My Conception Journey
“We each have the power to render the impossible possible, and it’s time to learn how to unlock that gift.” Kelly Brogan, M.D.
Women’s fertility in the U.S. has been negatively impacted by a society that does NOT value motherhood, forcing women to delay pregnancy to benefit careers despite our time sensitive biology. Widespread toxic environmental pollution and stressful modern lifestyles also adversely affect fertility.
I was no exception, as I focused my post-college years almost exclusively on my career as a journalist and TV writer / producer, to the detriment of my love life and dreams of starting a family. Being a workaholic who stayed late at the office every night — and not being able to imagine marrying anyone in my industry — raised obvious red flags I chose to ignore. The alarm finally sounded loud and clear one morning in between freelance gigs, whilst reading a magazine article about Angelina Jolie’s decision to adopt despite being single, to honor her primordial need to nurture. Suddenly realizing my biological clock was seriously ticking with no prospective dads in sight, and that despite my best intentions, I had failed to achieve the wealth necessary to choose Jolie’s path of single parenthood, I burst into tears. Obviously I was doomed to remain a single career woman, a fate which suddenly felt worse than HELL. I speed dialed “Yaya” — my grandmother in Spain — to share my new fear and seek her wisdom. “Maybe, I could move back in with my mom in New York and adopt a child OR perhaps I could persuade one of my more successful single gay male friends to donate sperm and co-parent with me?” Yaya did her best to hide her disapproval of my modernistic approach and comforted me with “Si Dios quiere….you’ll be lucky to meet your husband soon…”
Lucky for me, Yaya had a knack for predicting the future, and I met my hubby shortly thereafter. I met him exactly one month after casting a love spell to attract true love, but that’s a story for another time…
When we married, I was over 35, he was over 40, so we didn’t waste too much time before focusing on the baby project. We managed to get pregnant within the year and were ecstatic. However, this first attempt at motherhood woefully ended at 6 weeks with a spontaneous miscarriage.
We took a break for a few months to grieve and eventually were able to conceive again. I made it past the 6 week mark, and was starting to breathe a sigh of relief but at a 9 week check up our hopes were dashed when the doctor announced the fetus no longer had a heartbeat. And because I hadn’t miscarried naturally, this time I ended up requiring a D&C or Dilation and Curettage, a painful procedure to remove tissue from inside your uterus. I was heartbroken, not to mention feeling broken.
We decided to consult with Dr. D, an infertility specialist at KAISER. After a barrage of medical tests we learned our eggs and sperm were less than ideal. Getting and staying pregnant was not an assured outcome. Dr. D flatly suggested we immediately seek IVF — short for In Vitro Fertilization — something that would require paying out-of-pocket because our insurance would not cover it. Having watched another friend go through her life’s savings and break up with her partner over fertility treatments, we were both turned off by the idea. Additionally, the hormone injections had caused health challenges for others we knew, which didn’t feel right for us. My research at the time revealed that assisted reproductive technology (ART) was an industry almost completely unregulated in the U.S. (1), and a 2006 review of 3 decades of IVF concluded that “there is increasing evidence that children conceived through ART might “be at greater risk of perinatal complications than naturally conceived children and that knowledge on long-term health effects of ART is incomplete.” (2)
I cried and grieved deeply, not just because of the loss two potential offspring, but also in realizing I might never achieve my cherished desire of becoming a biological mother. Now that I had finally met the love of my life — a man I knew without a shadow of a doubt would make a wonderful father — facing this reality was all the more bittersweet.
Thankfully, my pain quickly turned to anger and defiance. If Dr. D wasn’t supportive of our dream to conceive naturally, she was OFF our team. I fired her, so to speak, and chose to focus instead on any lifestyle changes and holistic practices that could help me conceive the way I intuited was possible. I quit my hectic stressful life style as a field producer, choosing to invest generously in self care while taking some time off to reflect. I doubled down on my efforts to become as healthy as I could and did some major lifestyle changes including:
- quitting sugar and gluten
- cooking my own meals and eating mostly organic veggies, pastured meats & wild fish
- doing a candida cleanse
- juicing wheat grass shots
- exercising and meditating daily
- replacing our old mattress with an organic wool fire retardant free one
- installing a drinking water and shower filter
In addition, Davi Kaur Khalsa, my fellow Yogi friend and the midwife whom I dreamed of hiring if we succeeded in getting pregnant, suggested I work with Behnaz Forat an acupuncturist specializing in fertility. This warmhearted and jovial Iranian woman lavished me with much needed emotional pampering. So I bravely drove out to to the West Los Angeles and back — almost an hour each way — for twice monthly treatments. My inner guidance also suggested I reach out to Dr. Scher, my former OB / GYN in NYC for counsel. He was also a top fertility specialist and someone I trusted. After reviewing my test results, he told me that I shouldn’t worry: “Your overall health is good and your menstrual cycle is still regular; you just had some bad luck with a couple of rotten eggs. Doesn’t mean you won’t have a healthy baby. Just keep trying! And don’t forget to have fun while you are at it,” he chided me over the phone in a cheerful tone. The importance of Dr. Scher’s mind / body approach was profound. He was a top expert in his field, and his confidence in me being able to do this, gave me hope.
My long-time chiropractor, Dr. Kenny, also supported me on my journey to motherhood with nutrition and supplement tips throughout. Highly intuitive in her approach, she told me one day she felt nothing was physically getting in the way of my pregnancy and recommended I try a new energy modality called Bio-Decoding which might help me release any emotional or ancestral blocks interfering with my becoming a mother. The practitioner Marie Anne Boularand was a lovely French woman who counseled me in releasing any remaining sadness and guilt about an abortion I’d had as teenager, as well as my most recent miscarriages. She instructed me to plant seedlings in our backyard as an offering to Mother Earth and in remembrance of the potential of these beings. At the time, this felt so woo woo, but I fully embraced it regardless.
Just a month later, we conceived again on a playful and romantic weekend in Santa Barbara. This time the pregnancy stuck and progressed nicely. During the first trimester, I was pretty tired and gave myself permission to nap daily, something unheard of for my type A personality. But I reminded myself I might be growing eyes or a brain at that moment and chilled out. With each passing week I grew empowered.
Finally, we reached the 12-week mark and, with a sigh of relief, started letting people know. During the rest of the pregnancy, I felt incredible. I don’t ever remember feeling as happy or well as I did while being pregnant. The love I felt for my body, and the baby it was making, was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. My midwife recommended I walk 5 miles, 5 times a week, and I dutifully committed to doing that. Most of the time my hubby joined me as well!
Then the next challenge came. Where and how to birth? After reading countless books on the science of healthy birth outcomes, taking a couple of birthing classes and touring KAISER SUNSET’S brand new MATERNITY WARD, we chose to do a home birth with nurse midwife Davi Kaur Khalsa from Tender Loving Childbirth. Davi had worked in both private practice and county hospitals. She had seen it all and gave us confidence that she could handle any complication that arose. We also hired Margie Levy, a fierce doula, for support. If I ended up at the hospital during an emergency transport, I knew Margie would advocate for me and my baby like the badass she was.
Our choice to home birth was predicated by my deep desire to breastfeed. There were so many things that could go wrong in a hospital birth that could get in the way of successfully breastfeeding. I just didn’t want to risk that. It’s funny since most people feel the other way.
Finally, one week shy of my “official” due date (which really is a “due range”), I went into labor at 1:47am. After hearing the number of contractions per minute, my midwife advised we try and go back to sleep to conserve my energy till morning. At 5AM, Davi showed up bright eyed to check in on me and had my husband start filling the birthing pool. Davi then convinced me to walk up and down our street, which I was dreading. I remember feeling so embarrassed to be in labor and somewhat terrified. “I don’t want to be here, Davi. I want to go on vacation,” I pleaded with her. “But honey,” she wisely reassured me, “this is YOUR labor. No one can do this but you.”
Back at home, on the toilet, emptying my bowels and bladder in between powerful contractions, I vaguely remember my hubby coming in and out in a panic because he had forgotten to put the liner in the birthing pool and had to start all over again. Fortuitously, the drugs kicked in right about then — those really awesome custom ones my brain was producing— and I was able to tune him out, surrendering to what was happening within.
Finally submerged in the warmth of the tub, I sighed with relief. My hubby eventually joined me. As we floated together, his body supporting mine, he lovingly caressed my shoulders and kissed my forehead. Deeply meditating, I breathed long and deep into my fear and it melted away into the water. The experience remains a blur of intense bliss.
Eventually, Davi ordered me out of the water as my dilation had stopped progressing at 8 centimeters. It was time to labor. My doula massaged my lower back and belly with lavender oil and frankincense, and fed me coconut water to keep my strength up. At times we chanted along to the Adi Shakti, a favorite Kundalini mantra for birthing which played on a loop.
As my delivery climaxed, the baby struggled with shoulder dystocia. This happens when after vaginal delivery of the head, the baby’s anterior shoulder gets caught above the mother’s pubic bone. My doula, sensing some potential danger, whispered intensely into my ear: “I need you to push as hard as you can — as though you baby’s life depended on it.” The tonal change snapped me from my out-of- body experience and I grunted and wailed through one final push as Davi performed the Gaskin maneuver, a technique that involved tucking her fingers under the baby’s arms to quickly turn and pull him out. Through this and my herculean effort, our baby boy finally emerged to be caught by his father’s hands. As our son squealed into the world, Dad let out the most heartfelt laughter. Our son had been born in our sun-drenched living room in South Pasadena after I labored in and out of the tub for about 13 hours. The elation, blissful energy and confidence I felt after giving birth was the best high I have ever experienced and supported me for months during the challenging learning curve of new motherhood.
Birthing at home remains the most “In-Powering” and cherished experience of my life. Facing myself and my fears with courage, awakened my soul deeply. I was transformed.
The Maiden died. Mother Goddess was born.