I have been doing this blog for a little over 3 months now, focusing on giving the best possible information and advice on clean cosmetics to my friends, family and others who are interested!
But I thought it was time to delve into why and where this all started. How did I become interested in this area and give more details about the journey up to this point.
It all started with what ended up being quite a lengthy journey to motherhood – not as long as some but certainly longer than the majority.
As you would associate with something like this, whether you have been through it or not, it was a complete emotional roller coaster. But what you might not associate with it is how much we got out of it in the end – no, not just the baby, but personally in terms of our lifestyle but also attitudes, priorities and perspectives.
So here is the full journey… so far at least, with all the gory details!
PART 1 – Planting the seed
Excuse the pun….
I first got my period when I was 13… .super embarrassing looking back. It was one of those situations you have nightmares about – red stained school uniform, jumper around the waist in the scorching sunshine, trying to not have to go up to the blackboard in class…. traumatic so much so that the details are pretty blurry but the feeling of mortification is super clear- definitely my coping mechanism.
Between 13 & 18 my periods were pretty irregular in fact I don’t think I even knew they were supposed to come every month… I didn’t care! It was great to not have to worry about it.
After school, I went traveling and I didn’t get one for 18 months,. At this stage mum took me to the doctor.. .yes took me! After a few tests I was diagnosed with PCOS. I don’t remember a lot about the consultation (this is a theme isn’t it… .I have a bad memory) but clear as day I remember the doctor telling me that the consequence of this was that it would cause problems for having a baby.
My mum tried to give me some literature to read, tried to explain that it was common etc. but I was totally disinterested. My attitude at the time was this isn’t relevant to me – a baby, gosh I don’t even want to think about that!
What I didn’t realise was the emotional seed that the doctor had planted with her words. It buried itself deep down only to resurface about 10 years later when I was completely in love and we were talking about getting married. Suddenly I had this lump in my throat… all those feelings of inadequacy and faultiness that I had never acknowledged but must have thought came to the surface and I was petrified that I wouldn’t be able to have children and what would that mean for our relationship. I knew my husband wanted kids and so did I.
We talked about it & he said we would deal with it together when the time came… even then with his wholehearted supportiveness I was freaking out inside, thinking about the what ifs… But I put it aside and went into bridezilla mode on the wedding planning!!
PART 2 – the first decision
So we got married, it was soooooo much fun. But of course once people can’t ask you about the wedding prep any more then the next thing is babies – when, how many….
For most of us we have all spent years carefully planning how not to get pregnant. The media, our parents, teachers, movies have told us that having an unplanned pregnancy would .ruin our lives – our studies, our career etc. etc.
So by now we were talking about the best time to have a baby…. in the end because of all this doubt in my mind on the difficulties we decided that no time is the perfect time.
I went off the pill in November 2013, it took ages for my period to come back and then it wasn’t regular so after about 7 months I went to a gynaecologist and had some tests – apart from PCOS nothing was diagnosed. The medical diagnosis was reassuring and frustrating – nothing much was wrong, we just needed more time.
At around the same time we moved from the UK to Hong Kong which meant a few months living apart and this also slowed things down medically as we changed doctors. In hindsight the change in doctor was probably a good thing as my first doctor’s go-to solution appeared to be heading straight to IVF.
PART 3 – the next decision
After about 12 months since coming off the pill, we were both settled in Hong Kong and I started to look into stepping it up a gear. I am impatient by nature and felt like we were getting nowhere – what could we do to optimise our chances? .I read a lot, but it was so confusing and bitty… “try acupuncture that worked for a friend” “try a chiropractor” “try not eating XYZ” – so much advice. All well-meaning of course but ultimately hairpullingly frustrating and left me feeling completely hopeless and overwhelmed.
My mum had found a natural fertility clinic in Sydney who specialised in helping people who had been struggling with pregnancy for some time. I had not pursued it because I thought I could do it on my own and wondered if any of this “natural stuff” would work….
However, after about a year and a half on the fertility journey and several months of testing out different people’s advice I finally decided to contact Gabriela at the natural fertility clinic.
PART 4 – Life got turned on its head
Honestly I don’t think we really knew what we were in for – no, we definitely didn’t know what we were in for!
But we were fed up of trying to figure it all out on our own and really needed someone to hold our hands.
Gabriela’s programme is in her style – pragmatic, direct, no excuses, no bullshit, no short cuts and NO laziness.
Having said that we were 100% committed to doing what was asked which made a massive difference because boy were there A LOT of changes.
We changed our food, our cleaning products, all our cosmetics, personal care. We went booze free, caffeine free, gluten free, dairy free and for me – sugar free.
We slept more, we ate earlier, cooked in stainless steel or cast iron, we turned the WiFi off when we weren’t using it, we took the phones out of the bedroom at night – you know I can’t even remember now all the changes we made – they have just become second nature! But I know there were more!
We also had a lot of testing – testing to determine overall health and certainly things that fertility doctors would not necessarily look at.This identified a few general health issues and some minor factors that can directly affect fertility.
One example was that my husband’s calcium levels were sky-high and although nothing to do with fertility, it ended up with him needing a parathyroidectomy. We are very thankful to the programme for this because gone un-diagnosed over a period of time it could have been very serious.
PART 5 – the hard slog
After we had got used to all the lifestyle changes we were 100% focused on results… this was tough. Nothing to distract you….frustratingly it took quite some time to get my cycles regular – I would have anything from 40 to 65 day cycles. It took about 6-7 months for them to regulate… very frustrating when it feels that everything is about timing.
Then I developed a rash on my face, something I had never had before. It was awful and emotionally very difficult. I had to cut out most food (I know it sounds like there wasn’t much left…. but you would be surprised) – steamed chicken and potatoes for a few weeks, then slowly adding things back in.
In the end we worked out it was a salicylate allergy – the irony! Salicylates are in everything healthy – spinach, kale, blueberries, avocado, almonds, coconut… the list goes on & on…. after a few months it cleared up completely.
PART 6 – The next step
Things were not progressing on the natural front but we both felt we were in fantastic health – with all the changes we had made and the tests we had done – there was no question!
But it got to a point when Gabriela and her team thought we should progress down a medical route – we had managed to identify some more issues through our testing but nothing definitive that would be stopping me getting pregnant.
So we did two ICSI rounds but unfortunately that didn’t work. And then after a lot of deliberation for me we decided to go to IVF. I really did not want to go down this route because for me this was the last resort – what happened if it didn’t work then I didn’t have anything else in the back pocket which really scared me.
We embarked on the gravy train that is IVF, something that I can wholeheartedly say I did not enjoy… the clinic waiting room was like a morgue, all these women looking miserable, waiting to be prodded…
Our IVF story was a short one thank god but even then not completely straight forward (I doubt there is any such thing as a straight forward IVF journey).
I went in for egg collection and got 20 eggs (which is a lot) but as I have severe PCOS it was not a surprise. Unfortunately an unusually high number of the eggs were not suitable for transfer so from 20 eggs we ended up with 3. I was devastated when I got
this news… I was on a work trip in Japan on a train, it was so hard to hold myself together. However, after a pep talk from Gabriela and her team I realised that 3 was actually really great & anyway we only needed 1!
We couldn’t do a fresh transfer because after the egg collection I got ovarian hyper stimulation. It was really horrible, I felt bloated and awful for days but all these signs can be side effects of the IVF drugs. However, in my case my body reacted badly and my electrolyte levels went completely out of whack meaning the risk of seizures were pretty high so I ended up in ICU for 3 days…. which was pretty scary at the time but a tiny blip looking back now.
PART 7 – The baby
So I waited 2 months and then went back and had 1 embryo transferred. I was too scared to check myself to see if I would get a positive pregnancy test so I waited for the blood test. When I went to the doctor to get the blood test I was so scared and emotional that I burst into tears before he had had a chance to take the blood! Poor guy – he was only filling in for my normal doctor!
Luckily the test results came back within a few hours, and I will never forget the doctor calling me back to say it was positive. I couldn’t believe it and actually throughout my pregnancy, and despite my growing belly, I had real trouble believing that it was happening and I often worried that something would go wrong.
But it didn’t, I had a very simple pregnancy and uncomplicated birth & now we have a beautiful little girl who fills the house with laughter, fun….smelly nappies and grizzle sometimes too.
PART 8 – The unexpected upside
There is nothing like a situation that takes you on a seriously steep learning curve, where you are forced you to change something or many things fast. It is why you often hear people who have suffered life altering illnesses, accidents or other circumstances standing up at events telling their journey – how they fought back from adversity often to be better, more accomplished versions of themselves.
For us of course we hoped getting pregnant would be much more straightforward than it ended up being but it was an amazing and worthwhile experience. We changed our lives forever in terms of lifestyle – eating, being aware of chemicals and radiation but also we changed emotionally. Through our journey we learnt to live our best life now – it is not about being better tomorrow or in 6 months because XYZ will have changed it is about now. No matter what is going on. This will forever be a work in progress but by having a heightened awareness of it makes it that little bit better.
Of course the journey is not over, it’s never over, but now I can honestly say that I am not dreading the ride!
If you are going through fertility or miscarriage and want to reach out, I would love to hear from you – firstname.lastname@example.org