When You’re Trying to Conceive, It’s Not as Easy as “Just Relax”

Originally posted June 28, 2015 on Merely Mothers (now Evie & Sarah)

If you’re looking to get slapped upside the head, there’s no faster way than telling a woman who’s been unsuccessfully trying to conceive, “Maybe you just need to relax.” First off, the stress of TTC isn’t usually directly related to the act of conception. Though sitting in the stirrups or bedding down at the precise moment your ovulation predictor kit flashes that annoying little smiley face may not be the most exciting or enjoyable way to make babies, it’s not the main cause of stress.

The stress of trying to conceive comes from other sources. It’s from watching your savings dwindle down to nothing. It’s having to take days off work and not being able to tell your students or coworkers or bosses why you’re falling behind. It’s from worrying whether getting too hot running around with the kids on field day or drinking one cold beer mid-cycle was the reason you’re staring down another stark negative. It’s from being relaxed, and positive, and hopeful  for weeks at a time only to face disappointment month after month.

Speaking for myself, I wasn’t a stressed out person before I began this journey, or at least any more than anyone else. This journey has caused additional stress. And like most people TTC, I’m doing my best to deal with it, but there’s no magic stress zapper. Relaxing requires time, patience, and support. Specifically what’s worked to keep me on the side of sanity during my TTC journey has been music, meditation, and amazing friends.

Sing me a song

Music has always had the ability to affect my mood like nothing else can. I’m a sucker for sappy lyrics; I have a long list of songs I can’t hear without bawling, which can be embarrassing when one starts playing in the produce aisle. On the flipside, an upbeat tune can instantly improve my mood. So when I went in for my first IUI, I made myself a playlist of songs that give me hope, make me smile, or turn me into a happy, dancing fool. I listen to it on the drive into the clinic each month and anytime in between when I feel my anxiety spiking. Having my own private dance party in the kitchen or the car helps ease the nerves, and considering I dance even worse than your average short, chubby white girl, it also gives me a much needed opportunity to laugh at myself! You can check out my playlist here.

Deep breaths and downward dogs

I’ve never been able to cross my legs, close my eyes, and meditate on my own. When I’ve tried in the past, my mind has wandered or I’ve fallen asleep. But I have always loved the short, guided meditations that instructors sometimes use at the end of yoga classes. So when I started my TTC journey I looked for an at-home program specifically for woman trying to conceive and discovered the Yoga and Meditation for Fertility DVD by Kate Atkinson. This is not a yoga workout meant to build great strength or endurance. It is a three-part program focusing on helping fertility through reducing stress and increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs with a series of stretches and gentle movements. And, for me, it is the perfect way to relax after a workout or before bed.

Another meditation tool that’s helped me is the Circle and Bloom IVF and IUI Mind Body Program, which is a set of CDs with guided meditation for each day of your cycle. It focuses on breathing, relaxation, and visualization. These were recommended and loaned to me by a friend who had gone through IVF. They may seem a bit expensive to buy on your own, but now that I’ve used them, I would definitely say they’re worth it.

With a little help from my friends

Remaining calm and collected isn’t always easy, and sometimes it’s not even recommended. Sometimes in order to ‘relax’ we first need to deal with what’s stressing us out to begin with. The best way to do that is talking with friends. Whether it’s that friend who’s gone through her own TTC struggles or the one who’s been your soul sister since practically the moment you met, talking with friends about this journey is crucial and comforting. I know that a few days after a negative test I’ll be able to return to the yoga mat or my happy music mix, but in the moments just after, I want to cry, and drink wine, and have a BFF drive across town to comfort me with s’mores and a hug. That’s the first step to “Just relaxing.”

So while I don’t recommend telling a couple or single woman trying to conceive that “Maybe it’ll happen if you just relax,” I do recommend to others in the TTC phase to find what makes you happy, comforted, and calm, and do it. Dance like a fool, drink like a fish (at least for that one night), and downward dog your way to chillax. And if you have a day when none of it works, don’t beat yourself up. Stress is part of life—and parenthood. Think of those bad days as bootcamp for when the baby does come—and it will come, in its own way and its own time.


Photo credit: Anya Berkut

Beyond Biology: Why I’m Not (Too) Afraid of Father’s Day

Originally published June 14, 2015 on Merely Mothers (now Evie & Sarah)

As we approach Father’s Day this year, it occurred to me that no one, aside from the social worker whose job it is to broach such tough questions, has asked me about the “daddy issue.” As a single woman hoping to conceive a child with a donor, there will be no father in our family (unless I’m lucky enough to find a husband later in life). I know, despite everyone’s support, at least a few people must have wondered how I feel about raising a child without a dad. The truth? Scared. But also steadfast.

I was raised in a family with two loving parents, a mom and a dad. So were nearly all of my friends. I didn’t even have a friend with divorced parents until high school. So the idea of raising a child in any form of non-traditional family is frightening, but that’s because it’s unknown, not solely because there won’t be a male parental figure. Lots of families don’t have dads, or have two dads and no mom. There’s no perfect equation for a family save that it be filled with love. And my child will have that, plenty of it.

Among the things people don’t want to say to a single woman trying to have a baby is that every child needs positive male relationships. While I appreciate the sensitivity to my emotions, especially now that I’m on added hormones, the fact is, it’s true. Children do need to interact with both male and female caregivers. Whether I have a boy or a girl, he or she will need to understand how to interact with guys. He or she will need to see men in relationships of all kinds to know what’s expected and accepted in our society (and sometimes, I hope, to know when to toss those expectations out the window!). He’ll need to see me interact with men in positive and varied ways to understand how different kinds of male/female relationships work, so that he can have healthy relationships himself. He’ll need to be loved by men, and he’ll need to have men in his life whom he loves in return. And I will do my damnedest to assure my child has all of these things, even if he won’t technically have a daddy—that’s what grandpa, uncle, great uncles, and family friends are for!

Yes, my brother and father’s roles of grandpa and uncle became even more important when I decided to do this without a husband. Luckily for me, there aren’t two men in the world more capable of those jobs! I’ve already been blessed to see my father take on the role of grandpa and my brother become a father. Watching the men I’m closest to transform when that little life, my gorgeous nephew, entered into our world, has truly been a gift. Sure, it’s a little sad that my child won’t have a dad as great as my father or brother. But there is nothing more comforting to me than knowing that they are who my child will think of when he or she thinks of fathers.

Father’s Day might never be an easy holiday to maneuver as a single mother by choice, but I think if the issue of a donor is dealt with honestly and the child’s life is full of wonderful men to emulate, it need not be a landmine of taboo questions or uncomfortable topics. Beyond a biological father, there will still be plenty of fathers for my child and I to honor and celebrate each June.

And, hey, an added hug for mom that day won’t go unappreciated either!