With my 30+ years of experience as a fertility nurse and coach, I’d like to share my top ten tips for thriving, not just surviving the ‘two week wait’. Many readers will know that the ‘two week wait’ is the time between ovulation and a missed period. For those undertaking IVF, it’s the time between embryo transfer and the pregnancy test.
In my experience, many couples undergoing fertility treatments including IVF end up ‘dreading’ the ‘two week wait’. After a busy time of medical procedures involved in the IVF cycle it can feel like a long and frustrating time to wait for the outcome. I advise you to think about what you see and feel and change the lens from struggle and fear to focusing on your resilience and proactive steps towards parenthood. Remember your cycle was more than a ‘medical procedure’ – it was an emotional journey too so indulge in the calm and restore during this time.
Consider your mindset
My first and most essential tip is to change your lens from focussing on the ‘dreaded’ ‘two week wait’ to focussing on preparing for parenthood. Negative thoughts create the ‘flight or fight’ stress response, keeping fear in charge and stress hormones high and perhaps thinking and feeling “I’ll never be a parent”. Instead, consider changing the lens to focus on a positive vision/image of how parenthood looks for yourself. Allow yourself to visualize how you’ll feel when you have your longed-for baby in your arms. Creating a colourful, hopeful image of parenthood activates endorphins – a healthy hormone response. Try to inhabit affirmative thoughts and feelings about impending parenthood. Encourage your partner to do the same. Repeat proactive thinking daily. Say to yourself, “I am on the path to parenthood.”
Plan for your IVF treatment to work
This may sound obvious but through my 30+ years of experience as a fertility nurse and coach, I know that many individuals and couples go through an IVF cycle harbouring negative thoughts about whether the treatment will work. This is understandable as many people will have endured challenging fertility journeys with multiple losses and disappointments along the way. Even those new to IVF may find it hard to allow themselves to believe that it’ll work the first time. However, I believe that it’s fundamental to IVF success for patients to ‘plan’ for their treatment to work. By this I mean allow yourself to daydream about becoming a parent, walk those baby clothing isles in your favourite stores visualizing what you’ll buy when you get a positive pregnancy result. Actively ‘live’ the feeling of becoming a parent.
Whilst waiting and preparing, try to find your purpose and be your best self
Think about what defined you prior to this current life stage of reproduction. Ignite your hobbies, talents, relationships and the activities you enjoy. Find the moments that made you laugh and create new moments to laugh even louder! Whilst looking after yourself physically (gentle exercise, not rigorous exercise), allow yourself two weeks of fun and new experiences. With your proactive mindset in charge, make this a fortnight of enjoyment.
Take time to feel thankful and grateful
Feeling thankful during a time of waiting can be tricky but I assure you, you’ll feel better for it. Create a daily ritual to spend some time journaling what you feel thankful for. It could simply be jotting down 3 things a day which you’re thankful for. You could also create a ‘Thankful Thoughts’ jar where you write on a small piece of paper each day something that you feel thankful for. The jar becomes a positive symbol of your proactive mindset.
Resist searching the Internet
Beware of ‘Dr Google’! If you have any questions about any physical symptoms during the ‘two week wait’ (preparation), ask your IVF medical team, do not go online searching for answers yourself. I understand that it’s hard not to overanalyse every twinge in your body during this waiting time but if you have questions or concerns contact your medical team as they’re best placed to advise and reassure you.
Remember, focus your thoughts to the present moment. Gently tell yourself that your body is preparing for parenthood.
Don’t test too early
As tempting as it is to do your own pregnancy test at home, my advice is to follow the test schedule that your IVF clinic gives you. After an embryo implants into the uterine wall, it takes time before there’s enough of the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) to be detected by a blood test, let alone an at-home pregnancy test. Instead, treat yourself to buying fresh flowers, new body lotion or your favourite decaff tea. Choose something that nurtures YOU.
Communicate with your partner
Share your feelings with your partner (or your trusted family and friends if you don’t have a partner). Allow yourselves to share in the excitement and hope of this time. Also share any worries you may have. Plan what you’ll do together once you get the pregnancy result. Whether it’s a positive or negative result, you and your partner matter. Plan something to look forward to, whatever the result.
Get support from people who understand
IVF is tough – both physically and emotionally, financially and socially. Connecting with others who ‘get it’ and understand what you’re going through is vital. Remember this is about YOU and your unique journey. Try not to compare yourself to anyone else’s experiences. You are your expert on YOUR path.
It’s not about ‘fake it til you make it’. It’s healthy to cry and rid thoughts and emotions that blur your vision of parenthood. Be honest and real with yourself. A proactive mindset is not always easy but just being aware of yourself with clarity is empowering, creating hopeful opportunities throughout your journey.
Explore the counselling options available either through your IVF clinic or via resources such as BICA (British Infertility Counselling Association) www.bica.net.
There are also many online infertility forums. Fertility Network UK www.fertilitynetworkuk.org offer support groups either online or in-person.
Explore relaxation techniques which work for you
There are many ways to ease anxiety during this waiting time. From breathing exercises to acupuncture to meditation and movement, explore what feels right for you. Even simple, at-home activities such as mindful colouring, reading or just watching your favourite TV shows can be calming and soothing.
Eat healthily, stay hydrated, avoid caffeine, avoid alcohol and no smoking
A healthy lifestyle during this waiting (PREPARING) time will help you feel more ‘in control’ and in charge of choices you make to be your best self. Knowing that you’re proactively eating well and looking after yourself will enhance your positive proactive mindset.
I wish you the very best during your ‘two week wait’ and beyond. Remember, whatever the outcome focus your proactive mindset on next step options throughout your journey and most importantly remember that YOU MATTER! Take very good care of YOU.
BE AND STAY WELL