Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fertility Diet and the Journey to Our Second Child

Now that I am in my mid-forties and eight months pregnant with our dream second child, I thought it was important to share the story of our journey toward baby number two--which was different (and even more challenging) than the one toward our first baby.

If you’ve been following our blog or have a copy of our book, you probably already know the story of how we conceived our first child, our son, Julien, but I’ll summarize here. My husband and I had been trying for over a year to get pregnant when finally we went to see a reproductive endocrinologist (a fertility specialist). I had just turned 40. After all tests were done, this doctor explained that we had a 2% chance of conceiving on our own. This, even after polyps discovered in my uterus were removed.

Although devastated, I decided it was simply not acceptable that I don’t get to have a child, so I began to research all that I could do to help myself, to increase the odds. I ended up putting myself on a fertility friendly diet (the one outlined in our book), along with doing yoga, meditation and visualizations. My husband also followed the diet, and just four months later we conceived our son.

I believe deeply and whole-heartedly that we can make a difference in our fertility and our health—by the choices we make in what we eat and how we live.

Every day, we are utterly grateful for the miracle of our son—who is a complete delight, filling us with unexplained joy. Nevertheless, when we decided to have a family, in my mind that meant at least two kids. My husband and I both had siblings and were grateful for them. How could Julien not have a sibling?

When Julien was almost a year old, we tried (in earnest) again to conceive. By then I was 42 years old and my FSH had risen even more (to 16; the normal is below 10), telling me, from a western medicine standpoint, that the quantity and/or quality of my eggs was even further diminished than two years prior.

I did not let that deter me, as I thought of Julia Indichova, author of Inconceivable, who at 42 had an FSH of 42, and yet still conceived her daughter naturally after changing her diet and lifestyle.

But I did find it much harder to get into a Zen-like state with a toddler running around, and I feel that managing one’s stress is critical to fertility. As my 43rd birthday approached, I decided to step up the game. I got more strict with my fertility diet—which in any case had become mostly a habit for me—and started acupuncture.

A few months later, I felt my body was ready for one last shot at baby #2: we would do an IVF. The reproductive endocrinologist we saw remarked on my superb health; the perfect state of my uterine lining; and the strong, vigorous circulation of my blood. I knew this was the result of the work I had been doing and felt optimistic in spite of the dismal statistics (5% chance of IVF success due primarily to age).

But that cycle failed and left me thoroughly devastated.

It was our last chance. We had burned through our finances and beyond (our debt was huge!). There would be no repeat IVF. I wouldn’t want another IVF anyway. I believe when age is the primary factor, for most, one stands a better chance with nature. So, either I would get pregnant naturally, or I would have to find another path toward my second child.

But first I needed to heal. I needed to completely let go, and allow my husband to let go too. I didn’t realize until then, exactly how much pressure we had put on ourselves during this process.

Four months later, just two months shy of my 44th birthday, we got a happy surprise and conceived naturally. Our excitement turned to sadness, though, as I miscarried at 10 weeks.

After that, I did not give up on conceiving naturally, but I didn’t count on it either. I just “surrendered” to whatever was, and whatever will be. Finally, I had found some peace.

It’s at that time when I first allowed the idea of donor eggs to enter my mind.

It’s amazing that before, I wouldn’t even hear the words, donor eggs, but now that it might be, along with adoption, the only way I could be a mom again, my perspective completely changed. I not only opened up to the idea, but embraced it, and felt grateful the option was there.

Aiding my decision was this: my son, who was naturally conceived and has all my genetic material looks absolutely NOTHING like me. He is instead a carbon-copy of his Dad. And it doesn’t bother me in the least, because I know he’s mine and that’s all that matters. I have also had the privilege to meet all kinds of families and know that the good, strong ones are not defined by genetics, but instead by love, care, and a deep sense of security.

A donor egg baby, I knew, would be mine, too, just like my son.

One of the benefits of donor eggs (besides the 50 to 80 percent IVF success rates), is that the time pressure is relieved. As long as you and your uterus are healthy (for the most part), your age is not a factor. Not that we wanted to wait too long! But if we went through another baby-attempt, we were determined to do it from a calm, peaceful place—with our finances intact and minimal pressure.

We waited another year and a half or so, while we caught up on finances, passionately wrote and published our fertility book, and thoroughly enjoyed our son and our lives.

When I started to research donor egg programs, we found we couldn’t afford most of them. (Costs average between $40K and $50K.) Luckily, we found an affordable alternative in Reproductive Biology Associates (RBA)’s highly successful frozen donor egg program in Atlanta. For $16,500 (current price), we were guaranteed two high-quality embryos. We also selected RBA for their professional, caring staff and stellar referrals from many (pregnant) others.

Six months before our planned cycle, I got myself ready: I got more strict on our fertility diet again, as did my husband. I also practiced yoga when I had time, meditated daily, did visualizations and got weekly acupuncture treatments—but this time, in a calm “whatever will be” state. Although my eggs would not be in the picture, my uterus and body, which would be nourishing an embryo, helping it “take” and grow, most definitely would be a part of the picture, and I wanted that body, and its driver (my mind), to be in perfect health for the job.

As it turned out, I had polyps in my uterus again, but they were successfully removed. After that, our cycle could not have gone smoother. Not only did I get pregnant, but we had two high-quality embryos to freeze for possible future use.

Our daughter is due the end of July, 2011, and I cannot wait. My husband and five-year-old son are also very excited. I found, in being pregnant and feeling her kick and move inside me the last few months – she is already so much a part of me and our family, I feel so close to her, that I often forget that we used donor eggs to conceive her. I know this happens for other parents of donor egg babies too.

I share this journey with you to show that there are many routes to parenthood, although I know it’s important to be ready and open for the route you choose. I also share this story to demonstrate the importance of maintaining one’s health (physical, mental and emotional) through this process.

As always, I wish all the best to you on your journeys.
photo: me at 31 weeks of pregnancy.