Book Review · Trying to Conceive · TTC

The Impatient Woman’s Guide To Getting Pregnant (A Review)

My first trying to conceive self-help book! – which is not what I exclaimed when this was first delivered.  This book sat in my shopping cart for a few months, then curled up in my nightstand for several more months.  It never felt like the right moment to start reading.  My how-to-finally-maybe-hopefully-get-pregnant book was delivered smack dab in the middle of my ectopic healing – not exactly the time that you want to read about how you too can get pregnant in as little as three months!  I decided to give TIWGTGP (not a real acronym used, but I have no desire to type that out – I’m practicing my impatience) a chance when I was near another breaking point, which just happened to be this month.  I’m struggling with my almost one year blues, and I’m not emotionally ready for more negatives coming my way.  So I creaked open my first ever used book, was assaulted by the overwhelming scent of incense (can’t blame a girl for trying to relax while reading a book about conceiving), and gave it a go.

The Good:

  • The author, Dr. Jean M. Twenge (or, just Jean?  I feel like we’re on a first name basis now that I know the length of her luteal phase) got me hooked on this book pretty quickly because she is a PLANNER – she spoke my language!  I drooled as she used her first chapter (and later, the appendix) to list what you should be doing each month to prepare to conceive.  I’m already in too deep so I can’t take part in the ritualistic burning of birth control (not a real recommendation), but five pages in and she still had me making a note to buy 1,000 mg of fish oil (of which I’ve forgotten what it’s even supposed to help with…anxiety? Future baby health? The magic juice that will finally get me pregnant?!)  This book felt like I had written it – that is, if I was wittier and had a PhD.  She took all my feelings and put them into words, leaving me with a mental orgasm of YES, YES, YES as she described the fear and anxiety – and absolute lack of control – that creates our inner TTC monsters.
  • Jeanie (my new BFF) changed my life with this next section.  Please prepare yourself to hear the best news in trying to conceive history: stress and anxiety do not cause infertility!!!  So that’s it – I’m never reading anything else that says otherwise and I want to tattoo this on my arm to reference for the remaining months of trying.  No one’s saying that stress is good for you – so don’t start tossing up a confetti of Xanax and Prozac to celebrate your anxiety, but it shouldn’t be pinned as the reason why you can’t conceive.  This was music to my uterus, because for months I have been considering going back on my anxiety medication until we have a successful pregnancy.  There are still some hard days that I know could be avoided if I was still being medicated (I’d give almost anything to get my social skills back), but this news gave me the confidence that I can avoid jumping on the pill train, only to be dragged right off of it if I do become pregnant.  One thing to make note of is that something that could cause infertility is depression, so if you find yourself sinking a little too far into the darkness, it’s best to seek help from either your therapist or doctor (for more than one reason).
  • Another belated Christmas gift from this book: Jean mentions that “trying too hard” can lead to more pregnancies than “just relaxing”!  She banished the obnoxious “just stop trying” advice and pointed out that if you’re not timing everything correctly, you may end up not pregnant because of that, WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT I’VE WORRIED ABOUT WHEN I’VE CONSIDERED NOT TRYING.  I am not about to go into the TWW blind – it’s that kind of laid back mentality that’ll really drive you nuts.  Similar to He’s Just Not That Into You – getting pregnant when you stop trying is the exception.  Getting pregnant when you’re practicing cycle awareness and timing everything correctly is the rule (generally speaking).  
  • An additional tidbit that I found helpful was that she recommends transferring your thoughts from “I will never have a baby” to “I am doing everything I can to try to get pregnant” and even avoiding “I know I will have a baby” – which I thought would’ve been the suggested technique.  Manifesting your destiny and all that crap.  Essentially, I need to ditch my TSwift mindset of we are never-ever-ever going to conceive (doesn’t have as nice of a ring to it anyway) and accept that there’s only so much I can do to make this happen (cause relinquishing control is a total strongpoint of mine…)
  • Speaking of your mindset, I learned that I’m ruminating – which is a fun new word to describe my compulsion.  Ruminating generally means repeatedly thinking about something, but in this case it implies that you’re freakishly obsessed with thinking about getting pregnant (I had literally just mentioned this being my new OCD).  This is, unfortunately, a no-no (AND can to lead to depression which can lead to infertility), so I’m working on directing my thoughts elsewhere through meditation (VERY new to this…) and by reading books that encourage me to think about what I’m not supposed to be thinking about.  Wait a second…
  • More new words (and a new favorite!): defensive pessimism.  I am a ruminating, defensively pessimistic woman!  I flagged this section of the book to read out loud to my husband, gloating that I’ve been doing life right all along! and how a DOCTOR recommended that a smidge of pessimism is good for the soul (for example: if you tell yourself it’s unlikely you’ll get pregnant and you do – you’re pleasantly surprised, but if you don’t – it’s what you expected).  This filled me with the weirdest sense of joy.  What I had always assumed was a defense mechanism against life (why get my hopes up just to be let down?)  was actually being praised as the proper way to think!  Am I a psychologist now?  Have I missed my calling?  “Hello patient – you should just expect the worse and you’re either awesome because you’re right, or thrilled because you were wrong!”  Nailed it.
  • My last interesting take away from The Book of Jean is that she actually recommends seeking help for infertility after six months, which is a nice idea if most women didn’t have to depend on insurance requirements or referrals.  This does make me feel even more motivated to get a HSG next month though – because why should I go through one more painful cycle on my right side?  When it comes to the twelve month rule, I simply can’t stand that the entire medical field gives TTC just one huge shrug and says, “Meh, it takes time.”  But WHY?!  You can’t expect me to accept that all the first-triers or even first-three-month-triers are merely lucky (more on that later…)  I think the most difficult thing with getting help too soon (and she touches on this as well) – would be never knowing if you could’ve conceived naturally on your own.  Fertility testing early can’t hurt, but actually going through with IUI or IVF before you might need it just means more stress, more money, and no guarantee.  

The Bad:

  • She’s a temper and I am not: end of story.  Not really, but it made me wish I could temp to confirm ovulation and check for continuously elevated levels post ovulation.  Are most women tempers and I’m the only one left dependent on smiley faces and playing a game of guess-who with my ovulation date?  She also focused more on the fertility monitor (which is a cool $120, says the woman who wants a $220 ovulation watch) which made me wonder if the ClearBlue digital ovulation sticks weren’t “in” when she wrote her book.  Regardless, I was both surprised and terrified to read that many women already ovulate once they receive the peak status on their fertility monitor.  I have so many questions about how that could be possible.  Jean, girl, are you telling me I can’t even trust my OPKs now??
  • Maybe I only feel this way because I was so not interested in this topic – but there was too much focus on ways to influence gender (as in: there should be none).  I suppose I already know what gender my children are going to be, so it doesn’t quite apply to me, but it seemed like it was a lengthy chapter (and she continues it in the appendix!) that could be summed up with: no one’s really sure how you can choose to have a boy or a girl naturally.  This, plus the section on when you should conceive (ie: if you have allergies, plan your pregnancy around your allergy season – like LOL okay Jean I’ll just magically get pregnant now to avoid that), left me chuckling over how women could be so picky at a time like this.  I’m at the point where I’ll take any baby, any time (okay, that didn’t come out the way I wanted it to…)
  • Then came the entire chapter that made me cringe as Jean tried to beat into my brain how okay it is to have a baby in your late thirties or early forties.  Yes, it IS okay, but that is the farthest thing from my plan, and stop making it sound so luxurious!  She throws out comments about how it’s “easier” to get pregnant when you’re younger which made me wonder if I’ve been right all along about being an eighty year old trapped in an almost-thirty year old’s body.  (Maybe if I keep saying I’m almost thirty, it won’t sting as much when it actually happens – in a short year and a half!)  Realistically, I should be pleased that age doesn’t seem to matter all that much (does anyone else hear that clock ticking?), but it made me feel like I don’t belong in any of these sections.  Young + Struggling to Conceive + Healthy = ?
  • A little bit of huh? on my end: the guide recommends getting a sperm analysis before you even start trying.  I’m a strong advocate for investigating your fertility earlier than the year mark, but this seems a bit extreme.  I suppose I did purchase a book about impatient women, so I presume they can’t even waste the potential first few months before knowing if there’s an issue or not.  I think that’s an easy way to up the anxiety straight away – but again: impatience is a virtue in this novella.  (And you’re allowed to be anxious anyway!)  

The Ugly:

  • At one point, Jean crudely notes that she “…would have been certifiably insane after six months (of trying).”  Whoa Jean – harsh.  Maybe she doesn’t get me after all.  This isn’t to say that her feelings aren’t justified – I’ve had my fair share of months (this one included) where I state that I can’t do this anymore, but you put your big girl panties on and you keep trucking because you have to.  Still – her words opened a wound that’s never really healed.  Maybe I am too far gone for the TTC self-help book after all.
  • A frequently used term, or enough that I paused to complain about it, was “lucky cycle”.  I’ve always thought everyone who gets pregnant right away is lucky but are you kidding me?  We’re seriously going to chalk this all up to luck and say that everyone I know won the conceiving lottery, while we’re left vigorously scratching off our baby tickets?  (If those exist, I would like all of them please!)  That left me feeling like this book might as well have been called How To Maybe Get Pregnant But Who Are We Kidding This Is All Just The Luck Of The Draw Anyway.  Ugh.
  • “Are you a woman trying to conceive?  Well be prepared to tackle this all on your own!” – that’s the impression I was left with any time men were brought up.  Agreed, women bear the majority of the TTC brunt, and men are generally more laid back when it comes to just about everything (each month I ask my husband if we can try to knock him up instead since he’s so much more relaxed), but that doesn’t mean they’re not involved.  I can’t imagine the pressure of taking this all on yourself – especially if you progress into the later months.  There’s even a quote where a woman says, “Don’t expect your husband to ‘get it’ or support you – he probably won’t.”  Yikes.  Sure – they don’t have to experience the misery of symptom spotting or testing or feeling broken, but that’s not a free pass on supporting their partner.
  • The last little jab I experienced was when I cruised on to the appendix and on the first page saw a note that if a woman under 35 tracks her cycle and has sex at the right time, that the chance she’ll get pregnant is 65% – uh, what?!  How did I miss that little fact in all my reading?  And again – WHAT?!  This news should make me happy.  I can rattle off all my cycle stats like it’s my phone number, but that means I’ve dropped even further into the low ranks of women trying to conceive.  What am I missing here?

In the end, TIWGTGP left me with quivering ovaries and that bitter taste was back in my mouth.  The simple fact is: this wasn’t written for me.  The writing was casual and informative (and she’s a fan of the parenthesis-talk too!), but I had looked over one crucial key point: it’s for women who haven’t even started trying, or who are still in the very beginning.  It’s a fun read if you’re in the throes of a two week wait and want to kill time (and yes – even calm yourself down a little, because she does have some tips for that), but if you’ve been at it for as long as I have, it won’t offer you much else.  I read it at the beginning of my cycle and walked away with a slightly increased vocabulary, and two containers of fish oil pills (which I later realized were already included in the DHA in my current prenatal vitamin).  If you’re new – this is cute and probably worth the read.  If you’re not – maybe pass on it, or you could still try it out as there might be something that you discover between the covers that I missed, which might change your entire experience.  My major take away: nope, nothing’s wrong, and yet I still can’t figure this out.  Frustration overload.  

Maybe I should start drafting my TTC book: It’ll Happen Or It Won’t – literally no one knows the truth about conceiving.