The following is a guest post from Kathleen, who blogs and philosophizes about marriage at Project M: Musings on Love, Marriage, and the Madness that Ensues.
I started thinking about sterility when, after ten months of trying, I still wasn’t pregnant.
I’m not just talking about human or sexual sterility here, but all kinds – sterilized foods, sterilized environments. I’m talking about all the various ways that we humans experience or try to stamp out or smother life.
See, I had been on the Pill for the last four years of my life to induce artificial fertility while I finished up school. I had never, during that time, given more than a moment’s thought to sterility or to what I was really doing. I was taking a Pill to suppress life. And I was OK with that.
I had wanted control over my reproductive system. I wanted to avoid the mess of unintended life. That’s what every woman wants who takes the Pill, right? I also wanted to be free to avoid thinking about reproduction. They told me I just had to take a little pill every day and unexpected life was out of the question. I didn’t have to think about it. I thought it was perfect.
After changing my mind and deciding that I did want to participate in life-creation, I found out quickly that my body was not primed for that. I had spent too much time trying to suppress life, and now my body was confused. I found out that it was going to take longer than I had anticipated for my body to change its mind after those four years of deliberate infertility. In fact, my body might never produce life. I don’t know yet.
Like many women in my situation, I began to look into ways of achieving fertility.
The first think I learned about was fertility awareness, or natural family planning, which can help you either avoid and achieve pregnancy. Fertility awareness involves getting to know your cycles. You have to get to know your cervical fluids and your basal body temperature and keep track of it all on paper. You have to pay close attention to your reproductive system. You have to develop a mindset that is completely contrary to the contraceptive way of thinking.
Fertility awareness is messy. Some might say it’s icky. It takes attentiveness and a high esteem for bodily fluids and other yucky things we don’t like to think about. And that’s why most women don’t want to use fertility awareness as a method of birth control: you have to embrace the natural, messy rhythms of life. And we don’t like messiness. We prefer to produce life in a sanitary, sterilized environment, where we can control everything with pills and capsules and antiseptics.
Then I started learning about nutrition from Naturally Knocked Up. I learned all about what I need to promote fertility: things like good bacteria, fermented foods and raw foods. In short, I learned about foods that still had life in them. I learned that in North America we’re over-sterilizing our food, to the point where there’s little nutritional value left.
I learned about eating other icky things, like organs and fat and skin, about sprouting and cultivating and fermenting. I learned about boiling my own bone broth and eating raw egg yolks and all kinds of things that we are told are gross. I learned that real nutrition takes work. It takes attentiveness and a high esteem for the kinds of food we’re taught to turn up our noses at.
And then it started to dawn on me. We’re a culture that is afraid of life and its consequent messiness. We’re scared of yucky things. As a society, we have learned to kill everything we can’t control.
We Westerners learned that some bacteria in food are bad, and so we set out to kill them all. We learned that fertility is hard to control, so we developed ways to stop it entirely. Then we developed ways to bring it back again artificially.
We decided that we wanted to be able to create life in a sterile environment. We thought that it was the safest way to do it. But in the process, we have eliminated all the things that are necessary to life: messy bodily fluids, living foods, nutrients and good bacteria.
I am started to come to the awareness that life breeds life. We can’t surround ourselves with death and expect to bring forth life. We can’t conceive new life in an environment where we’ve killed everything that scares us.
I am trying to embrace this truth. I am trying to embrace life, even the forms that scare me. Maybe in this way my body will be coaxed to participate in creating life. Until then, I want to learn all that I can.
I’m beginning to think all the guest posters are spying on my thoughts. So much of my experience, feelings and thoughts! Should I have daughters I plan to teach them that their cycles are to be understood and respected, not controled and silenced I plan on teaching my son that “that time of the month” isn’t a punchline but something to be honored. My child(ren) will grow up knowing that life is messy and wonderful.
Wow! That is amazing…that articulated my feelings in a way that I hadn’t even realized, yet! What an awesome and anointed insight! Absolutely beautiful! Speaking as another mother who has yet to conceive a biological child, I can honestly say…I am very moved.
Wow. Great thoughts…makes me remember again who is the Author and Creator of LIFE, in its many forms. And who/what is ultimately against it.
Awesome post! You hit the nail on the head. If only more people would open their eyes and see the truth.
Great post- well put. I think our desire to be in control (and “life is messy”= out of control) was something that struck me as I read your post too.
Beautiful post. I commend the author on tackling a delicate subject with grace. Job well done.
I just linked to this post. You said very well what I’ve been trying to figure out how to say…
And that’s why people think I, and others like me, are crazy. I’m not afraid of all that stuff. You know, it makes me happy (sort of) when I notice my food rotting. Because it means it was alive, and is now dying. Why should we need to sterilize life? Who are these moron scientists who think that’s a good idea? Sigh. Yes, you’re right.
Such a brave and thoughtful post! For me, NFP led me into real, unadulterated, nutrient-dense “real food”–it’s good to see that it’s a two-way street, and that there are other women coming from “real food” into NFP. It really seems like cognitive dissonance when women who are concerned about eating organic produce and hormone-free meat and dairy don’t think twice about popping a pill chock full of artificial hormones. It takes a lot of work, and goes against a lot of what “society” tells us, to challenge the collective wisdom on food and fertility.
Thanks, everyone, for your encouraging feedback. It’s always a little scary opening up about such personal things like this, but I am so blessed to hear that others are thinking and feeling many of the same things.
So true, and well put!
Melissa Multitasking Mama
I had honestly never looked at most of these issues this way…you have given me a lot to think about (and pray about). Found you through Amy’s weekend wanderings.
Shannon O | Confessions of a Loving Wife
Ok – now I’m a little freaked out, because I have to not only take birth control but take it consecutively because I have Endometriosis. It’s the only way I can have a pain-free life.
Although we’re not currently trying to get pregnant we want to start trying in a year or two.
Katherine – I am sending positive fertile thoughts your way.
@Shannon O | Confessions of a Loving Wife, Shannon – have you ever looked into food sensitivities? I know a lot of women have great luck w/ gluten free diets that have endo. And I know someone personally who had a holistic doc run tests to figure out her sensitivities and she’s been able to be completely pain free after it took 2 years of pain to finally get a diagnosis. Just a thought!
@Shannon O | Confessions of a Loving Wife, I don’t know if I have endo, but I do have weirdly heavy periods with weird cramping on the left side the day before they start. Sometimes it would get so heavy I literally could not leave the house, and had to break out the rag bag. And this with no health insurance (although I have it now, as of the beginning of this year, for the first time in ages). I read something about how beta carotene conversion is imperfect at best and impossible, at worst, for some people to accomplish. So I started supplementing with retinol from fish liver oil. Lo and behold it helped my periods straighten out too.
As an *addition* to whatever else you are doing, you might check your vitamin A intake–in fact, you might want to make sure *all* your fat-solubles are up to snuff, and get them from natural sources where possible. You never know, that might be part of the problem.
You really have put beautifully what so many need to hear. It was inspired how you brought the whole thought of contraception and the sterilization of so many areas of our lives together. Thank you for your openness and honesty.
This is absolutely brilliant! What a marvelous post!
@Kate – I know, right? We’ve been trained to think that rotting is bad, but in truth it’s natural. When something goes bad it means that at one point it was good. And that’s a beautiful thing.
I think you’re right on many counts, and I really appreciate your willingness to be open about a very sensitive, often painful, topic. I think your post will encourage a lot of women. However, I’d like to point out that not “every woman” who takes the Pill does so purely out of a desire to “avoid the mess of unintended life.” We’re in the minority, but there are women (including me) who take the Pill because of medical reasons that have nothing to do with avoiding conception: endometriosis, PCOS, low estrogen, abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding, etc. Women who have such conditions can experience truly debilitating symptoms that are not always responsive to natural methods like changes in diet. In those situations, we should be thankful that the Pill is available as a treatment.
In my observation, a lot of women with the problems you describe who try dietary changes tend to try them in the wrong direction–vegetarian or vegan, usually. They may cut out a lot of junk and they may be eating lots of fruits and veggies and they may even be avoiding gluten, but in the aggregate what they wind up with is a lowfat diet with not nearly enough saturated fat or minerals available.
If that’s what you’ve done in the direction of dietary change, you haven’t gone in the right direction, I don’t think. No offense, I know what sort of advice gets passed on to women who want to be healthy, and it’s not your fault. But if this applies to you then you need to change course.
By all means keep taking the Pill as it helps you–but increase your animal foods intake, especially if you have access to pastured animal foods. Visit eatwild.com and localharvest.org to see what’s available in your area. At minimum, try Weston Price’s remedies of cod liver oil and high-vitamin butter oil to get you started–that’ll get you the full gamut of A, K, D, and E, plus healthy fats. Start in on the bone broth too.
Just increasing my vitamin A intake (from fish liver oil) has helped my symptoms so much. I can tell when I haven’t had enough in a month because the cramping is worse and the bleeding is heavier.
And I won’t go back on the Pill on a bet–it does more damage to me than it repairs.
Another thing you might try is getting enough sleep, at night, in a dark enough room. Sounds weird, but what I’ve read on the subject tells me it has tremendous influence on hormonal balance and neurotransmitter production and can even mess with fertility. If you can see light coming through your windows, or if you have a lighted digital clock, that’s enough to turn off your melatonin production and mess everything up. Aside from crappy food throughout my adult life, lack of sleep and lack of darkness are two factors that I have reason to believe have messed up my health over the past almost two decades. I’ve got a hundred pounds extra to show for it now. I’m lucky I could have kids at all.
@watch Scream 4 online, you can e-mail me at donielle AT naturallyknockedup.com to let me know what you want to use and where it will be used at.
I found myself nodding in agreement frequently while reading this post.