how changing my diet changed my fertility

While I was deep in the pit of infertility, I used to search the internet for success stories. I never really considered putting myself through a lot of medical testing and procedures to get pregnant. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it just wasn’t the path for me. I always figured it would be too expensive and that if I was meant to have a child, I would, interventions or not. I also felt that God intended me to learn something from the experience, even if I wasn’t exactly excited about learning whatever it was he was trying to teach me. So, I searched for stories of women who were able to get pregnant on their own. After awhile, I stopped looking. It was too painful to allow myself to hope that it might happen.

When my first marriage was in the beginning stages of its demise, after about 3 years of trying to conceive, I decided to finally see a doctor, mainly just to get some answers and find out if there was really anything wrong. I think it was also a last ditch effort to try to save my marriage. My doctor told me he thought I might be insulin resistant and prescribed a blood sugar regulating medication. He told me to try it for 3 months and if I wasn’t pregnant by then, we would move on to something else. The medication made me very sick to my stomach and things finally reached a point in my marriage that it was pointless for me to take it anyway. It was over. No baby and I had to start from square one.

Fast forward to a few years later. I was remarried to Michael and we also had been trying to conceive for close to 3 years with no luck. My ex had gone on to have 2 children after we divorced, so if there was ever any doubt that the problem was with me, it was laid to rest by then. I was broken…in more ways than one.

One day, I was online looking for a recipe. I had some odds and ends around the house that I wanted to use up, and was trying to find a yummy way to use them all together. I ended up on a recipe that I found on Mark’s Daily Apple. I started reading and I kept reading and reading. Mark’s site talked about the Primal diet and the many health benefits of eliminating grains, sugar, and processed foods from your diet.  It made sense to me.  It sparked something it me and I decided to give it a try.  I was tired of being sick and tired.  I was overweight, depressed, tired, and just done.

I’m an all or nothing kind of person when it comes to food.  I’m prone to be either super-strict on a diet or completely gluttonous and just let myself go.  I tried to ease my way into this new way of eating, but that only lasted for a day or two.  I needed to cut out all the bad stuff completely or not at all, so on day two or three I eliminated sugar, grains, and most processed foods from my diet.  I also stopped eating white potatoes, beans, and peanut products.  My main goal in making these changes was to lose weight and hopefully feel better but, as I read more about the benefits of eating this way, I started to wonder if it might improve my fertility.  I kept a journal of what I ate every day and started tracking my cycles again…just to see.  That was in mid-February.

A few days after starting the diet, I went to an acupuncturist to see if that could remedy the debilitating headaches that had plagued me for years.  I also secretly wondered if that might impact my fertility.  I had read that it could help, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up.  I didn’t want to be disappointed again.  The acupuncturist had me complete a lot of paperwork and asked me a lot of questions about my health.  He also came to the same conclusion that the fertility doctor had years ago.  Insulin resistance.  Pre-diabetic.  He advised me to eat more protein and fat and less carbs and starchy foods, something that I had already started to do. The treatment was wonderful and I wish I could have afforded to return on a regular basis.  But, I never went back.  I didn’t need to.  In mid-April, I started to feel “off”.  Even though I didn’t want to allow myself to hope, I started to wonder if I might be pregnant.  I started tracking my temps again and though it was late in my cycle, my temps were consistently high.  I decided to stop after work one day and buy a pregnancy test.  Part of me expected to see a blank white space staring back at me, but another part of me just knew.  Sure enough, two blue lines showed up on the test.  I couldn’t believe it, so I quickly used the other test that came in the 2-pack.  It was also positive.  I remember falling down on my knees and sobbing, thanking God for this miracle.  I never thought I would be able to have my own child…and finally…it was my time. After two months of following a Primal diet, I was pregnant.  And those debilitating headaches?  They were gone.

I often tell people that changing my diet helped me to get pregnant…and I believe that it did.  But I don’t want to dismiss God’s hand in all of this.  Like I said earlier, if it was His intention for me to get pregnant sooner, I would have.  My timeline wasn’t the same as His.  He had a lot of work to do in me first.  I had to let go of the demons of my past and start loving myself.  After the heart wrenching divorce and picking up the pieces again, I had finally stopped feeling sorry for myself and decided to take care of myself.  I had wallowed long enough.  I wanted to be healthy, physically and emotionally, regardless of whether or not I became a mom….and going Primal was part of that.

Seeing the impact of a Primal diet on my health made me certain that I wanted to stay Primal during my pregnancy and beyond.  I managed to do that for the most part.  I had occasional cheats, but I really did my best to stick with it and I still eat Primal most of the time.  With the holidays just winding down, I really need to get back to strict Primal, especially since we are trying for Baby #2.  🙂

I know that changing to a Primal diet isn’t the answer for everyone, but if you are struggling with unexplained infertility, PCOS, irregular menstrual cycles, or other hormonal imbalances, why not give it a try?  Fortunately, there is a lot of new research emerging that supports the idea that grains, sugar, and processed foods can really impact fertility, and I am so glad to see the information getting out there.  Here are just a few other sources for information on this.  You can also do a Google search for “paleo and fertility” or “primal and fertility” and find tons of stories from other women who got pregnant without any medical intervention, after changing their diet.

Is Wheat Making You Wait for Babies? by Dr. Kelly Brogan, M.D.

Primal Nutrition and Fertility by Mark Sisson

*Please note that I am not a doctor or nutritionist and I am only speaking from my own personal experience.

the other side of infertility

A lot of parents say that they can’t remember life before children. I am not one of those parents. I remember my pre-baby days very well.

I like to think it’s because I am an older parent and not because I spent so many years battling infertility. I had my first child at 34 years and Michael was 41. We had many years to travel, pursue our interests, come and go as we pleased, and become set in our ways. I can still taste the freedom of my life before children. There are moments when I miss it, even long for it…but I wouldn’t trade it. I would take the loss of freedom over the longing ache for a child any day of the week.

So, after many years of battling infertility, what does it feel like to be on the other side?

This has been a difficult post to write, not in the emotionally difficult sense, but difficult in that it is hard to describe the feelings that follow the birth of a baby after so many years of disappointment.

In many ways, the sting of infertility still remains. It’s not something that magically disappears after a baby is born. I think it will always be a part of me.  Along with that comes a certain amount of  “survivor’s guilt”, knowing that there are still so many out there who are struggling and who might never have a child.

I had a lot of misconceptions about mothers when I was TTC. I can remember thinking that people like present-day me just didn’t get it. I read a lot of inspirational books and articles and whenever I found out that the story teller had gone on to have children, I dismissed her as someone who just didn’t understand what it was really like to be so tormented by the inability to have children.

I can remember thinking that I would NEVER complain about pregnancy or nursing or a crying newborn because I would be so happy just to have that little person in my arms. I was full of judgement for women who easily got pregnant or complained about motherhood.

Didn’t they know how very blessed they were?!

How can she have 3, 4 or 5 children and I can’t even have one?

She doesn’t appreciate the children she has and she’s pregnant again? It’s so unfair.

I was even jealous of women who miscarried, because at least they knew what it was like to get a positive pregnancy test.  Terrible, right? I was full of jealousy and bitterness and not very lovely at all.  These days, pregnancy announcements still hit me like a ton of bricks sometimes.  It’s not because I am jealous anymore.  I have chalked it up to so many years of actually feeling jealous and angry and bitter, it’s just a gut reaction at this point.  But thankfully, that feeling usually disappears as quickly as it came.  Maybe it’s just a painful reminder of where I’ve been and I don’t want to go back to that place.

The truth is, pregnancy was hard. I tried to enjoy every fleeting moment, but sometimes those moments felt so looong. I whined. I complained. I probably made my poor husband crazy. I panicked when my daughter cried the entire first night home from the hospital. What had I gotten myself into? I felt guilty.  Mommy guilt magnified 1000 times. I had waited so long for this. Shouldn’t I be ecstatic about every ache and pain, every lost hour of sleep, every moment of attention that my little one demanded?  If I couldn’t be ecstatic, shouldn’t I at least suffer in silence and reflect on the beauty of sore boobs and Braxton Hicks?

I was not always ecstatic and Michael will tell you that I definitely did not suffer in silence.  You know why?  Because I’m human.  There were moments when I questioned myself for even bringing a child into this world.  It’s such a scary, evil place at times.  My body no longer belonged to me.  Everything I did had to be modified to accommodate this little person.  After Evelyn was born, I actually spent a lot of time feeling like the whole thing wasn’t real.  Like she wasn’t really mine and someone was going to come and get her and I would go back to living life as I knew it. There were foggy moments like that.   But one thing was for sure, life would never be the same.

I’ve come to realize that I can’t beat myself up for having those feelings.  I may have complained and questioned my decision to have a child, but I spent just as much time marveling in the miracle.  I fell in love with my growing belly.  I watched it bump and shift as she grew bigger and more active.  I soaked up every compliment and congratulations from every loved one and stranger.  I talked about it incessantly…sometimes I think the complaining was just an excuse to talk about my growing baby.

Part of me doesn’t want to write about the wonder of having a child.  I don’t want to add to the pain of someone who might be suffering and reading this.  But, if I’m being truthful and candid, I have to say that having a child has filled a little empty spot inside of me that I don’t think could have been filled by anything else in this earthly realm.  Does that mean I couldn’t have a fulfilling life if I never became a mom?  Of course not.

Becoming a mom has changed me in many ways.  I am more patient, more forgiving.  I’m happier overall….it’s hard not to be when you’re seeing the world through a child’s eyes.  My life is messier, more complicated.  I worry more.  I struggle to find balance. I have moments where I want to pull out my hair, but I wouldn’t trade it.  I am a mom, but a little part of me will always be infertile.

I can remember life before Evelyn, but I wouldn’t go back.

 

the most important thing you need to know about trying to conceive

 

TTC

I’ve been thinking for some time about writing a series of posts about my experience with trying to conceive (TTC) and infertility, but I always kind of dismissed the idea. Too serious. Too emotional. Too personal. But recently, I’ve been letting the idea swirl around in my head a little more and I’ve become more comfortable with it. I know there are so many women out there…some just starting to think about having a baby, some longing to be a mama, and others praying for a miracle. Heck, there are even those who have given up completely and accepted the fact that the little child they dreamed of might never enter their lives. I was close to that. Looking back, I think I can honestly say that I was starting to believe that I might never be a mom. Well anyway, if anything I have to say here can offer inspiration, a glimmer of hope, or a sense of peace, then I want to write it. Because TTC (and infertility) can be a long, hard journey and it sucks to go it alone. So, I offer my first of (hopefully) a collection of posts about the path to motherhood and all its bumps and detours.

In the Bible study that I attend, we have been doing a study on marriage, and this week’s topic was sex. Yup, a bunch of puritanical Christian ladies discussing “the deed.” You can imagine the blushing and giggles. But seriously…

Some of the gals in our group are not yet married and so the married ladies were asked to give them some sex advice for future reference. Of all the advice I could give, the one thought that kept popping into my brain is don’t let love making become baby making. At some point, most married couples plan to have children. For some, it happens sooner than they’d planned. Others never anticipate that getting pregnant will be a problem.

So, let’s say you’ve been TTC for a few months now and nothing has happened. You might be starting to worry a little bit. You might be wondering if there are things you can do to increase your chances each month. You might be growing impatient. You might start to wonder if something is wrong. You’re probably tempted to consult Dr. Google about what you can do next. You know you will.  And there are lots of things you can do to increase your chances and learn about your body.  In fact, I think it’s really important to be proactive and educate yourself about your own fertility.  But…

Please, please, please, before you do that, you have to make a promise to yourself and to your spouse that you won’t allow love making to become baby making.

What do I mean by that? What’s the difference? You’re probably thinking, what can be more intimate and connecting than creating a baby with someone? That sweet little child is a manifestation of the strong bond of love you share with your spouse, right? In a perfect world, of course it is, but I am living proof that TTC can also single-handedly destroy a marriage.

Once you start reading and learning about all that is involved in TTC, it’s really easy to become obsessed. You’ll discover things about your body that you never dreamed of and your bathroom (or bedroom) is likely to begin to look like a science lab. Soon you might purchase a basal thermometer, OPKs, and a fertility tracking app for your phone. You’ll learn about cervical mucus and you might even start to POAS (pee on a stick) on a daily basis. You’ll probably begin to talk to your spouse about all of it. So, you can see how that might kill the mood, right? You’ll calculate the perfect time to do the deed and what the heck, you might even raise your knees up over your head for good measure. How long do I have to stay like this?  Before you know it and without even trying, sex will become a chore, a duty, and an inconvenient means to an end.  Believe it or not, men can begin to feel used when you’re only after one thing (his swimmers).

If I’m being really honest with myself, this was probably the biggest reason (there are others) why my first marriage ended in divorce.  I spiraled into a deep, dark hole of baby obsession…and probably suffered from depression at the same time.  Sex was all about baby making for me.  If there’s no chance I could get pregnant right now, why bother?  I was beaten down, tired, and frustrated at seeing everyone around me get pregnant and, ironically, it killed my sex drive.  There were times when I would try to be reasonable and just let it go…put it in God’s hands.  But my need for control eventually took over again and I was back where I started.  I can even remember thinking to myself, Babies are supposed to be conceived in love.  Not like this… 

Trying to conceive can be extremely stressful, folks, so be kind to yourself and be kind to each other.  Take time to do the deed…just because.  Relax, have fun together, laugh.  Remember, you chose your husband and you will be with him long after your unborn children leave home.  It is so vitally important to nurture your marriage so that if and when you do have kids, they will have parents who still love each other.

What do you do to stay sane and keep love alive while trying to conceive?