As I write this, I am 22 weeks pregnant with my first child. A friend of mine, who has been privy to my private health struggles over the years, asked that I write a blog post on my journey to conception. Her thinking was that my story might help someone else out there that is feeling hopeless or struggling to conceive. If my story could in any way inspire someone else, my heart would smile.
I’ll start at the beginning for those that have no idea who I am. For the last 8 years I have poured my heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into building my companies along side my husband, Patrick. We both worked 80-hour weeks, doing everything that we could to build our companies from the ground up. This development and growth took everything we had mentally, and took a significant toll physically. While we were experiencing exponential growth and moving ahead on the high that we got from our constant forward momentum, we developed some bad habits of working anywhere from 10-16 hours a day, with take-out being our prime source of nutrition. Needless to say that when I sacrificed my own well being for the good of our business, I gained 70 pounds and began feeling the consequences of running myself into the ground.
Several years ago, after feeling perplexed with various ailments I was referred to an OB who then diagnosed me with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that causes infertility and that I had unknowingly been struggling with since I was a teenager. My painful, irregular periods, anxiety, mood swings, exhaustion and other issues were coming to light for the first time.
Symptoms of PCOS include:
- Weight gain and trouble losing weight.
- Extra hair on the face and body. Often women get thicker and darker facial hair and more hair on the chest, belly, and back.
- Thinning hair on the scalp.
- Irregular periods. Often women with PCOS have fewer than nine periods a year. Some women have no periods. Others have very heavy bleeding.
- Fertility problems. Many women who have PCOS have trouble getting pregnant (infertility).
- Depression & Anxiety
Fact: There is no known “cure” for PCOS.
Although at the time of my diagnosis, babies were not even on our radar (I didn’t even know that I wanted kids), hearing the word infertility was like a blow to my heart. At this same time, two very close couples to us were struggling to conceive. In the end both of these couples did conceive, however it took them two years of treatments and they went through an emotional roller coaster. Being the futurist planner that I am, I decided that despite Patrick and I not feeling ready to become parents, I consulted my specialist and decided to get further testing done. We did various blood tests on myself, and had Patrick’s sperm tested.
The results? They felt heart breaking. My hormones were so out of whack that my specialist told me that if I ever wanted to conceive, she would send me directly to the fertility clinic before trying because I would need a lot of help. As for Patrick, his results were not great either and posed some concerns for natural conception. While these results were painful to hear, it sprung me into action. I am an over-planner, analytical researcher type that believes that I can be in control of my destiny. Thus began my journey to natural healing and health. I consulted with an endocrine specialist, my OB, my general practitioner, and was even sent to the hospital on various occasions for testing, stress tests, EKG’s and more. No one was getting to the bottom of the issues, or could tell me what the cause was or how to remedy them.
After struggling with my periods since I was a teenager, and being prescribed every brand of birth control pills to try to “control” my period, at 25 years old (7 years ago) I stopped taking the pill. I had read too many horrible things about what it could do to my long-term health and decided that other methods of birth control were healthier for me.
Because my periods were so irregular and I would go up to 8 months without one, I began tracking my cycles years ago as a means to assess my health. I downloaded an app called P Tracker on my iPhone and each time my period came, or didn’t come, I logged it. I also logged the longevity, appearance, symptoms and anything that I could. This started giving me a view of what was happening with my cycles through various lifestyle changes.
In the meantime, my OB prescribed a hormone medication to cause withdrawal bleeds. These pills made me insane. I was suffering from depression, extreme anxiety, insomnia, rapid heart rate, and even went to the hospital twice and was once kept overnight for fear of having a heart attack. I decided, these pills were NOT for me.
Mentally, I refused to accept my OB’s words that my PCOS meant that I couldn’t conceive. I’ve always believed that I can make anything in my life happen. I stuck to this belief and kept telling myself that when I was ready to be a mother, the universe would allow this to happen.
Time to take this into my own hands!
Due to my obsessive, planning nature I began doing research on conception and diet and also worked with my Naturopath for a food allergy and sensitivity test called the IgG test to see if I could avoid dietary triggers that were contributing to not feeling well, or were weighing down my immune system.
I then implemented these lifestyle changes to see if I could in fact make my cycles regular:
- I rid our entire home of chemical products. Our cleaning supplies were replaced with natural, non-toxic products. From dish soap to household cleaners, everything was replaced.
- I switched our skin care products to organic, all natural, non-toxic products. I couldn’t believe how toxic things like shampoo and moisturizer could be. I highly encourage you to do the research on the topic and switch to natural products.
- We purchased organic produce when possible. We didn’t eliminate fast food and take-out, but we did make changes to eat more greens and vegetables.
- I went gluten free and watched my sugar intake. Because PCOS is often linked to insulin resistance, I knew that my body couldn’t handle sugar well.
- I consumed little to no dairy due to the hormone issues it can cause, however I do allow myself to indulge when I want to. You can find my favourite vegan, dairy free cheese for purchase online, here.
- I received acupuncture and chiropractic treatments to ease stress and back pain from sitting at my desk all day.
- I hired a coach that has been assisting me with meditation, mindfulness and tools to live a more spiritual life. This coach also performed a Life Activation on me. It is a 22-strand DNA Activation that awakens your divine blueprint and heightens your connection with your Higher Self. It also enables you to bring in and hold more Light (positive energy) in your physical body.
- I researched the hell out of nutrition and supplements. I had already been vegan for four years for ethical reasons, but also due to the hormones and health issues that can arise with consuming meat. About a year ago I decided to start eating some small amounts of fish again. I have about 2-3 pieces a month.
- I took the following supplements:
- Cinnamon force to help regulate my blood sugar (not for use during pregnancy).
- Dim to help eliminate excess estrogen (not for use during pregnancy).
- Magnesium Bis-Glycinate for the many benefits. Read more here
- DHA+EPA a vegan source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil is known to be rancid and toxic so I opt for Dr. Fuhrman’s product. I continue with this product to help with my baby’s development and to keep my eczema at bay.
- Gentle Prenatal vitamin that does NOT contain folic acid. I take a vitamin that does not contain folic acid because this is the synthetic form of folate that has been linked to breast cancer. Instead, I eat a healthy dose of spinach, asparagus, beans and other veggies to get my natural folate in. I began taking this about a year prior to conception and have continued it through my pregnancy.
- We purchased an infrared sauna which I used about 3 times a week. Click here to learn more about my favourite sauna brand, made in Ontario as well as the many benefits of infrared treatments. (not for use during pregnancy)
- We added a rowing machine and a stationary punching bag to our basement to get my heart rate up before jumping in the sauna, and sometimes just to get some frustration out.
- I signed up for an online course called the Woman Code by a leading women’s health expert, Alisa Vitti at Flo Living.
The above changes regulated my cycles and I began getting my period every 30-40 days.
Never take any medications or supplements, or make lifestyle changes without consulting your health care practitioner.
DON’T GET OVERWHELMED. I spent years implementing the above changes, as well as saving for items like the sauna. I didn’t aim for perfection in my nutrition or in my weight; I took baby steps and made one change at a time. Combined, I believe these changes are what led to our natural conception and overall better health. However, I think that my ability to remain positive and believe to my core that I could conceive when I was ready played a major role.
What happened next was nothing short of a MIRACLE as we faced and BEAT all ODDS.
In 2015 Patrick and I began discussing the idea of children for the future. We were 31 and 32 years old and in no rush. In early 2016 we decided that next year we were going to “try” to conceive and we both felt that we were in a place in our marriage and in our lives that we were ready to give, and become parents. I continued tracking my cycles and carrying on with my healthier lifestyle changes.
On May 28, 2016 we went away for the weekend to the family cottage, just the two of us to get some downtime. After an intimate night, like I had been doing for years, I looked at my P tracker app on my phone to see where my cycle was. To my surprise, it said OVULATING that day. I had this strange feeling that we had just created a life. We brushed it off as we were not “trying” and had been told how hard it would be. On June 13, 2016 I checked my app again, and saw that my cycle was now late. It had been regular for many months due to my lifestyle changes. I went out that day and bought a pregnancy test and before bed, I took the plunge. Two lines. It was very faint, but it was positive. I told Patrick who was lying in our bed, “this says pregnant.” It was 11:30pm. His response was “no it doesn’t.” I laughed and showed him the test. The next hour was filled with a lot of excitement, shock and laughter. I woke in the morning to take the digital test and appeared the words “pregnant.” Seeing these words felt very real and very emotional. My heart was exploding.
The next day I called my OB’s office to share the incredible, surprising news – that the first time that we were ever intimate during ovulation, we conceived. My call was met with an unexcited receptionist and the response was not a “congratulations”, but a “I can’t get you in for several weeks.” I instantly sought a referral from another Dr. who was more than happy to help, be excited for us and I never went back to the OB that told me I couldn’t conceive easily. I just didn’t need her negativity in my life. We have since been working with a team of midwives and couldn’t be happier. Our baby is healthy, and although I remain overweight, I am told that my body is healthy, and we continue to pray that the universe will bless us with a healthy pregnancy for the remaining 17 weeks, and a healthy baby in February 2017.
I will leave you with this –> Please trust your gut. Keep it positive. Believe in the power of your femininity. Believe in your body’s ability. Believe in yourself, and never take no or a negative response as an absolute. To quote Alisa Vitti from Flo Living, I pledge allegiance to my feminine energy and to be a creative force of nature.
Design a Life You Love.