Our HMHB Content Coordinator Chelsea recently gave birth to twins, and this occasional series followed her progress as she tried to honor her intention of having a healthy, happy pregnancy. This month, we’re focusing on bringing you information on infertility through our blog posts. Before Chelsea conceived, she experienced two years of secondary infertility. This is her personal story.
While these tips are all designed to improve general health in preparation for conception, often even the most dedicated lifestyle efforts aren’t enough to help couples conceive. According to RESOLVE.org and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, you should seek the care of a specialist if you are unable to achieve pregnancy after 12 months of unprotected intercourse (if the women is under the age of 35), or six months if the women is more than 35 years of age. You should also seek the care of a specialist if you have had more than one miscarriage. For more information, support, and resources, visit http://resolve.org.
Embarking on a Two-Year Struggle
My first Whole30 was in January 2015. Toward the end of the thirty days, I found out I was pregnant. My firstborn was only seven months old at the time. This pregnancy was a total surprise, and it took me until the first doctor’s appointment to get over the shock of that positive pregnancy test. Unfortunately, at that six week appointment, and another one two weeks later, they couldn’t find a heartbeat, and I went on to miscarry the pregnancy a month later.
Recovering from a miscarriage includes physical and emotional healing. Sympathetic friends told me that they got pregnant very soon after miscarriage, so I expected the same. Little did I know that I was embarking on an almost two-year struggle with secondary infertility.
“Don’t You Want Your Kids to be Close in Age?”
My husband and I started trying again for baby #2 in June 2015. A few months went by with no results. We weren’t too concerned, as it took us six months to conceive our firstborn. Six months turned into a year, and we found ourselves at another doctor’s office in June 2016, this time for a consultation with a fertility specialist. In that year of trying to conceive, my husband and I both did the Whole30, twice. Well-meaning people would often comment saying things like, “When’s it going to be your turn? Don’t you want more kids? Better hurry, because your son’s getting older. Don’t you want your kids to be close in age?” They had no idea the pain and complication that hid behind the answers we gave.
We went through all of the tests and finally sat down with the doctor again in October 2016 to make a plan moving forward. We had just completed a September Whole30, and I continued to stick to a Whole30 style of eating during the weekdays through December, while completing my 200-hour yoga teacher training. I was the picture of health—eating well by almost any standard, practicing yoga several times a week, spending lots of time outside in the beautiful California sunshine, and getting as much sleep as possible while raising an active toddler.
To add to that resume of super-healthy habits, I joined the Whole30 Healthy Mama, Happy Baby team in December 2016. If anyone should have been a shining beacon of fertility, it was me. Yet, I took this job as I was in the midst of my struggle with infertility. Even though I knew that some aspects of my role could be triggering for me, I decided to take the position because of my passion for the Whole30 and desire to guide other women to health and wholeness throughout pregnancy and into motherhood.
“I Had to Accept It Wasn’t My Magic-Bullet Solution”
There were some moments when I would hear a great conception testimonial from a Whole30 HMHB mama and think, “Hmm…must be nice!” But ultimately, I was happy for those women, and agreed that a Whole30-inspired lifestyle was the right one for me for a number of reasons. Through Whole30 and Whole30-ish eating, I was able to maintain high energy, stay healthy throughout flu season, maximize my sleep, and feel in control over an essential realm of my life when other important factors felt very much beyond my control.
While I value a Whole30-inspired lifestyle, I had to accept that it wasn’t going to be my personal magic bullet solution for fertility. Instead, we started a cycle of treatments that many women are familiar with: frequent office visits, fertility medications, praying, waiting, and being disappointed month after month. This was one of the hardest seasons I’ve walked through. While I worked on the physical aspect of healing, I also pursued yoga, meditation, and therapy as a way to process the emotional pain that infertility inflicts.
We started our first round of treatment (Clomid/IUI) in November 2016, and completed a second cycle of the same treatment in December. January 2017 ended up being a rest cycle for us, and I did a third cycle of Clomid/IUI in February. Since that protocol didn’t work for us, I moved on to Menopur injections with IUI. The first cycle on that treatment I ended up finally conceiving. I found out I was pregnant on April Fool’s Day (I know, right?). We found out a few weeks later that we are having boy/girl twins — they were born in November 2017.
Three Final Thoughts
So much of life is a mystery. Especially when it comes to preconception health, there’s often no way to know why one person has X results, while another person can do the exact same thing and experience Y. But one thing I am certain of is that there’s a lot of pressure on women, especially in the realm of preconception health, pregnancy health, and motherhood. We want to end the culture of fear-mongering and judgment that is so often aimed at women, so we created the Whole30 Healthy Mama, Happy Baby program. Our goal is to give you actionable information that you can use to make the choice that best suits you, your partner, and your family.
For me, that meant prioritizing nutrition, exercise, and mental health while seeking medical intervention at the same time. You may make a different choice. That’s the beauty of our Whole30 HMHB community, and, really, the larger Whole30 community. We provide the information to empower you to live according to your definition of health, and then we support your choices and cheer you on.
If you’re in the midst of infertility, I’d like to leave you with three thoughts. These aren’t “tips and tricks to help you conceive,” but rather heartfelt suggestions for practices that helped me as I faced the difficult challenges of infertility. First, prioritize self-care. Infertility is draining, so take care of yourself, whether that’s going to bed early, treating yourself to a massage, or taking an extra yoga class. Second, find support. Some women find it hard to share their struggles with their friends who are happily pregnant, so consider talking to a trusted mentor or counselor. Third, rely on your partner. Infertility can feel very isolating, but remember that you are in it together. Take time to relax together, talk about how you can support each other, and maybe even plan a getaway so you can continue to bond throughout the process.
Here at HMHB, we are committed to supporting mamas on all walks of the journey. When you join our program, you gain access to our private Facebook group, where no question is off limit, and our supportive community will rally around you. If you’re interested in learning more suggestions for preconception health, sign up for The Bump Files, our monthly newsletter. As a thank you, we’ll send you a free 15-page preconception health guide.
Chelsea Long is the Content Coordinator for the Healthy Mama, Happy Baby Program. She lives in San Diego with her husband and three year old son and infant twins. In addition to her work for HMHB, Chelsea is a yoga teacher, writer and meditation facilitator. Formerly an English as a Second Language instructor at the University level, Chelsea shifted her interest to holistic health after giving birth to her son. Her degrees in Communications and Education serve her well as she works with the Whole30 team to help other moms thrive during preconception, pregnancy and postpartum. Chelsea is passionate about helping others find healing through yoga, meditation, and nutrition, both through her contribution to the HMHB team and through her personal website.