6 basic tools for getting pregnant

getting pregnant

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If you’re starting to think about trying to get pregnant or you’ve been trying for a few months, there are some things you can do to help the process and to learn more in general about your body and how it works.  Unfortunately, for many people, getting pregnant isn’t as simple as just “doing it.”  When you think about the odds and what has to happen in order for conception to occur, it’s a miracle any of us were even born.  But, you can increase your chances and maybe even help things along with a few simple tools.

When I first started trying to conceive (TTC) back in 2005, I enlisted the help of an online forum and learned a lot from the ladies there.  Here’s a list of some of the items I used most and that are commonly used by women who are TTC.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility
I’m just gonna start this list off with a bold statement.  Every woman should own this book.  Every single one.  Buy this book and then save it for your future daughter.  Whether you are trying to get pregnant or not, it’s full of information about how the female body works.  It teaches you how recognize signs of ovulation using 3 key indicators.  This is also great if you are trying to prevent pregnancy without the use of hormonal contraceptives.  It’s also just pretty cool to realize what’s going on in your body…or maybe I’m just a total nerd.  Also, you’ll learn in depth how to use the rest of the items on this list.  Are you getting the point?  Buy this book.

Basal Digital Thermometer
By taking your temperature every day at the same time, as soon as you wake, and before getting out of bed, you can track your body’s shift in temperature after ovulation.  A basal thermometer differs from a regular thermometer in that it can detect more subtle fluctuations in temperature, but I suppose a regular digital thermometer could work just as well, as long as you stick with the same thermometer throughout your cycle.  Unfortunately, you can’t really predict your ovulation day with the temperatures, but you can tell when you’ve ovulated after the fact and over the course of a few months, you will be able to detect patterns in your cycles (unless you’re wildly irregular like me).

Ovulation Predictor Kit
I only tried to use OPKs for a brief period of time, but they are pretty popular with many women who are TTC.  These look like a pregnancy test, but they detect leuteinizing hormone in you urine.  This hormone surges about 24 hours before ovulation, so by peeing on a stick every day starting around day 10 of your cycle, you can see the surge and know when to do the deed.

Fertility Friend
I love this site.  I started using it way back when I started TTC in 2005 and it’s like an old friend (no pun intended).  I briefly tried other sites and apps, but quickly went back to Fertility Friend.  I have years worth of data saved there.  It’s a free service that offers paid premium options.  They will occasionally treat your to a few days of premium service so you can try it out.  The software helps you to keep track of your cycles, daily temps, OPKS and other fertility signs.  It estimates your ovulation date, based on the information you enter and helps you to predict your next ovulation day.  It’s also a great resource for learning how to temp, chart, and use OPKs.

HPTs
When you are TTC, you will probably want to have some home pregnancy tests on hand.  Just a word of warning here…testing too early can be problematic and having easy access to pregnancy tests can be stressful.  After many months of trying and testing with no positive results, I decided it would be better to just wait for Aunt Flo to show up.  Having tests on hand was too tempting and seeing the blank white space staring back at me was too disappointing month after month.

Patience
Try not to panic if it doesn’t happen right away.  TTC can quickly get the best of otherwise sane and rational people (like me).  Be kind to yourself and your partner and read this.  Give it some time before seeking medical intervention…about a year if you’re healthy and under 35 and about 6 months if you are over 35.

Trying to get pregnant can be an emotional ride and it’s not always as easy as it seems like it should be.  It took me 6 years to get pregnant with my first and we’ve been trying for #2 for about 10 months now.  I go through phases of hardcore “trying” and other phases of just letting it go and hoping for the best.  After 2 chemical pregnancies, I am trying to just relax right now.

How long have you been TTC?  What tools do you use to help things along?

 

the other side of infertility

A lot of parents say that they can’t remember life before children. I am not one of those parents. I remember my pre-baby days very well.

I like to think it’s because I am an older parent and not because I spent so many years battling infertility. I had my first child at 34 years and Michael was 41. We had many years to travel, pursue our interests, come and go as we pleased, and become set in our ways. I can still taste the freedom of my life before children. There are moments when I miss it, even long for it…but I wouldn’t trade it. I would take the loss of freedom over the longing ache for a child any day of the week.

So, after many years of battling infertility, what does it feel like to be on the other side?

This has been a difficult post to write, not in the emotionally difficult sense, but difficult in that it is hard to describe the feelings that follow the birth of a baby after so many years of disappointment.

In many ways, the sting of infertility still remains. It’s not something that magically disappears after a baby is born. I think it will always be a part of me.  Along with that comes a certain amount of  “survivor’s guilt”, knowing that there are still so many out there who are struggling and who might never have a child.

I had a lot of misconceptions about mothers when I was TTC. I can remember thinking that people like present-day me just didn’t get it. I read a lot of inspirational books and articles and whenever I found out that the story teller had gone on to have children, I dismissed her as someone who just didn’t understand what it was really like to be so tormented by the inability to have children.

I can remember thinking that I would NEVER complain about pregnancy or nursing or a crying newborn because I would be so happy just to have that little person in my arms. I was full of judgement for women who easily got pregnant or complained about motherhood.

Didn’t they know how very blessed they were?!

How can she have 3, 4 or 5 children and I can’t even have one?

She doesn’t appreciate the children she has and she’s pregnant again? It’s so unfair.

I was even jealous of women who miscarried, because at least they knew what it was like to get a positive pregnancy test.  Terrible, right? I was full of jealousy and bitterness and not very lovely at all.  These days, pregnancy announcements still hit me like a ton of bricks sometimes.  It’s not because I am jealous anymore.  I have chalked it up to so many years of actually feeling jealous and angry and bitter, it’s just a gut reaction at this point.  But thankfully, that feeling usually disappears as quickly as it came.  Maybe it’s just a painful reminder of where I’ve been and I don’t want to go back to that place.

The truth is, pregnancy was hard. I tried to enjoy every fleeting moment, but sometimes those moments felt so looong. I whined. I complained. I probably made my poor husband crazy. I panicked when my daughter cried the entire first night home from the hospital. What had I gotten myself into? I felt guilty.  Mommy guilt magnified 1000 times. I had waited so long for this. Shouldn’t I be ecstatic about every ache and pain, every lost hour of sleep, every moment of attention that my little one demanded?  If I couldn’t be ecstatic, shouldn’t I at least suffer in silence and reflect on the beauty of sore boobs and Braxton Hicks?

I was not always ecstatic and Michael will tell you that I definitely did not suffer in silence.  You know why?  Because I’m human.  There were moments when I questioned myself for even bringing a child into this world.  It’s such a scary, evil place at times.  My body no longer belonged to me.  Everything I did had to be modified to accommodate this little person.  After Evelyn was born, I actually spent a lot of time feeling like the whole thing wasn’t real.  Like she wasn’t really mine and someone was going to come and get her and I would go back to living life as I knew it. There were foggy moments like that.   But one thing was for sure, life would never be the same.

I’ve come to realize that I can’t beat myself up for having those feelings.  I may have complained and questioned my decision to have a child, but I spent just as much time marveling in the miracle.  I fell in love with my growing belly.  I watched it bump and shift as she grew bigger and more active.  I soaked up every compliment and congratulations from every loved one and stranger.  I talked about it incessantly…sometimes I think the complaining was just an excuse to talk about my growing baby.

Part of me doesn’t want to write about the wonder of having a child.  I don’t want to add to the pain of someone who might be suffering and reading this.  But, if I’m being truthful and candid, I have to say that having a child has filled a little empty spot inside of me that I don’t think could have been filled by anything else in this earthly realm.  Does that mean I couldn’t have a fulfilling life if I never became a mom?  Of course not.

Becoming a mom has changed me in many ways.  I am more patient, more forgiving.  I’m happier overall….it’s hard not to be when you’re seeing the world through a child’s eyes.  My life is messier, more complicated.  I worry more.  I struggle to find balance. I have moments where I want to pull out my hair, but I wouldn’t trade it.  I am a mom, but a little part of me will always be infertile.

I can remember life before Evelyn, but I wouldn’t go back.

 

trying (the second time around)

Well, I guess it’s no secret that we’re trying again.  I’d really like to be pregnant before Evelyn’s 2nd birthday (in December).  It might be nice to have a summer baby this time.  If this is your first time visiting here, you might not yet know that it took me 6 years to get pregnant with baby #1.  I’m really not planning to wait another 6 years for a baby.  Already, I’m no spring chicken and neither is Michael.  In fact, some of his high school and college classmates have children who are going to college and some are even having children of their own.  We could both very realistically be grandparents at our age.  Yikes!

For as long as it took me to get pregnant the first time around, you might think I’d be worried that I’ll have trouble again, but I am not.  This time around is very different.  In fact, it doesn’t even feel like we’re “trying.”  It feels a lot more like we’re “not preventing.”  The word trying indicates some effort on our part and well, we’re really too busy to put forth much effort.

My life is very different as I set out this time…much different than it was when I started TTC the first time.  So, my approach is also very different this time.  I am…

NOT telling my husband about every little detail
He doesn’t need to know if it’s the ideal time of the month. It adds too much unnecessary pressure.

Relaxing
I could write a whole post about what not to say to someone who’s struggling to get pregnant.  “Just relax and it will happen” could top the list.   No amount of relaxing will get you pregnant.  BUT, it can help you keep your sanity (and prevent you from punching someone in the face), which is always a good thing.  I am much more relaxed this time around.

Eating Right
I got pregnant the first time around by changing to a grain-free, sugar-free diet and I have mostly stayed with it. There are tons of other reasons for me to maintain this way of eating, but I know that if I want to get pregnant, I need to keep my hormones in check and eating well is the best way I know how to do that.

Counting my blessings
For years, I spent a lot of time wallowing in self-pity and wondering why life was so unfair. This time I am able to look at all the blessings in my life. I’d love to give Evelyn a sibling, but I know I can be ok if it doesn’t happen.

Interesting…that ended up being a shorter list than I thought, yet the differences are profound.

Evelyn is showing a lot of curiosity about babies these days.  She loves the babies at her daycare and talks about and notices babies all the time.  I think she would make an awesome big sister, don’t you?

brushing baby

 

chemical pregnancy (and the problem with testing too soon)

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I was never really a big believer in love at first sight. Love takes time to grow and can’t be truly experienced upon first glance. At least that’s what I thought…until I saw two lines on a pregnancy test. When I found out I was pregnant for the first time, I knew I loved that little person the instant I saw that test.

A few weeks ago I had a chemical pregnancy. On Sunday morning, I got a positive pregnancy test. The blue + sign was very faint, but definitely present, so I rushed out to the store to purchase another test…just to be sure. Sure enough, the pink lines revealed the same result. I was pregnant! Evelyn would be a big sister! Michael and I were immediately excited, even though we were also a little cautious. On Monday, I called my OB/GYN and they ordered the blood work. On Tuesday, when I called to get the results, a nurse told me that my HCG was only 10. She said that anything higher than 5 is considered positive, but it was lower than they wanted to see. Immediately, my heart sank. She told me they would test again in a few days to see if the number was higher. She said it would be best to wait until Friday or Monday if I could.

I wasn’t sure how in the world I was going to wait that long. I started to search the net for stories of successful pregnancies that started out so low. They weren’t easy to find. I read stories of women whose numbers slowly raised, only to end in miscarriage after several weeks of loving that tiny life. I wasn’t sure if I could handle that roller coaster. I wanted a resolution…I wanted this to either end now or carry through until my baby was here. I had decided that I would go back for more blood work on Friday instead of waiting all weekend and I had an extra pregnancy test I was planning to use on Thursday morning, just to see if the line got any darker (or lighter).

I’ve never been an early tester. During my years of TTC, I knew plenty of women who couldn’t wait to test, sometimes as early as 8 days past ovulation (DPO) (normally, a period won’t show until about 14 DPO). I may have gotten impatient once or twice, but I couldn’t handle the stark white expanse that occupied the space where a line should be and most pregnancy tests will be negative if used too early. I’d rather just wait for Aunt Flo to show up. The tests I happened to buy this time were the ones that claim to give you a result up to 5 days before your missed period. As I read the box more carefully, it said that because the tests were designed to detect very small levels of HCG, the chances of a false positive are higher, particularly in women nearing age 40. Fabulous. My hope for a viable pregnancy was fading fast.

See, the problem with testing too early is that “chemical pregnancies may account for 50-75% of all miscarriages. This occurs when a pregnancy is lost shortly after implantation, resulting in bleeding that occurs around the time of her expected period. The woman may not realize that she conceived when she experiences a chemical pregnancy.” In other words, most of us have probably been pregnant at one time or another and didn’t even know it. Our periods came as usual or maybe we had a little “scare” when it arrived a few days late. If I had waited just 3 days longer, I would have never known.

So, in the wee hours of Thursday morning, Evelyn woke up with a fever. I got her out of bed and we meandered downstairs to snuggle in Michael’s chair. I set her up with some water to drink and then I decided to go ahead and use my last test. At 2:30 am, this was as close to FMU (first morning urine) as I was going to get. I waited a few minutes and cautiously looked at the stick. There was the faintest line, just barely visible, and much lighter than the one from just two days ago. All I could think was, “It’s ok, baby. I love you, but you don’t have to hang on for me. It’s ok to go home. I love you.”

I rocked Evelyn for a little while and had a bit of a cry. I knew that this just wasn’t meant to be, but that didn’t make it any easier. Evelyn’s fever seemed to lift and she finally fell back to sleep. When I woke up later that morning, Aunt Flo made her appearance and that stick in the trash can stared back at me with its stark white face. Maybe I had imagined that faint pink line in my early morning stupor, maybe I hadn’t, but it was white now. Not even a trace of a line remained, but the love was still there. Because once you see that line, there’s no going back.

the most important thing you need to know about trying to conceive

 

TTC

I’ve been thinking for some time about writing a series of posts about my experience with trying to conceive (TTC) and infertility, but I always kind of dismissed the idea. Too serious. Too emotional. Too personal. But recently, I’ve been letting the idea swirl around in my head a little more and I’ve become more comfortable with it. I know there are so many women out there…some just starting to think about having a baby, some longing to be a mama, and others praying for a miracle. Heck, there are even those who have given up completely and accepted the fact that the little child they dreamed of might never enter their lives. I was close to that. Looking back, I think I can honestly say that I was starting to believe that I might never be a mom. Well anyway, if anything I have to say here can offer inspiration, a glimmer of hope, or a sense of peace, then I want to write it. Because TTC (and infertility) can be a long, hard journey and it sucks to go it alone. So, I offer my first of (hopefully) a collection of posts about the path to motherhood and all its bumps and detours.

In the Bible study that I attend, we have been doing a study on marriage, and this week’s topic was sex. Yup, a bunch of puritanical Christian ladies discussing “the deed.” You can imagine the blushing and giggles. But seriously…

Some of the gals in our group are not yet married and so the married ladies were asked to give them some sex advice for future reference. Of all the advice I could give, the one thought that kept popping into my brain is don’t let love making become baby making. At some point, most married couples plan to have children. For some, it happens sooner than they’d planned. Others never anticipate that getting pregnant will be a problem.

So, let’s say you’ve been TTC for a few months now and nothing has happened. You might be starting to worry a little bit. You might be wondering if there are things you can do to increase your chances each month. You might be growing impatient. You might start to wonder if something is wrong. You’re probably tempted to consult Dr. Google about what you can do next. You know you will.  And there are lots of things you can do to increase your chances and learn about your body.  In fact, I think it’s really important to be proactive and educate yourself about your own fertility.  But…

Please, please, please, before you do that, you have to make a promise to yourself and to your spouse that you won’t allow love making to become baby making.

What do I mean by that? What’s the difference? You’re probably thinking, what can be more intimate and connecting than creating a baby with someone? That sweet little child is a manifestation of the strong bond of love you share with your spouse, right? In a perfect world, of course it is, but I am living proof that TTC can also single-handedly destroy a marriage.

Once you start reading and learning about all that is involved in TTC, it’s really easy to become obsessed. You’ll discover things about your body that you never dreamed of and your bathroom (or bedroom) is likely to begin to look like a science lab. Soon you might purchase a basal thermometer, OPKs, and a fertility tracking app for your phone. You’ll learn about cervical mucus and you might even start to POAS (pee on a stick) on a daily basis. You’ll probably begin to talk to your spouse about all of it. So, you can see how that might kill the mood, right? You’ll calculate the perfect time to do the deed and what the heck, you might even raise your knees up over your head for good measure. How long do I have to stay like this?  Before you know it and without even trying, sex will become a chore, a duty, and an inconvenient means to an end.  Believe it or not, men can begin to feel used when you’re only after one thing (his swimmers).

If I’m being really honest with myself, this was probably the biggest reason (there are others) why my first marriage ended in divorce.  I spiraled into a deep, dark hole of baby obsession…and probably suffered from depression at the same time.  Sex was all about baby making for me.  If there’s no chance I could get pregnant right now, why bother?  I was beaten down, tired, and frustrated at seeing everyone around me get pregnant and, ironically, it killed my sex drive.  There were times when I would try to be reasonable and just let it go…put it in God’s hands.  But my need for control eventually took over again and I was back where I started.  I can even remember thinking to myself, Babies are supposed to be conceived in love.  Not like this… 

Trying to conceive can be extremely stressful, folks, so be kind to yourself and be kind to each other.  Take time to do the deed…just because.  Relax, have fun together, laugh.  Remember, you chose your husband and you will be with him long after your unborn children leave home.  It is so vitally important to nurture your marriage so that if and when you do have kids, they will have parents who still love each other.

What do you do to stay sane and keep love alive while trying to conceive?