THOUGHTS ON MY 40TH BIRTHDAY…I am a reproductive acupuncturist who has had reproductive challenges. And now I’m pregnant naturally at 40 after trying to conceive for 5 years. I often find it hard to answer the question when someone asks how long we had been trying. Fertility as it turns out, at least for us, was not a straight line and had so many layers – beyond what I could have imagined going in. Of course, as a practitioner, I know those layers: blood flow, egg quality, sperm quality, stress, diet, vitamins, supplements, etc., but in real life, it is not always that easy or direct. I suppose in total maybe we “tried” for 5 years.
To be honest, I think the first layer for us was being on the same page. Marriage is great and I am forever grateful for my partner in this. I think I was ready before he was- he was a “team player” but not really in a rush. Being 35 and doing the work I do, I had a little more urgency. After the first year and testing, everything seemed to indicate everything looked OK for both of us, so I thought OK, we will just continue giving it the old college try and it will happen, right?
And then somehow another year went by- we tried a few unmedicated IUIs, because why not but those didn’t work. And life happened around us- some family stress, some marriage stress. And I continued to immerse myself in work and although it wasn’t happening for us, I still knew I was doing the work I was supposed to be doing in working with couples to build their families. My work was my life.
And then I turned 38 and I knew that I needed to change things in my life to change our result. We went to a reproductive endocrinologist and had things retested and this time things didn’t look as good. My AMH was borderline low and my antral follicle count was low. We did two more IUIs (one with Clomid) and decided it was time to switch gears. And then that took some more time to decide what the right decision was for us and I felt I needed time to get my body ready.
I knew I needed support if I was going to dive in 100% to my self-care and connected with my friend and colleague Lorne Brown at Acubalance in Vancouver. After speaking to him, we decided it would be best for me to do some adrenal testing as I had many symptoms of burning the candle at both ends for too long. Once getting the results, Lorne and his team assisted in getting me on a supplement and herb regimen and I continued receiving regular acupuncture and mayan abdominal therapy in Milwaukee and added in IV Micronutrient Therapy. Lorne also spoke highly of Olive Fertility Centre (IVF clinic) and after speaking with Dr Hitkari over the phone, decided that we would go ahead with IVF in Vancouver (and make a little vacation out of it) and if not successful we would look at adoption. This was our path, our plan- everyone has a different one and no one can ever tell you what is right for you.
I started my supplements and herbs in September along with an anti-inflammatory diet and I set off in January for Vancouver- I arrived on January 4th and my husband was flying in on January 16th. I had injection training at Olive Fertility Clinic and a lovely session of acupuncture with Bronwyn at Acubalance in Vancouver BC and then awaited my period to start the IVF process. Given that I was not on birth control, we figured we would give it one more go on our own before we left. As it turned out, I never got my period and we never did IVF! I was alone in Vancouver and pregnant. We decided to stay in town and I continued acupuncture at Acubalance over the next couple of weeks until we went back home. I am now 27 weeks (as of mid June 2017) and so far all is looking great!
Sometimes I wish I could say there was one thing that helped me get pregnant naturally at 40, but in reality I think it was a number of things:
1.) Putting my Self-Care First
It is my tendency to take care of others before myself- this was a lesson that has taken years to learn and continues to be a work in progress but as they say you must take care of yourself to take care of others. While it is easy to say, it is not always easy to do
2.) Letting Go
No more self-diagnosing! Working with the Lorne Brown and his team at Acubalance to come up with a plan was invaluable. I am not going to lie, I was taking A LOT of supplements and had to work out a schedule for myself but I started to feel better and took myself out of the equation and just let someone else tell me what to do. I am forever grateful to my practitioners both at Acubalance in Vancouver and at home in Milwaukee.
3.) Taking my foot off the gas pedal
By nature, I have a pretty A type personality- I am used to having a full day, multi-taking, and working well (or at least I thought) under stress. But in truth, I was pushing too hard and hadn’t made space in my life for the potential of a baby. We also spent the next 6-12 months really exploring what we wanted our life to look like with or without a child- we seriously thought about moving out of state (which didn’t happen;) and I knew as challenging as it was that I needed to take a step back from work.
4.) Listening to my gut – both literally and figuratively
Literally – I have had digestive issues since I was younger- gas, bloating, indigestion. I had done diet modification for years but would cheat on and off. Going into IVF, I needed to heal my gut so my body could focus on other things. That meant taking my probiotic and other digestive support and eating a super, clean, anti-inflammatory diet- no gluten, no dairy, no soy, no processed food, and little to no sugar and alcohol (none in the month prior to leaving for Vancouver).
Figuratively – After one cycle of Clomid, I made the difficult decision to not do additional cycles. I felt horrible while taking it and given my diagnosis, it didn’t really make sense to me given that I ovulated on my own and potentially could have side effects such as thinning my lining that could send us in the wrong direction. I just didn’t feel like it was going to be our answer.
While the last 5 years have had their challenges, I realize that they have also given me so many gifts. My husband and I have a stronger and deeper relationship as we had to work through some difficult decisions and disappointment along the way, we have had to opportunity to do some amazing things over the last 5 years that likely would not have happened if we had a child sooner, and I do think it has made me a stronger practitioner. I know- I know every layer. I share the disappointment of every failed cycle with each of my patients and celebrate every positive event (whether a positive pregnancy test or an improvement in overall health and happiness). I wish fertility were a straight line with a predictable outcome that we could see out the gate, but as we know it is not. I am thankful for the work I have the opportunity to do and wish the women and couples we support ease and success on their journey because I know it is not easy.