Two years ago, I was stressed out. Actually it would be better to describe myself as “fried crispy.” I was working three jobs, 6-7 days a week and even pulling some 14-hour days.
Even though I was working as a therapist, helping others, I was simply exhausted by taking care of everyone but myself. My wake-up call came when my husband and I decided to try to fall pregnant and start a family.
Just like any responsible person, before you go on a road trip, you take your car for an oil change, check the pressure in your tires, and make sure that the general condition of your car is good to go. As an avid traveler (31 countries and counting), I decided to take this same approach when having a baby.
I decided to go for a full-body tune-up. At my annual, my gynecologist gave me the green light for baby making. Next, I went to the general practitioner for a wellness check-up. As far as GP’s go, I walked in healthy and after hanging out in the waiting room for an hour, I practically had bronchitis, chicken pox, and the flu by the time I was seen. Still, the GP said, you are healthy as a horse, good to go.
Two green lights and I figured I was ready for baby making. Add black strappy lingerie and a bottle of wine later, I was sure I would be pregnant before the weekend was over. No dice. Sure enough, my period came the following month, and each month for nearly a year.
Despite making a return visit to the GP and gynecologist, everyone kept saying that I was totally healthy. There was no reason why I could not conceive; I should be pregnant any day now. “Just relax,” they would say.
Of course I told a few girlfriends and my begging-for-her-first-grandchild-mother that we were trying. BIG MISTAKE. I had unsolicited advice coming at me from all angles, from stop trying to monitor your ovulation and even my favorite: do a handstand for 3 minutes after sex.
So handstands I did, along with cycle-monitoring (did you know there’s an app for that?),temping, and even booking an exotic trip for “vacation sex” (which I was told was the absolute best way to conceive). On top of all my efforts, all I did was stress out more.
Worrying wasn’t helping (does it ever?), in fact after I had my lab work done, it turned out that all of my stressing and overworking and under sleeping had my neurotransmitters and hormone levels in the toilet. Neurotransmitters are those feel good chemicals that help to keep the brain balanced. Mine were so bad, I should have been my own patient.
Since traditional medicine wasn’t helping me much, I decided to try the road less traveled: Alternative medicine. I met with a doctor who practiced functional medicine, she suggested supplements, stress elimination and thought acupuncture could help along the way.
The next day, I met David. He was in his 60’s, unassuming, and already a father of three. Surely, this man might be able to help me get pregnant. Oh yes, and he was an acupuncturist.
David and I met weekly at first, he was helping my body to find balance, de-stress, and harness my chi. David told me, “No Chi, you’re dead.” Surely he meant business. Most of the time, I felt like I was just taking a much needed hour long nap but after 6 months, I had my neurotransmitter and hormone levels reevaluated. Sure enough, I was a rock star! All my levels had come up to normal or better than average (which feels particularly affirming to a chronic overachiever).
But still, no baby.
I thought to myself, “Well, what else could I try along this alternative-medicine-road-less-traveled?” How about a Shaman?
“Are you serious?” my friends asked me. “Surely you are joking,” they said, “where are you going to find a shaman? Is that something like Lord of the Rings?”
Surprisingly, I found a shaman just 8 miles from home. A pleasant, kind, and rather jolly man named Adam. Adam hosted monthly sacred pipe community ceremonies, I figured this would be a fairly noncommittal way to dip my toe into the waters of shamanic healing. In 5 minutes flat, I RSVP’d that I would be attending, plus one for my husband. After my hubs came home from work that day, I gleefully told him that I signed us up to visit a Shaman.”
Curious, he asked what a shaman was, I realized I had NO IDEA. A shaman sounded like the next best thing to do, but I hadn’t a clue what we signed up for. Turns out that the pipe is one of the most sacred items and rituals of the indigenous people of North America. I would come to learn that the community pipe ceremony takes place to send forth gratitude to the spirits and being their attention to where we need help or healing. Sounded good to me, I went that month and for several months after. Whether the power of suggestion or shamanic magic, I began to feel lighter, more relaxed, and things in my life started to really come into a flow.
But still, no baby.
So here I am, still doing handstands, temping, monitoring my ovulation with an app, turned into a pin cushion at acupuncture, and sharing a pipe with a shaman but still, I’m not pregnant.
Before throwing my hands into the air, I decide that if I’m still on my mission for a whole-body (and whole-life) tune-up, my knee has really been bothering me so perhaps I should try a bit of chiropractic. And that’s when I met Nick. Nice guy, from the mid-west, the land of corn and (probably) making babies.
In my first chiropractic examination, Nick mentioned that my left hipbone was a bit twisted and causing my knee pain. He also went on to tell me about research that showed that women who have pressure on their ovaries can have polycystic ovarian syndrome.
According to Wikipedia, ‘Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition in which a woman has an imbalance of a female sex hormones. This may lead to menstrual cycle changes, cysts in the ovaries, trouble getting pregnant, and other health changes.’ Perhaps that was me…I had an inconsistent menstrual cycle and I was having trouble getting pregnant.
At this point of my two-year pregnancy journey, I had seen 2 traditional doctors, 1 functional medicine doctor, an acupuncturist, a shaman, and a chiropractor, how much more trouble could it possibly be to see a fertility specialist?
It felt like the right time, especially since I diagnosed myself with polycystic ovarian syndrome. [Note to reader: Any time you start using WebMD and Wikipedia to diagnose yourself, that’s your red flag to close the computer and go talk to an actual medical practitioner.] I thought it would be helpful to talk to someone who might be able to take a closer look at my fertility. My husband and I attended our first appointment, sitting in the waiting room reassuring each other that everything was going to be fine, and blaming each other for probably having “bad sperm” or “bad eggs.” Neither wanted to be at fault but all the while, not sure what was delaying our stork from bringing a baby.
Turns out that I showed up to the fertility clinic already ten days pregnant. Hot damn! Who would have guessed? And while I have joked that it took three men (David, Nick, and my beloved husband) and a shaman to get me pregnant, it was actually about getting super clear about designing a healthy life.
In the two years of my pregnancy journey, I took a good look at how I was living my life—stressed out, overworked, not cooking and scarfing down take-out for dinner around 10pm. I asked myself if I was happy (no), and if this was really how I wanted to live my life (no). While David, Nick, and Adam were helpful, the only person who was truly going to make a change in my life was me.
I needed to cut back on work, I needed to put myself to bed at a reasonable hour, I needed to drink the green juice, and I needed to meditate. At no point in my journey did I ever become “the perfect person.” I still stayed up late on occasion, I still ate more chocolate and drank more wine, but I made a change to bring moderation into my life and define a lifestyle that I wanted to live on my own terms.
In my transition, I found that when I was really honest with myself, what lit me up as a therapist was helping women to up level their lives and get super clear on their purpose. Today, as a psychotherapist and lifestyle design coach, I help ambitious women to create freedom, independence and a life they love.**
**Shaman not included.