Journey Through Infertility

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, a movement started by Resolve (The National Infertility Association) Their goal is to raise awareness to the issues regarding infertility, which now effects about 1 in 6 couples.
I thought this would be a great time to republish a guest post from Michele of Frugal Granola for two reasons. The first is so that we can shed light on the fact that a holistic approach to infertility can take the place of (or at least supplement) modern medicine. The conventional treatments are not without risk (to both mom and baby) and I feel that more needs to be done to help heal the body as a whole. The second reason is that Michele is now back in the blogging world and will soon be starting a series on encouragement. I can’t wait to read it and hope you will join her as well.
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Journeying through years of infertility, we read through every “how to get pregnant” book we could get our hands on. So many anecdotal “tips and tricks” abounded on message boards and in conversation, but would just send us roller-coasting from hope to disappointment each month.

Doctors diagnosed us with “male factor infertility,” but then when I got pregnant and miscarried a couple of times, it was labeled “unexplained infertility.” We continued our dream of pursuing adoption (something we had hoped for whether or not we were blessed with biological children), while still learning about new healthy life choices.
After 2 years with our sweet little girl, and were beginning to consider life as “just the three of us,” we were blessed to find out that I was pregnant again.
When I announced our pregnancy, I received quite a few inquiries regarding any information that may have “helped” us become pregnant. One of the reasons I have hesitated to write such an answer, is that I believe our fertility is ultimately in God’s hands. Repeatedly throughout the Bible, we see God’s hand putting families together in many different ways- which has often included infertility!
However, pursuing good physical and spiritual health is important in being good stewards of the bodies and resources God has given us, and can help provide a healthy foundation for Him to place a new, growing little life.
This is not necessarily an exhaustive list of our lifestyle changes/choices over the years, but it is more of a quick “overview.” (I know Donielle has elaborated on the reasons for many of these concepts on her blog (or intends to), so feel free to ask questions! I won’t attempt to explain all the hows/whys of everything here.)

SUPPLEMENTS

  • We both decided to start taking “natural” multivitamins, to fill any potential “gaps” in our nutrition.
  • During various seasons, my husband especially focused on taking at least a zinc supplement (and eating foods rich in zinc), and pycenogenol or grapeseed extract (both antioxidants reputed to possibly help sperm health).
  • When I noticed my once long- but predictable- cycles becoming irregular and more uncomfortable, I was able to help regulate my cycles with Evening Primrose Oil for the first 2 weeks of my cycle (I did this for about 3 months).

FOODS

  • After spending years as vegetarians, we began adding some naturally/humanely-grown meats to our diet.
  • We switched from non-fat dairy products to drinking whole raw milk and eating hormone-free whole-fat dairy products (yogurt, cheeses, etc).
  • We eliminated white “all-purpose” flour, white sugar, and corn syrup from our foods, in favor of more whole-grain flours and natural sweeteners (such as raw honey).Note: the sugar cravings during this stage were pretty intense, and showed us how necessary this was for us! We now find that we sweeten things drastically less, as our “taste buds have adjusted.” :)
  • Our previous vegetarian diet had been very high in soy (TVP, tofu, etc.). At one point, as we increased the soy products in our meals in an attempt to save money, we noticed a significant decline in our health. We eventually eliminated soy from our meals, except for an occasional dash of tamari in a stir-fry.
  • I began to realize that I had an intolerance for gluten, and discovered celiac. I radically adjusted my diet to eliminate gluten.. (Note: celiac is often a cause of unexplained infertility/miscarriages, and is actually quite prevalent, but under-diagnosed.)
  • We made a point to add more seasonal fruits and vegetables to our meals, and discovered a wealth of delicious options at Farmer’s Markets. (Previously, canned or frozen vegetables were our staples.)
  • We eliminated canola oil, in favor of “healthy fats” such as coconut oil, and the butter made from raw milk.
  • I began following the “Brewer Diet” as a way to help make sure I was actually eating enough nutrients to support a pregnancy.
  • Calvin reduced, then basically eliminated, coffee, in favor of more natural herbal teas, and lots of water. (I already was not a coffee-drinker.)
  • We added cultured items to our diet (such as kefir and lacto-fermented vegetables).
  • We eliminated sources of MSG and other additives/preservatives in our foods, and started using real sea salt and herbs as seasonings.

EXERCISE/REST

  • I began regular forms of exercise, with walks outdoors a couple mornings a week, along with yoga or pilates one or two evenings a week at home. I pushed our daughter in a stroller for our walks. I didn’t have a need of weight loss, so my yoga/pilates routines focused on a combination of strength, stretching, and relaxation.
  • I have noticed that my body has always responded to the concept of “lunaception“. This may not necessarily be a “proven concept”, but I did notice a difference. Plus, our rest was definitely better once we put up some dark curtains!
  • Focusing on eliminating a constant state of stress was a significant challenge. I had come from high-stress work environments, to being a stay-at-home mom, and my body took awhile to stop being in an ongoing “adrenaline state!” The relaxation exercises, along with restful baths, occasional naps, and regular prayer times really helped.

SPIRITUAL

  • God began to teach me more about relinquishing my fertility to Him, as Lord of my life. Instead of trying to “control” it myself, and being “addicted” to all the fertility message boards and latest fertility publications, I needed to place the control in His hands. In response, I gave up all fertility-related reading (online and print) for a season of Lent. This added such a new peace to our situation- and by the end, I had no desire to go back!
  • We were encouraged by reading Mary Pride’s book “All The Way Home,” as she has wonderfully written on healthy marital intimacy and fertility. It provided a much-needed Biblical focus in that season of our lives.
  • God began to teach me more about His love for me, as His beautiful creation. Instead of being ashamed or frustrated by my body/infertility, I began to prayerfully embrace His work in my life. This Above Rubies article really encouraged us as we focused our prayers: “Protect Your Womb.”
  • I chose to embrace the season God had placed us in, and chose to be content.. I knew that even if God blessed us with more children in the future, I didn’t want to be stuck in the “debilitating” spiritual state of always wanting more. We would love to see God grow our family, but believe that a contentment in His provision is so important in every area of life- not just with fertility. We can embrace His blessings, without allowing our desires to be consuming, and taking His place of headship in our lives.

LIFESTYLE

  • In our world full of electronics, we began taking a closer look. The cell phone came out of the front pocket of my husband’s jeans, and was placed in his bag. The laptop computer stayed on the table- not on our laps! We gave away our microwave, and got a $5 toaster oven (both on craigslist).
  • We switched from commercial cleaning products, detergents, and cosmetic/hygiene items to more natural choices. Many solutions can be homemade with natural ingredients (such as baking soda, vinegar, and essential oils), along with chemical-free soaps. I got rid of my collection of hairsprays, makeups, etc., in favor of a more natural routine. (Note: we’ve now noticed a high sensitivity to the chemicals/perfumes that we used to use regularly! We now feel “overwhelmed” by smells of commercial laundry detergents, soaps, & perfumes just by walking through store aisles or visiting others homes.)
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Thanks again Michele! And for those of you who have taken steps to increase your health in hopes of benefiting your fertility, tell me – what have you done?


Donielle Baker

Donielle Baker

owner and editor of Natural Fertility and Wellness at Natural Fertility and Wellness
Donielle is an author, amateur herbalist, lover of real food, and an advocate for natural health. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health, so much so that she is currently taking courses to become a master herbalist. Her personal background includes both infertility and miscarriage and she began this blog in order to share all of the information she found helpful in her journey to healing.
Donielle Baker
Donielle Baker
Donielle Baker
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Comments

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Hey Donielle,

    You took the time to email me a few months back and I never responded because life got overwhelming, but I wanted to let you know that I took a lot of your advice. This morning I found out that I'm pregnant and I did it with God's grace, real food, and no metformin, despite PCOS.

    Thank you so much for your advice!

  2. Amy @ Finer Things says:

    Thanks so much for sharing, Michele! I'm working on some of those things now, and it is so good to know that my "whole/real/raw food friends" didn't necessarily start out that way. :)

  3. Susannah Forshey says:

    I've had the same experience with giving up chemical-ridden toiletry products. Once I quit them all (hairspray in particular), the acne rash I've had for 14 years disappeared in 7 days!!! I've treated my rash-prone skin with every product known to man, and all it took was just…basically quitting! So, that was a side-benefit. By the way, pure sugar-water, scented with essential oils makes an EXCELLENT substitute for hairspray/mousse. :)

    I'm inspired to give up sugar, Michele, after reading this. Not that I want to quit, I just want to stop wanting it!! The spirit is willing….

  4. MacKenzie says:

    I've been thinking about using evening primrose oil to see if it help with my cycles as well as excema. Do you have a brand you recommend?

  5. Michele @ Frugal Granola says:

    I just used the Trader's Joe's brand Evening Primrose Oil.

    Michele

  6. Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home says:

    Great post, Michele! I agree so much about the aspect of placing your fertility in the Lord's hands, trusting His ultimate timing and plans for our families.

    The changes that you and Calvin made sound similar to so many of the things that we have done as well. For us, it has been a blessing to both know that we are stewarding what God has given us much more carefully than ever before, and to experience the reward of improved fertility as well. :)

  7. Great article, I've been walking the same path :) I definitely noticed that I get crazy at a store setting with all the artificial smells of people, gosh it brings tears to my eyes walking from one perfume cloud to the next!! If these people pet my dogs I take that smell home and my dogs smell like other people's perfume for hours….

  8. to Susannah:
    I have been entirely without refined sugar (or ANYthing that contains it) for about 2 years now and my brain still tells me it wants it. Hubby is a pastry king… each time I pass the container with the sugar topped pastry my brain says oh yumm! and I KNOW I don't even like them. I tried, disgusting LOL… I am still waiting for physically not wanting them.

  9. Michelle I LOVED this post. A week or two ago you left a comment on my blog. We have struggled with infertility, had a baby, struggled with infertility and are now adopting. I also believe our fertility is ultimately in God's hands. Thank you for being such an uplifting example to me!

  10. After 9 years of infertility we find ourselves expecting our first miracle in June. We adopted five children in 2006 and have been just living life, believing that God would bless us one day.
    I too have changed our diet a lot. I was diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes and PCOS a few years ago.
    This is a wonderful post with lots of great ideas. Cutting back on Carbs and Sugar went a long way to improving our health and I believe God planting the blessing wihin me.
    I found out recently that high blood sugar inhibits fertility by creating a hostile enviroment.

  11. Great post. We’ve been married for over ten years, and have never been able to conceive, but God has given us two blessings by way of adoption. God apparently knew what He was doing – fancy that! – because we adore them and they fit perfectly into our family :o)

    We have been on the real, traditional foods journey as well. Not so much for infertility reasons, but to be good stewards of our health/body.

    Last month I discovered research indicating a link between white flour and infertility that was very interesting. If you like, you can read it here: http://likeabubblingbrook.blogspot.com/2010/04/why-grind-your-own-grain.html

    Thanks again for a great post!

  12. Thank you so much for posting this. This has been an 100% summation of what I’ve been researching lately. Even down to giving our desire/fertility over to God. I plan on printing this out, praying over it asking God what’s first, and go from there!

    Again, thank you!

    PS, also I am beginning to think I have gluten issues. I have a few people in my family that have gluten problems.

  13. I needed to hear this SO badly today. My husband and I recently started trying and my body doesn’t seem to be cooperating (my usual day 14 o-day has become completely erratic). We already follow a “real food” lifestyle and have cut out other potential toxins… and I have spent many an afternoon in prayer, asking God to take away any worry, control that I try to hold on to. Your words in the “spiritual” section just reminded me how important it is to be thankful for the season we’re in… and to really trust His timing (by thought and action – not just by word). THANK YOU, Donielle! :)

  14. Shonnette says:

    Just found this website today and I find it so inspiring. My husband and I have been trying to conceive for quite some time now. I am just now realizing we have to give it over to God and give up the control we never had in the first place. Thank you for this blog!!!!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Journey Through Infertility is both informational and encouraging, with a very happy [...]

  2. [...] I hesitated to write this post for awhile, but I finally got around to it! Join me over at Naturally Knocked Up to read more, where I’m guest posting [...]

  3. [...] infertility, my image plummeted. The “cure” for “unmanliness” was sought in pills, when/when not to drink coffee, and in not having a cell phone in my front pocket. We tried these and other tricks to [...]

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