I could hear the dismay, nearing panic, in my mother's voice when I told her I was planning to have a beer on my birthday.
"But why? It seems too early for that," she asked.
"It's one low-alcohol beer. It's not going to mutate it or anything," I said, realizing I sounded like a petulant teenager.
I jokingly tried to explain "drink until it's pink," the idea that it's OK to drink alcohol until a positive pregnancy test, since a fetus doesn't share blood supply for several weeks. She was not amused.
We shut down the discussion quickly, but I could still hear questions lingering:
Why would you risk anything after trying for so long? Why spend so much money if you're not going to take it seriously?
There's nothing to do but wait and search for that fine edge of hoping for the best and expecting the worse.
How could I explain how much I needed to have this to look forward to? That I've accommodated so much to this hypothetical baby and I want to maintain somewhat of a normal life? Even though I just had my first embryo transfer, which is a REALLY BIG DEAL, the two-week waiting period is nothing new to me.
Anyone who is trying to conceive for more than a few cycles—whether naturally or with the help of fertility treatments—is far too familiar with the two-week wait: the interminable stretch between ovulation and when you can take a pregnancy test. It's the weeks where there's nothing to do but wait and search for that fine edge of hoping for the best and expecting the worse. Analyzing every stomach twinge (gas or baby?) and doing things like checking your cervix (should it be high and soft now? Low and hard? Wait, how is it in the middle?).
When you're trying to conceive, life becomes an endless cycle of ovulation, waiting, Googling "implantation spotting vs. period," the letdown of realizing it is, in fact, your period, and beginning all over again. After two years of trying, a successful IUI, followed by another year of trying and now IVF, I've picked up a few lessons on surviving the dreaded two-week wait.
1. Get off the forums
TTC! 12 DPO high BBT thick CM no AF BFN :(
If you can decipher that, you're Googling too much. While TTC (trying to conceive) forums can be a source of comfort when you realize you're not alone, they're also a virtual rabbit hole. At best, you'll find a woman who once had the same symptoms as you on the same day of her cycle and ended up pregnant. At worst, you'll get sucked in a world of hurt, trauma and despair. No pregnancy story is the same and there's no value in trying to fit your own experience into someone else's narrative.
2. That said, do your research
There's an old wive's tale for just about every step of the conception process, and each one can be easily misinterpreted. Heard the one about eating pineapple core to assist implantation? I took that to mean putting canned pineapple into my morning smoothies,which, as it turns out, has zero benefit. Whoops. Other details, like how much activity is recommended, side effects of medications and where to buy Brazil nuts (also an implantation aid!) are out there.
3. Write everything down
You will always feel like you're doing something wrong. Having a record helps fight that anxiety.
If you're going through fertility treatments, you already know the mind-blowing amount of medication required. The only way I got through the stimulant phase—the one involving up to three daily injections of varying amounts—was to write down exactly what I needed and when. Same holds true during the two-week wait, which, for me, involves a routine of morning and evening estrogen pills and progesterone in two different forms three times a day. Get your doctor to explain your medication requirements slowly, repeat it back to them, write it down, and add alerts on your phone. You will always feel like you're doing something wrong. Having a record helps fight that anxiety.
4. Find your tribe
Trying to conceive is an intensely personal process. You probably stopped telling people about it a long time ago when their response was inevitably,"That must be fun!" But not talking about it is especially hard for people like me who find comfort in sharing: shuffling around with swollen ovaries, it was nearly impossible not to shout, "I've got 28 eggs in here!" During the two-week wait, it's difficult not to explain why I'm so antsy all the time. Find a select few that you can share with, preferably including someone who has been through it as well.
5. Your partner can't be your only support
There's no way to avoid marital stress when you're in an emotional vortex created by hope, disappointment and hormones. In darker moments, it can bring up questions like, "Were we even meant to do this together?" and in more self-flagellating times, you may wonder, "Why am I sacrificing my perfectly awesome relationship for this phantom baby?" During the two-week wait, you can be a source of support for one another, but odds are your partner isn't counting down the days to the pregnancy test in the same way you are.
It can take months or years to get pregnant, and the only way to get through it is to take it one step at a time, sometimes minute by minute. One benefit of all the trans-vaginal ultrasounds, countless needles in uncooperative veins, speculums and catheters, is that I've gotten really good at breathing through uncomfortable moments. So when I notice my stomach is in knots, I'll focus on breathing into that area until it relaxes and consider that a victory. When life gets overwhelming and the future seems too uncertain to bear, I watch stupid dog videos. While I try to avoid horrible news reports (Yahoo! is the absolute worst for putting those headlines in your face), I find myself getting lost in stories of the refugee crisis (Humans of New York is posting an incredible series), and suddenly my life shifts into perspective. It's a good life, and no matter how it ends up, like my mother always says, this too shall pass.