Trying to Conceive as a Type-A Personality Without Losing Your Mind
By Elyse Ash
When you’re trying to get pregnant, everything else in your life gets put on hold. This lack of control and structure is tough for even the most chill people, but it can be downright torture for those of us with Type-A personalities.
My best friend’s wedding was scheduled for 10 months after my husband and I decided to start trying to get pregnant. I remember worrying that by the time her wedding rolled around, my bridesmaid’s dress would no longer fit over my perfect, pregnant belly. I worried I might not even be able to fly to the wedding because what if I was in my third trimester or on bed rest or something. Yes, I spent many hours actively worrying about something that hadn’t happened and wasn’t yet a problem (Welcome to my life).
In hindsight, it’s hilarious that I feared this since it would take me an additional TWO YEARS after her wedding date to see those two magical pink lines appear, but I didn’t know it at the time. I just remember being nervous about the dress, the travel, and the logistics of potentially being pregnant during something important that I cared a lot about.
That anxiety stuck around and was a common theme throughout the three years we spent trying to conceive. With every vacation, every job change, every splurge, in the back of my mind, I was always scared that we would have to cancel something or be out some deposit because…what if I was finally pregnant for real?
I have what some people call a Type-A personality. Per Wikipedia, Type A people are ambitious, rigidly organized, impatient, and anxious. I have been Type-A from the day I was born. My mom loved telling stories about how as a child I would neurotically line up all of my paper dolls or stuffed animals in a neat, perfect row, finding almost more pleasure in setting up play than actually playing. I am someone who loves punctuality, planning, lots of advance notice, and alphabetized record collections, to name a few.
That’s why going through infertility was pretty much my own personal hell. You see, when you’re struggling to get pregnant, NOTHING is controlled. NOTHING is in order. There is no immediacy, no timetable, no organization, and no promises. You cannot out-run, out-work, or out-study infertility. It’s total chaos and the ultimate test for anyone with the faintest preference for a closet organized by color (me). Infertility doesn’t care if you love structure; it doesn’t care if you want to plan out your whole year by January 2nd. And while infertility is hard for pretty much everyone going through it, I think it’s especially hard for people who thrive on structure and plans.
So what can you do if you’re trying to conceive while having a Type-A personality? Unfortunately, changing your entire personality isn’t really a quick and easy option. But here are a few things that helped me gain much-needed perspective when I was feeling frustrated, anxious, and completely out of control on my infertility journey:
1. “Allow it.”
You cannot control your husband’s sperm count or your AMH. You cannot will your period into existence. This is the unique torture of infertility and it’s why the best thing you can do is take a deep breath and simply “allow it.” While it’s okay (and smart) to do research, ask questions, and do your due diligence, it’s also not something you should try to over-manage. Making peace with the reality that you cannot control this experience will save you a lot of anger and anxiety later on. The hard truth is that we all have little control over what happens to us, and while it’s nice to believe that if you work hard and try your best at something you’ll be rewarded, it’s just not the case with many things in life, including infertility.
2. Focus on what you CAN control.
While you can’t control you or your partner’s test results, or the outcome of your cycle, there are a few things that you CAN in fact control. You can control who you spend your time with: are your friends and loved ones making you feel more at peace or more stressed? You can control what you eat. You can control how much and how you move. You can control what type of media you’re consuming: are you listening to helpful and inspiring stories/movies/books/podcasts or are you making yourself more anxious? Setting healthy boundaries and eliminating potential triggers can do wonders for your mental health on this journey.
3. Do things that help you relax and bring you joy.
I know, I know. Telling an anxious person to relax is downright comical, but there ARE some concrete things you can do to try and slow down your fight or flight response. Acupuncture, meditation, and fertility yoga are all awesome ways to teach your body how to unclench and slow down (seriously, unclench your jaw). Find what works for you, and integrate those practices into your daily life. Whether it’s walking your dog, knitting, swimming, or journaling, find things that make your heart happy and force you to slow down.
4. Never, ever Google. Especially after 8 pm.
Do you have questions about trying to conceive? Of course, you do. But your doctor is the best person to answer them, not Google. I have mixed feelings about using the Internet during vulnerable, emotional, and confusing times. On the one hand, it has helped me connect to a lot of kickass women and given me lots of support and advice. On the other hand, it has been a huge source of anxiety. “NEVER eat gluten if you’re really serious about getting pregnant.” “ALWAYS do this other annoying thing.” The internet is filled with advice from people who don’t really know what they’re talking about. I wish I had laid off the Googling and instead written down all of my questions (as neurotic or silly or stupid as they might have seemed) and asked my doctor or nurse instead. This would have saved me a lot of stress, a lot of tears, and a lot of late nights huddled around the warm glow of my computer screen.
5. Find your people.
Repeat after me: you don’t have to do this alone. Infertility is not something anyone should go through without support. In fact, shame and isolation can make your feelings even tougher to process. So while you may not be up for telling friends or family, there ARE people who have been in your shoes who can help. Rescripted’s FREE fertility community is an excellent way to connect with thousands of others who GET IT. They also host free virtual support groups every other Thursday evening, if you need a safe space to vent, cry, or simply talk it out.
If you’re a Type A personality who is struggling with feeling out of control during infertility, you are in good company. Focusing on what you can control and letting go of what you can’t on this journey is easier said than done, I know. But by doing things that bring you joy and help ease your mind while seeking necessary support along the way, you WILL get through this and be stronger for it.
Do you have a Type A personality, too? How do you find ways to self-soothe and slow down while dealing with infertility?
Elyse Ash and her husband Brad went through three years of infertility, two rounds of IVF, and one frozen embryo transfer before seeing their first positive pregnancy test, which brought them their daughter, born in March 2018. Elyse lives in Minneapolis and loves poetry, hockey, social justice, Beyonce, and pretending she’s into yoga.