Tuesday, February 21, 2012

HOW I GOT PREGNANT AT 43, FOR THE FIRST TIME (without going to a fertility clinic!)



Sorry, I realize this post is a bit late, as much of my time has been spent obsessively looking online to try to choose the best health insurance plan, and looking up pregnancy symptoms and cures for things like nausea. I found plenty of decent health insurance options, which I will share in a later post... and I also have some great recommendations for women living in California! (A note for anyone who would like to email me direct with any questions or comments, you can reach me at knockknockbaby@gmail.com).

It's funny how I've been downplaying all the stuff I've been doing to increase my fertility, because I didn't want to feel embarrassed if I couldn't actually get pregnant. After all, I was in my 40's now. Three years older than my Grandma was when she got pregnant with my aunt (she was 40... 41 when she delivered, and everybody thought she was soooo old). It seemed like everybody already had a baby. Gritty singer-songwriters who wrote tunes about all their wrong choices with men, like Pink, Alanis Morissette and Jewel already had babies. Even Madonna decided that age 40 was her cutoff point, and chose to adopt after that. It was starting to seem as if my window of opportunity had come and gone.

I have a lot of friends who have been pregnant and have had babies, and I didn't want them to feel sorry for me if it didn't happen. It was a little easier for me to play this off because I do have two really great step kids - really fun, funny, well behaved (usually! knock wood) kids - so I think most of my friends and family have just been assuming that I've decided not to pursue having a baby of my own. Even these days, with all the fertility treatments there are available to women, 43 sounds pretty old! But the fact is, as wonderful as my stepkids are, having stepchildren is not the same thing as having a child of your own. So I at least wanted to give my best shot! It seems like everywhere I turn, I see babies. Most of my friends have babies. My gynecologist's exam room wall is plastered full of baby pictures of children she successfully delivered. So why couldn't I have a baby, too?!?


I am still kind of in shock that I was able to actually get pregnant at all. But I am VERY excited to be able to report that some of the stuff I've been doing, to maximize my fertility for the past few years, seems to have actually WORKED!

I feel I should note here that, I do realize I am in a very early stage of this pregnancy, and, statistically speaking, I am still at a high risk for miscarriage. Every one of my girl friends who got pregnant over the age of 35 had a miscarriage on their first try (usually between the 5th and 11th week). So, while I want to remain positive and share the news with people, I also want to be realistic. I'm going to do everything I can, to maintain a healthy pregnancy, and just keep my fingers crossed that everything will work out!

That being said, I thought it was still worth it to share my story with other women who are in the same boat as I am. We are so fortunate to live in a day and age where we can actually do certain things to maximize our chances of conceiving. Back in my mother's era, you didn't have all these options. One of my aunts was unable to have children (due to endometriosis), and her only choice back in the early 70's was adoption. Nowadays, there are things that can be used to prevent endometriosis (see my post on pycnogenol). There are vitamins and herbal supplements we can take to maximize our fertility. There's sperm friendly lubricant we can use (I think my parents used to use VASELINE! It's a wonder I was conceived at all!). But then again, back then, doctors were telling women that if they wanted to have babies, they'd better do it soon (like in their 20's), because IVF just wasn't widely available back then. These days, our options for maximizing our chances of conception are endless... but I'm going to tell you about the options that worked for me, personally... and hopefully they can work for you, too!

I shared the news of my pregnancy with an aunt of mine (I'll call her Aunty A), when I was about 5-6 weeks pregnant, and she was very excited for me and kept saying, "Oh my God! Oh my God!!!! "Hallelujah!!!" We were both in disbelief. She later told me that she'd had a conversation with my other aunt (her sister - whom I'll call Aunty B), a few months ago, and they were trying to guess as to whether or not I was still trying to have a baby. Aunty B said, "Oh, heavens no, I'm sure she's not!" We were cracking up about it. Little did either of them know all the stuff I've doing, behind the scenes, to maximize my fertility!

So now I'm going to tell you all the things I did to increase my fertility, to give me my first-ever-in-my-life positive pregnancy test!


GETTING HEALTHY TO IMPROVE EGG QUALITY

In my opinion, the most important thing I did in order to get pregnant was get healthy. I have long believed that if I wasn't willing to get my body in the healthiest condition possible, then it wouldn't matter what else I did... even if I chose to go the route of IVF (which I was very afraid of doing). I always figured, an unhealthy embryo wouldn't be likely to grow in my uterus. So THE best thing I could do to ensure that embryo is healthy, is to take great care of my health, for at least six months prior to conception. If you've been TTC for a while, I'm SURE you've heard this one by now!

For me, this wasn't easy. I am a caffeine addict by nature, and having to cut back to 50 mg per day (or less) was NO walk in the park. Especially because the last place I worked at had 2 kitchens where you could have unlimited gourmet coffee (Peets or Starbucks). They even had a machine where you could make yourself an instant mocha or cappuccino! It was like the caffeine gods were out to torture me. And now that I'm pregnant, I've cut it back to almost zero, which is further torture, as caffeine really does help boost my mood and keep me productive.

Although I eat healthier than a lot of people I know, I've had more than a few years of some not-so-healthy habits. In my late 30's, I drank coffee in excess, and didn't eat much (I realize now this has a lot to do with being depressed after my father died when I was 33). I also smoked a lot in my early 30's (due to, again, depression over my father's death, having the wrong kind of boyfriend who smoked and drank in excess, and just plain old fashioned stupidity).

I also wasn't as good as I could have been, when it came to keeping well hydrated. Sometimes I wonder if this made my eggs dry up, because coffee is so dehydrating (and it was starting to give me back pain). But luckily, I guess they weren't dried up to the point where a sperm couldn't fertilize one of them!


Part of my getting healthy included taking very high quality supplements called Visalus - and not only did I take them, but my husband took them as well (and these are the first vitamins I was actually able to get him to take, on a regular basis!!!) I have tried for years to get him to take vitamins, but he never did it regularly. But I think he kept up with the Visalus vitamins because he really did see a difference. If there is a day when he actually forgets to take it, he will inevitably start complaining about something, like fatigue or back pain. He actually told me one day, "I hate to admit this, but... this stuff really does work. I can really tell the difference on the days I don't take it."

The Visalus Vi Pak supplements are chelated (highly absorbable), pharmaceutical-grade vitamins. A friend of mine had gotten me hooked on these vitamins (and other Visalus products) back in June, and I felt such a difference in my energy level, I committed to training for a marathon (the only thing that was going to stop me was a possible pregnancy... and, voila). I was so addicted to the vitamins, that there was a time (early on, after taking my first months' worth) where I ran out, because I was sharing them with my husband and he hadn't started ordering them yet for himself. I called my friend, who turned me on to them, and was practically pleading with her to let me buy some of hers - enough to last me till my own order arrived (I know, I must sound like a drug addict!). But they really were that good. I'd never had so much energy in my life, and friends were even starting to comment.

IMPROVING SPERM QUALITY

I'm going to go a little off track here and talk about my husband and how his health has improved this year, thanks to Visalus products (I feel it's relevant, since it takes two people to make a baby, and if you don't have healthy sperm, you could have a higher chance of having an unhealthy baby, or no baby at all!). I have a lot more to say about improving my own egg quality (this section about improving sperm quality gets a bit long, but I don't want anyone to think I'm blaming my past inability to conceive, solely on my husband's sperm!!). I was even more concerned about my own eggs / infertility, but I definitely think it's worth talking about the importance of having healthy sperm, before you conceive.

Thanks in part to the Visalus vitamins, I have a strong, healthy, virile husband who has been consuming a lot of nutrients that are proven to increase sperm quality and quantity. Some of these supplements include: CoEnzyme Q10, Folate (this is like folic acid, but more absorbable), Zinc, Alpha Lipoic Acid, and Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Magnesium.

But let me tell you... It wasn't always like that. A year ago, he wasn't taking any supplements at all, and he was actually hospitalized due to failing health (more about that later). If you could have seen him just half a year ago, you would not believe he is the same person. Thanks to Visalus, both of us have made a huge turnaround in our health!

Why I originally wanted my husband to take supplements

Since I wasn't getting pregnant (despite the fact that my FSH tests were low - 5.5 - and my gynecologist couldn't find anything that should cause infertility besides a slightly tilted uterus and a small polyp - which I had removed) I couldn't help wondering about my husband's sperm quality (since he's a little older than me). As if I didn't have to worry enough about the quality of my own eggs, being in my 40's!! My husband has fathered two wonderful, beautiful children, so I wasn't as worried about his sperm as I was about my own eggs. But I did know that he was in his 30's when his son was conceived, and now that he was pushing 50, who knows what changes could have happened to his sperm?

I've heard that people who are diagnosed as Schizophrenic are often found to have fathers who are older (over age 40). Supposedly it has to to with poor sperm quality. I don't mean to offend anyone by saying these things... I realize, there is no guarantee that just because a man is healthy, there will be no chance his baby could develop schizophrenia later in life, or that parents of a schizoprenic child didn't do everything they could to prevent it from happening. I'm sure there are many unknown factors. But I looked at it like, if we're going to be open to having a child, then why not at least try to give it the best chance at a healthy life, that you possibly can?

I think the reason Schizophrenia scares me is because in my mid 20's, I had a friend who became schizophrenic, and it was really heartbreaking to see him go through it. He went from seemingly normal, to having almost no control over his thoughts, isolating everyone around him. He wound up on the streets and eventually had to live in a halfway house. The victims of this disease seem so helpless, like there really is very little they can do to prevent it (there are medications available, but what are the odds of someone who is paranoid and hallucinating, taking medications on a regular basis?). There is a very sad story in the news right now, about a young man, just 23 years old, who had schizophrenia, and just bludgeoned some poor man to death, outside his home (police failed to respond to the 911 call in time). The schizophrenic kid was a former football star and model student, and now he was now paranoid and hallucinating - to the point where he felt he needed to kill an innocent man.

I wanted my husband to take supplements to decrease the chances of schizophrenia (and any other possible problems related to poor sperm quality), in the miraculous chance that I did happen to get knocked up. But it is just about impossible for me to get the guy to eat healthy or exercise (I was lucky if I could get him to go on one 20 minute walk per week). I've tried, for years, to get him to take vitamins, but he'd stop after a few days or a week. I bought him "multi vitamins for men," and helped him put them into a pill minder, assuming he'd take them on his own and refill the pill minder himself. Then later I found the pill minder with all the pills still in it. The vitamins had become dark brown and gross, after sitting in the container for months and being exposed to oxygen for so long). Then I tried buying high-energy vitamin packets from Costco (thinking maybe he'd be more motivated to take them if they were in individual packets), and he told me he'd bring the box to work and take the packets. Two months later I found the box still in his car.

I've also bought other types of anti oxidant supplements, like CoEnqyme Q10, Grape seed extract, and Resveratrol (all of which are good for sperm), plus fiber tablets and drinks, liquid vitamin supplements, and cleansing kits. But he'd never take any of them. One day I was so pissed off by his refusal to improve his health, I said "F--- IT!!!" and ceremoniously, loudly, dumped all the bottles in the trash (I will admit... I fished them out later because I couldn't stand the thought of fifty bucks worth of antioxidants going to waste). It was at this point where I was seriously thinking about the possibility of us going our separate ways and hooking up with a sperm donor.

So it was almost like a blessing in disguise that my husband actually wound up in the hospital this past summer, due to a variety of health problems.  Suddenly, he HAD to start taking better care of himself. Luckily, this was right around the same time a friend told me about Visalus products. Visalus vitamins and shakes are the ONLY health products I have been able to get him to take on a regular basis, and I know it's because it actually works for him (plus, he doesn't like how he feels when he stops taking them).

HOW VISALUS HELPED MY HUSBAND

Thanks to the Visalus products, my husband's health has made a total turnaround. It's true, the doctors also put him on several medications, but his health improved so quickly that they actually took him off all his medications. Keep in mind, this is a man who hasn't made any other changes to his health besides taking the heart medication and vitamins (and cutting back on drinking). He rarely exercises, and in my opinion, his diet is not great (he eats way too much meat, sugar, and processed foods without fiber... and hardly any vegetables). I have tried to encourage him to eat better and exercise more, but there is only so much I can do. I am still hopeful he will make even more changes, but for now I am just so grateful he is taking his Visalus vitamins, because I can see what a big difference it has made for him (and me)!

The Visalus vitamins come in very convenient, easy to open (and carry) packets - one (yellow) packet for the morning, and one (blue) packet for the evening. He is VERY good about taking the vitamins, and he is now in better health than I've ever seen him in.  


















The 2 months before I found out I was pregnant, he was also drinking Visalus shakes, twice a day. He normally would just drink one shake per day, but because I didn't always drink a shake every day, we were finding ourselves with a surplus of shake mix (since the products are delivered to us on AutoShip, whether we consume them all or not). Determined not to let the extra shake mix go to waste, he said, "I'm drinking TWO shakes a day, dammit!" Little did he realize, he was super charging his sperm!

One of the things that made me decide to start taking the visalus products is this video I saw on YouTube, that talks about all the nutrition that's packed into just one shake. You can view it here:



HOW VISALUS HELPED ME CUT WAY BACK ON CAFFEINE:



I am a bona fide coffee addict. I will admit, cutting way back on caffeine was, by far, THE hardest thing for me to do, in order to get pregnant.

Thanks to a Visalus product called Neuro (an energy drink), I was able to cut my caffeine intake way down. It's like Red Bull, only it has less caffeine, costs less, has no sugar, and has other good stuff like DMAE, Green tea, Vitamin C, Rhodiola and Arginine. It has 45 mg. of caffeine (as opposed to Red Bull, which has 80 mg. of caffeine, or 5-hour energy, which has between 240-320 mgs, or 180 mg in a SHORT cup of Starbucks coffee).






Being the coffee lover that I am, you'd think I could have just switched to decaf coffee, but there is something about coffee (even decaf) that seems to dehydrate me much more than other caffeinated products like Neuro, or even Coca Cola. I can even feel it in my eyes - to the point where I have to use eyedrops. I do still have it on occasion as a treat, but it's rare.


I knew I had spent the last few years drinking way too much caffeine, and it was "now or never" when it came to my fertility. I didn't want to hit age 60 and look back and kick myself, knowing I hadn't done everything I could, to maximize my chances of having a baby, while I still could. So Visalus Neuro was my way of being able to cut back, without completely cutting caffeine out of my life.

Since I was going running just about every morning (on weekdays), I found that the best time to drink the Neuro was at about 2:00 in the afternoon. At one point I was drinking it first thing in the morning, but then I'd want another pick me up in the afternoon, so it worked out really well to just have it in the afternoon (I usually have a decent amount of energy in the morning, provided I am eating healthy and staying hydrated, and especially if I'm getting a good buzz from running, so I didn't really need to drink it that early anyway).

Like my husband, I was also drinking the Visalus shakes pretty regularly while I was running every day. The "base" powder tastes like sweet cream, and it's delicious. I would sometimes blend the Visalus shake with some kind of fruit, or sometimes add a few spoonfuls of my flaxseed / pumpkin seed mixture (I just had to rinse the magic bullet cup really well afterwards because the flax seeds tend to stick to the side of the container).

The supplements gave me so much energy, I started training for a marathon. I know they say you're not supposed to do any heavy exercise if you are trying to have a baby, but hon
estly, I was at the point where i was looking at it like, well, I'm 43 and the baby thing hasn't happened so far, so maybe I should just move forward with my life. I didn't give up on maximizing my fertility in other ways, but I was getting tired of putting things on hold, in order to just try to get pregnant.


THE COST OF VISALUS

I'm going to come right out and say, Visalus vitamins are not cheap (but you can get them for FREE if you sign up and refer 3 friends). But to me, whatever the case, it's WAY cheaper than IVF, and also paying out of pocket for health insurance.  And to me, having health that's this good seems like the best insurance I can give myself (provided I do my best to drive defensively when I'm in a car!). The normal cost of the auto shipments me and my husband (each) get is about $250 per shipment (we get the "Core Kit," which includes the vitamins, shake mix, and Neuro). It sounded like a lot of money, but I signed up without hesitation after I did my research and realized how good the products are (and how many life-changing testimonials there are on YouTube). I realized that $250 per month was only about 1/3 the cost it would have been for me to continue with my Cobra insurance coverage.

A Blue Shield insurance plan for a woman of my age is $274 per month (with a $5000 per year deductible), and you still have to pay 30% after the deductible is met, plus $35 per office visit (if you are self employed, as me and my husband both are). So being on the Visalus products seems a hell of a lot less costly! I know some people will be aghast at my insinuation that they may not need health insurance. Yes, it's important to have health insurance, I get it. But one thing that confounds me is, how many people think it's more important to have health insurance, than to take really good care of yourself. Yes, health insurance can help you if you are sick. But wouldn't it be smarter to do everything to can to ensure you don't get sick in the first place? As they say, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

I am planning to get health insurance, now that I am pregnant (luckily, you cannot be denied health insurance due to a pregnancy, as it is not considered a pre-existing condition. At least not in the great state of California!). But I am not a big fan of health insurance, having paid thousands of dollars in premiums, out of pocket, only to find I never needed it, because I was already taking great care of my health. Yes, I do realize I was also lucky, and I don't take this for granted. But again... I'm a big believer in focusing on prevention!

One last thing I want to mention about health insurance is that some insurance carriers will pay for the Visalus products in certain instances, because they know that the cost of you being healthy is much less for them, in the long run, than for you to be unhealthy. I have heard Blue Shield and Blue Cross will cover the cost of Visalus if you are a candidate for weight loss surgery. I'm not sure what other health conditions they will cover, but it doesn't hurt to ask... and ask again!!! The more people who ask questions and put in requests, the more likely health insurance companies will see how they will come out ahead if they help people pay for Visalus.

STAYING HYDRATED

I have gotten really good about drinking water on a regular basis, and found a GREAT water bottle (after a LOT of research!). It's BPA free, holds a lot of liquid (32 ounces), has easy grip / no slip sides, is easy to clean, won't spill (if you make sure the sippy part is down, before you put it in your purse) and won't crack if you drop it. Thanks to this water bottle, I drink at least 64 ounces of water, on a daily basis, and actually enjoy it! (The trick is to keep it in your car, so you'll drink it when you're bored, or waiting at a stoplight, etc.). I also used this drinking container to drink my Fertili Tea / lemonade combo (more about this if you scroll down).

I always remember a girl friend of mine, who had a baby about a year ago, giving her best advice on how to get pregnant and have a baby. She said, "DRINK TONS OF WATER!!!"

I keep thinking about some fruit trees I have outside, that are in large pots. There have been years where I was bad about watering them, and those trees didn't produce NEARLY as much fruit in those years, as they did on the years where I would water them regularly. So to me, it just seems to make sense on a very basic level, that staying hydrated will help you produce  better quality eggs (and more of them), and eventually... a healthy baby.


EXERCISING



Over the last few years, I have gotten really bad about exercising, using the excuse that, if you exercise TOO much, it can throw your cycles off and you won't be able to get pregnant. Since I can be a little bit of an extremist, it's hard for me to not want to run at least an hour a day (once I really get going). I kind of used that as an excuse to hardly exercise at all (except for going on occasional walks - which I tried to take with my husband so we could both get our exercise). I used to be really good, but it just got to the point where I partly justified my lack of exercise by simply saying, "I just don't have time for it."

But in the winter of 2012, I got into a discussion with a friend of mine about how we'd always wanted to run a marathon, and we decided to start training together. I kept putting it off, thinking, "I don't want it to affect my fertility."  But I was at a point where I thought, I've been trying to get pregnant for 5 years. I can't keep putting this off.  If I'm going to get pregnant, I'm going to get pregnant.  So I just decided to go running again, and let the chips fall where they may.

I did remember how an old boss of mine had gotten pregnant (at age 40, i believe), while she was running every day. Once she found out, she slowed down to "just walking," but I couldn't help wondering if all that extra blood flow can somehow help your fertility.

It's true, I only got to the point where I was only running about 25 miles per week, so I don't know if I'd gotten to the point where I was running more than that, if my fertility would have been affected. But I can't help thinking the extra exercise may have HELPED me. 

INCREASING BLOOD FLOW

In addition to going running, I was also using my "back 2 life" machine on occasion, because the running was putting some pressure on my lower back. And when I'd get home from running, I'd do a workout on our DVR called "5 minute Abs" with Dave Sinclair (it was PERFECT... and just five minutes!!!).  I felt like it was juuust the amount of strength training I needed for my lower back, to be strong.


My husband also massaged my lower back (and feet) a few times, on the month before I found I was pregnant. So if you can get your hubby to do this for you, all the better! There are several videos on youtube (and some posted to my blog a few years ago) that show how chiropractic treatments can help increase your fertility. Here is the blog post I did, with related (embedded) videos: http://knockknockbaby.blogspot.com/2008/10/chiropractic-treatment-and-fertility.html

FEELING GOOD ABOUT YOUR LIFE

The next thing worth noting is that I was at a point where I felt very, very motivated and good about my life. Me and a good friend of mine would get together regularly and go over our lifetime goals, and I think it really helped my all around outlook on life.

Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans
- John Lennon

I will never forget that on the Monday before I found out I was pregnant (which was on a Thursday), I was researching "Foster parenting" on the internet. Specifically, I looked up USKids.org, and spent a few hours looking at videos on the site, and BAWLING, once I learned about how badly some children want to be adopted! I was convinced - that's the route for me (and still haven't ruled it out). I was determined to become a foster parent one day. Me and my husband had discussed it a few times. He is a very big hearted guy, and I think he would make a really good foster Dad one day. It wasn't as if we were planning to adopt a child this year, but it was a relief for me to know I had a plan, since the baby thing just didn't seem to be happening. So I do think it's funny how, right after I made plans to run a marathon and adopt a child... I found out I was pregnant!


INCREASING THE QUALITY AND QUANTITY OF YOUR CERVICAL MUCUS

Another thing I did, in those first two weeks of my cycle, was take Fertile CM. This stuff really does help you produce more cervical mucus. For a long time, I've assumed I must be one of those people who has "hostile cervical mucus," since I tend to get really dry "down there" - even if I'm drinking plenty of water. (You can read another post I did, regarding hostile cervical mucus, by clicking here). 


I can be bad about remembering to take pills, so I would stock up my "pill minder" with 3 pills per day, during second week of my cycle (and then maybe a few days past that, for good measure). When you look at the bottle, they make it sound like it's something to be taken every day, but honestly I just couldn't afford to do that, so I just took it when I thought it was "most needed." You can see the difference pretty quickly (meaning, you will produce more cervical mucus), so I just took it around the time I was pretty sure I'd be fertile and having sex!




















I would also stock my "pill minder" with "Oil of evening primrose" from Trader Joe's (it's pretty inexpensive, I think about $6 or $7 for 90 softgels). Supposedly this helps your cervical mucus as well. I'd stock 2-3 capsules (which are pretty big) in the pill minder, to be taken on the same days as I'd take the fertile CM.



I did still have some "mucus relief" pills and am took these as well (taking one pill per day on the same days I would take the Fertile CM). I've had this bottle for a WHILE, so I am just assuming they are still good (never bothered to check the expiration date). There were 240 pills, so this same bottle has lasted me a few years!

HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON PRE SEED

While on the topic of cervical mucus, I am a pretty big fan of PreSeed lubricant (but what TTC girl isn't).



However, it's very expensive. Something like $20 for a tube (which, when "used correctly," only gives you about 5 applications). And I heard the price just went up this year. But it was still worth it! I started out ordering it online a few years ago, and then found out my local CVS pharmacy started to carry it!! I was so happy to know I didn't have to drive very far to get it (before that, the closest place I could buy it was a 20 minute drive away).




But then, after about a year, CVS simply stopped carrying it. I asked the manager if he could put in a request to restock it, and he gave me some lame answer about how, when CVS decides not to carry something anymore, it's just about impossible to get them to bring it back.

I wondered what kind of results I might get if I mixed the half tube of preseed that I had left, with a bottle of "Astroglide natural," (which IS still available at CVS). I knew I liked Astroglide natural (which I used on my non fertile days), since it seemed less likely to kill sperm, than most lubricants. It's free of glycerin, alcohol, fragrance, flavorings or hormones. It's also water based, water soluble, and pretty long lasting. The only difference between this stuff and pre-seed, far as I could tell, was that it didn't have "arabinogalactan," or "larch tree extract," which is the key ingredient that helps the sperm live a long time (longer than they would without it).

So, I decided to mix the two. True, I knew this was all highly experimental, but I figured it couldn't hurt. After all, what were the chances of me getting pregnant when I was 43 and training for a marathon? I'd kind of resolved myself to the idea of finishing the marathon first (within a year), and then making that final push to do everything I could think of, to have a baby (and that would mean using the full strength pre-seed).

When I mixed the two lubricants, it turned a kind of "milky", opaque color - which seemed funny since both are clear when they first come out of their respective tubes/bottles. Here is a picture of what the consistency looks like (below). Sorry, this is all I had left to photograph! The milky consistency makes it actually look kind of like semen.... so who knows, maybe the sperm like it even better than the clear stuff : ).

But anyway, the funny thing is, it looked exactly like what it looked like a few years ago when, on another whim, I bought some Larch tree extract from Source Naturals. I had ground up the mixture into a very fine powder, and simply added it to the Astroglide Natural. I think my husband would look at that weird, milky mixture and think, "What in the world is my wife doing this time??" But he never complained about it. I had no idea if this stuff would work, and for all I knew, the concentration I was using (one whole pill for 1 Astroglide bottle) might be too much, or maybe the other "fillers" in the tablet mgiht kill the sperm. I couldn't find it published anywhere, just how much arabinogalactan was needed in order to make Preseed. But - as you may know from reading my blog, I am the kind of girl who likes to experiment.

Whatever the case, the Preseed / Astroglide Natural combination solution is what I used when I got pregnant!! At age 43 (just in case I need to say it again). I am so happy to report this, because I really wanted to share this tip with other women. I used to get so frustrated when I'd go out and spend $20 on a tube of PreSeed and only be able to use it five times, and STILL not get pregnant (not the PreSeed's fault, it just wasn't time yet and I didn't know it). Or, worse yet, when I would use a whole applications' worth, and then for some reason the sex just didn't happen... like maybe because I was putting way too much pressure on my husband, or the pressure I put on myself killed my own sex drive!

I feel a little guilty sharing this secret because I am a big fan of Dr. Ellington, who invented the stuff, and think she deserves to make money on her product. But for people like me, who have been TTC for 5 years and have bought soooo much of the stuff already... it's good to know a way to cut the cost!

Another product I used is called "Fertili Tea." It's a really good loose leaf tea that I have been buying and using for years. It gives you a little more cervical mucus, and seemed to help make my cycles more regular.
I got into the habit of brewing about 3-4 days' worth of tea at a time (you can make a concentrate by just using less water), and then pouring it into a glass bottle (removing the tea leaves with a strainer), and then I'd transfer it into the fridge when it cooled down. This way, it would keep for several days, and I'd remember to actually drink it because I could see it as soon as I opened the fridge. What I would do is, pour between 1-2 cups of the tea into my daily water bottle, then add a scoop of powdered country time lemonade, and fill up the rest of the bottle with water. It actually tasted good - like mint tea lemonade.


KEEPING THE SPERM IN

A few months ago, I bought some "Softcups" (formerly called "The Instead cup") from Rite Aid, because the ones I had were starting to wear out (they say you shouldn't re use them, but I only used them a few hours at a time). On my last cycle, where I got pregnant, I rolled up the cup so there was "less space" along the edges, and then coated it with this preseed mixture I just made. Apparently, it worked! (Or, at the very least, it didn't kill the sperm that ended up fertilizing my egg!).


For the record, if you happen to have a diaphragm, I've heard that works just as well. I've used mine before, but to be honest... I can't figure out where the heck I put it : D. One thing I like about a diaphragm (as opposed to a softcup) is, it fits very snugly around your cervix, so you don't have to roll it up. It's easier to pee with a diaphgram (for some reason, half the times I use a SoftCup, I feel like it partially covers my urinary tract, no matter how hard I try to shove it up there, so it seems to take forever to pee). You can also use a diaphragm over and over again (it says you're supposed to throw the Softcups away... though I sometimes just took my chances and washed them out really well, since there was no blood).

On the night that I'm pretty sure I conceived, I remember being in bed for a looong time... to the point where I felt kind of bad when I woke up at 3am, because I felt like I'd blown the whole evening (little did I know how productive I really was being!). 


I'm going to be totally honest here and say, I can't remember 100 percent for sure if I used the instead cup or not  (I usually used it, but sometimes I didn't). I was so sleepy after we had sex, there is a chance I may not have put it in, but I would say chances are better that I did, because I was being so good about everything "fertility related" that month, and I had just bought a pack of these.  I do remember using it a few times that month, I just can't say for sure that I did it THAT time. 

I know for SURE I did use the preseed mixture though. What I did was, I poured the preseed / astroglide natural mixture from my bottle, into those syringes they give with the preseed, and "injected it" towards my cervix, AFTER sex. My husband feels that things are way too slippery if I inject it beforehand, and I agree with him.  I also prefer to do it this way because if you use it all beforehand, then a lot of it falls out or dries up (depending on how long you're going at it). The good thing about combining the pre-seed with the Astroglide natural, is that I feel like I can afford to use a little more, because it's less expensive. So I can  use it before sex (applied externally) and then again after sex (applied internally w/the syringe). 

I also had my butt raised up with a pillow.

I usually let it sit for about 6-8 hours and then pull it out. Please do not forget to pull it out!!! I think you can actually develop toxic shock from not pulling it out (like with a tampon) but you'll be just fine as long as you remember. 

TAKING VITAMIN D SUPPLEMENTS
A few years ago, I posted an article on this blog about how Vitamin D can help some women conceive. You can read my prior post here: http://knockknockbaby.blogspot.com/2010/07/vitamin-d.html

Vitamin D has been like a miracle vitamin for me - helping me with Seasonal Affective Disorder AND lower back pain, for the last few years. So I guess I wasn't too surprised to find out it can help you with conception, too. This makes sense to me, because if you're experiencing back problems, then you're having problems with your spinal cord, which can mean your blood is not circulating properly to the right areas, which include your female organs. I did a post about how women who have difficulty TTC have had success when they got chiropractic treatment. You can read the post here: http://knockknockbaby.blogspot.com/2008/10/chiropractic-treatment-and-fertility.html

So I've been taking about 10,000 IU per day - a level Dr. Weil said is safe... but I think you might want to cut back a little if you're pregnant... I cut back to 4,000 mg when I found out I was expecting.


Normally I liked to buy the Costco (Kirkland) brand, because it works great, the pills are small, and it's inexpensive - less than 15 bucks for 600 softgels! For the last few years, I would take 4-5 softgels per day, so it would last me 3-4 months.

Well, I was running out of the Kirkland brand I normally use, because I was sharing it with a co-worker who complained about back pain. And they had this brand on sale (pic on the left). So I decided to try it. I've been taking 3 pills a day, for the last 3 months. These pills have 2,000 mg of Vitamin D, so I was only taking about 6,000 mg. per day (as opposed to 10,000 mg. per day with the Kirkland brand), but after reading the bottle, I got the impression maybe this is more absorbable becaue it's got magnesium and other nutrients that work well with the vitamin D3, so I thought maybe I might not need as much. Whatever the case, this is the exact brand I was using when I got pregnant.

CORRECTING A HORMONAL IMBALANCE

Another thing I did (and this one is important!), is I took a supplement called Fertil Plus. I had read about these pills for years, but never actually took the plunge, to buy them, until about October of last year. I kept putting it off because I never quite had the $200 (for a 4 month supply) in my account. I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, since I know $200 is NOTHING compared to how much it will cost if you wind up with a baby, but... I'm just being honest!

Anyway, I finally bought it. It's true, I could have bought just one bottle, but I was convinced I'd need at least a four month supply (despite how many testimonials there were from other women who'd just used a bottle or two). As it turned out, I got pregnant after about 2 1/2 bottles of the stuff (to be exact, as of the day I found out I was pregnant, I'd taken 237 pills - a 79 day supply... so, just over 2 1/2 months). I will also admit, I could have been better about taking them regularly during the first month. If I didn't remember to fill my pill minder, I would sometimes forget to take them, so if I'd taken them more regularly from the getgo, who knows, maybe I would have gotten pregnant even faster.

On the last month before I found out I was pregnant, I realized, the easiest way to remember to take the pills is, to keep a bottle next to my bed (and always be sure to have my filled water / tea bottle with me before I go to bed). That way, I can take one pill as soon as I wake up, and one pill right before I go to bed.

What I used to do is, try to remember (note the word "try") to take it at 8am, 3pm, and then 10pm. But doing it this way, the chances were all too good that I would manage to forget to take the pill at at least one of those times (or, that I would take it late). But by taking it before bed and as soon as I woke up, in the same place 2 times a day, it was almost guaranteed that I'd be taking at least 2 of the 3 pills consistently, and then somehow remembering to take just one pill at 3:00 seemed a lot easier!

If you go to the fertilplus website (www.fertilplus.com), you will be able to listen to all kinds of testimonials from women who have conceived in their late 30's and 40's. Many of them have been through several rounds of IVF, only to find it didn't work. The wonderful thing about the site is they actually have AUDIO testimonials you can listen to, and you can just tell, from hearing these womens' voices, that they're real people (who knows, maybe I'm the biggest sucker in the world, but in my opinion, the testimonials are way too unrehearsed and off the cuff to be fake... go take a listen and you will see for yourself). http://www.fertilplus.com/

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I sent the link for the website to a friend of mine, who has been trying to concieve (via IVF) for as long as I have (we are the same age). I don't know how much money she has spent on the treatments, but my guess is, it's got to be a minimum of 30K. Knowing how hard she's been trying, and how much money she spent, I really wanted her to try the stuff (since the IVF didn't seem to be working), so I suggested that she take a look at the site. I told her the testimonials looked amazing. I didn't tell her it had worked for me, since I'm not telling a whole lot of people until I pass the first trimester, and also didn't want to give her anxiety knowing YET ANOTHER PERSON had gotten pregnant... I knew all too well what that felt like!!!

She immediately emailed me back and shot down my suggestion to look at the site, and said, "PLEASE don't tell me you're actually considering taking this stuff!" Then she continued to write long paragraphs about all the different reasons why the site was rubbish and it wouldn't work. She thought all the testimonials were bogus, and the site preyed on women our age who were desperate to get pregnant. So I told her I knew someone who had gotten pregnant after just a couple of bottles, and the girl was our age, and she'd been trying for over 5 years (hey, it was all true, I just didn't mention I was talking about me). She responded, surprised, and said, "Hm, well I guess maybe I don't know everything." I have no idea if she's tried it, but... I am hoping she will!

Again... I know there are a lot of women who must have heard about FertilPlus (it seems to be the most popularly advertised fertility supplement on the net, besides FertilAid, which unfortunately did not work for me). If someone asks me "does FertilPlus really work?" I am happy to be able to be able to respond, Yes. I can genuinely say from experience... FertilPlus really does work! I wanted to give my own testimonial, but couldn't figure out how to leave on on their site (I think they've got enough).

I first heard about FertilPlus from a woman named Shola Oslo, a kinesiologist (since I had to look up what a kinesiologist is, I'll share the definition from wikipedia: "Kinesiology is the study of human and animal movement, performance, and function by applying the sciences of biomechanics, anatomy, physiology, psychology, and neuroscience."). I first discovered Shola when I went online looking for a cure for fibroids (which I was convinced I must have, though as it turns out I didn't). I think she is great, because she gives so many natural alternatives to surgery, for women who are struggling with infertility. She also has videos on YouTube.

In addition to teaching women how to remove fibroids, she can also teach you how to eliminate or reduce endometriosis, with herbal tampons. It's a shame to hear of so many women with endometriosis who give up (or let a doctor cut into them with a knife) because they believe this is their only option. If I'd never heard of Shola, I may never have discovered FertilPlus, and I probably would have thought I had no choice but to eventually go the route of IVF!

If you want to read Shola's page on how to get rid of fibroids, click here (you can also sign up for a newsletter, which I'm still getting because I never cancelled it and find this stuff very interesting). http://www.stopfibroids.com/?hop=cbmon

Shola also has a page about blocked fallopian tubes. I believe I may have one slightly blocked fallopian tube, because when I had an HSG test a few years ago, I could see the dye didn't immediately go through one of my tubes... it kind of got stuck, like in a liquid drano commercial. It did go through, but it took a couple more seconds to go through one side, than the other, so I guess it could be classified as "partially blocked." Anyway, for anyone who wants to read it, this is Shola's site on blocked tubes: http://blocked-fallopian-tubes.com/.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I was very worried that I could have an ectopic pregnancy, because a) I kept thinking about that partly-blocked fallopian tube, and b) I kept feeling a strange vibration on my left side (though as it turns out this was most likely from a Corpus Luteum cyst, which supposedly is normal). I am also just a worry wart by nature. But I went in for an ultrasound, and as it turned out, the embryo is right where it is supposed to be: in my uterus. BUT, if for some reason I ever did get pregnant again, with an ectopic, I'd be the first person to try the herbal tampons recommended by Shola!

CHANGING MY DIET (In addition to taking Visalus supplements) and eating healthy (and I mean, REALLY healthy!!!)



I should mention here that, for the last few years, I've been greatly influenced by two female authors who had gotten pregnant, later in life (one at age 43, like me), by changing their diets. I would highly recommend the E-book "You Can Get Pregnant over 40, Naturally," by Sandy Robertson. She also has a wonderful blog that helped me stay motivated and made me realize there was still hope for me after all (I will never forget the last sentence in her book: If you are still having periods, you can still get pregnant!"). You can view her website here:
http://www.getpregnantover40.com/ and this is her blog, which is
FANTASTIC (she keeps it updated very regularly, with great articles and info):http://infertility-fertility.blogspot.com/

I also enjoyed another book called "The Infertility Diet," by Fern Reiss, because
she talked so much about how changing her diet helped her get pregnant. One of the things she recommended eating (which I did) - was pumpkin seeds.


I'm not a big fan of the taste of raw pumpkin seeds, so I would blend them in my Magic Bullet with flax seeds, and it would turn into a nice, nutty mixture that tasted great when mixed in with yogurt.

This is the flaxseed / pumpkin seed mixture (which I'd buy in bulk from Rainbow foods or Whole foods), before grinding it up....

And this is what it looked like after I ground it all up.

I'd keep it in a large container (which used to have salsa in it, from Costco) in the FREEZER. You need to keep flaxseed either in the freezer or fridge, or it will get rancid. You also need to make sure the flax seeds are actually ground up, or apparently they don't give you the same health benefits.
Another thing i did try to eat a good amount of yams (at least during the first 2 weeks of my cycle), because they are like a natural kind of Clomid!

THE YAM DEBATE

There is a bit of debate about what kind of yams you're supposed to eat, in order to
increase your fertility. Some people say you need to get "African yams" (available in specialty markets), and others say regular yams are just fine. I didn't even know where the heck to GET "African yams," and wasn't about to pay a fortune ordering them off the internet, so I just got regular yams from my local market.



Who knows if they truly helped, but they sure did taste good!

I used to cook them with a lot more olive oil, but the month before I conceived, I remember hardly using any olive oil at all. When they're baked just right, you don't really need it, because they are so sweet. They are also a great snack to keep on hand, in the fridge, for when you just happen to want a little something sweet to eat, or if you need to take a pill with something (pills tend to get stuckin my throat so I prefer to take them with food).


EATING LOTS OF FRUIT

While I was working at a 5-month temp assignment (from Aug-Dec of 2011), I was very fortunate to have access to a kitchen that was stockpiled full of food, which included bi-weekly organic fruit deliveries. That place had so much fruit, a lot of it got thrown away at the end of the week. I am not a big fruit eater - I will admit, I tend to be pretty damn LAZY when it comes to eating fresh fruit on a regular basis. But after about a month of being at this temp job, I got this idea to make a decent sized, high-energy breakfast (I mean, why not? The food was sitting right there and I didn't want it to go to waste... plus I got a 15 minute break every morning, which was just enough time to cut everything up!). I realized, if I had a good sized breakfast, then I could save a ton of money on food, because the company actually ordered lunch for all the employees (every day!!), and I could take half my lunch home and never even have to pay for dinner!

So, I started making fruit bowls (not just for me, but also for my two co workers whom I'd planned to run a marathon with). I'd cut up about 3 different types of fruit - like an apple, a pear, and an orange. I'd usually put my least favorite (like the pear or apple) on top, because my next step was to cover it with yogurt (so the least favorite fruit at least got the most yogurt). The orange (my favorite of the 3) would go on the bottom (if it were summertime, I'd put peaches or apricots on the bottom... I can eat those all day long). Then I'd put granola over the whole thing,
and sprinkle a handful of walnuts over it all. Maybe a few blueberries and raspberries if they were available (yes... I know we were very lucky to get all this stuff!). And voila! It was a super yummy, nutritious breakfast that gave me a great amount of energy for the whole morning (I wasn't usually hungry again till about 2:00), and best of all, it was DELICIOUS. On a few occasions, I made the fruit bowls for some other women (who weren't running the marathon with me) and everyone agreed, those fruit bowls were GOOD.

I continued my fruit bowl making even when I started working from home. I realized, after making fruit bowls for myself and 2 other co-workers, that I really enjoyed doing it, and it wasn't hard once you got into the habit! It was a very easy way to get in a good amount of the RDA of fruit for the day, and the walnuts and yogurt and granola kind of turned the whole thing into a big treat. Quite honestly, it felt more like eating dessert, than eating breakfast!

EATING YOUR VEGGIES

Another thing I was doing pretty regularly was making "veggie shakes" (I'd literally blend lettuce and vegetables in a blender with orange juice and force myself to drink it). My husband thinks the shakes are disgusting and can't even look at them, but I continued to drink them because I could feel a huge difference in how much energy I had when I went running. True, the Visalus vitamins and shakes were helping me a lot, but I could run even further, and faster, when I drank veggie shakes the night before I went running (in the morning). It's like putting the cleanest fuel you possibly can, into a car. It just makes the car perform better. That is just what vegetables do to your body, and that's why there are plenty of super successful athletes who have switched to plant based diets - eating little to no meat at all.

Don't believe me? Check out these articles for yourself:




MAKING A DECLARATION

The last thing I did, that I think may have made a difference, is that I made a "declaration" about getting pregnant. I have a "success coach" who is a multi multi millionaire, who encouraged me and all his other students to write out what we wanted, on a small notecard, keep it in your wallet, and recite this declaration several times a day. You need to write it in the present tense, so - instead of writing "I want to make a baby," you'd write "I am so happy to have given birth" - as if you've already achieved the thing you want. And you fill the sentence with gratitude for having already achieved it.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote out my declaration, which was in two parts. The first part was about what I want to accomplish in order to have a successful career. The second part - about having a baby - was written on January 3rd:

"I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to get pregnant naturally, and give birth to a happy, healthy baby who truly makes the world a better place."

I put this notecard in my wallet and recited it whenever I could remember to do it. And on January 26th, after over 5 years of trying to conceive, I got my first-ever positive pregnancy test.
















No comments: