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For some, trying to conceive is a long, arduous, and even painful process.
In a previous post, I talked a little bit about our personal journey of trying to conceive (TTC). For most of my life, I was oblivious to the fact that many couples struggle to get pregnant. I had no idea how many couples dealt with infertility and pregnancy loss until I was the one wondering if something was wrong with me! For years, I rolled my eyes when people called pregnancy a miracle, because to me, it was all simple science.
Boy, was I wrong.
The bottom line - so many couples are dealing with this - and we were one of them.
To be very honest, I've had the idea for this post sitting in my queue for a while now, because I was afraid how it would be received. Would people think it was awkward or indecent to hear my very personal advice on this topic? Well, probably... but I'm not in the business of people pleasing.
Before finally sorting through the tips that helped us get pregnant with our rainbow baby, I had to put away my own embarrassment over this delicate subject. After all, these are questions that just months ago, I had wished I could ask someone. I just didn't know how, or who to ask!
For couples out there longing for advice on trying to conceive, this is for you. You have the right to ask these questions, and you are not alone in doing so! During the many months that we were trying to conceive, I was a little embarrassed of my Google search history, because I really didn't know who else to ask or where to turn for advice. If that's you - sister, I got you.
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TTC Tip #1: Know Thy Cycle
Saddle up for some menstrual cycle real talk! Literally nothing about trying to conceive is comfortable to talk about, so let's just lean in to the awkward, shall we?
If you want to know way more details about what's actually happening to your body during the various phases of your cycle, check out this post on body fluctuations within the 28-day cycle. Otherwise, let's move on to the real meat of this.
You need to have some general knowledge of when you're ovulating if you're trying to conceive. This "fertile window" can vary from month to month, but generally, you'll ovulate at about halfway through your cycle. There is a LOT of room for error here, since your cycle may be longer or shorter than 28 days.
Your body will give you some indications that you may be ovulating, but not all of us are perfectly in tune with our body's signals. I highly recommend downloading a women's health app like Flo to track all of your data if you're serious about trying to conceive.
In the Flo app, you can track all the start and end dates of your period, as well as symptoms you experienced each day. It will then estimate when your fertile window and ovulation day may occur, and you can log the times you've been*intimate* with your spouse during that window. There's also some good reading material on the app so you can learn everything about your body that your high school health class failed to teach you. Was that too sassy?
Simply put, knowing your cycle = knowing when you ovulate = knowing the right time to try to conceive.
TTC Tip #2: Get used to peeing on a stick.
I'm not trying to be crass, but let's just get real - if you're trying to conceive, you're going to have to get used to testing. A LOT.
I remember purchasing a pack of those inexpensive pregnancy test strips on Amazon at the very beginning of our TTC journey and thinking to myself, "These will last me a lifetime!" WRONG.
PRO TIP: If you're TTC, do your wallet a favor and buy these pregnancy test strips. You will go insane and broke trying to use the First Response or Clearblue tests every time you want to check if you're pregnant!
Aside from tracking your cycle with an app and cluing into your body's signals that you're ovulating, I recommend trying ovulation test strips like these to actually test if you are ovulating. These test strips are a little harder to understand than pregnancy test strips, so make sure you read the packaging carefully and follow the directions to a T. Basically, if there are not two bold lines appearing on the strip, you are not ovulating. And even if there are, you still only have about a 12 hour window in which to try to conceive.
Don't freak out too much over this. There is only so much control you have over the timing of conception - but testing does help aide you somewhat in the process.
TTC Tip #3: Be Effective! B - E - Effective!
Spoiler Alert! This is the part where I talk about sex. It's awkward for me because, conservative background, ya feel?
But all of the shame and awkwardness around this whole topic is what makes couples that are trying to conceive feel like there's something wrong with them. So let's get past that initial uncomfortable barrier and just be real for a sec, mmkay?
We've already talked about knowing when you ovulate and timing your intimacy around that fertile window. Here are a few things you can try to sort of aide the process of conception when the time finally comes.
First, let me clarify that you don't need to do the deed every single day of your fertile window (unless y'all really want to). It can turn the whole conception process into... a process. And that's not what either of you are going to want! Do what you can to keep things light, intimate, and fun for the two of you, because the added pressure of TTC has a way of driving a wedge between couples.
Since you've got a relatively small fertile window to work with, you'll want to try to make each time count. You might try Pre-Seed as a way to improve sperm motility. It's expensive, and while there's no guarantee that it will work, most couples in this situation are willing to try anything!
After doing the deed, you may want to continue lying down for a while - some women even lie with their legs elevated and supported with pillows to let gravity do some of the work! Mainly, you'll want to wait before going to the bathroom to help the process along a bit. It is weird and unattractive as all get-out, and that's marriage, folks!
All of this will help you be as effective as possible when you get down to business. But after this point, there's really nothing you can do to control the situation (aside from seeking professional medical intervention, of course).
Final Thoughts & Support for Couples TTC
Let me first say that your ability to conceive is NOT what gives you any sort of status or worth as a couple. Let me repeat myself in a different way - other people's ability to conceive doesn't make them better than you, more blessed than you, or more respected than you.
Do I fully believe that children are a blessing? Absolutely. But I know many couples who have walked this road, tried every tip in the book, sought professional help, and still were unable to conceive. And if we continue to send the message that these couples are somehow less-than for not being able to conceive, then we are simply perpetuating the same toxic dialogue that has brought endless tears and sleepless nights to so many people.
Still, it is heartbreaking to experience months and even years flying by without being able to conceive. And ultimately, even with medical intervention, there is so little that can be done to control the situation. It's at this point that I urge you, if you're not already, pray about it with your spouse. Share your struggles with someone close to you and ask them to pray for you, too.
Before becoming pregnant with our sweet rainbow baby, I wore this necklace with Daniel 3:18 printed on it, which says, "And if not, He is still good." Even as we prayed for the Lord to give us a baby, we learned to pray for an openness to the possibility that it may not happen for us. I began to pray differently, asking God for the first time to open my heart to the idea of adoption, if it wasn't His will for us to conceive. And that's something I continue to pray about, even to this day.
If you are feeling hopeless about trying to conceive, if you've tried every tip in the book with no success, if you have no idea how to ask God for help, or if you don't know anyone who can pray for you, please contact me! I want to support you through prayer.
You are not alone. It was not long ago that I shed tears over this very topic and had no idea how to talk about it with anyone. But I hope that my story will bring you some hope, and that in being vulnerable and open about my struggles, you'll consider me a friend walking right alongside you through this.
I got you, sister! With love, prayer & support,
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