I’ve been wanting to share about our fertility journey for a long time. I wrote out the entire story, but I’m unsure about whether or not I’m comfortable sharing it yet. It’s also extremely long. So I thought instead I would write a list of tips I found useful through our journey. I loved lists like this when we were in the thick of it, so I hope this can help someone.
A really quick rundown of our story: we found out at the beginning of July 2019 that I was having fertility problems due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). We had actually just started trying for a baby in June, but I started to have some pelvic pain and that’s when I went in for an ultrasound and they found lots of cysts. We tried Clomid for 3 cycles, then switched doctors and started Letrozole and IUI. We got pregnant on our first IUI cycle in December of the same year. So all in all it was about a 6 month, (5 cycle) journey.
We feel extremely fortunate that our journey was so short. In the fertility world, 6 months is very very short. I often think we just got a small taste of what it would be like to struggle with fertility for years and years, and I don’t envy anyone who has a longer journey than ours. It truly is it’s own special kind of hell. But the reason I wanted to share these tips is because I think being able to cope with the emotions and the enormous amount of information can seriously impact a person’s health. We got pregnant because I advocated for better care and I researched a ton, but ultimately I think a lot of it was just luck.
- Find a good doctor. Our journey with our first doctor is kind of long and involved, so I won’t share it all here. He is a regular OB/GYN who was using very outdated techniques to help people with PCOS related infertility. Thankfully I found a wonderful naturopath who kindly and gently suggested I see a reproductive endocrinologist instead. With PCOS it’s super helpful to work with a reproductive endocrinologist because they solely work on the hormone systems related to PCOS and fertility. So after a few months with the first doctor, I switched to a woman who only worked on getting people with PCOS pregnant. She got us pregnant the first cycle I was her patient. Try to find a doctor you really trust and believe, and someone you click with. If something is putting you off about your current doctor, move on. It’s their loss and there is certainly a better fit out there.
- Lean on your people. I absolutely could not have gotten through this period of time without a few key people, mainly my husband Ryan. We truly had to lean into each other and feel all of our feelings together. I also was fortunate that my very best friend/other soul mate, was visiting a few days after we found out about everything. We told very very few people the first couple months, but those two people and some other friends truly got me through the hard days. I even had a fertility party with friends that gave me a lot of hope. I will have to do another post about that party soon! I also recognize that there are people out there going through this struggle without a life partner. I see you, I feel for you, and I am in awe of you. But don’t forget to lean into loved ones around you, even if you don’t feel like this is their burden to share.
- Use a combo of Eastern and Western medicine. I began seeing a trusted acupuncturist. I had seen him for a problem with my jaw the year before, and I knew he was professional, had been doing this a very long time, and that he was a lifelong learner. He poured everything he knew and could know into my acupuncture sessions and I felt so taken care of. He almost full on screamed with joy when I told him I was pregnant! He also recommended me to a naturopath at the same clinic, and she was also an amazing part of my team. She specializes in Maya Abdominal Massage. I really TRULY believe getting this massage monthly helped us get pregnant. She also was able to help me get on the best supplements for me, which was great for fertility and for The First Trimester From Hell. Supplements are a difficult subject, but a good naturopath can lead you in the right direction. Feel free to reach out if you are wondering what supplements I used.
- Treat your body like it’s already pregnant. This one is kind of obvious, but I think sometimes you need a reminder! Try not to drink, smoke, take any kind of drugs you don’t need, eat good stuff, exercise in your favorite way, etc. You get it. Your body is an environment that is trying to welcome new life, treat it with the upmost respect.
- Talk with a licensed therapist. Work with those emotions you’re having. It’s not a bad thing, it’s not abnormal, and it’s ok! A good therapist will support you and listen to you, which can be a really wonderful thing during this time. Not to mention that keeping stress and anxiety under control will seriously help your chances of getting pregnant. I remember reading that all the time and being so frustrated by it. Of course I didn’t want to be stressed, especially if it meant I’d get pregnant faster. But the cycle we got pregnant was our first IUI, and I had read it was extremely rare to get pregnant on the first one. So after the IUI I felt like I had a month off. I was relaxed, I worked a lot, and just didn’t think about fertility too much because I felt like I was just waiting for the next IUI. Apparently the whole less stress thing seemed to work for us. Or again, maybe it was just good luck.
- Find a spiritual practice. I’ve never been a religious person by any means. If you are religious, try to lean into it. I found it was helpful to designate a time for a daily ritual to acknowledge and ask the universe for what I wanted. At the fertility party I had each person bring a physical piece of mother earth, as an offering of creation. I carved out a little nook in my house to put those items that not only reminded me the abundance of the earth, but also reminded me of my closest friends. My best friend also sent me an ancient fertility statue that I kept there, as well as some crystals and other random bits and bobs that felt right. Every morning I would sit in that chair, light a fertility candle, and set the intention for the day, and also the next or current cycle. Some daily intentions were “today my body will prepare itself for ovulation in the next few days” or “today I will focus on treating myself to get through this period.” Just any small intention that I could focus inward on my body. If this seems too hippy dippy or weird for you, that’s cool! Just find something that works for you and your family’s beliefs.
- During those “waiting times” find something to keep you busy. So much waiting. So much “dead” time, inactive times, periods where you are just waiting to get to the next day, week, month. I know how painful and excruciating this can be. A lot of our journey happened over the summer, and I’m a teacher, so I had no work. Although I was working a little for my parents business, my days were pretty open. I started watercolor painting! I read tons of books. I made really long trips to the library, I took myself out to my favorite bakery, I went on long hikes. I remember when school started again it was such a relief. I busied myself with work and it felt so wonderful to not spend all day thinking about my uterus. Try to do whatever you can to stay busy. Sometimes my intention for the day was “Think about fertility for the next 5 minutes, and then let it go until tomorrow.”
To anyone struggling with fertility, I am so sorry. I feel for you, and just know that you are seen, and you matter. This isn’t fair, you don’t deserve this, and it’s the absolute pits. Take the very best most delicious care of yourself in any way you know how.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask any and all questions.