Pregnancy and the pregnant body is a miraculous thing – I don’t think anyone can deny that. But this doesn’t mean that every woman loves being pregnant, and I am certainly no exception.
The decision to have another child was a difficult one for me – even though I had a number of frozen embryos waiting for me and an “easy” transfer process in the pipeline (compared to my first round of IVF), the thought of going through all the blood tests, gynaecology appointments, internal ultrasounds and stress wasn’t particularly appealing. But for the sake of giving little Zara a sibling, I decided it was time.
I went down the route that I knew and trusted from my first pregnancy – “clean” eating, supplements galore and weekly acupuncture. I was prepared! Ready to roll! And I miscarried very early in that pregnancy. It shocked me in some ways – I had done EVERYTHING “right”, AGAIN. But I also know that statistically speaking, an early miscarriage was likely to be much less about me, and more about the viability of the embryo. Regardless, in true wellness-culture-guilt fashion, I convinced myself it was still somehow my fault. Maybe I didn’t eat quite clean enough? I should have exercised more (or less?) dammit! Was it the vitamin D I got slack in taking??
Maybe what shocked me the most was that these feelings all came up for me even after YEARS of working through these thoughts and insecurities after the birth of my first child (for more on that journey check out my story here). I thought I had done the bulk of the work. I thought I had successfully rejected wellness culture and all the personal responsibility and shame associated with it. But alas, I am still human, and like it or not – knowing better doesn’t always equate to “doing” better. It just shone a giant spotlight on where I needed to do LOTS more self-reflection.
After a 6-month break from thinking about babies, I went for another embryo transfer, but this time, I decided to do a personal experiment. I was 6 months further along in my non-diet, intuitive eating journey and I felt ready to try something new. I stopped acupuncture. This was a big deal for me – I have always firmly believed that acupuncture (and all the herbs/supplements that came with it) were key to my “success” in conceiving. I was petrified, but at the same time, I knew that it was no longer serving my mental and emotional health. In the time it took me to drive to my appointments and back, I was able to go back to working out at the gym more frequently (which I missed and I love). I continued my Tai Chi practice. I took only the absolute necessities when it came to supplements (so about 3 supplements a day versus 10). And I ate intuitively. That included eating foods I was apparently “intolerant” to.
I was nervous to say the least – because I knew that if the transfer failed, or I miscarried again, that I would likely blame myself and my n=1 study. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it any other way. But the transfer was a success.
Despite this, the grip of diet and wellness culture is tight. So tight, that I seem almost unable to escape it some days. Now at 22 weeks pregnant with another little girl, I’m not going to lie and say that I’m 100% confident in my “approach” this time around. I still have thoughts (almost daily) about whether this baby will be born with allergies or intolerances because of my “reckless” eating. I still worry that there will be developmental issues or problems at birth. I feel guilty on the regular because I haven’t been able to exercise as much during this pregnancy. But for now – I want to leave you with this take-home message:
Pregnancy is really frikin hard for a lot of women – regardless of how “smoothly” the pregnancy actually goes on a physiological level. An IVF pregnancy is, in some ways, even harder and more challenging. And doing it all with a toddler in toe is no joke. Adding cultural pressures of needing to eat “clean” for the baby, look after your “maternal health”, not let your pre-baby body get TOO out of control, and avoid “toxic exposure” (as well as the usual listeria, viral exposure, blah blah blah) takes its toll. Especially if you’re already prone to anxiety and worry.
There is a lot more to this journey which I will share in upcoming posts – but for now I felt it necessary to share the simple fact that I am having a baby, because until recently I was too cautious and anxious to even be able to do that. Sharing can be therapeutic, but at the same time I am so mindful of the “comparitis” that comes with sharing. I won’t show you my baby bump, or my new maternity clothes. I won’t tell you about the healthy foods I’ve been eating (or not eating) for the sake of me and my baby’s wellbeing. I’d rather share with you the truth – how I feel emotionally and physically – rather than how it appears on the exterior.
Until next time,