Hi friends! Happy Tuesday.
Something that is very important to me as a blogger is to bring my readers posts that support their experiences. Because I’m only one person with a unique set of experiences, sometimes I need to enlist a little help to cover important topics.
I’ve been mentioning an upcoming series about fertility, with a goal of opening up the conversation for those that are struggling to get pregnant. One reason I’m passionate about this is because friends near + dear to me are currently having difficulties conceiving. It is hard to know what to say or how to support them. It is important for all of us to learn more about what the journey to baby can look like for different people, so that we are able to be compassionate + supportive.
My friend Natalie (read more about her here) has written this post about her trials in trying to conceive a baby. Together, we want to spread a simple message: it is okay to talk about this subject. You are not alone + I’m sure you are surrounded by people that want to support you.
I wanted to leave these posts open ended, to really let the women tell their unique story.
Here is her story:
It is truly a miracle that we have so many babies in this world.
You are supposed to eat this…not that, drink this…not that, exercise…but not too intensely. Take vitamins, chart your temperature, check your cervical mucus, and pee on a stick to figure out when you can actually get pregnant. Don’t use lube unless it’s pre-seed because other lubes can kill sperm. Cut out caffeine, alcohol, and smoking. Get plenty of sleep. Weigh a certain amount. Keep your partner’s cell phone out of his pocket so the radiation doesn’t kill his sperm. Make sure he gets exercise and doesn’t take too hot of showers. Don’t stress and have fun sex, but don’t forget to prop your hips up so gravity can help the sperm swim the right direction. Lay like a beached whale for 30 minutes after sex. But, whatever you do, don’t stress because this is supposed to be fun!
Oh yea? Easy for you to say.
On any given month, a couple’s chance of conceiving in a small 12-24 hour window is only 20%! Infertility comes in all shapes and sizes. Some women don’t get a period while others have irregular periods. Some don’t ovulate, others can get pregnant no problem but are unable to hold a pregnancy. Some have PCOS (hormone imbalance which disrupts normal ovulation), some have POI (going into early menopause), and others have unexplained infertility. There is also a another group of women who deal with pelvic pain and aren’t even able to complete intercourse due to their condition (if this is you- please seek out a women’s health PT! I would also be more than happy to help you find one).
From the CDC: 1 in 8 couples have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. And, surprisingly 30-40% of the time, it’s actually the male partner with the issue. There are only 15 states that mandate health insurance will cover infertility services and only 8 states mandate that IVF is covered. And the other options for children (finding a surrogate or adoption) are also very costly. So, not only do women (+ their partners) have an emotional struggle over infertility, but a financial one as well. I’m passionate about this topic because it’s close to my heart and I feel like it’s so important to bring awareness to this issue.
When Ryan (my husband) and I made the decision that we wanted kids and “now” was a good time, we pretty much assumed we would have a baby 10 months later. Because, why wouldn’t we?! Although, in the back of my mind, I always had a tugging feeling that it wouldn’t come easy for us. We made the decision to “stop preventing” and “see what happens” in May 2015. Since going off the pill, my cycles have ranged anywhere between 30-54 days. So, the app ovulation trackers weren’t very helpful for me. I thought my cycles would get into a “normal” rhythm, but they haven’t. I didn’t actually start tracking with ovulation strips until December 2015. Since using the ovulation sticks, each month I think, “I should win a world record for the amount of cups I’ve peed in.” And, naturally, I use little plastic cups designed for Jell-O shots. I don’t think I’ll ever take a Jell-O shot the same….I digress.
Being very holistic in nature, I began seeing a naturopath in the fall of 2015 to get as healthy as possible and improve my chances of fertility. Although I thought she was great, it was very hard for me to continue taking various supplements throughout the day. If I knew it was going to work, I definitely would. But, I got to a point where I felt like it wasn’t really helping. The supplement I was taking to “improve my ovary function” was making my face break out like crazy.
In the fall, I went to my family doctor for my annual check-up and told her about my concerns. She tested me for celiac disease and thyroid disorder. I actually asked for these tests (you have to be your own advocate sometimes!) and specified that I wanted all 3 thyroid tests because a friend of mine (who is a nurse practitioner) emphasized the importance of getting T3, T4, and TSH tested. All of these tests came back negative. If your thyroid levels are off, everything (including your hormones) are off. This can be the issue for those struggling with infertility or cycle regularity.
I then decided to see a well-recommended OBGYN to see if she had any ideas for me. Because I’m under 35 and had not been trying for more than a year, she told me that I was totally normal and just to be sure to have sex when you wipe after using the bathroom and it feels like a “slip ‘n slide”. Quite hilarious, right?! She also tested my Vitamin D levels that day. I’m assuming because it was a cold Wisconsin winter and sometimes having low Vitamin D can affect your ability to get pregnant. But, my levels came back within normal limits. She told me to come back to see her in 6 months if I was still having trouble getting pregnant. Apparently 85% of women under the age of 35 get pregnant within 1 year of trying. So, that’s the statistic a lot of OBGYNs go by.
I tried fertility acupuncture and got on some Chinese herbs to help regulate my cycle. It actually worked! The first month I had a “normal” 30 day cycle was after my first round of acupuncture + Chinese herbs. One of the most important things they say to do to become fertile is to get your cycle regular. Well, I’m living proof, acupuncture definitely helped with that.
Although I felt like I’d probably hear the same things, a few months later, I decided to go to another OBGYN. She listened to me, said I probably wasn’t ovulating, and that she wanted to check my progesterone level. That came back normal. She said the next step was for my husband to get tested and for me to do a few more tests. My day 3 FSH and estradiol came back within normal limits. And, my husband’s results came back with flying colors. The nurse called me to tell me his results and said, “Wow, I’ve never seen sperm this great before…you can tell your husband he has superman sperm!” You would think this news would make me excited and happy, and a part of me was. But, I instantly thought, “well, now we know, it’s definitely my fault.”
Seven days after I supposedly ovulated, they tested my progesterone levels again. They said based on my numbers, it looks like I did ovulate but my numbers were a little low. The OBGYN recommended I should go ahead and try Clomid. Some women will get ultrasounds throughout their cycle to track the reaction your body has to Clomid, but that is not the case for me. Along with Clomid, I’m also trying another round of fertility acupuncture (day 7, 14, and 21 of my cycle) and seed cycling (you eat flax and pumpkin seeds days 1-14 and sesame and sunflower seeds days 15-28). It might sound a little desperate, but let me tell you, most women in my shoes will try practically ANYTHING to have a baby. Tracking basal body temperature and checking cervical mucus is like brushing my teeth at this point. I’ve even done some things that sound pretty crazy like: fertility yoga poses, castor oil + heat on my abdomen, drinking pregnancy tea, putting pillows under my hips after intercourse so gravity can help that sperm swim…all in the name of increasing my chances of getting pregnant.
Who knows at this point…I could be pregnant and I might just be at the start of my fertility journey. For those interested, if I’m not pregnant after Clomid, our next steps would be a few more months of Clomid, Hysterosalpingography or HSG test (dye test to see if my fallopian tubes are open), IUI, and IVF. And, probably more acupuncture, fertility massage, and seeking out a woman’s health PT who specializes in gynecological visceral mobilizations.
Like anything, you will have good days and bad days. Most of the time, I’m in a really good place about it. As hard as it can be to remember and keep in the forefront, I really do know that God has a plan for us. With God in the forefront, I’ve gotten to a really good place emotionally, especially over the past few months. I really feel that His plan is greater than anything I could have ever imagined.
Additionally, I cannot emphasize enough- the support that I’ve received from friends and family has been incredible. But, especially, the support, advice, and encouragement from other friends who have been through or are going through infertility is truly amazing. I have 2 friends who are going through some of these same struggles currently and it is so nice to be able to talk to them because they totally get it! It is so important to me to share my story because this is such a “taboo” topic and I hate that there are so many women who feel like they are alone in this! If you feel that way, I hope you don’t after reading this. You are not alone!
Lastly, I am a very outspoken woman and don’t hold much back. Ames: haha, I love this about Natalie. So, I feel totally comfortable telling people where I’m at in the fertility world. I think it’s so great to have support from your friends and family. Even from those who haven’t been in your shoes, it is nice to have people in your life who care and even just tell you they are praying for you.
There are a variety of things people can say to you that can be hurtful and straight up rude when you are discouraged. So in order for you to be a sweet + supportive friend, here are some of the “not so helpful” phrases I have heard that you should probably avoid saying:
“Well, you were on birth control for a really long time…that probably has something to do with it.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it, you are still so young, you have a long time to get pregnant. It’s not like you’re in your 40’s or something.”
“You think your situation is bad, you should hear about my friend…her situation is way worse- she can’t even get a period.”
“Oh, I know EXACTLY what you mean…I tried for 2 months before we got pregnant…it was literally the longest 2 months of my life!”
“Just have fun sex and stop thinking about it. You’re probably just thinking about it to much.”
“Just have more sex, it will happen.”
“Start the adoption process, and then it will happen.”
“All those women’s health patients you’ve seen probably make you not want babies anyway, right?”
“Just get the dye test, it opens up your tubes and you’ll get pregnant.”
“I never wanted to be a mother, it just happened to us accidentally.”
“You’re so lucky not to have kids, they completely change your life.”
“Well, you have been pretty busy lately, maybe if you slowed down?”
“Maybe you’re too skinny?!?”
“You might want to freeze your eggs if you need to do IVF down the road.”
“Well, whatever you do, don’t resort to IVF because then you are just playing God.”
And, one of my favorites… “You’re probably just stressed, you should relax. Have you tried yoga?”
I wish I made these up….but, they’ve all been said to me (some of them have been said by my closest friends and family). While all of these comments are good intentioned I’m sure, they are not helpful. When someone is going through a difficult time, don’t think you have to have the answers for them. Because, chances are, you have no clue what you are talking about. Bottom line- it’s important to listen, show you care, be there for them….that’s it.
I promise you, it is not for our lack of trying that I’m not pregnant and we don’t have children. We have A LOT of sex. And, it’s FUN SEX! I promise. But, lack of SEX is not our problem.
I’m so happy that Natalie decided to share her journey with you guys. I’ve been the person that just sits + listens to her, not knowing what to say…but, telling her how much I care about her + her husband. How often I pray for them.
Throughout her journey, Natalie has been an incredible friend throughout my pregnancy + Max’s life. She was the gal early on that would come over + watch him so that I could have a break + catch a shower. I know that she will be an incredible momma 🙂
Thank you all for reading. If you are interested in sharing your journey to having children you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy + Natalie