Best Laid Plans

The hardest thing I have found about trying, is that you cant plan it. Planning and routine are really important to me and are the best way I have found to keep my anxiety in check but life’s a bitch and she doesn’t give a shit.

Since as early as I can remember I have only ever really wanted two things from life: a dog and babies. I spent most of my early childhood wheeling about a toy buggy and dragging a stuffed Dalmatian in my wake. So when I met my husband and he declared on our fourth date that he was desperate to get a dog, he even had his named picked out, I pretty much knew he was the one.

We ended up waiting a few years before taking on the commitment of a dog, we’re not irresponsible, but when we decided that the time was right the dog part was pretty easy. So when about three years ago my husband (then boyfriend) and I decided we were finally grown ups (ish), with much care and research, we found our beautiful scruffy Labradoodle Oscar. Getting him was the best thing we’ve done so far, and we both love him and our life together to bits, but this brings me to my point. We wanted a dog so we got one. We have now decided we’re a bit more grown up (ish). We managed a daft puppy and now have a well adjusted sweet natured dog, time to take the next step and try to grow a new human.  Not so straight forward.

(Don’t get me wrong I am not trying to compare bringing up a child to bringing up a puppy, I realise the two are very different, just for us it feels like the logical next step.)

The waiting and my inability to plan for what comes next is a struggle. I write this looking back at old diary entries from April last year, and while I have come to terms a bit with the not knowing its still the hardest part. If someone could tell me you’ll be pregnant in two years I could deal with the waiting, the time isn’t so much the issue, its the not knowing. It could happen in two weeks, two months, two years or never. I’m a planner, I like to know when things are happening. I am not the girl you surprise with a weekend away with no notice (not that I hate surprises, just they have to be given in advance with time between the surprise and event, I know spontaneous). I like to know when things are happening, I like to research and feel prepared, I like to know what I will be doing. I pack for holidays weeks in advance, planning what I will take to the nth degree and researching weather and what you should wear for various activities. Before we even got engaged I had three secret Pinterest boards planning our wedding, it sounds crazy but I might not have had the confidence to say yes otherwise. Not because I wasn’t sure about my husband but because I wasn’t sure about me. I plan my way through big life changes, when I don’t have this as an option I crumble.

Unfortunately mother nature didn’t take my obsessive need to plan and imagine every scenario before it happens into account when she came up with the baby making bit, rude. I am also fully aware that what we’re going through pales in comparison to the heart ache many couples go through on the journey to procreation: spending years waiting and going through rounds of IVF and/or miscarriage. But how do others mange the no mans land of nothingness without even a plan or timescale to shore you up? Answers on a postcard please, any suggestions gratefully received. I would really like to know how other prospective parents cope with this?

Aunty Flo?

When I first came off the pill it took months for my period to even show up and when it did (TMI alert) it was brown and very light. I had been on the mini pill for about five years which, as it is taken continuously, without the usual one week break a month you take on the combined pill, meant I literally hadn’t had a bleed in years. I had also been on the pill, on and off, since I was 14 (prescribed for heavy periods and acne). So I guess it wasn’t surprising in hindsight but at the time I really was freeeaked out.

And of course in my time of need, where did I turn, but to none other than Dr Google. Big mistake. Within twenty minutes I had diagnosed myself with fibroids, PCOS, cancer and or physical abnormalities (including a second womb or no womb just a vagina, more common than you’d think, but relax there’s defiantly one in there and only one, I made the real doctor check). Delightful little notions that got caught up in my repetitive thought patterns for months and to be honest I didn’t get rid of them until ages later when I was scanned as part of the infertility testing we are currently going through (but more on that later).

You may have already guessed but coming off the pill had sent my anxiety disorder into melt down and caused all sorts of physical symptoms that left me a sweaty, greasy, crampy mess (and the acne, oh god the acne!). Never mind the emotional mayhem. I have always been very sensitive to my hormones, going through multiple brands of the pill before I settled on one that made me the least mental. But coming off the pill was frankly shit, I cried all the time for no reason and I had real trouble focusing. My work suffered and my friends started to have quite words with me because I was acting so oddly. I remember driving a friend home from a party one night, and getting lost three times on the way home. I know where she lives, she’s lived in the same place for years, very near where I bloody grew up, I just couldn’t get my brain to concentrate on anything. This took over a year to pass fully but the first six months were the worst.

However, I digress – periods. It had disappeared, Auntie Flo was no where to be found. I went to see my GP after trying for a baby for about six months, I explained my concerns (and self diagnoses). She quickly confirmed it was perfectly normal for it to take anything up to two years for your period and cycle to re-regulate after being on the pill for as long as I had but was much more interested in how anxious I was becoming again, suggesting I take a break from trying so I could go back on medication. I decided against this but knew things couldn’t go on as they had been. I promised I would make some life changes instead and she agreed we would begin the testing process if nothing had happened by the following January (which would be a full year from when we started trying).

So off I went on my merry way to sort my head out. I got more seriously into yoga, and started practicing mindfulness. I even went to a naturopath who prescribes herbs and diet changes. I did an online CBT refresher. The mindfulness I’m still working on, I really like the Headspace app and have found it does help me relax but I do struggle to disengage from my thoughts and to regularly make time to a session. Yoga I love. I’ve done yoga as a form of exercise for years, dipping in and out of different styles, but after seeing the doctor I went back to my usual teacher and started rebuilding, my practice from the bottom up. Practicing mostly Ashtanga and focusing on my breathing and the intention behind my practice (sorry that sounds so wanky, but I don’t know how else to say it). All of these things helped, I didn’t get pregnant but I slowly started to feel better. I went on holiday with a friend and finally started to come back to myself.

The thing that made the most remarkable difference however, in regards to my period was acupuncture. Don’t ask me why sticking pins in your body works or even feels good. But it does and it so does. It feels amazing. And a week after my first treatment I got my first real post pill bleed. It still took over a year for it to come back properly and even now, eighteen months after coming off the pill, my cycle isn’t totally regular. But aunty does now stop by regularly.

What The Fudge Am I Doing?

Below is a diary entry I made last year and its is why I’m starting to write this blog. I’m in a bit of a better place now. My hormones have settled down a lot, I feel more like myself but I’m not pregnant.

6 August 2016

  • I hate the pill and specifically I hate what it has done to my body now that I’ve stopped taking it
  • I hate not feeling like me
  • I hate that my husband doesn’t recognise me
  • I hate that I’ve put on so much weight
  • I hate that my acne is so bad
  • I can’t stand being hormonal, bloated, anxious, tired, sore for no reason ANYMORE (not to mention sweaty, greasy, hairy – yum!)
  • I hate that I cant be more excited for my friends who are having babies

I think I now understand why no one talks about trying while they are actually trying to conceive, because if you did you’d sound crazy and lets be honest most of it is just grose. But really I could use some ‘in the same boat’ stories right about now.

About me

Hi. My name is Jennie. I live in Glasgow with my husband and our dog.

My husband and I have been trying for a baby since January 2016 and it hasn’t been at all how I expected it would be.

After decades of living with an anxiety disorder that I could never quite get under control, and subsequent bouts of depression, my thirties brought the stability I’ve always longed for and for the most part I keep my symptoms under control through routine and exercise. I started out on our mission to procreation feeling good and in control.

But and this feels like a big but…coming off the pill after sixteen years sent me into a hormonal fuelled anxiety spiral that I am only now really coming out of, but the first six months were the hardest.

When we started trying I started looking for other people talking about trying to conceive. But all I could find was TTC chat rooms and forums, that I’m sure are helpful and supportive for some but for me just fuelled my obsessive thoughts. So many people are starting to talk about mental health, miscarriage and IVF treatments, their bravery is really inspiring. But I couldn’t find very much about how to cope and how it feels when your trying and nothing happens. It’s isolating and sometimes I feel very alone.

No one seems to talk about when they start trying, it feels like a total taboo, like it’s bad luck or you might jinx your chances if you talk about it openly. But I now know how common it is for couples to have issues or for things just to take longer than they had planned. So I thought I would try being brave for once in the hope that other women/couples going through the same thing would feel less alone. It might be good to have someone talking about TTC while they were going through it.

And so this is my honest, often metal, account of trying to make a baby.