A challenging part of fertility treatments that’s not always talked about is how to balance your schedule when you have regular doctor appointments, constant blood-work, ultrasounds and…well…hormones. (After all, you can only plan so much during this unpredictable process.)
We spoke with organization expert Andrew Mellen, who’s been called ‘America’s Most Organized Man’, about how to organize your life when you’re undergoing egg freezing, IUI, IVF and/or any other invasive fertility treatment.
When you’re undergoing fertility treatments, you’re at the doctor’s office a lot. Any advice on how to balance the often hectic fertility treatments schedule and the rest of your life?
The first thing I would suggest is to try to adjust your expectations. It’s a mindset thing. Even though, intellectually, you may be thinking you’ll just manage this ‘one more thing’ and do it, you need to consider the fact that it’s not ‘one and done,’ and it’s not business as usual. You have to surrender to the reality that these are extraordinary circumstances.
The next thing to do is to bring out your schedule and figure out what is really essential, and what can be let go for a defined period of time. If you’re undergoing fertility treatments for 3 or 4 weeks, for instance, you need to look from today until then and figure out what must get done. Really bring a hard critical objective eye to that question.
If you’re a Type A over-achiever, try to change your mindset and realize, “I’m about to become a B student in some things, so I can be an A student when it comes to this goal (eg. pregnancy, starting a family).
Be ruthless about:
What must happen
What I would like to happen
and What would be awesome if it could happen?
If we’re thinking in those terms, we’re going to get really clear quickly. We’ll know we need to pay our bills, we need to eat, we need to do these seven things in the next month.
Then, move on to what you would like to happen. For example, you may say, “If we can do these other three things this month, that would be nice. But if we don’t get to that, it’s okay as long as we can get the seven other things done.”
This exercise is really about what’s essential and what are the non-negotiables. What’s most important in the structure around trying to start or expand your family? Paying bills, for instance, is probably important.
What’s a quick tip for organizing the (seemingly endless) paperwork given to you by the fertility clinic?
Get a 2-hole punch and a classification folder so you can keep your fertility treatment paperwork organized. Don’t put it in something loose where the papers can fall out. This way, you can keep all the paperwork well-organized without having eight folders or stuff everywhere.
Many people navigating fertility treatments are hardworking and ‘successful’ in life. Any advice for the “Type A” people reading this?
If you’re a Type A over-achiever, try to change your mindset and realize, “I’m about to become a B student in some things, so I can be an A student when it comes to this goal (eg. pregnancy, starting a family). I’m going to try to let go of my perfectionism right now, and I’m not going to hold myself to the same standards for all things so I can focus on what I need right now.”
Since dealing with fertility treatments is a taxing process, how should people make room for self-care as they organize the essential things that they must do?
If things are not scheduled, they won’t happen. You now have to run yourself on a calendar. In this process, your calendar has to become your best friend! Remember that you create the calendar, and you execute actions based on the calendar. You’re not a slave to it, but it reflects your values and should inform your choices.
If self-care and downtime (like napping, nutrition, exercise, massages) are important to you, make a point to schedule these things or they likely won’t happen.
Editor’s note: Even if you don’t think you need to practice self-care, being nice to your mind, body and spirit will help you feel in balance during taxing fertility treatments.
Speaking of calendars and schedules, what should you do when you’re not fully in charge of yours because of all the unexpected twists and turns during the fertility journey?
Manage your expectations when you start fertility treatments. Expect the unexpected. You don’t want to be surprised that you’re not in control of this process. This requires a tremendous amount of awareness, of course. Most of us want to settle back into our routine as much as we can; but we can’t totally relax. If you don’t want to be upset, you have to stay in a place of uncertainty. This takes a lot of mindfulness.
Any other advice on organizing your life and mind when you’re at your doctor’s office so frequently?
Consider that if you are waiting in the doctor’s office, maybe there’s something that you can be doing with that time, that could be stopped if you are called by the nurse for blood-work or an ultrasound and are interrupted. The time in the waiting room is not idle time. You don’t need to be reading a magazine.
If you find that you’re so emotionally charged that you can’t concentrate, then you may want to be focused on your breathing and mindfulness. You can say to yourself, “I will focus on my breath for five minutes so I can calm down and then I can answer that email.”
You may also want to consider downloading 5 minute meditations on your phone for situations like this.
For more on Andrew Mellen, visit andrewmellen.com
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