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?
Check out this month\'s sponsor, Natural Fertility Shop. They are 100% focused on helping you during your journey towards parenthood and have expert staff and knowledgeable customer service here to help you every step of the way.

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