Do you ever feel like you’re going a bit mad? You know, that sense of not being in full control of your emotions, up and down like a yo-yo, not sure if what you’re feeling is really you, or if your hormones have taken over? Yep, right there with ya. After more than a year of trying to conceive, you’d think I would have got used to it by now. The waiting, anticipating, getting-hopes-up-but-trying-not-to-get-too-excited, followed by chronic disappointment, tears of devastation, depths of despair.
Anyone trying to conceive who has an even slightly irregular cycle will no doubt be familiar with the pattern. I expected to be more on top of it by now, for Project Baby to have become something that is happening a bit more in the background (rather than something I think about every, single, day). Trouble is, becoming a mummy is something I have always wanted, possibly more than anything else. How’s that for pressure?? So there has been this huge, subconscious weight of expectation since the day we started trying, and my head has been spinning ever since.
At some point last year I’d had enough and felt I needed to do something to manage the anxiety. (Quite possibly it is contributing to our inability to conceive.) I started introducing some changes into my life, trying different things to see what works.
I’d like to share them with you so you can try them too, if you like, or share your own tips for coping with what can be an immensely stressful process. Everyone is different – these are the things that work for me. I encourage anyone to keep an open mind and try things until you find what works for you. Some things on my list probably warrant a post in their own right, and at some point I’ll go into more depth. But for now, here goes:
- Get your yoga on. A good friend tipped me off about Yoga With Adriene – a Texan yogi offering tons of videos you can do in your own home. Adriene’s blend of authenticity, mindfulness and vinyasa flow yoga suits me down to the ground, and I now practice two or three times a week, or as often as I can. You can easily find a routine to suit your mood and the amount of time you have. I like to choose a shorter session to restore calm in the evening after work and save the longer routines for more leisurely practice at the weekend.
- Eat right. There are many, many sites out there offering advice for fertility diets. When I hit a low this is typically something I start searching (think: “foods that prevent/boost conception”). After too much searching, and suffering from information overload, I’ve decided to take a more pragmatic approach. I absolutely love Deliciously Ella’s philosophy of eating what makes you feel good, so that’s what I’m trying to do. I switched to whole grains (brown rice, wholewheat pasta), eat plenty of fruit and veg, gave up refined sugar and started meal planning. Now we buy the food we need for our meals for the week: 3 x chicken dishes, 2 x veg, 1 x red meat, and Sunday is Fun-day. Lots of eggs, avocado and whole grain bread for lunches. Not only do I feel a lot healthier but we’re wasting a lot less food as well. Along with the usual prenatal vitamin mix, the one piece of fertility food advice I am seriously following is to try to boost the amount of Omega-3 in my diet, an area I struggle with as my husband point blank refuses to eat fish. For me it makes sense because of the role Omega-3 plays in balancing hormones – something I’m pretty sure needs a helping hand in my case.
- Move more. Exercise – not too much – we all know exercising too much is bad for fertility, right? But my thinking is, exercise helps improve circulation, gets your metabolism going and endorphins make you feel good. So a little bit has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?? Right now I’m running for 30 minutes 2-3 times a week, trying to get to a zumba class when I can, and generally walking more by getting off the tube a couple of stops earlier, that kind of thing. This is the one I find hardest to stick to, especially when the wind is howling outside! But I’m already sleeping better and have more energy so I’m determined to stick with it.
- Surrender your subconcious. I had reached my wit’s end in February when I saw a good friend of mine. “Have you thought about trying hypnotherapy?” she said. Well, sort of, was the answer. As it happens, she was the second friend to say how helpful they had found it for dealing with anxiety. She recommended I look up Maggie Howell – she had listened to one of the birthing tracks while pregnant and credits it with making her labour a significantly less stressful experience. Maggie has a track designed for people trying to conceive, and at £10 I felt I had nothing to lose, so I paid up and gave it a go. Hands down, this is the thing that is helping me the most, and I wish I had found it sooner. I try to listen to the track a couple of times a week now, particularly if I’ve had a stressful day at work, or I’m about to see friends with children (always a bittersweet experience these days). I still have my ups and downs, but after a few weeks they are feeling much less pronounced and I am noticeably calmer.
- Book some regular ‘me’ time. I haven’t fully figured out what this means for me yet. For the past few weeks I’ve been visiting Gemma’s Holisitc Therapies, my lovely local reflexologist. I immediately clicked with Gemma the first time I met her, she is very down to earth and non judgemental. At my first visit she stressed that reflexology is not a way to diagnose or cure problems, although I am seeing her with fertility treatment in mind. I find it fascinating how much she is able to read through the soles of my feet, but for me it is mainly about spending one hour a week relaxing, not running around, not worrying. That in itself has to have some benefits. I’m not sure how sustainable this one will be, as it’s not exactly cheap, and I realise I’m lucky to be in a position to try it for now.
And that’s it! Will it work? Who knows. In the meantime, all these things are distracting me from the problem in hand, and I’m becoming happier, healthier and less stressed as a result. As a combination I’ve been following this list consistently for about a month now, so we’ll see what it brings. If you have any tips to share I’d love to hear them. Fingers crossed for anyone in the same boat.