Making the decision to have a baby is huge, and the journey to conception can be an emotional time. For Simonne Walmsley and her husband Allan, it was a journey that took longer than anticipated and they had their share of ups and downs. Here Simonne shares her heartfelt, honest, sometimes sad and sometimes just downright hilarious account of what it means to try to conceive.
For some, trying to conceive (TTC) a baby will be over almost as soon as it has begun, and they will be expecting within a few short months. For the greater number though, conceiving takes a little more time, during which they will likely see friends, family and acquaintances conceive, and possibly even have their babies. Trying to conceive has the potential to be a minefield of disappointment, frustration, and sometimes heartbreak, and can easily become all consuming. Successful conception is a delicate thing, and as much as I hate to say it, most of the time, it will happen when it happens. But, when your whole life is tuned to this one thing, as so often happens, it doesn't take long for it to take its toll on you emotionally. So, the trick is not to go nuts in the meantime.
For me, after a while, time started to stretch out into what felt like endless months of counting days, taking temperatures, monitoring cycle-related body changes, hope and disappointment, and it had taken over both my life and my relationship. Those raw, empty, sad feelings got worse as months went by, and depression almost sent me over.
One morning I woke up, reaching first, as usual, for my BBT thermometer, and realised that, dare I say it? I needed to relax. I needed to forget about TTC, distract myself and focus on positive things. In doing that I would be in a much better position mentally and physically to continue this journey. That little piece of advice, to 'just relax', sets most women's teeth on edge, but actually, to be honest, if you think of it in terms of it not so much being that you need to relax for a pregnancy to occur but for yourself, then it's very good advice.
I thought about how I could best achieve a different focus, and reverse the toll that TTC was taking on me, my husband, and our relationship, and from there, my happy credits system was born. Happy credits are exactly what they sound like - they are things that make you feel good, giving you something to draw on for the bad days. They're about making the most of simple pleasures, and spending some time thinking about what those are and indulging in them will take your mind off trying to conceive, and will hopefully lift some of the pressure you are putting yourself under!
I treat myself, every day. Yes, it's indulgent, but why not? It's so easy to isolate the things that you really love, large or small, and then you can use them to start or end your day with something that you look forward to and enjoy. I'm not suggesting getting your hair done once a week, or buying a new house lot of furniture (although if that floats your boat, and your VISA card is a little less exhausted than mine, go for gold!). I'm talking about small indulgences - ending the day with a Belgian chocolate or a hair mask, sitting in front of the fire with a book and leaving the dishes until tomorrow, or stopping at your favourite café and buying a coffee. A positive focus, however small, on a daily basis will do wonders for you.
I find that planning positive things around the end of my cycle/start of my next cycle is especially important as it gives me a positive focus at a time when I tend to feel blue. I try to plan something a little bigger such as a hair appointment, or a pedicure, something to add to my wardrobe, or a weekend away. These are things you would probably do anyway at some point (well, perhaps not the pedicure), it's just timing it to look after yourself when you need it, and help keep negative feelings at bay. One of my regular favourites is getting my eyebrows shaped and tinted - it's a small relaxing thing that makes me feel better about myself.
As part of my happy credits system, I wanted to enjoy the extra time I had without a baby. So, I started to clock things I'd never done before, and pushed myself to try new things. It turned out I still had quite a few 'firsts' to get through! I'd never been to a concert (thankyou U2 for planning your Vertigo tour dates around my period!), or had a pedicure (bliss) or bikini wax (should have booked another pedicure instead), or had my hair done in an up-market salon (my hair looked fab - my VISA bill, not so much). I started working my way through the list, tagging things to do around the end of my cycle when I needed something other than another failed cycle to think about. I also began to make other small goals like learning a bit more about food and flavours and teaching myself to cook better. I learned to bake bread by hand and from scratch and managed to not burn the house down. These little achievements made me feel so good about myself, and in both the planning and execution of them, I wasn't constantly thinking about a baby.
You can also take the time to make healthy lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise. By establishing new habits now, it will hopefully be easier when you have baby to continue with that lifestyle, but in the meantime, it's all about you. Even in taking a first step you'll feel such a sense of achievement, and you'll start focusing on other ways you can make healthy changes. I felt ridiculously pleased when, after just a few weeks of retraining my taste buds, I managed to stop taking sugar with my tea and coffee (and started drinking more water). This meant that I was putting less caffeine, and about 10 to 12 teaspoons (!!) of sugar less a day into my body. By 'exercise', I don't mean running a marathon, but instead of using the remote to change the TV channel, get up and do it, or rather than looking for a park right outside a shop, park up the road a bit and walk.
There are other goals that you can enjoy and find satisfaction in by just investing time, and probably aren't the first ones you'd think of as a way to distract yourself. I've started trying to work our family budget so that we're living within one income. It was initially disastrous, but as the weeks go by, I'm learning to make all sorts of changes and I'm getting much closer to my goal. So, financial budgets and goals are another way to occupy your mind, and keep yourself distracted. For me, the end goal is to possibly be able to do another renovation to the house, such as a new kitchen. It may not happen, but in the meantime, I'm keeping well occupied planning it!
So, there you have it. Hopefully you will be able to introduce your own happy credits and it will make all the difference - whether you are trying to conceive, or just feel like you need something positive and different to focus on, that's all about you.
Click here to read about how Simonne made the big decision that the time was right to start trying for a family.