Guest blog by Amber Woodward, founder of www.thepreggerskitchen.com, a humorous and light-hearted website on battling infertility that is full of positivity, action, food and laughter.
“Are you breast feeding a baby?”
….was the unexpected question that led me to Circle+Bloom’s meditation program. It was asked by my doctor following a visit to find out why, oh why, I wasn’t falling pregnant. A firm ‘no’ should have been my answer, but instead I panicked and said ‘I don’t think so’, as if it were possible to accidentally nurse a baby without knowledge of doing so. What prompted my doctor to ask this (potentially insensitive given the circumstances) question were my levels of the hormone prolactin. They were high. Way too high. Prolactin is the hormone that is high when breastfeeding and which can prevent ovulation and menstrual following birth. It was also the hormone crushing my dreams of conceiving.
My doctor informed me that if I did not have a baby on my bosom (I didn’t, thanks for asking) then I was likely to be too stressed – physically, emotionally and mentally. I was training for a marathon, struggling through infertility and in a pressurised job at work – tick, tick, tick. My doctor suggested that I take a long hard look at my life. It felt like a telling off, like I had been sent to the naughty corner to sit and contemplate my stress. My only conciliatory thought was that at least my time in the naughty corner would be spent surrounded by all my equally highly strung friends.
Be proactive about fertility
So after a busy time spent stressing about my levels of stress, I decided to tackle it head on. The single most important thing I learnt when battling infertility was to be proactive. Unfortunately the mentality of ‘no man left behind’ that was promulgated in the military film Black Hawk Down is somewhat lacking when it comes to infertility. Western Medicine’s attitude seems to be more ‘we hadn’t realised the chopper crashed so we’ve all gone home. Sorry’ . It is up to the individual to take their own positive action to improve their fertility. My proactive step to balance my hormones was meditation. But did I have time for meditation in my already stressful and hectic life?
In the words of Nike…Just Do It
One of the lies we all tell ourselves is that we ‘don’t have time’. I’m too busy and tired to meditate. Really? I seemed to find time to post to social media, read about houses I couldn’t afford in the property section of the paper and visit every sandwich shop in the local area to make absolutely certain I’d made the best choice for lunch that day. It is always about how we choose to prioritise our time. I needed to prioritise meditation and to incorporate it into my daily life until it became an unconscious habit. I started listening before bed but Joanne’s soft voice whispering in my ear was like an American songbird lulling me to sleep. I never made it to the end of a session. So I switched to my commute. I would wedge myself into a packed train, whip out my phone, turn on Circle+Bloom, shut my eyes and begin. Was it obvious I was meditating? Probably. Was that weird? Almost definitely. Did I care? Nope.
Along with calming me and balancing my hormones, it also helped me to become in tune with my body. I knew which phase of my cycle I was in, what my hormones were doing (or supposed to be doing) and what my non-compliant ovaries were meant to be up to. They always have had a mind of their own). In fact, I became spookily in tune. Each month I would visualise my left ovary releasing the egg. Always the left – like the right one had decided it was all too much effort and closed its doors to business. When I remarked on this odd fact to my husband he responded that it was indeed odd that I visualised my ovaries, somewhat missing my point. But about 8 months later it all became clear to me during an ultrasound. The scan revealed that although I had a normal left ovary, my right was according to the sonographer ‘a clearer example of a polycystic ovary than the one used in the textbook’ (an accolade I could do without). Such is the power of the mind body connection that I had somehow, unwittingly, known that all along.
But for me, I think that the most important benefit of meditating was learning to work with my body to harmonise my hormones, rather than fighting against it. It was so easy to get bogged down in the numbers and the test results, blaming my body for the lack of a baby. My mind would say “my right ovary is letting me down, my prolactin is too high, my cycles have crept back up to 7 weeks again, what is my body doing?!”. But it wasn’t being done to me, it wasn’t separate from me. It was my body. It was me. Mediation was like bringing my mind and body back together after a long and acrimonious separation. They finally understood each other and were working together to clean up the hormonal mess I had created for myself. And I was sure that I was one step closer to having high prolactin for the right reason, that longed for baby on my bosom.
Because it is worth the rewards
I noticed a positive change almost immediately and then pondered why on earth I hadn’t indulged in meditation before. By making no changes other than meditating (at that stage I was yet to discover the other important lifestyle tweaks that boost fertility) within 6 months my prolactin levels dropped back into the normal range. I had developed into a calmer more patient person. I even became one of those annoying people who float through their days with a never ceasing soft smile on their face, the type that stressed people want to punch.
Amber Woodward is the founder of www.thepreggerskitchen.com, a humorous and light-hearted website on battling infertility that is full of positivity, action, food and laughter. This site has one single aim – to make you smile because fertility struggles are depressing enough without any added doom and gloom.
Amber struggled with infertility for a number of years, wracking up plenty of fertility tests, treatments, natural approaches and IVF. She writes honest and humorous accounts of her experience with tackling her infertility.