Hi my name is Chloe, I am a 30-year-old woman living in Brisbane. I have a beautiful husband, who I’ve been married to for just over two years, but been with for over a decade now. He’s a pain in the butt sometimes, and so am I, but we’re pretty perfect for each other and I love him to bits.
About two-and-a-half years ago now, we decided that we were ready for another little addition to our family… that is, one of the human kind rather than k-9 variety. So I went off the pill, which I’d been on for as long as I could remember, and we started trying. I’d read that it takes some time for a woman’s body to get back to normal after the pill, so I wasn’t worried when we didn’t conceive straight away. However, about a year in, we began wondering whether something might be wrong. It wasn’t until another six-months later, when I felt a sudden, crippling pain in my abdomen while walking the dog, that I got the first indication of why we’d been having trouble. I ended up in hospital and was informed that I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)–something I’d clearly lived with for some time, but had no idea about. It turned out that a very large cyst had ruptured, causing the sudden pain.
I’d never had a gynaecologist before, but we spent the next few months going to one regularly, tracking my ovulation patterns (which were sometimes nonexistent!), going through cycles of Clomiphene, and trying to work out what our odds were. Then when my husband discovered that he also had a problem with his fertility, it seemed like we were never going to conceive at all.
I am a stressy person at the best of times... I am a perfectionist (often to my own detriment), am constantly worried about work, and anxious about whether I’m being a good enough wife, sister, daughter, friend, colleague etc. I have never really been able to shake the stressful, anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach and even when my surroundings are absolutely calm and peaceful, my mind is always going a hundred miles per hour. So my reaction to our not being able to conceive has been true to character.
At first, I told myself “I always knew deep down that I wouldn’t be able to have children” and wondered whether there was something within me that meant I didn’t deserve to. I questioned my worth as a woman, after all a woman’s basic human function is to be able to bear children…
As I write that last sentence, I’m conscious of how incredibly insane it sounds. I’m a strong feminist at heart and so clearly, a statement this reductive also strikes the more logical part of my brain as being very absurd–we women are amazing creatures, capable of so many things and so much more than bearing children! However, even though I consider myself to be a sensible, intelligent and rational woman, I can’t shake this feeling. It seems that the rational part of my brain has given way to my emotional turmoil around this struggle for conception.
At this point, I’m at a bit of a loss and very confused. I’ve looked into dietary remedies for PCOS, started acupuncture at a place specialising in fertility issues, reduced my caffeine intake, been tracking my basal body temperature for the last four-months and tried to take things easier on myself. But we’ve not had success so far. I’m also confused about whether our inability to conceive stems from my issues, or from my husband’s, for which we were told by our gynaecologist that there’s nothing much that can be done (though I’m seriously questioning whether this is correct).
My husband and I know that the next step is IVF, but I’m not sure we’re in a good enough headspace for it yet. I know that I need to address my levels of stress and anxiety if I’m going to give this IVF stuff a good shot at success; I know that my husband needs to do that too! He has a very confronting and stressful job, and he would be the first to admit that he tends to suppress rather than constructively deal with his emotions (which, in his defence, is undoubtedly typical of most of the male population). We’re both keen to get ourselves as healthy as we possibly can, both in body and mind, before we move on to the next phase. That’s why my ears shot up when I heard about Dr Domar’s Mind Body Program for Fertility
In my experience with PCOS so far, the doctors I’ve seen have been far too focused on treating the symptoms rather than the potential causes of the condition. For instance, even though there is a growing evidence base concerning the links between PCOS and diet (in particular, sugar, since PCOS is linked with insulin resistance), when I asked my gynaecologist about it he laughed and said that diet played no role. What a disempowering reaction… not to even enter into a critical discussion about it. When we talked about whether stress played a part, I was told that if I wanted to reduce my stress levels, I should have a glass of wine and chill out if I wanted to conceive. How incredibly unhelpful.
I know that, up until now, I’ve been too much of a passive participant in our infertility journey. It’s up to me and my husband to take hold of the situation, make a plan, and tackle this thing head on. I’m excited to start the Mind Body for Fertility program because I am hopeful that it will be the proverbial ‘kick up the bum’ that I need to learn some techniques to get on top of my stress, which will put me in a much better place to find a new doctor and really advocate for myself and my husband in the next stages of our journey. If I can get anything out of the program, it will be to learn how to be more positive about this journey that we’re on, and to remain hopeful. After all, I know that’s half the battle won.