Musings on ART (Artificial Reproductive Technology)

This is such a touchy subject, but if I'm going to talk about preconception, then the question logically comes up. What is my stance on ART? This is actually a tangled mess of opinions that I've been sorting out for myself upon the realization that a lot of my opinions around this topic aren't even my own, but from others that I've allowed to permeate my consciousness. So, I'll begin by telling you my own story.

When my husband and I learned of our infertility in our early thirties, we began down the road of ART by doing some preliminary testing and were placed on the waitlist to undergo IVF. The waitlist was about six months. I was disappointed to have to wait, but also glad that I would have some time to do some research for myself. Over the course of reading about treatment methods and particularly the effects of Clomid, that I made the decision that ART was not right for my body at that time, so when it was finally our turn to undergo IVF, we took a pass. I had read that Clomid could sometimes release all of mom's eggs at once, leaving her permanently infertile and that prospect frightened me. Modern ART is moving away from those higher doses of Clomid or from use of Clomid at all, I think, so it's important to acknowledge that I had read that a decade ago and who knows how old that information was when I read it then? I began to explore a life without biological children. Perhaps we could foster children. Maybe adopt. Could I direct my creative energies (and make no mistake, I believe procreation is the ultimate use of our creative energies) into some other project? I signed up for fashion school. I have always loved adorning my body with beautiful, well-made textiles (especially of natural, organic fibers) and the thought of lovingly designing and making my own bespoke, couture clothing, even just for myself to wear, was a huge draw. This dream did not have the opportunity to manifest itself. My little spirit baby, Vita, sensing that the time was right, came to reside in my womb. I wasn't even two weeks pregnant yet, but I had this feeling that before I sign on the dotted line for this quite costly new adventure of fashion school, I had better just make sure I wasn't pregnant. So, when people say that old trope, "You're worrying too much about becoming pregnant. You're trying too hard. You just have to focus on something else..." I get that to some extent, but I think it's also very insulting and unintentionally hurtful. It certainly diminishes the fact that I was also taking my health into my own hands over the course of being put on that waiting list. I completely changed my diet. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and began to take Synthroid (now I take the natural thyroid made from porcine sources). I was diagnosed with PCOS for which I began taking Metformin. I quit my high stress job as a corporate paralegal and stayed at home, allowing me the rest and clear head I so badly needed. I went through each and every one of my cosmetics and tossed anything that scored over a three on the EWG website (a wealth of information if you have not yet explored it). I began charting my cycle through basal body temperature and observation of cervical mucus and cervical position to better understand my fertile window and it turned out that my body was not ovulating on the standard "day 14" - that little nugget in and of itself is hugely important. We weren't even "trying" on the right days. So, I understand the mindset of helpful advice of "just trying too hard", but I wish I could have set better boundaries, because ultimately those comments did nothing but add to my stress and certainly showed very little compassion for the real struggle I felt each month. I became bitter toward my friends that easily or even accidentally became pregnant. Hatred ate me up inside when I pondered how any could choose abortion. News broadcasts of child abuse sent me over the edge in tears. (Actually, I've since chosen to limit my exposure to media because I still have little tolerance for hearing about this type of news.) It was solely my journey and there was my own medicine to be found in that dark, difficult period of infertility, so I won't judge others for their choices around ART because it is all about perspective and previous life experience. And though, I went two years with the knowledge that I could not conceive, would I have made it to the age I am now without children and not ventured once again down the road of fertility treatments? I cannot say, because that was not the path my life chose. There is something so primordially deep about our desire to bring forth new life. Would my fear of being permanently sterilized by fertility treatments have still overridden my desire to have children at this age?

I want to offer my "Conscious Conception" coaching as a middle ground. Rather than go from a diagnosis of infertility, straight to ART, I think there is some respectful room for middle ground for those that might appreciate taking their fertility and health into their own hands. It might depend on different factors like the age of mom, her knowledge of environmental toxins and the level of body literacy she has already established. Also, infertility does not squarely rest on only mom (though, as women, we often tend to feel it does). It could just as easily be her partner or the combination of the two.

It sort of brushes up against it, so I'll also quickly say that menopause is not a health disorder to be corrected which is how I once viewed it. I do believe there are steps that can be taken to improve and extend our fertility (I did!), but infertility due to the very natural function of menopause is not a disease or disorder. Menopause is the closing of one door and the opening of a new one, a natural and beautiful part of our life cycle that we are honored to take part in as women.

Since I'm on this topic, I will say that it feels right to suggest that reproductive technology could be approached cautiously with as much knowledge prior to undergoing the procedures as possible. The procedure are not without risk. That is only from my perspective as someone who values body literacy and autonomy - not necessarily something that I have always valued during the various stages in my life. Our society is very noisy with a plethora of "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts" about just about everything under the sun. Far be it from me to add to that racket. You do you, Mama, and I'll meet you where you're at, aiming to employ the principles of simplicity, flexibility, compassion, listening, intuition, grounding and non-judgement.

#StoryMedicine #SelfCare #ConsciousConception