Trying to conceive. Sounds so innocuous, doesn’t it, when you say it quickly? But when you’re living it month after month, it has a tendency to take over your life. And not in a good way.
My cycle follows an exact pattern every month:
Cycle Day 1 (CD1) My period starts: cue disappointment, tears and cramping – no pregnancy this month.
Periods are horrible we all agree about that. But, they’re horrible taken to the extreme when they are the physical proof that you’re still not pregnant. Your hoped-for baby’s squishy blood-lined bedroom is literally falling out of your vagina. It’s another month’s work for nothing, and whether it’s your first or twenty-first failed cycle trying, it’s just as hard to accept.
Sometimes, what I find hardest to get over is that I’m the one who has to deal with the pain, the mess, the headaches and the mood swings that accompany a period. Although my husband is sympathetic, I can’t help but think that, because I’ve been having them since I was 11, he thinks I must just be used to periods by now.
This is most definitely not true – and actually, since having miscarriages, my periods have actually got more painful, heavier and leave me in an even more desolate place than before.
The only good thing about a period is I feel fully within my rights to eat all the chocolate and drink all the wine in the house.
But generally, to return to my original point, periods are horrible.
CD5 or 6: My period ends and the only calm part of my cycle kicks in.
There’s not much happening here and this is nice. Apart from taking my temperature each morning, I almost feel unencumbered by the worries of trying to conceive. I wish more of my cycle could be like this.
CD8 to CD14: Next, it’s time for the ovulation sticks.
This involves peeing into a pot every day, sometimes twice a day, dipping an ovulation stick and waiting to see how dark the resulting second line is. Excitement comes in the form of a darker-than-test line, meaning I’m about to ovulate.
I have a split opinion on using ovulation sticks. On one hand, it’s extra responsibility that falls on the female, as with so much of the fertility monitoring process. They can be very pricey, £20 or more per month if you use the expensive branded ones (I don’t). It also involves a level of organisation which strikes me as ridiculous, given that I am either going to ovulate or not ovulate, and no peeing on a stick is going to change it.
For example, going away somewhere. You need to remember to take the sticks, to take something that you can pee into, take time out of your day to test (sometimes multiple times), which can be awkward depending on what you’re doing and how much people know about you trying to conceive.
On the other hand, they give me a sense of positivity in an otherwise reward-free process. I like to know where I’m at in my cycle and to give us the best chance of conceiving, and knowing when I’m about to ovulate really helps with this.
So I guess it’s really a personal choice.
CD10 to CD14 : Bow chicka bow wooow. It’s time to do the baby dance.
Which is all very well when you’re feeling in the mood, but not so great when you’ve had a horrendous day at work, have fallen out with each other, or one of you is ill. Or when you’re doing it for the fifth time in as many days and are more interested in the next episode of Bake Off than copulating.
Don’t get me wrong, I love having sex with my husband. It’s the having to do it on set days that I struggle with. It takes away the spontaneity, the carefree side that I enjoy so much, and brings unwelcome pressure and worries to both me and my husband.
I feel guilty because why wouldn’t I enjoy 5 days of sex with the man I love? And I worry that if he struggles to perform, it may because he doesn’t find me attractive anymore, or he’s having doubts about having a baby at all.
He feels pressure because, at the end of the day, he has to ejaculate, that is the whole point. And knowing you have to reach that end point, however unsexy you may be feeling, is difficult.
So, when the thermometer finally tells me my temperature has increased, and I’ve therefore ovulated, the relief can be palpable.
CD14 to CD28: The final part of my cycle is the real doozie: the two week wait.
No matter how I paint it, I find this the worst bit. I’ve done all I can and now I just have to wait. Despite knowing that my body will be tricking me into thinking that it’s pregnant with every progesterone-fuelled symptom, for some reason, I just cannot stop over-analysing. If I could switch myself off for a fortnight, I totally would.
My monthly internal monologue goes something like:
“How early is too early to start testing? Most people don’t get a positive test 7 days after they ovulate, but I could be that one person, right? Ok, I’m going to test. Please, please, please, please, please. Oh, it’s negative. Well, never mind, I’ll try again tomorrow. Or maybe this afternoon. No, maybe the next time I need to pee?”
Cue multiple purchase of pregnancy tests, bought incognito and then hidden, so my husband doesn’t realise just how many and how often I’m taking them.
The desperation to be pregnant, and to confirm that fact, grows with every day that passes. The more negative test results I get, the more I want to keep testing just in case that has changed. I know it’s not healthy, but I can’t help myself.
I’ll also be monitoring my fertility app to see whether my chart ‘looks’ pregnant. If my temperature stays up past 9 or 10 days, I’ll get excited. If it goes down, I’ll wonder if it’s an implantation dip. Whatever I notice on my chart, I’ll be able to turn it into a sign that I’m pregnant.
When my brain, body and emotions are playing these games with me, two weeks can seem a very long time. So I try as much as I can to keep busy, to plan activities that will keep me out of the house. Anything to stop my brain having time to obsess.
CD1 / CD29 And then, just like that, the 2 week wait is over.
- it begins all over again, or
- ***ding ding ding – you’ve won the jackpot***
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