There are certain phrases you hear repeatedly when you’re going through the “trying-to-conceive journey.” One is…“trying-to-conceive journey,” which is also known as “a reproductive rollercoaster hell-ride of hormones and financial torture.” (There’s no cute acronym for that one on the chat boards other than FML).
Another phrase, and one that always resonated with me when I was in the FML trenches was, “Find your tribe!” It said to me that while we may often feel we’re surrounded by fertile people getting pregnant left, right, and center, there are others out there like us; we have each other’s backs, and can empathize in a unique, specific way.
This is especially true when you use another well-known phrase like, “the two-week wait;” your tribe knows this is not a “fortnight” you’d read about perhaps in a Charlotte Bronte book. It is, in fact, fourteen days that can be filled with uncertainty, hope, odd and uncomfortable symptoms, an array of emotions that can challenge your nerves and stamina, and way more searching on the internet than anyone should do.
My infertility blog is called: The 2 Week Wait. Why? Because I felt like I was pretty much in that state all the time I was dealing with infertility.
Terminally waiting, uncertain, Googling, and swinging from one emotion to another. I needed an outlet to connect with others and keep me sane.
Luckily, I had my TTC tribe to help me, and now I share them with you. They are bloggers and advocates whom I have met online and in person during my infertility journey. They have all gone through IUI, IVF, donor eggs, surrogacy, and more. They have experienced different outcomes to their infertility diagnoses and offer their strategies for you to consider.
Here are thoughts they shared with me via an email roundtable, where we explored those awful days between “not knowing” and ‘the results.”
Name: Angela Bergmann, Ohio. (Blog: angie.life) TTC Status: Primary unexplained infertile couple, trying to conceive for 10 years—one IUI, three IVF transfers. Fourth transfer upcoming. One ectopic and one miscarriage. Still chasing take-home baby #1.
Name: Candace Wohl, Virginia. (Blog: ourmisconception.com) TTC Status: Six failed IUI’s, six failed IVFs, four surgeries, one uterine pre-cancer diagnosis that required a hysterectomy, one daughter via gestational carrier. Currently finalizing a third surrogacy agreement for a second child.
Name: Caro Townsend, West Sussex, UK. (Blog: cuckoomama.co.uk) TTC Status: Multiple IVF cycles, one miscarriage, one FET that resulted in twins, but one was ectopic and had to be surgically removed at eight weeks. The other, miraculously, survived and became a wonderful son.
Name: Gina MacCarthy, London, UK. (Blog: myplanbforbaby.blogspot) TTC Status: Conceived naturally at first but ended in miscarriage, then six unsuccessful IVF cycles (five fresh and one frozen). Cycle #5 resulted in a pregnancy, which miscarried at six weeks. Currently mid-way through first donor-egg IVF cycle.
Name: Justine Froelker, Missouri. (Blog: justinefroelker.com) TTC Status: After losing three babies, ended their surrogacy journey 6 years ago, and live a “child full life.”
Name: E-Beth Marshall, Arizona. TTC Status: Still trying, four timed cycles, one IUI, one IVF.
Six Out of Six Women Agree: The Two-Week Wait Sucks
Universally, we agree that these fourteen days are torture. As I heard from each person, it’s clear that it’s like uncertainty, hope, and hormones all wrapped into one crap sandwich!
E-Beth: The two week-wait is so hell inducing because every moment you are petrified that you did something wrong to make the embryo not stick all the while hopefully waiting that this time it will work.
It is… fourteen days that can be filled with uncertainty, hope, odd and uncomfortable symptoms, an array of emotions that can challenge your nerves and stamina, and way more searching on the internet than anyone should do.Candace: It becomes hell-inducing the more two-week waits that you endure because you become acutely aware of the emotional wreckage that could occur if the end of the two week-wait happens to not be in your favor.
Gina: It’s the lack of any clear knowledge of whether the treatment has worked. One minute you feel “pregnant,” whatever that feels like to you. The next it feels like your period is coming and it’s all over.
Caro: Every symptom is analyzed to see whether it’s the twinge of hopes and dreams, or just progesterone. So much is riding on that test, at the end of the wait.
Angela: It’s the uncertainty for me. I HATE SURPRISES. Literal hate. The thought gives me anxiety, so the two-week wait is hell for me mentally. I want answers RIGHT NOW.
Justine: It is a time that we have literally done all that we can do for the journey and we simply must wait.
Coping Strategies That Worked
We all try different things to help get through this crazy two-week period, to help buy you five minutes of sanity. Here’s what helped our group.
Candace: We got crafty and created a two-week-wait jar. We created popsicle sticks that we would write different activities or things to do for each passing day help keep us distracted and in a good head place.
E-Beth: Comedic shows helped and great movies. Anything to keep your mind off what was going on.
Justine: Seeking support from people in the community and especially from people who love us, even if they don’t get the infertility journey, they still get and love us.
Angela: The biggest thing was recognizing I was going to stress, so I needed to admit I was stressed, talk about it, and then try to let it go. Just straight ignoring it only makes it worse.
Caro: I got really into jigsaw puzzles during my most recent two-week wait! I found they helped calm me as I was physically doing something and using my mind in a way completely unrelated to people, babies or infertility. I’d also definitely recommend acupuncture.
Advice You Can Use for Your Next Two-Week Wait!
Coulda, woulda, shoulda. Ah, those recommendations we know we should follow, but often ignore during the two-week wait! On my final two-week wait, I watched Ru Paul’s Drag Race (no pregnancy plot lines!) and I’m sorry I hadn’t been doing that all along! Here are some other thoughts of “do overs” from our sextet.
Candace: Hey you. The one Googling “early pregnancy symptoms.” Stop. It will drive you nuts. Instead try Googling “cool places to eat around town” or “spa pedicure.” Start your two-week wait with self-care and ways to help keep your mind off it. Your future self will thank you.
Take care of yourself during this delicate time. Another common quote that applies nicely here: ‘Self-care isn’t selfish.’Justine: Practice daily self-care, seek support, practice permission of “The And” – you can feel fear AND excitement at the same time. We honor our stories when we do this.
Caro: Never go on to “the two-week wait symptoms tracker site” and put yourself first!
Angela: Acknowledge the stress and then move past it. The game of trying to just outright ignore your feelings is a bad idea. It only makes it worse.
Gina: Follow your gut instinct and do what you need to do. Whatever it takes to avoid sitting around worrying!
E-Beth: Acupuncture or yoga. I did acupuncture on the day of my transfer and that helped relax me, that I should have done it after the transfer, too. I would also suggest taking two days off work when you do the transfer. Don’t underestimate the mental strength it takes to get through this.
The Results Are In… Now What?
Whether it’s positive or negative or if you’ve taken a home test and you’re looking at it like, “Huh???? Is that two lines or what?” When the end of the two weeks arrives, it can be scary even if you get the results you were hoping for. Our tribe has thoughts on that.
Gina: No one prepares you for the pain of an unsuccessful cycle. The grief and sadness are overwhelming. I would recommend to anyone going through IVF to see a counselor.
Caro: Negative: Grieve, feel angry – I once threw, and broke, a mug with a happy, smiling face on it, because it looked pregnant and smug. I did feel better afterwards. Positive: Tell your other half. Laugh. Cry. Cheer and whoop. It’s a special, magical time and you’ve worked so hard and dealt with a lot of unfair life cruelty to get to this point.
Angela: Celebrate the moment. You are pregnant right now, and no matter what happens, celebrate the pregnancy in the moment.
E-Beth: I have been lucky enough to be pregnant three times naturally. However, all three have ended in miscarriage, which were confirmed with the beta. Personally, I have struggled with the guilt and the feeling of failure. Both with negative betas and miscarriages. I carry it heavy on my sleeve. Recently, a doctor told me: You have to let go of the guilt. There is nothing you did or could have done, you must let it go.
Candace: It took seven long, expensive years and another woman to carry our baby for me, to see my first beta. The PTSD was deep, and the news was hardly process-able. I took it just like any person who had been exposed to trauma, one milestone at a time. With each passing beta, ultrasound, and trimester I would remove a few bricks from my protective wall I had built. Even now my wall stands. I think that is part of infertility.
So, what are your take-aways?
If there’s one theme throughout, it’s that you must put yourself, your feelings and needs, first and find what works for you. Take care of yourself during this delicate time. Another common quote that applies nicely here: “Self-care isn’t selfish.” And that’s especially true when it comes to surviving the two-week wait.
Connecting with others is also really important. Whether you’re going through the two-week wait or another phase of your infertility journey, look for “your people,” your TTC tribe to interact with women who understand.
Sending you hope and humor always!
Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo is a freelance writer, infertility and women’s rights advocate, former stand-up comic, author of the blog, “The 2 Week Wait,” and proud IVF Mom. Her articles have been featured on Time magazine, Huffington Post, and ScaryMommy, and she has been interviewed on news outlets such as CNN, NPR and BBC, where she has demonstrated her ability to make even reproductive issues fun and educational. You can follow her "infertility humor" on Twitter at @the2weekwait or Instagram at @jennjaypal.
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