As time passes, the process of trying to conceive becomes consuming and often obsessive. Those who are struggling look on in envy, and in some cases despair, when they hear stories of other people’s “oops” pregnancies or birth announcements for a family’s 6th or 7th child.
Feelings of powerlessness and of not being able to control the process turn to thoughts of “what am I doing wrong?” and “how can I fix this?” It is very hard to be passive, because the intrusive thoughts whisper “what if I find out it was something simple and I did nothing and now the time has passed?”
Enter the woo.
If you’re not familiar with the term woo, let me offer a brief explanation. It’s derived from the original version of “woo woo” and is often used by sceptics to describe unscientific or non-evidence based beliefs.
A dictionary definition offers:
“dubiously or outlandishly mystical, supernatural, or unscientific”
Before some readers start to clench in anticipation of what I might say next, I’d like to contextualise my view point by sharing a quote from New York Times journalist, Julia Moskin, from the same dictionary source:
“One man’s woo-woo, of course, is another’s deeply held belief system.”
And it is here where things get fuzzy when it comes to fertility and trying to conceive. Because deeply held belief systems – whether evidence-based or not – are very powerful things, impacting both positively and negatively on people depending on how they apply it.
By the time we had reached our 3rd IVF cycle, I had gone full woo.
As I’ve mentioned in previous diary entries, by that stage I had already embraced a number of non-conventional practices including hypnotherapy, acupuncture, affirmations, mindfulness practice and early bed times.
I was stuck in a restrictive paranoia about what I ate. As hard as I tried, I found it impossible to give up coffee altogether and decaffeinated just seemed like an unnatural waste of money. So I stuck with my daily latte and would then beat myself up if I “broke the rules” and had a second cup later in the day. A psychological hangover still exists even now where I have unfounded hang ups about more than 2 coffees in a day.
I spent about a year and a half avoiding salads and uncooked food, only eating warm or warming foods on the basis that multiple books and Chinese philosophies recommended it, the claim being that the body needs to be warm for optimum fertility.
But at the 3rd cycle stage, we thought this might be our last chance, and desperation makes the irrational seem quite reasonable. I was back with an acupuncturist and she didn’t like the idea of my walking from the fertility clinic to her treatment room (1.1km or a 14 minute walk) as it might be an over-exertion that could negatively impact on the process.
In advance of the embryo transfer, I bought many items of orange clothing to wear for the two week window post transfer on the basis that there was a theory that the colour orange vibrates positively with the sacral chakra (I don’t know what this is) which is key for fertility. One of these items was an orange scarf, again a recommendation that the colour and the direction of the scarf would draw the energy up through my body and hence encourage the embryo to move upwards and implant in my uterus.
I know what you’re thinking.
Well I know what half of you are thinking. One half of you are smelling and thinking BULLSHIT!
The other half of you are quietly wondering if you should try that next time…
The unscientific result of my one woman experiment is that none of it worked. There are some things I do know for a fact though:
- We were at peak desperation here and hysteria levels were unsustainably high. I was happy to walk away from the madness of my mind at that time.
- The IVF treatment did not not work because I was doing all or any of those things
- The IVF treatment did not not work because there were other things that I wasn’t aware of at the time that I should have been doing.
- I haven’t maintained any of the practices – except for the stupid coffee hang up – since we stopped actively trying to conceive nearly 18 months ago now. This demonstrates to me that none of them particularly resonated with me so maybe there’s an argument that I didn’t fully buy into them. And if that is the case, I also don’t believe that they didn’t work because I wasn’t fully committed, because believe you me, I was at the time.
Fundamentally though, I think women and couples trying to conceive put themselves under unnatural pressures, when really the likelihood of any of these practices having a profound or even a causal effect on their fertility issues are low. When some women conceive easily in the most unlikely of circumstances, it is equally unlikely that an orange scarf and eschewing coleslaw is going to build you a family of 8.
But maybe for you it will. Or at least that’s what you’ll chalk up success to. Just as long as the opposite doesn’t apply and you don’t blame yourself for what you did and didn’t do. I’ve mentioned this before but the hardest thing I find about reading about fertility issues is that the vast majority of stories end with “and it was all worth it in the end” as if persistence is a guarantee of success. The evidence doesn’t support this. A vast silent majority of people who go through fertility treatment are not successful. So if you’re up to your eyes in the middle of this process and you’re just about to do something that doesn’t feel quite right to you with a little voice whispering “this is madness”, listen and reflect. Because sometimes it isn’t “all worth it in the end”. Sometimes you push yourself to the brink – and maybe over it – and you don’t get what you want.
Find your balance and have the confidence to know that you will know in your heart what is enough.