myself a simple question:
Will I regret this decision later if we don't get the results we're hoping for?
If I don't know the answer intuitively, I ask my darn doctor.
Remember, you're going to feel anxious.
When we started trying for a baby, my biggest concern was my parenting ability. I overanalyzed all my personality traits, wondering whether they would be beneficial to my offspring. It didn't take long to start questioning whether we were doing everything right, wondering why we hadn't gotten pregnant... wondering if this would be harder than I wanted it to be.
There are a lot of reasons you're going to feel anxious while trying for a baby, so don't be so hard on yourself when you start to feel the stress associated with this stage of parenthood.
Hello, it's a massive responsibility.
Instead of thinking that you shouldn't feel something (read: anxiety), allow yourself to feel it, remind yourself it's normal and then continue on.
If you shut down a feeling before you're able to process it, it shows up more often and does more damage than if you actually allow in the discomfort the first time it surfaces. There is nothing wrong with fear, but there is something wrong with letting it run your life.
Which leads me to my third point:
You are doing okay.
No matter how you're feeling, no matter what bad food or lazy day you had last weekend, it isn't going to wreck your chances (or your life, for that matter).
Please, please, please be kind to yourself through the journey.
Be logical about how damaging it is to beat yourself up for every little thing. If you're already stressed, and then you stress about being stressed, you're certainly not lessening the pain. Feel, breathe, repeat.
If and when it gets really bad, remind yourself of the millions of women who have been there and know how it feels. Summon their courage and keep on living, mama. You're doing okay. You've got this.
Bond with your partner (and determine how much you're willing to share).
There are parts of trying to conceive that can feel really alienating, especially for women. If you're tracking your temperature or testing for ovulation, those are things your partner likely doesn't participate in with you. Each and every day you're keeping track of all these things to increase your odds. You spend a lot more time trying than your partner does. This can foster resentment and animosity, but it doesn't have to.
Your partner and your life are about to change completely, so your goal while you're trying to conceive should be to make sure you stay connected, clear on what you want and confident in your love.
Dedicating time to your relationship will ensure you have a strong partnership for parenthood.
Self-care isn't an option, it's a necessity in every person's life. And it's not hard. As long as you're spending at least 15 minutes a day countering the things that stress you out, you're doing a stellar job. Self-care can be as simple as going for a walk, meditating or taking a bath.
I promise it's not hard.
One of the ways I take care of myself is by using an affirmation each day that helps me pay attention to something positive in life. Every morning I read the affirmation and think about it for several minutes. Throughout the day, I look for signs of the message surfacing without me having to do anything but notice.
Here are 4 of my favorite affirmations:
I adore life's joys.
(Because they are there, even when we're not sure we can see them.)
I can confidently nurture a baby.
I love new beginnings and the opportunity to change.
(This is will be a necessary belief from now until your kids are grown.)
I welcome each stage of my life and know it brings the opportunity to grow.
Ladies, you can do this. I promise. No matter how long it takes, no matter how hard it feels, there will be a moment in the future when you realize why you needed the time you did before becoming a parent.