Forget giving birth and having a kid—just simply trying to get pregnant is an overwhelming experience to navigate. Take it from someone who’s been there (twice!): There are a few important things to know if you’re deciding to go for it.
1. Every woman is different.
I foolishly assumed that my own pregnancy journey would mirror my friends’. Something about hearing their “How I Got Pregnant” stories left me naively assuming my body would work just like theirs. “Oh, Kelly got pregnant exactly two months after she started trying and experienced morning sickness approximately three times a week? So will I!” Lo and behold, this did not happen because—duh—everyone is different. It’s especially important to remember this when trying to get pregnant because…
2. It may not happen right away.
Let me guess, you have a friend who got pregnant the day she started trying. Wait, no, scratch that, you have 10 friends for whom this happened. “OMG, I’m so fertile!” they laugh, half-thrilled, half-terrified. I had these people in my life too and the narrative was so common that I was certain I too would get pregnant on Attempt No. 1. (I had friends who seemed to get pregnant just from the mention of sex.) And because I was so sure this would be my path, I freaked out when one month of trying turned into two, and then six, and then eight. I finally got pregnant after 10 months of trying but not before I learned this:
3. Just because it’s taking a long time to get pregnant doesn’t mean there’s something “wrong” with you.
Maybe I was a clueless teenager but growing up, I assumed that sex at any time of the month meant pregnancy could happen. I didn’t really get ovulation or understand that we’re more fertile at certain times. I was taught to be so “safe” that I assumed I’d get pregnant the second I started having unprotected sex to conceive—just like my high school sex ed teacher said! Not true. Sometimes, getting pregnant just takes a long-ass time. And because we so often hear those stories of women getting knocked up on the first or second try, it can be easy to assume there’s something “wrong” with us if we don’t get pregnant right away. And yes, there may be a medical reason why pregnancy isn't happening right away. But it might also just take a while. My OB told me that for someone my age, it could take six months to a year to get pregnant, and not to stress about it. And you know what I did, right? Stress like a motherfucker. But it turned out she was right.
4. Your body may take a while to adjust after you go off birth control.
Some woman resume normal menstrual cycles immediately after going off their birth control. But some of us have a different experience. After stopping my hormonal birth control, it took my body months to have a regular cycle. According to WebMD, this is normal. But if you’re worried about it, check in with your doctor for peace of mind.
5. Not every woman has a 28-day cycle.
Even after I’d been off birth control for a while, I still had 34-day cycles. Turns out this is also normal: The average cycle can run from 21 to 35 days. When my cycle finally did get shorter, I still ovulated later in my cycle; the average women with a 28-day cycle ovulates on day 14 but I was ovulating around day 20. (I figured this all out thanks to the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility, in case you need another thing to order on Amazon.) Your body may not operate like your fertility app or pregnancy book says it’s supposed to, and that’s totally cool.
6. Fertility apps may make you feel like you’re in control but they can also mess with your mind.
You could download 10 fertility apps on your phone and that would still just be a small sample of the digital tools offered to track your body’s every rhythm. And sure, they’re helpful and give you that deeeeelicious feeling of control over a wildly unpredictable process. But they can also turn the experience of getting pregnant into a obsession, leading you to overanalyze every temperature dip or chart every single thing your body does. If they’re becoming more of a hinderance than help, delete ‘em off your phone for a couple of months. And maybe get rid of Facebook too, if all those “OMG, I’M PREGNANT!” posts are becoming too much of a bummer.
7. Scheduling sex doesn’t have to mean it has the spice of a weekly work meeting.
It can feel kinda unsexy to type “ovulating—have sex” into your Google calendar. But scheduling it doesn’t necessarily have to kill the mood. Get into it—toys, oils, outfits, cocktails before … whatever you like to take the pressure off and keep the focus on fun (and, you know, orgasming).
8. You can take a pregnancy test one day and get a negative, and again a few days later and get a positive.
LOL at our bodies playing the ultimate practical joke on us. Pregnancy tests are not always accurate, especially when they’re taken right after conception. A positive test occurs when the HGC hormone is detected and this often doesn’t show up until two weeks post-conception. As annoying as it is to wait to take a pregnancy test, it can often spare you the roller coaster ride of thinking you’re not pregnant and then having a “Hey, wait a second…” moment.
9. You know your body better than anyone else.
Listen to your doctor (duh). But listen to yourself too. Only you know the patterns of your body and life. Getting pregnant can be a fun and frustrating process, and everyone has an opinion, advice, or a sure thing. Friends, doctors, parents, coworkers, Starbucks baristas, and spouses may have a lot to say about you, your body, and trying to conceive, but trust your own gut too. And your uterus.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.