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Pregnant pauses: Navigating fertility’s waiting game with meditation

“Will you be drinking at the wedding?” Delivered with a coy smile, my sister’s question wasn’t really about cocktail preferences. It was a coded way to ask if I was pregnant. But the well-meaning question stung because my husband and I had been trying to expand our family for months, without success.

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Six months of trying is an awkward time when it comes to fertility. Doctors may be reluctant to introduce treatments for healthy couples under 35, like me and my husband. And yet, I’ve had more than enough time to browse studies and statistics that led me to believe I should have seen a positive test by now. Loved ones offer well-intentioned advice when hoping to conceive. “Just relax and enjoy each other” is a popular tidbit. “It’ll happen when it’s meant to happen.” Except I’m more of the “buy home ovulation tests and sign up for fertility-tracking apps” type, eager to control as much of the process as possible. Trying to take control can help me to feel safe, but trying to control fertility, can become problematic. It was too easy to convince myself that obsessing over every cramp and flutter during the two-week wait after ovulation was a form of mindfulness. (I was really attuned to my body, right?) But when every 20 minutes included picking apart the latest possible symptom, and when I picked fights because my husband didn’t want to ruminate with me, I had to admit my false attempt at “mindfulness” wasn’t bringing me any peace. Headspace’s Acceptance pack seemed like a way forward to calm my churning mind. I decided to use the 10-day guided meditation pack to help me through the two-week wait, the most stressful half of the month. Here’s how it went: Days 1-3 In a fitting twist, this was the first month when my ovulation predictors and apps disagreed on which dates would be my most fertile. I lost a trusted sense of control right from the beginning, the chance to measure days and use that data to predict what might be happening within my body. I couldn’t have designed a better time to take a more deliberate approach to acceptance. “Who, or what, are you resisting in life right now?” the meditation invited me to ask myself each session. “Who else will benefit from you doing this exercise?” I imagined an evening of relaxation with my husband, with nary a mention of cervical mucus.

Days 4-6 On Day 4, when I considered, “Who or what are you resisting,” the emotional wallop made my whole back tighten painfully. I’d just passed the final day my apps flagged as important for conceiving. Post-ovulation tips like eating pineapple core felt more like superstition than science, so all there was left to do was wait. I felt the resistance in my mind and body, a fear of failure, disappointment, and inadequacy. It’s so easy to blame myself when I don’t get pregnant. I find myself hunting for mistakes or miscalculations. A part of me might even want to blame myself. Admitting that sometimes I can attempt a certain outcome and still not achieve the hoped-for result is scary. Acceptance isn’t just about going with the flow, the guided meditation reminded me. Sometimes there’s valid cause to take action, like confronting a bully. The exercise was about noticing my resistance, without needing to decide then and there whether to let it go. Most months, I swing back and forth, convincing myself one day that I’m definitely pregnant and the next that there’s no way because I don’t “feel” it. The meditation felt like a good opportunity to remind myself that there’s no foregone conclusion here. Willing myself pregnant will never work. Taking a pessimistic approach may not feel better, either. Acceptance felt like a call to be less cerebral and more compassionate with myself, no matter what this month brings.

Days 7-10 While I didn’t stop symptom-spotting altogether, I did notice that my approach felt different. I woke up one morning feeling a little off, maybe a little queasy. During past months, this would be enough to spark an internal tug of war, me trying not to get my hopes up even as I googled “creative ways to tell husband you’re pregnant.” Instead, I practiced acknowledging that “maybe/maybe-not” sensation without feeling an urge to prepare. It’s OK to notice a digestive flutter without needing to pin it to a cause. I’d been so focused on how the meditation would benefit me and my immediate family, I didn’t even realize how my calmer demeanor could impact wider relationships. At Sunday brunch, my sister asked if I planned to drink. There wasn’t an underlying agenda to her question; she loved the blood orange bellinis at this restaurant and thought I would, too. Later, I offered sincere congratulations on a Facebook birth announcement, without jealousy rumbling in my stomach. So, was the pack working? I’ll admit, part of me hoped that the stress-relieving benefits of meditation might make it easier to conceive. I don’t know if my journey toward acceptance “worked” in those terms. As I write this, it’s still a few days too early to get an accurate read on a pregnancy test. Meditation didn’t magically transport me to a state where I can accept either outcome with equal grace. I’m still nervous about the possibility of seeing a negative result. But that’s okay, too. As the guided meditation offers, “[Acceptance] isn’t something we need to try to do … It’s simply about giving up resistance.” Giving up resistance may not happen as easily as I’d like, but it’s reassuring to think that my capacity for acceptance has been here all along, waiting for me to draw on its quiet strength.

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