1. Birth Control Withdrawal Is A Real Thing (that I made up). One of my absolute biggest regrets from the beginning is not getting off of my birth control sooner, especially since I was already on the 90 Days of Fun prescription. If you’re into wasting time and money, you may end up visiting your doctor for a preconception appointment where they will either tell you that a) you should have no problem conceiving immediately after stopping birth control or b) that it could take up to six months for your cycle to regulate. My doctor is part of the (a) category, when I believe my body was leaning heavily towards (b). Stopping the pill (or patch, or IUD, or edibles…I don’t know what they’re doing these days) is something that you can easily control on your own, and there are other ways to prevent pregnancy while you’re waiting to see how your body adjusts if you’re not quite ready for a baby. This definitely doesn’t apply to everyone (as I know my fair share of women who got pregnant as soon as their husbands looked at them after stopping the pill – rude), and there’s contradicting information out there regarding whether the hormones leave your body immediately or if, like conceiving, it just takes time; but nothing taints the excitement of starting to try as much as an irregular cycle right off the bat. The potential of a surprise pregnancy is better than endless weeks of searching “when do cycles regulate after IUD removal” (but that could be the twelve months talking).
2. Being a Cycle Boss is Muy Importante.
Yeah, we all want to “take it easy” and “just relax” those first few months, but instead of feeling zen and preparing your womb for a healthy, stress-free pregnancy, you’re going to be calculating dates and assuming you’re pregnant, or broken. I downloaded my first cycle app before I even got off birth control (that’s the extent of my pre TTC womb preparation)…and now I have a total of three. If you’re going to track, please do me a favor and track the right way. Apps go based off of algorithms and your average cycle length to determine when you ovulate – your ovaries however, do not. To become a true Cycle Boss, one must determine their own LH surge/ovulation day. Having this information on hand (or entered into your app) will show you lots of cool things (okay, just normal things), like: when you should be dragging your husband to the bedroom, how long your luteal phase is, and the best days to start testing (if you must). If you’re using OPKs and never get a surge, or temp and never see it rise, then you may want to go to the doctor. If you noticed your cycles are longer than 35 days or shorter than 21 days: go to the doctor. If your luteal phase is under 10 days or you spot throughout your cycle or haven’t had a period in 8 weeks but all your pregnancy tests are negative, GO TO THE DOCTOR. If you aren’t tracking and haven’t had any success so far, OPKS and an app might be the way to go – it’s all in the timing. If it helps, you can always delete your app and redownload it every time that you get a negative test and feel like everyone else got pregnant that month. Are we having fun yet?!
3. Every Month Will “Feel Different”. Your boobs feel like sponges this month (what?), your cramps are more of a burny feeling than the usual tightness, you thought your essential oils smelled funky last night, which can only mean one thing: YOU’RE PREGNAAAANT (in Oprah voice). You’re going to say it. You’re going to think it. But you damn well better not read too much into it. After twelve months in a row of “this feels different”, I’ve learned that one of my main not-pregnant symptoms is simply: different. What a thrilling adventure of symptom spotting each month! It’s a bitch to feel like you have neon signs pointing towards Pregnantville when all your different symptoms resulted in the usual outcome. I’m not going to be so bold as to say STOP SYMPTOM SPOTTING, because if you’re TTC it’s your new favorite hobby, but don’t be surprised when you’ve said “this month feels different” for nine cycles in a row. You’ll get it in your head that you’re exhausted and starving, and then when your period shows up regret the tub of french onion dip you inhaled the day before “for your baby”. I’m even gonna throw in a bonus fact here: 4 DPO Means Nothing. Implantation doesn’t occur until 7-12 DPO, with 9 DPO being the most frequent day. You aren’t experiencing any early signs of pregnancy, and you most definitely should not start testing. If you ARE pregnant, you ovulated sooner than you thought. Save the craziness for the second week of your wait when implantation could have actually occurred.
4. Sharing Sucks.
That’s right, I said it (says the girl about saying it who has only said it to about five people…huh?) In general, I don’t get the thrill in stating to everyone you know, “We’re about to start having frequent, strictly scheduled intercourse in an attempt to merge our cells together!” Yeah, that might not be exactly how you’re breaking the news, but that is what you’re saying. Sharing that you’re trying is a personal decision, but remember that once it’s out there – you can’t take it back. Expect people to boldly ask if you’re pregnant all the time (which you’ll love even less if it doesn’t happen right away), and to be watching you more closely than if you had kept it to yourself. It’s easier to brush off questions when few people know that you started in the first place. Plus, it makes announcing once you’re pregnant that much more exciting! (Or so I assume…) If you find that you really need someone to talk to, or that the friends/family you have shared with don’t seem to quite get it, there are a lot of online communities (or even your new Cycle Boss App™) where you can find women in your exact same situation who are always more than willing to discuss the struggle.
5. The Answers Aren’t All in Your Underwear. It’s like Pavlov’s dog – except instead of a bell, you’re pulling down your pants, and instead of drooling, you’re staring at your underwear. But basically the same thing. You’re going to notice a lot of fun (and by fun, I mean gross) things going on down there now that you’re trying. Suddenly you’ll be using words like watery and creamy to describe your most intimate of fluids (yep) and will try to assign one of them to an impending positive pregnancy test. Your new goal in life will be to experience the mythical EWCM – that is, when you’re not scouring for possible signs of implantation bleeding. Please consider this your friendly PSA to stop shoving your face in your panties and over analyzing your findings. I drove myself batshit crazy one month because I was SO SURE that I was experiencing implantation bleeding. What was definitely a sign of my implanting embryo turned out to be a tiny red fuzzy (which I later noticed all over my sweaters and jeans – am I experiencing implantation bleeding through all my pores?!) Surprise, I wasn’t pregnant! And I’ve already discussed how CM itself isn’t a reliable source for determining pregnancy. It’s okay to get excited if you notice spotting around the optimal time, but don’t turn every trip to the bathroom into a panty excavation. Who knew that one day you’d feel repressed unless you went eyeballs to underwear while peeing?
6. Over Testing is the Devil’s Work.
Not trying to brag, but I have had some of the MOST clear, crisp control lines that you’ve ever seen on a pregnancy test. I’ve had many a day ruined by a negative test, and I’ve played the game of: would you rather…? more times than I can count. Would you rather: wait around for your period to start and be crushed when it eventually does, OR see an insanely negative pregnancy test and cling to the hope that you could have a late implanter? I had once convinced myself that if I tested every day in the second week of my wait, that it would turn it into a OWW (one week wait) and reduce my anxiety since testing would become a part of my normal routine. I’m here to tell you: you will never have reduced anxiety when it comes to a pregnancy test. You will never accept the negative result. And you will never be okay with seeing one pink line. Every negative you see will be like going through a bad breakup. You’ll have the sudden urge to dye your hair and go out dancing with the girls while slurring, “It doesn’t even matter” all night. Negatives are depressing enough to see, but frequent negatives can break you down. You’ll start to understand why some women are four days late and still haven’t tested because they’re so terrified of seeing another lone line. If you have to test, wait as long as possible to take one. My qualifications for testing are: once a month, 10 DPO at the earliest, FMU only (so I won’t have the excuse of “but it wasn’t FMU, maybe it’ll turn positive!), and I’m not allowed to waste one if I’m expecting my period that very day (or the next day even). If you can, take a break from the potential negative tests, and just wait.
7. The 12 Month Rule is a Guideline.
Don’t be a slave to the 12 Month Rule. I cringe every time I hear a story where a couple waited the appropriate twelve months before they started any type of diagnostics, and then learned that his motility is concerningly low, or that she had what she thought were regular cycles but wasn’t actually ovulating. I’m not suggesting demanding HSGs (even though I did just that) or invasive ultrasounds after three months, but a simple round of bloodwork for you and a semen analysis for him can tell you a lot about where this journey is going for you. The Cycle Day 3 bloodwork that accompanies fertility treatments seems to give so much valuable information that I can’t fathom why it isn’t offered when you first start trying. Cycle Day 21 (which will probably NOT be on CD 21 for most women) progesterone checks can give you a clear answer as to whether or not you’re ovulating – another important bit of information that would be helpful to know before a year is up. Each piece of good news after one of these tests will feel like you’re picking up crumbs – because you’re still not pregnant, and you still don’t know why, but slight peace of mind at any stage is invaluable.
8. Your Man Isn’t Totally Useless. Sure, he can’t take over peeing on sticks for you (or he can, but you’re going to be waiting on that positive for awhile, and like an addict – you probably don’t want to share your stash), and maybe he never empties the dishwasher, but that doesn’t mean he has to play such a small role during this process. I hate that there is so much pressure and responsibility put on women when it comes to TTC. Nothing will drive you crazier than your husband telling you to “just relax” during the TWW, considering he doesn’t have swelling breasts and twitching ovaries distracting him all day. You might not be able to transfer your anxiety over to him, but you can involve him in other ways. Ask if he could control the ‘baby dance’ days this month and only tell him when it’s your fertile week or when you get a positive OPK (and then completely scratch this idea of he gets performance anxiety). You could even have him look up new things to try (pineapple, anyone?) or enlist him to hide your pregnancy tests so that you’re not tempted to test any earlier than you should. Or maybe he’s just in charge of picking up the wine-infused ice cream when this month was a bust. Even though the stress of trying is going to weigh heavier on your shoulders, you’re still in this together – don’t forget that.
9. Life Still Exists. Unless you’re me and one of the more thrilling aspects of expanding your family is the fact that you’ll have the forever-excuse of “oh shoot, can’t, have to watch the baby!”, then you probably still want to “do life”. Living according to cycle days and ovulation tests is stressful enough without removing all your vices (bye coffee! later alcohol! see you never, sugar!) This sounds like a good idea at first, until eight months have passed and you haven’t seen your friends in weeks because you refuse to go to Happy Hour. Trying to conceive doesn’t mean putting your entire life on hold. Plan trips, schedule events, and drink till it’s pink (if you want)! Don’t suddenly get wishy-washy on signing up for aerial yoga in a month’s time or agreeing to attend a bachelorette party because you’re still waiting on a positive. If you are pregnant, you’ll find a way to handle these situations, but you’ll be much more upset if you miss out on a girls night just because you maybe possibly could be pregnant (and then definitely for sure weren’t).
10. It’s Okay Not to be Okay. I don’t want to say “you’ll probably have no problem getting pregnant within the year mark, or sooner” (like Doctor Kate was cruel enough to say to me), but the odds are really in your favor. There’s a good chance you won’t share in any of my experiences, except for the disappointment of a lost month or two, but know that there aren’t qualifications for being sad, or anxious. There’s no set month where you’re officially allowed to worry about your ability to get pregnant. Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s only been two or five or eight months, as if your feelings aren’t justified because of the amount of time you’ve put in (or haven’t). We’ve all been told how easy it is to get pregnant – you’re allowed to feel crushed when it doesn’t happen right away. Take the time you need to recover each month that doesn’t end with a pregnancy. Cry in the shower. Spend a night in by yourself. Smother your feelings with wine, if that works for you. But know that you can do this, that you are strong enough to go through whatever journey you might have to take. And when there are days that you feel too shattered to continue, know that there’s an entire community of us out here – waiting to pick you back up.