By Ellen Glazer

Waiting used to be part of the fabric of our lives. It wasn’t all that long ago that we waited for letters to arrive by mail, for water to boil, for film to be processed and for someone to be home so that we could talk with them by phone. In those not-so-distant days before email and microwaves, selfies, texting and voice mail, all of us were used to waiting.

Times have changed. These days things happen in an instant. We have streaming on our televisions and alerts of traffic delays on our phones. We can buy and sell most anything with just a few clicks on our computers. We wait for little. That is, except when trying to build our families.

Anyone going through infertility gets a crash course in waiting. You wait for appointments, for tests, for periods to come and go, for news of how many eggs fertilized, for the number of embryos suitable for transfer, for pregnancy tests and for follow up blood levels. You wait for donors to be screened, surrogates to be found, or adoption matches to happen. For so many people infertility has come to mean a long, slow journey with countless pauses and wait times along the way. How can you cope with waiting when waiting has become history?

In my work with individuals and couples experiencing infertility, I always encourage what I think of as “productive” waiting, or perhaps a better description is “non-wasteful waiting.” I often refer back to two couples I knew many years ago. One was the first couple I knew to have a baby through in-vitro fertilization. When I congratulated them they acknowledged that although overjoyed, they were also regretful. They said they felt they had lost a decade of their lives focusing all their energies on having a baby. Their regret stood in stark contrast to the experience of friends of mine who had also spent years pursuing parenthood. By the time their first child was born, he had become a reproductive endocrinologist, and she had completed law school.

Waiting to become a parent–or to have a second or third child–does not mean that you need to press “pause” on the other parts of your life. I know that it will often feel as though everything is on hold, but there are things you can do to ensure that time does not waste away. Although you may not believe it, you will find a resolution to your infertility. Regardless of the outcome, I feel you will benefit from enriching your time waiting. For those who will become parents (no matter what the ultimate path to parenthood), busy days are ahead. You may want to take this time to do the things that will be more difficult then. These include:

  1. Invest in your future.
    This can mean anything from adding a deck or patio to your home to taking courses that will build new skills and offer new career opportunities. Sure, these are things you can do with a child, but they will be more difficult then. With some time and energy to spare, seize this day to do some of the home or life improvements that would surely be relegated to the back burner when you are caring for a baby.
  1. Mark your calendar.
    It can be so easy—and so damaging—to let one day or week or month slide into another. Get in the habit now—and keep it in the future—of having things on your calendar to look forward to. You can plan a distant trip or a local dinner out, a special concert or a weekend at a seaside inn. The key is to actively create memories. Most of us can more easily remember a special vacation years ago than what we did last week.
  1. Be physically active.
    Every day, new evidence comes out about how important it is to be physically active. We’ve known for a long time that physical fitness reduces heart disease and strokes, depression and anxiety. Now we’re learning that exercise helps our minds stay alert, clear and nimble. Physical fitness is so often a casualty of early parenthood— since it can be hard to get to the gym when you’ve been up all night caring for a baby. Make fitness a habit now. Be strict with yourself. Get into a “no excuses” mindset as you make a habit of trips to the gym, pool or the tennis court.

As I write this, I realize that it may all sound irrelevant to what is most important to you: having a baby. Please know that I take that goal and your longings so seriously. I understand that they are front and center. Active, non-wasteful waiting will not diminish the significance of these goals nor lessen your chances of achieving them. What active, non-wasteful waiting can offer is an authentic sense that you have some control of your life. I hope you will be able to one day look back, with a baby in your arms, and reflect with satisfaction on time well spent.

Ellen Glazer, LICSW, Family Building Counselor and Coach, is co-author of “Having Your Baby through Egg Donation” and author of “The Long Awaited Stork.” Her website is EllenSGlazer.net.