My Story – Healing back to Fertility
I cried and cried, the last IVF cycle had failed again, I felt like I was undergoing a science experiment on my emotions and body. Why couldn’t I get pregnant?What could I do to take control and help heal myself? What could I do to have the baby that myself and husband were yearning for…..
As I write this, I am looking across to see my beautiful baby girl playing happily on her jungle mat. Her bright blue eyes are alive with light and her gibberish squeaks are music to my ears. I feel extremely blessed.
Wow I did it, I made the journey, but what a journey it was to receive our little ‘munch’. It was a journey of healing my body back to fertility, back to health. It’s a journey I would like to share with others who feel disempowered and hopeless caught up in the medical system with no answers.
To give you an overview in to how whole food, lifestyle and natural supplements played a major role in my success, lets briefly go back to where it all began……
I grew up in the country where we owned and rode horses, my favourite thing to do on the weekend was to go on adventure rides with my mum and sister. Through the bush, jumping over fallen trees and swimming the horses in a near by lake on the way home from a good ride. Our family was health conscious and sporty. We were all involved in swimming competitively. By the time I was 14 I was in hard training, logging hours of cardio, 15 hrs just in swimming training a week and then competing on the weekend. The 90’s were all about low fat, high carb, long cardio, with the philosophy the more the better. I followed this lifestyle advocated by my coaches and health experts obsessively. In the body conscious teen years, this soon turned into a ‘no fat and nutrient deficient diet’ and my obsession with sport soon became an obsession with body image and on a never ending quest to lose weight.
Once I finished high school, I left the country and moved to Melbourne to study a Bachelor of Applied Science in Human Movement. I lived on campus with a bunch of other students from the country, so as you can imagine it was one big party. I didn’t lead a very healthy lifestyle, being seduced into the typical Australian culture of drinking and partying way too much.
While doing a stint in London I ramped up the partying along with the dieting and chronic cardio. Remember when spin sessions first came in to vogue? I was doing double back to back sessions several times a week as well as long runs. I didn’t realize how much damage I was doing by putting so much stress on my body, increasing cortisol and inflammation and not nourishing my body with enough food let alone real food. I lost a lot of weight but was never satisfied. On my return to Melbourne, I hit the ground running, running excessively again, this time with my sights on half marathons, but I kept getting injured. I had three stress fractures in my tibia and two hip fractures, so bad that I almost ended up in a wheel chair at one point. This was the turning point.
My body was breaking down and I knew I had to make significant changes in my life to rectify the issues. I sought further education and did a Graduate Certificate in Nutritional Medicine, which planted the seeds for eating real nourishing food. This new found information on eating ‘real food’ and knowledge of the nutrition myths that had been advertised by mainstream media and agencies was finally my ‘ah ha’ moment. This corresponded with meeting the man I wanted to marry and have kids with. Great! Except I hadn’t had a period in 5 years and didn’t know if I could fall pregnant!
I thought my fertility was running out and I’ve never been the most patient person, I wanted to get pregnant now, ASAP. I wasn’t menstruating, I didn’t know why and I needed answers. My GP referred me to a specialist who did the standard tests, the results showed I had a bicornuate uterus with a severe septum. I almost had 2 uterus’s which meant I couldn’t get pregnant or if I did I would miscarry as there was no room for the baby to grow.
I started thinking philosophically …. ‘maybe I wasn’t meant to have kids, my body wasn’t made for it, maybe this was for a reason?’ I contemplated these thoughts for a while and discussed with Dave, my husband about what we should do. I ended up having surgery to remove the septum. So my uterus was ok now but my hormones were still low and I still wasn’t menstruating. My ‘specialist physician’ couldn’t tell me why or how this had happened and didn’t seem to care about finding out. Her answer was IVF. I found this frustrating and confusing but followed her direction and began the IVF journey. All of a sudden I was in a world of testing and drugs. At my core this felt wrong, but I had a goal of getting pregnant, and if this is what I had to do, I would. The whole time I felt like it wasn’t right, intuitively it felt so wrong and against my new belief system of ‘living as naturally’ as possible. IVF was the antitheists of that. I had to inject myself with hormones every day, sometimes twice, but my maternal instinct was so strong, I continued on. From all the appointments with doctors, obstetricians, gynaecologists and nurses there was no talk of diet or lifestyle. Not one conversation about how I was living or what I was, or wasn’t, putting in my body. Neither were there questions about my emotional or psychological state. I found this so bizarre and mystifying. I felt like I had handed my fertility and health completely over to other people. I needed to gain some control back over the situation. I needed some answers.
The ‘I’ technology boom was in full throttle and I found podcasts. Nerding out on all the pioneers of the paleo/real food movement such as Mark Sisson, Chris Kressor and Robb Wolf. As I was trawling through the sound waves I came across the Underground Wellness podcast, which was the catalyst to the next part of my Just Eat Real Movement (JERFing). One in particular on Underground Wellness with Sean Croxton interviewing Reed Davis from Functional Diagnostic Nutrition (FDN). This is the answer I thought I needed; someone who practiced FDN to discover the root cause of my infertility. FDN is a deep dive into the physiology of what actually is going on with all systems and functionality of the body through diagnostic functional tests. This science based and holistic approach completely resonated with me, so I decided to become a FDN practitioner myself. I just didn’t trust anybody else with giving me the answers I needed.
As I studied I learned more about the physiology of the body. I understood what the body required to operate at its optimum. Part of the course involved using yourself as a case study, with self-testing and resultant specific protocols undertaken with the aid of a mentor. Finally I had the ability to test myself and find the root cause of what was wrong. The things I learned….
- My exact hormone levels which were all baseline;
- My cortisol rhythm was off, and I was in stage 2 adrenal dysfunction;
- My liver was congested;
- I had a lot of free radical damage probably due to excessive exercise and a nutrient deficit diet;
- My intestinal tract was permeable (leaky gut);
- I had an overgrowth of H.pylori;
- I had food sensitivities
- I wasn’t eating enough in general to support my endocrine system; and
- I wasn’t eating enough fat to produce hormones.
All these things contributed to my infertility. It was abundantly clear that I had gained more answers from these tests than from any of the doctors or specialists I had seen over the years. I started protocols that aimed at correcting all of these things through diet, exercise, rest, stress reduction and supplementation. My biggest challenge was following these protocols and changing my mindset and belief system. I was coming from a place of chronic cardio is best, while eating low fat, low calories for health. In addition, I had struggled with body image issues since being a teenager, which had lead to disordered eating my whole life.
I was exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally. I wanted off this cycle. Learning all this information gave me permission to stop and change. I was still undergoing IVF through all of this but was becoming more and more cynical about the whole system. I was a number (actually being called out as a number, not by my name). There were always at least 20 other people in the waiting room, sometimes up to 50. I thought to myself…’what’s their business model here? How many times do they need you to fail for their business to be successful?’ I was disillusioned with the whole thing.
I vividly remember finding out when the last IVF cycle failed. We were in Byron Bay, sitting at Tallow’s beach. I got the call, ‘no it hadn’t worked…again’. I cried and cried, I couldn’t stop, I turned to Dave and said ‘I can’t do this anymore, I can’t stay on this rollercoaster of hope and disappointment’. Half the time you’re thinking you’re pregnant and then the other half you’re coming down emotionally and off the drugs. What ever this ‘was’, it felt worse then not having kids. I never went back to IVF and followed the natural protocols from FDN. It wasn’t easy, when it’s been indoctrinated in you to live and eat a certain way. From the study I did I knew one of the ways to increase my hormones was to eat saturated fats, the science proved it, the physiological pathways proved it. I had to change my mindset and believe and trust I was doing the right thing.
The motivation to get pregnant and make a family thankfully outweighed my body image issues, disordered eating and dogmatic main-stream media mantra. Along with the FDN protocols I followed a paleo template. This was good for me; it was what I needed at the time. It was sensible and was about eating real food from sustainable, organic, local produce, seafood, grass fed, hormone free meats, no preservatives and having nothing processed.
The goal was to decrease and remove all the stressors in my life; external and internal, so I did the following….
- Eradicated the H.Pylori;
- Remove the foods I was sensitive too;
- Cooked and ate nourishing and traditional foods;
- Ate fats;
- Ate more food in general;
- Removed inflammatory foods;
- Participated in only nourishing, fulfilling activities;
- Moved away from negative relationships;
- Meditated; and
- Received acupuncture at Angea Fertility Specialist
My body and mind loved it. I had more energy, I felt better, my moods improved, I was happier, my skin and hair were healthier and I finally started menstruating. I was soon pregnant. I truly believe changing my diet to eat real, nourishing food and changing some lifestyle habits contributed to regaining my fertility and getting pregnant. I also give credit to a supportive and caring Acupuncturist/Chinese herbalist Amanda Waaldyk at Angea who treated and listened to me all the way through my IVF and pregnancy journey.
IVF did not work for me but I know other people who have been successful, just because it wasn’t right for me doesn’t mean it isn’t right for others. I’d also like to give credit to a fantastic surgeon who corrected my structural issues, without modern medicine I would not ever of been able to have children.
I fell pregnant naturally and now have a beautiful, healthy daughter, Indie Joy. I have finished my FDN certification and am helping people heal naturally like I did. While I’m on maternity leave I am writing blogs so I can share my knowledge, research and food creations for others in the healing journey. I am also now taking clients and working at Angea. Please see my services if you are interested in Functional Diagnostic Nutrition. Or call for a chat about your circumstances.