How to be Zen AF

Anyone who has so much as dipped their little toe in the ocean of infertility will have been told, at one point or another (but most likely several hundred times), that they need to “just relax”. Given that the reason for mine and Simon’s infertility is a lack of motile sperm (which is quite obviously a male issue), you’d have thought I might’ve been spared the “just relax” line of advice…….but no. I’ve been told a few times that those little incompetent swimmers – the ones that are created, grown and nurtured to maturity in my husband’s testicles – might actually be better at swimming if I (THE FEMALE) simply took a chill pill*. Oh sure, that makes total sense. I mean, of course my lack of relaxation is the reason why I’m currently sat here tapping away furiously at my laptop and not chasing around a 2 year old (because omg that’s what my life would be like if we’d conceived in the first month of trying). Ignoring the fact that “just relaxing” won’t miraculously remedy any medical issues preventing pregnancy from occurring; women are continually conceiving in war-torn countries where – presumably – stress levels are pretty bloody high and the luxury of relaxation isn’t given much kudos.

*Not sure anyone has used the phrase “chill pill” in a couple of decades but hey, you can take the girl out of the 90’s but you can’t take the 90’s out of the girl.

^^^That was meant to be a casual intro but it seems to have morphed into quite a rant – one that has inevitably risen my blood pressure and is no doubt fanning the flames of any “just relax” believers out there. Swiftly moving on………

Whilst I quite clearly don’t give any merit to this theory, I do recognise that my own stress levels have increased as we approach our IVF start date – and it isn’t a fun place to be. Physically, I’m ready for the IVF treatment and all the side-effects (bring it on) but I know from people who’ve already been through this that the real challenge is a mental one. IVF is fraught with uncertainty and at every appointment, every scan and every blood test there’s the potential for the whole thing to come to an abrupt end. It’s like a game of poker where every promising move forward comes with even higher stakes that can all be taken away with just one unlucky roll of the dice.

[I have no idea if this analogy has any accuracy in terms of poker because my only knowledge of the game is derived from a single episode of Friends…but it seemed fitting.]

Something I’ve been prioritising in the last few weeks and will continue to make time for when the treatment begins in 2 weeks’ time (yikes) is de-stressing and zenning the F out. Obviously, I’ve been (half-heartedly) practicing all the standard and cliché relaxation techniques (nightly rituals before bedtime, nutritious food, meditation etc. etc.) but – using the words of Marie Kondo – these things just don’t spark joy for me the way that a disco spin class, a large glass of Argentinian Malbec and a piping hot bubble bath do. So here are 5 “IVF friendly” alternatives that are helping me get closer to that “Zen AF” ideal:

– Acupuncture

This one is at the top of my list for a reason – I love it. My sessions with Nicola (whose website is here and who can be found on Instagram here) leave me feeling like I’ve just floated around the clouds on a unicorn and landed back on Earth several kilos lighter. Nicola specialises in fertility / IVF acupuncture so there’s also the additional benefit that she understands the female cycle and IVF treatment a lot better than I do and allows me to offload all my concerns on her – thanks Nicola! There are some amazing studies out there with evidence to suggest that acupuncture can promote healthy and more regular menstrual cycles as well as improve the odds of conception in both natural and IVF cycles – I won’t pretend that I’ve done any thorough reading on this but what I can say for sure is that it brings a real sense of calm into my world – which can only be a good thing.

– Ambience

(basically scented candles & Lighthouse Family on repeat)

There’s a lot to be said for lighting a bunch of candles and whacking on some chilled music. Apparently lavender, ylang-ylang, bergamot, lemon and jasmine are the aromas linked to relaxation– but don’t quote me because that’s based purely on the results of a very fleeting Google search. Vanilla candles seem to be doing the trick for me. As are Lighthouse Family tunes.

– Yoga

This is a relatively new hobby of mine and one that I looked into more for my mind than for my body. That being said, the throbbing glutes I’ve been nursing since last week are testament to that fact that yoga is a pretty serious physical workout and among one of the few exercise classes that can be safely continued throughout IVF treatment. I won’t lie to you, my favourite part of the class is the bit at the end where I lie on the mat with a warm bean bag over my eyes and listen to the instructor reading inspirational quotes BUT the most valuable aspect is that I somehow manage to avoid thinking about any of the insignificant worries that usually take up space in my brain for a full 90 minutes – a very welcome break.

– Wine

Tragically, I’ve had just ONE alcoholic beverage since the start of 2019 and ugggghhhh I miss it so much. I’m yet to find an acceptable alcohol-free red wine replacement (if anyone’s found one lmk) but I’ve learnt to enjoy the Eisberg alcohol-free Sauvignon Blanc – it looks like water, tastes like elderflower but it says “wine” on the bottle and it’s one of the better ones to play pretend with. Even though the contents are 0%, sipping from a wine glass brings back a sense of normality – and feeling normal can help when there are so many weird and unpredictable things going on!

– A good old pamper

(not the brand of nappies )

My favourite way to de-stress is actually via a hot bubble bath but – devastatingly – both hot baths and indeed their bubbly-bottled friends aren’t advised during IVF because the high temperatures and exposure to chemicals have been linked to decreased fertility. I don’t think anyone really knows exactly how much of a role this sort of thing plays in the whole conception game but I’m following the advice I’ve been given and have swapped baths for showers and bubbles for all-natural, organic products. After considerable market research, my favourite brands and the ones that leave me feeling super refreshed are 100 Percent Pure and Pai – both brands are chemical-free, vegan and use all-natural ingredients so – as far as my research has concluded – they’re both IVF friendly.

[SIDE NOTE – I’ve been told not to use any products (no matter how plant-based and all-natural they may be) on my hair, skin or nails for the day of the egg retrieval.]

Not sure if any of this is remotely helpful to any of you lovely TTC ladies but thought I would share anyway, if you have any words of wisdom, tips or tricks for zenning out – let me know!

Namaste x

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