Making The Most Of The Waiting
We can’t talk about fertility, trying to conceive, or infertility without talking about The Waiting.
In a word: awful.
Waiting for a test result or your next cycle to start can be excruciating. You don’t know what’s going to happen and you have zero control over the outcome. I think of it like the free fall of a bungee jump where the equipment is untested. Maybe you’ll bounce up? Maybe you’ll plunge to the rocks below? Unclear. Just keep Waiting to find out...AHHHH!
Ok - that’s terrifying. Stay with me.
This strategy is not about making a shift or making lemonade from lemons. There’s no denying the Waiting is HARD. Some might say it is one of the hardest parts - the unknown, the dark hole with no clear guidance on how you’ll emerge.
Knowing it will suck can help (at least it did me). A planner by nature, I did what I could to help it suck a bit less.
I made plans. Lots and lots of plans. Plans to distract myself, plans to calm and turn inward, plans to connect with my husband, plans to learn new skills, plans for if we heard the news we wanted, plans for if we didn’t.
If it was an extended wait instead of a TWW, I made plans to maximize the time and give us the best chance of success for the next cycle.
At times, this is where I would commit to the diet, supplements, and acupuncture treatments I believed would improve my egg quality and, thus, my chances of conception. I tried to look at these periods as opportunities to prepare my body and mind - a sort of training program.
Sometimes the extended waiting time was simply an opportunity to step away from infertility for a while, to reconnect to myself and my husband, to live “normally” again, to make plans for the future and stop living around the fertility calendar.
During a TWW, I was a bit more frenetic. My plans included everything and anything to make the days seem a bit shorter and prepare myself for whatever might come next.
There's no single strategy that will work for everyone, and probably lots of strategies that will work for each person. Here is a collection of ideas for whatever type of waiting period you may be in or preparing for. Some I’ve tried, some I’ve talked with clients about, some I’ve learned from others in the field.
It may be helpful to prepare a list for yourself of what you intend to try and, if needed, gather all the materials in advance. That way, if you find yourself in a space where making decisions or moving your mind away from Waiting is too difficult, you have a ready list of ideas to turn to and the means to follow through on them.
I suggest picking one from each of the following categories to try during your next waiting time. I hope at least a few of them resonate and help you emerge a little bit stronger and a step closer to your goals.
- Read the books, magazines, and articles you’ve wanted to but haven’t had time for yet.
- Binge watch your favorite or a new TV show.
- Organize your house, closet, or desk.
- Clean out a storage area and purge what you don’t need.
- Clean your shower grout, stove, sink, etc… the less attention it gets normally, the better.
- Start a new project at work or home that requires focus (but doesn’t add stress!).
- Put together jigsaw puzzles.
- Spend time with a new coloring book.
- Schedule evening activities with friends or your partner.
- Visit a museum.
- Take a class or a course to learn something new.
- Search for the perfect piece of clothing you’ve been missing in your wardrobe.
- Go to a concert.
- Create a piece of art for your wall.
- Frame your favorite pictures.
- Start or finish the craft project you’ve been thinking about.
- Explore a new hobby you’ve been wanting to try.
- Search for new recipes, crafts, artists, musicians, etc.
- Create a new music playlist.
- Create a haven in your home: A comfortable “nest” you look forward to settling into.
- Spend time with a journal, writing down your thoughts and concerns. Getting them out of your head can quiet them.
- Visualize what you want to be happening in your body.
- Turn off social media. Give yourself a break from unexpected announcements, the temptation to compare, and the noise.
- Write out your “what ifs” and then answer them. Getting the fears out of your head and defining them at the core can help to slow racing thoughts and diminish their power.
- Indulge yourself. Chocolate, manicures, great food, one “last” glass of wine, doughnuts, etc.
- Write down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.
- Affirm yourself daily. Try something like, “I am strong. I am brave. I believe in my heart I will be a mother”.
- Be particular about who and how many people you tell about your cycle. Prepare an answer to the inevitable question: “Any news?”.
- Reframe negative thoughts by asking yourself “what part of this is true?” This will help you focus on facts and truth of the present rather than allow your mind to spiral into possible worst case scenarios.
Focus on calm:
- Do some gentle yoga.
- Practice meditation or prayer.
- Go for a walk.
- Prioritize sleep. Make it fun and luxurious.
- Schedule time (e.g. 5 minutes each day) to obsess, freak out, or review all the symptoms you may or may not be feeling. When the time is up, turn your attention toward more calming tactics. This allows the feelings and thoughts to happen, but keeps them in their place.
- Practice deep breathing. Take slow, deep breaths into your center. Imagine blowing up a balloon from your center, breathing in for 5 counts, holding for 2, breathing out for 5, holding for 2. Repeat as many times as you need to.
- Strategically build in vacation days from work.
- Diffuse lavender essential oil.
- Give yourself a hand massage. Press your thumb on one hand into the palm of your other. Switch and repeat.
- Create or donate goods to help others.
- Write a letter to your partner/spouse, a friend, or a family member about why you appreciate them.
- Write a letter to your future baby about why you can’t wait to meet him/her.
- Schedule time with your partner to talk about your fears, anxiety, or how hard the waiting period is. Ask what he or she is feeling as well. And then schedule more time for the two of you to talk about everything but your fertility journey.
- Share your story or experience with others - but let go of any expectations of their response.
- Plan a getaway with your partner, spouse, or friend. Make sure your plans include something silly.
- Seek out humor. Find a friend, online joke site, comedy club, podcast, book, movie, or TV show that will ensure you have at least one terrific belly laugh.
- Make dinner and take it to a friend. Stay to eat.
- Smile and make eye contact with a stranger. Say hello.
- Designate a day as “Compliment Day”. See how many (genuine) compliments you can give to others.
By no means is this a complete list. What would you add? What’s worked for you? What have you tried that did not help?