Sitting desperate and alone in an airport bathroom was the best teacher I had on my fertility journey as it helped me turn my life around – and eventually get pregnant.
I’ve had many low points during my almost 5 year fertility journey. I want to tell you about a specific one because I feel it might be helpful for you to hear that:
… you are NOT alone.
… this is totally normal.
…I’ve been (almost) exactly where you are.
Well into my second year of trying to conceive I did an ovulation induction treatment 12 times in a row. Ovulation induction is basically IVF without the surgery – it involves the same hormones pumping into your body, daily blood tests and the hoping and waiting.
I came home from a business trip abroad, frantically trying to finish the work project before my next work trip. I was sleep-deprived, full of adrenaline about work and unpacking and packing and my to-do list… AND the upcoming ovulation induction round.
I didn’t want to miss a single month, because every month is precious, right? Especially when your doctor tells your 30-year old self you have the egg reserve of a 45-year old and you don’t ovulate on your own.
So I got to the airport to take a transatlantic flight (did I mention I was afraid of flying and started getting anxious about long flight days in advance?) and rushed to a yucky airport bathroom to unpack my needles and vials from a cooler bag to inject the trigger shot for ovulation.
My head felt dizzy from doing what felt like physics-level math in my head to calculate the exact timing of this trigger shot, keeping in mind the time difference and the transit time until I met my husband.
I sat on the floor of that bathroom stall, hearing the excited voices of mothers with their children around me in vacation mood, and there I was…injecting myself in-between business trips, desperately trying to become a mother, miserable and feeling so alone.
I somehow managed to get through that long flight without an anxiety attack (watching Friends helps, it always does), met my husband, had some awkward adult time and then I crashed. I don’t think I could get out of bed for the rest of the day.
Spoiler alert: this round didn’t work either. I didn’t expect it to. But I was still devastated. Because I thought I had planned everything so well. We had spent so much money, invested so much time, energy and emotions into this process. All the ducks seemed to be in a row. Yet, somehow they weren’t.
This airport bathroom experience was close to an epiphany for me to turn things around; to change fundamental aspects of my life in order to nurture my fertility, not force it; to work with my body, not against it. And this is how failing hard was the best teacher I had on my fertility journey.
So what did I change? Mindset, lifestyle and tactics.
I changed from questioning my fertility and worthiness of becoming a mother to fully believing in it through daily affirmations and non-negotiable positive self-talk. I read 7 Buddhism books that help me find a spiritual compass that is still guiding me today and probably will do so for the rest of my life.
The biggest difference came from incorporating mind-body-connection techniques into my daily life. I wanted to see for myself if the research – mind-body-tools can help you improve your fertility via your brain’s messages to reproductive hormones – might work for me too. And I truly believe they did.
Mind-body tools include relaxation, breathing, gentle Yoga, visualizations and journaling. I would start the day with a 10-minute meditation, calming my nervous system and allowing me to manage my emotions in a more controled and safe way. Afterwards, I felt I was mentally equipped for whatever would come my way.
I downloaded audio meditations and relaxation tunes onto my phone and listened to it everytime I felt I needed a break at work, on my commute or before going to another babyshower.
I improved my work-life balance by reducing my business trips and working from home more to avoid the stressful commute. I examined my nutrition and switched from store-bought meals to more home-cooking and organic whole foods. I started baking my own bread and slathered it with ghee and butter to make sure my body got enough calories. And I dialed down my exercise routine from daily high-intensity workouts, runs and Power Yoga to a more balanced workout week that included gentle yoga, walking and rest days.
I changed my fertility clinic and stopped rushing from one ovulation induction round to the next without letting my body rebalance its hormones. I realized my current clinic’s approach wasn’t right for me and that I needed more specialized care related to my hormone profile. It took a year of on-boarding, doing tests and consultations until I could finally start a new round of IVF. While that wait felt excruciatingly long at times, I knew I was in the best hands and on the right track. I felt fully supported by the clinical team and the wonderful women I met along the way.
All of these small (or big) changes helped my body and mind to feel safe, nurtured and ready for a baby. I finally understood that you can’t trick your body and mind into getting pregnant. You have to work with your body, hand in hand, be patient and stay incredibly kind to yourself.
Failing hard during my fertility journey taught me these invaluable lessons and helped me understand what it really meant for my body and mind to be baby-friendly. And it did not include a stressed version of myself frantically injecting shots in an airport bathroom
Rather, it included:
Kindness to myself.
Better outside help.
I’d love to hear your airport bathroom moment. How did your low point look like? And what did you learn from it?