My best friend’s wedding was scheduled 10 months after my husband and I decided to start trying to get pregnant. I remember worrying that by the time her wedding rolled around, my bridesmaid’s dress would no longer fit over my perfect, pregnant belly. I worried I might not even be able to fly to the wedding because what if I was in my third trimester or on bedrest or something. Yes, I spent many hours actively worrying about something that hadn’t happened and wasn’t yet a problem (Welcome to my life).
In hindsight, it’s hilarious that I feared this, since it’d take me an additional TWO YEARS after her wedding date to see those two magical pink lines appear, but I didn’t know it at the time.
I just remember being nervous about the dress. The travel. The logistics of potentially being pregnant during something important that I cared a lot about.
That anxiety stuck around and was a common theme throughout the three years spent trying to conceive. Every vacation. Every job change. Every splurge. In the back of mind, I was always scared we’d have to cancel something or be out some deposit because…what if I was finally, finally pregnant for real?
That’s because I have what some people call a “Type A” personality. What do I mean when I say “Type A?” Per Wikipedia, Type A people are ambitious, rigidly organized, impatient and anxious. I’ve been Type A from the day I was born. My mom loves telling stories about how as a child I’d neurotically line up all my paper dolls or stuffed animals in a neat, perfect row, finding almost more pleasure in setting up my play than the actual playing.
I am someone who loves punctuality, planning, lots of advance notice and alphabetized record collections.
That’s why going through infertility was pretty much my own personal hell. You see, when you’re struggling to get pregnant, NOTHING is controlled. NOTHING is in order. There is no immediacy. No time table. No organization and no promises. You cannot out-run, out-work or out-study infertility. It’s total chaos and the ultimate test for anyone with the faintest preference for a closet organized by color (me). Infertility doesn’t care if you love structure. It doesn’t care if you want to plan out your whole year by January 2.
And while infertility is hard for pretty much everyone going through it, I think it’s especially hard for Type A people who love structure and plans.
So what can you do if you’re trying to conceive while having a Type A personality? Unfortunately changing your entire personality isn’t really a quick and easy option. But here are a few other things to remember and consider that helped me gain much-needed perspective when I was feeling frustrated, anxious and completely out of control.
- “Allow it” – You cannot control your husband’s sperm count or your AMH. You can’t will your period into existence. This is the unique torture of infertility and it’s why the best thing you can do is take a deep breath and simply “allow it.” While it’s ok (and smart) to do research, ask questions and do your due diligence, it’s also not something you should try to over-manage. Making peace with the reality that you cannot control this experience will save you a lot of anger and anxiety later on. The hard truth is that we all have little control over what happens to us. And while it’s nice to believe that if you work hard and try your best at something, you’ll be rewarded, it’s just not the case with many things in life, including infertility.
- Focus on what you CAN control. While you can’t control you or your partner’s test results, there are a few things that you CAN in fact control. You can control who you spend your time with: are your friends and loved ones making you feel more at peace or more stressed? You can control what you eat. You can control how much and how you move. You can control what type of media you’re consuming: are you listening to helpful and inspiring stories / movies / books / podcasts or are you making yourself more anxious?
- Find ways to relax. I know, I know. Telling an anxious person to relax is downright comical…but there ARE some concrete things you can do to try and slow down your fight or flight response. Acupuncture, meditation and fertility yoga are all awesome ways to teach your body how to unclench and slow down. Find what works for you and integrate those practices into your daily life. Whether it’s walking the dog, knitting, swimming or journaling, find things that make your heart happy and force you to slow down.
- Never ever Google. Especially after 8pm. Do you have questions about trying to conceive? Of course you do. Be sure to ask your doctor or nurse those questions. I have such mixed feelings about using the Internet during vulnerable, emotional, confusing times. On the one hand, it’s helped me connect to a lot of kickass women and given me lots of support and advice. On the other hand, it’s also been a huge source of anxiety. “NEVER eat gluten if you’re really serious about getting pregnant.” “ALWAYS do this other annoying thing.” It’s just filled with advice from people who don’t really know what they’re talking about. I wish I had laid off the Googling….I wish I had written down all my questions (as neurotic or silly or stupid as they might have seemed) and asked my doctor. This would have saved me a lot of stress…a lot of tears…a lot of late nights huddled around the warm glow of my computer screen.
- Find your people. Infertility is not something anyone should go through alone. In fact, isolation and shame can make your feelings even tougher to process. So while you may not be up for telling friends or family, there ARE people who have been in your shoes who can help. Services like Fruitful are excellent ways to get connected with people who have been in your shoes. If you’re looking for a local, in-person, support group check out Resolve or consider joining a Facebook group or online community that feels safe and at your speed.
Do you have a Type A personality, too? How do you find ways to self-soothe and slow down while dealing with infertility?