By Alex Farner
First comes love.
Then comes marriage.
Then comes a baby in a baby carriage.
But… not always.
Falling in love and making a baby should be as natural and simple as breathing, right?
But what happens when you want a baby and it just doesn't happen?
Setting out to make a new life with someone you love can be a wild ride of hope and disappointment. For some, it can feel like fertility and pleasure are two opposing terms, where one repels the other.
I'm writing from personal experience. I fell in love with a kind, caring man and imagined our life together as a family when we married. We stopped using contraception and made an intimate pact to become parents. It was the most romantic leap of my life. Together, we held our breath each month and playfully shared a 'last' bottle of kid-free bubbles when my period came. A couple of years later, still no baby. And no bubbles.
As we both went through tests and sat in medical waiting rooms, things turned decidedly less sexy. The mood turned darker as I rode a rollercoaster of hormone-inducing medications and procedures. The clouds rolled in; anger, rage, frustration, sadness, disappointment, self-doubt, grief, fear. We didn't tell anyone for the longest time, so the storm in a teacup was ours alone. Despite our best efforts, we reflected our emotions on each other - It wasn't always pretty.
I was given well-meaning advice to relax. Take a vacation, a bubble bath or a vitamin.
"Let it go"
"Stop trying so hard"
"You've got time"
"I had a friend who…"
Needless to say, things got worse.
We weathered these storms together, seeing each other at our strongest and weakest moments. We had hard conversations, sometimes in whispers and sometimes in screams, airing our fears. If we didn't have kids, would this love be enough?
Today, I don't know what the future holds, and for the first time in my life, I'm okay not knowing. Finding my best self again took me a lot of time, help and effort. Now, I am invested in helping other women navigate these challenges and the soul-searching heartache of fertility challenges.
Here are my 4 top tips for holding onto yourself and your relationship if you are on a fertility adventure.
Be here, now.
We spend a lot of our lives stressing about time. Trying for a baby can feel like time speeds up and the months slip away. Add commentary on your age into the mix and you have the perfect recipe for stress. So much of trying for a baby is about building a future for ourselves.
We plan our month around our cycles and we make plans around the baby: maternity leave, the spare room, skiing holidays, a trip to Europe. These plans can take us out of our lives, so meditation and yoga can bring us back into the present moment. The practice can teach us to appreciate taste, sensation and slow kisses. Being present for these moments can boost our serotonin levels and lift our mood.
I teach my clients little hacks to handle overwhelming situations, from medical waiting rooms to family events and anything in between.
If you feel safe, close your eyes.
Wherever you are, feel into what you're sitting on.
Feel the contact your body makes with the chair.
Notice what it feels like where you are right now.
Take a breath and follow it in and out of your body.
Then, sit back and notice the body breathing for you.
Stay as long as you like.
Continue on with your day.
There's a hustle and bustle to life that just doesn't translate to Mother Nature's timeline. These practices teach us to slow down, lean into what we're feeling right now and notice our emotional responses, which can increase our presence and pleasure in the here and now.
Intimacy comes in many shapes and sizes
When we're trying to conceive using timed intercourse, the stakes can feel really high. On top of the pressure to make ovulation sex 'successful', I felt a lot of societal pressure to be a Beyoncé in the bedroom. Years later, I'm here to tell you it's okay to cut yourself slack. Sometimes, it's okay to be 'vanilla' or to have a 'quickie.'
Technically saliva can interfere with your cervical mucus and alter the pH in your vaginal tract, potentially making it inhospitable to sperm. I recommend using a fertility-friendly lubricant like the Yinn Oil Based Lubricant to help you feel comfortable, safe and sexy.
There's no evidence that one position is optimal over another for conceiving. Some things we can control, and others we can't. At times I found it helpful to remove the goal of conceiving from the picture and let myself off the hook. There will be more opportunities for postcard-worthy sex, so take deep breaths and embrace pleasure rather than performance.
Foreplay is life
By taking some pressure off your ovulation phase, foreplay becomes a lifetime of falling in love. It's the act of doing the dishes, your trust in each other, and how you have each other's backs. The way you share what you enjoy with the other person and support them in their hobbies. It's the joy we feel when we see our loved one feeling their best.
Forming an emotional connection of safety, trust and appreciation by day will result in greater pleasure at night. Consider savouring this time between you and your lover, remembering if and when a little bed hog comes along, life will never be the same again. Enjoy the mini moments of hugs, kisses and singing in the car - This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Make time to treat each other to your favourite things in each stage of your cycle. By nourishing your relationship and sharing feelings of love and security, we send a message to our bodies that we are safe and ready for conception.
Give back to you
When all your focus is on productivity and outcome, it's easy to forget about just-for-fun play, downtime that fills you up. Play is an integral part of self-care that's almost gone by the wayside. From time to time, let's take 'results' out of the equation and make time for pleasure.
Movement you enjoy stimulates brain chemicals and releases endorphins that make you feel happier and more relaxed. Gentle flow or restorative yoga can nourish and top up energy levels. Swimming, running and hiking give us a healthy dopamine hit. Being in nature helps us affirm our connection to an ecosystem greater than us.
Make time for oxytocin-inducing skin-to-skin contact, long showers and barefoot walking. The pleasure that is just for you, to top up your soul. The joyful act of play and leaning into joy will nourish your mental health and feelings of self-worth.
I'll be the first to admit that treating myself - when I felt like my body was letting me down - took real effort. I practised slow yoga daily while going through IVF in the depths of the Covid lockdowns. Body brushing and self-massage at home helped me reconnect with my senses.
Self-care has become a catch cry, but there's evidence to it. The Yinn Body Oil is a great way to send loving kindness to your nervous system. Try massaging it into your calves and feet before bed to quell a busy mind for a nourishing night's sleep.
Research tells us that all of these actions can support your fertility. Perhaps even more importantly, these techniques will nourish YOU on this wild ride and help you anchor to yourself when the seas get rough.
This is the work I do daily. Through research, training and self-enquiry, I've designed an offering that supports women going through transitions and self-discovery, fertility, pregnancy and postnatal care.
For more information on your reproductive cycle, optimising your fertility or how yoga supports female vitality, you're welcome to contact me here www.solluswellbeing.co
I want to encourage more open discussion around the challenges of fertility. I hope my story reminds anyone struggling; while your experience is uniquely yours - you are not alone.
— Supercharge your Fertility with Yoga: Workshop (Saturday, Nov 4th)
— Yoga for Fertility: Online course (Registration open now)
— 1:1 Consultation and targeted yoga therapy (Available online)