One month out of college, I was married, had landed myself a full-time job teaching music, and was ready to take on the world. After many discussions, we decided to wait around 5 years before having kids. I mean, that sounds like a reasonable amount of time to wait, right? Well, as goes the story for many people, our plans shifted rapidly.
We began having dreams about babies. Close friends of ours shared dreams that they had of us being pregnant. Strangers started saying odd things, like “I have this funny feeling you two will have kids soon.” Oh, how the tides change, and our notion of waiting, moved towards a prayerful desire for pregnancy in the near future.
However, things weren’t happening like we planned. I thought women were supposed to get pregnant the moment they thought about it. I became a connoisseur of all things TTC (online mom speak for trying to conceive) and had a large stash of pregnancy tests. Just a few short months later, we finally got a positive! How delighted we were. It was so thrilling. At 9 weeks we shared the news with close friends, but that night had a tragic discovery that this baby was leaving earth-side and heading to Heaven. Heartbreaking does not come close to describing that time.
With hesitancy, we pushed on. Five months later, we found ourselves pregnant again, afraid to be excited. Unsure of the weeks ahead, but also incredibly hopeful. Seven weeks later, our second baby joined their sibling in Heaven. Broken and confused, I found myself with a doctor unwilling to do further testing until we had one more loss. What we had experienced was “statistically common and nothing to worry about.” As a 21 year-old, I did not buy that this was normal even if that’s what the data showed. I was a young, physically active woman. I refused to take her advice. Back to the online forums I went, looking for possible explanations.
At this point, Pinterest was now mainstream and I discovered a whole new world of reproductive information. I learned about preconception diets, natural family planning, genetics, hormones, ovulation, blood thinners, RE’s, and everything they don’t mention being necessary when you’re in sex-ed. I’ve always had a natural bent, and found myself making an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor who specialized in fertility with a balanced approach of blood tests and natural remedies. I went in armed with a few other “ailments” I had been battling most of my life just in case she also refused to help test me. That first appointment turned out to be one of the most reassuring steps I took in this whole process.
After running 10 or so tests, we discovered I had quite a few problems. Among a few I can’t remember, we discovered hypothyroidism, low progesterone, low estrogen, a gluten intolerance, and a genetic disorder called MTHFR. Later, we would discover an arcuate (heart-shaped) uterus that can make carrying a baby to full-term more difficult. It felt both relieving to have answers, and also overwhelming. My doctor assured me that through a few medications, supplements, and an overhaul to my diet, we should be able to balance my hormones to support my health as a woman and through pregnancy. She sent me home with an entire folder of what to eat, what to avoid, how to detox, ridding our home of chemicals, the dirty dozen, and the importance of exercise for fertility.
This began a whole new era with a focus on my health. Four months of new changes later including: eating a clean and mostly organic diet, taking a ton of supplements to support healthy hormones, regularly exercising, thyroid medication, and way too many articles read on the impacts of MTHFR, we found out we were pregnant. For twelve weeks we held our breath, but we knew this time was different. From start to finish, it was just over a year and half journey to a healthy pregnancy and not only was this baby going to make it, but I was feeling better than I had in a long time. My migraines had gone away, my vision had improved, I had more energy, I had lost a few pounds easily before we conceived, my cooking was healthier, and my mood overall felt more supported. By the way, we are now pregnant with our THIRD! Wow! I would never choose for this to be the way I discovered healthy living, but it is a part of my story, and I want to share what I’ve learned along the way with you all.
Did you know, doctors believe it takes about 3 months to improve the health of your eggs? This is because every 90 days an eggs begins a cycle towards ovulation. During that time we want to improve your circulation and a healthy menstrual cycle, balance hormones, and get healthier eggs. Below are five ways you can start focusing on your health now, before you are pregnant:
1. Prenatal Vitamins
Now, I know it is possible to get all the nutrients we need through diet, however, I don’t know anyone who is getting enough of everything we need in this way. I’d recommend finding a vitamin that uses folate and not folic acid. Folate is the natural form of the synthetic most vitamins use, which is folic acid. This was a very important switch for me, as folic acid is toxic for many women, especially if you have MTHFR. I love the gummy vitamins made by Smarty Pants. Plus, it just helps to have a gummy to look forward to. Check them out here on amazon.
Add in nutrient dense foods like eggs, green leafy vegetables, avocado’s, and berries. Focus on eliminating refined sugars, breads, and dairy as these all prevent you from absorbing nutrients, and cause hormone imbalances.
If you haven’t been working out, start by going for daily walks or adding in yoga. These are gentle ways to get your blood flowing, your heart pumping, and make space for yourself. Exercise is something I’m very passionate about and love doing. It helps our bodies by oxygenating them, increasing blood flow, increasing healthy hormones, reducing stress, and sweating out toxins. Not to mention, it helps our bodies strengthen to support the added weight of a pregnant belly, followed by pushing a baby out or balancing from a c-section, and then carrying that little chunky baby around after they are born.
I don’t support harsh detoxes that leave us weak and with less muscle mass, so don’t go sign up for the next trendy juice cleanse that “promises” to improve your fertility. However, it is important to rid our bodies of the everyday toxins we encounter like chemicals and stress. Take baths using high quality Epsom salts and lavender oil twice a week. Here are some I like. I drink a cup of water before the bath, so I’ll have to pee afterwards, then drink another cup of water at the end to prevent dehydration. Magnesium plays a huge role in major systems of our bodies and the research is suggesting we are all low on this important nutrient.
Make time for yourself to relax, to breathe, to meditate, to pray, to just sit and drink a cup of tea. The effect of stress is hazardous to our health, pregnant or not, but luckily we are resilient beings and these effects can be reversed. One simple stress management tool you can begin it to simply breathe intentionally. Stop for a few minutes and close your eyes or look at something calming and breathe in and out.
Let me know if you found my journey or tips helpful in the comments section. We focused mainly on my health, however, my nutrition and fitness impacted my husband as well and that may have played an important role in our pregnancies.