Sunday, April 28, 2019

The road to conceiving

In my first trimester, I loved the little cocoon of privacy around me. It was a big move (for me) to be vulnerable and open up about this next chapter. When our baby enters the world, she'll enter and on her own terms. We'll lose control (as we should... and honestly, as we have). For a time, this one was just ours. Our hopes, our excitement, our evolution.

Opening up means opening up to what you can't control-- the reactions that are helpful and those that aren't. The opinions. The ideas. The projections.

I've treaded carefully and slowly.

Because I spent most of my life avidly avoiding being pregnant. It scared me. I had built so much of my identity on what I did and the freedom to do it. I was scared of having my identity be based on a child-- it felt like an unfair burden to them and like I would never be fully formed myself.

Instead, Kevin and I invested our energy into exploring, creating, and getting clear on who we are to ourselves, each other, and creating our life. And honestly, at a certain point, we felt more settled in that. We made big strides to be informed, but not defined by, the events of our early life. We equally worked to define for ourselves our values and beliefs.

We felt more formed.

And from that place, we felt like we could maybe, possibly, be present to another little human.

So we decided to pull the brakes off and conceive.

And it didn't happen.

Well, not right away. For those of you who have been there, you know. It's a harrowing experience. For those of you who haven't, it's big. Thankfully, our wait wasn't that long. It's tough to figure out how to navigate. Who do you tell that you're hoping to conceive? What advice to you want to be open to? And then, how to stay happy for those who simply become pregnant and raise their kids? And patient to the same parents who complain about a process you desperately want?

It's so tricky too because I really didn't know whether or not most people conceived right away or had to wait. I had very little information. The only thing I knew about pregnancy was after the deed was done. Kevin had more awareness of friends and family members whose journey to pregnancy was longer and more uncertain. All I knew were people who were surprised by it or those who seemed to just walk through an open door. I didn't know that it's not always immediate. I knew there was a ton of scare tactics out there about my age, but I didn't know how valid any of that was.

I went to acupuncture. My acupuncturist recommended a book with a terrible title, Making Babies. The book is co-written by an acupuncturist and physician. It was so helpful and reassuring to me. It reminded me of the mystery and magic of conception and told me the information that is available. The thing is, when people don't conceive, right now, the common course in western medicine is force without even fully understanding what's preventing conception. Women are prescribed medicine to release more eggs. Folks go to IVF. For those for whom these practices are successful, I am truly happy for you! The issue I have is that there isn't much done to try to figure out what isn't aligning before going to pretty big, intense, invasive measures.

The book talked about folks who just needed a course of antibiotics prior to conceiving. Or adjusting vitamin levels. Or had scar tissue that needed to be removed. So many various pieces impact conception. If there was a patient investigation, it seems like so many people could remove the obstacles and begin their families.

I don't know what took us a few months. Maybe it was just timing. Magic.

In that time, we figured out how to ride out the uncertainty and fear together. So many different issues emerged and we had the time to work through them together. During that time, Kevin, being the proactive researcher that he is, began helping me seed cycle, offered me daily pregnancy tea (apparently good in conception as well as second and third-trimester pregnancy), and much more. Primed!

And then, I got Lyme disease. Which forced me to reconsider how I worked with western medicine, how to advocate for myself, and how to navigate that system. I got information that I was anemic and had low B12. Then I set to righting those issues. I had a hefty course of antibiotics to treat the disease, and then I made it my business to restore my gut health to the best of my ability.

And then I immediately became pregnant.

So... I don't know what it was. But I'd guess that maybe I needed to correct those pieces. Or maybe the moon had to align. Whatever the case, the timing is kind of amazing. I'm due on Kevin's last day of school. I can easily take maternity leave through the summer while still running the Grant Building's teacher training program.

Kind of beautiful.

As I've been steeped in this pregnancy journey, I've learned so much more about women's health. So much of it is embedded in reproductive health. For a woman who wasn't sure she wanted to reproduce, I didn't know this is where so many gems lay! I would tell my past self that in addition to all the great stuff that I did-- acupuncture, supplements, and adjusting my diet-- I would also look into vaginal steaming. Now that I'm developing my own postpartum care I'm finding a lot that circles back to fertility care and it all seems to tie into overall wellness.

When I look back, maybe our journey was par for the course. We didn't conceive right away, but the process gave us opportunities to both get closer and shore up our own health. In retrospect, it didn't take too long either. It was just private and without a lot of context. I share in the hopes that we can build a broader basis of experience and evidence so we both know we're not alone and we also have ideas about resources that might support our goals. I now wish I had done so much of this research earlier in my life. I think I could have contributed to an even greater degree of overall health and wellness. But I'll take it now. Another gift from my daughter.