How I Got Pregnant Despite My Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Before looking at my body as a house—a house that would help me to regulate my period, to help me get pregnant, to help make me feel good—I ate like most other ‘healthy’ people. I had a basic understanding of what was good for me and what wasn’t but I didn’t really know why.
Oddly enough, it all started with a friend encouraging me to try going Paleo for 21 days in the Summer of 2011. Coming from an Italian background, getting rid of grains didn’t seem like it was going to be an easy first step, but it was one that I was definitely willing to try. As I was experimenting cooking in a completely different way, I started to really think about what food was really doing for my body, but not only that—for my hormones, my irregular cycle and my mental headspace.
What started out as a simple change in the foods I was eating, ended up changing the way I was treating my entire body.
I used to look at things so separately. Hormones. Period. Fat. Constipation. Eczema. Headaches. Sleeplessness. Irritability. Cravings. The list is endless. The point is, I quickly realized how interconnected they all were and simultaneously realized that eating “Paleo” wasn’t the way to heal my body. I knew that I wanted to know more so I enrolled in a course at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition and started studying our bodies' natural ability to conceive, grow and birth babies.
To give a little backstory, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome when I was 15 years old as a result of not getting my period like most other girls my age. I had doctors telling me for years after that, that when it came time to get pregnant, “it wouldn’t be easy”. They referred me to fertility specialist to create a plan so that I could have the best possible chance to start a family when I was ready.
When that time came in Fall 2012, I independently decided to take myself off birth control and see what magic my body was made of. To my frustration, nothing really happened in those first nine months. The fertility specialist I was seeing told me to go back on birth control to initiate a cycle. I couldn’t believe it. There was no way I was going to continue putting chemicals and fake hormones in my body when all I wanted was to do something that hundreds of millions of women had done before me—conceive, grow and birth a baby. I knew there had to be another way, so I dedicated myself to healing my body and my hormones. I focused my energy on creating a healthy mind so that whatever obstacles came my way, I could face them head-on with positivity and courage. I became pregnant in the late summer of 2014.
The idea of natural pregnancy and birthing was just that for me—natural. I knew that if I could help to rebalance my hormones with the help of acupuncture, herbs, yoga, nutrition and a healthy mindfulness practice, that I could also help myself to have a natural pregnancy and birth. I think my confidence came from a place of knowing; of connection and of belief that when you know your body so well, you really do have faith it can perform miracles.
I had a really incredible pregnancy except for bad nausea in the first trimester. After that, I really felt like I was doing what I was meant to be doing. I loved learning about the best ways to nourish myself. I focused a lot on nutrition, movement and mindfulness. Ultimately, it wasn’t until the last few weeks of my pregnancy that I really started to feel full. Growing a baby is one of the most awesomely wild things I have ever done. It was pure magic to see my body change on a daily basis and to know that for a short time, two heartbeats called my body home.
When it came to labour day, I was so lucky. I had always dreamed of baking a groaning cake, which is a traditional cake made by a woman in labour for her birth support team, it is said to ease labour pains and distract the mama. I was able to fully bake and eat part of my groaning cake before my midwives and doula came over to my house. I had planned on a home birth and was lucky enough to have the most incredible support around me to make that happen. I endured 14 hours of challenging back labour at home before deciding with midwives and my husband that it was time for me to head to the hospital. 24 hours later I was holding a beautiful baby girl, Agatha Love. I realized pretty quickly that for myself, my birth plan changing was just that. Change. I couldn’t get angry or frustrated because I was in a space I didn’t want to be in. I spent years putting things into my body that didn’t deserve to be there. Ultimately, all that mattered is that I had a healthy and happy baby in my arms.
When I think about all of the ways I got to be where I am today, I’m blown away, because if I’m being honest I still have a visual of myself eating cheese puffs as a kid. I remember exactly what it felt like to be sitting outside in a cafe when I was living in Paris smoking a cigarette with a café creme. I remember buying meat and vegetables and not thinking twice about where they came from. The point is, we all have a place where we came from, we all have experiences we’ve learned from. The best part: We all have the ability to change, to learn and to heal our bodies. Fertility, pregnancy and mamahood are such incredibly awesome experiences. To know that you’re giving not only yourself the best chance but also your future tiny person is pretty magical.
I believe in food as medicine, in nourishing and taking care of ourselves and having as much information as we possibly can in order to help ourselves. That being said, plans can change, just like our bodies change. It’s nearly impossible to plan for pregnancy and birth; we are dealing with the miracle of life after all. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned since becoming a mama is that you need to be able to ease into plans, to be able to let go of what you hoped for and to be okay with where you’re at—to know that ultimately you have the ability to change a situation just by changing your mentality.
Valentina McCachren is passionate about all things fertility, pregnancy and baby-making. She completed a continuing education course through the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Toronto that focused on our body’s natural ability to design and nurture a growing baby through nutritional and holistic practices.
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