It is often a struggle for most woman to accept their changing body during pregnancy. Personally, I did not care what I looked like or how much weight I would gain to grow my miracle. It took many years and many tears to conceive, I planned on continuing my pre-pregnancy mentality of not worrying about weight or shaming my beautiful growing belly. I do want to mention that I put in ALOT of hard work changing the way I thought of my body, food and weight prior to pregnancy. Including but not limited to making peace with my body no matter what weight or shape it took, no food rules, joyful exercise, self love and living my life to the fullest without thoughts of food or exercise present in the back of my mind. Yoga, intuitive eating, meditation, having fun, a supportive spouse and working with a soul coach are the tools that helped me achieve the success above. To my HA girls, I encourage recovery prior to pregnancy since these thoughts may creep in easier than before pregnancy.
First off society puts an unhealthy image on pregnancy as they do with any body image for females. Belly only pregnancy, fit pregnancy, I can only gain X amount of weight, leaving the hospital in your pre-pregnancy jeans, OB-GYNs telling you to lay off the carbs (this is another topic) and APPs to track your pregnancy weight gain. Do any of these ring a bell? How frustrating, we can't even enjoy one of the most special times in our life without regret from societies image on a "healthy" pregnancy. Just like in everyday life without being pregnant, there is no weight/size that defines "healthy" or "normal".
So what is a "healthy" pregnancy? Disclaimer- there is no one pregnancy that fits all and no advice (even the advice below) that fits all. Pregnancy is full of ups and downs, happy/sad (thanks hormones) and a life changing experience you will never ever forget.
A "healthy" pregnancy is being fully present with the miracle you are growing whether or not you had struggled to get there. What is being present? Side note: During pregnancy hormones play a HUGE role in how you are feeling about pretty much everything. So if you are feeling depressed/very sad it is highly recommended to speak with your doctor about this.
A "healthy" pregnancy is intuitive eating and giving your body what its craving, even if that means having a cookie for breakfast :)
A "healthy" pregnancy is trusting your body to let it gain the weight it needs to support the miracle in your belly while putting aside societies screwed up image on a "fit", belly only pregnancy. Comparing weight gain to friends or family members is not realistic, they are not you.
A "healthy" pregnancy is taking care of yourself mentally and physically. I do not have a definition of what taking care of yourself is but if you have read above you could see what worked for me. I can tell you it is extremely unhealthy to compare yourself to others, especially on social media. There are many other medical things that attribute to a "healthy" or not so healthy pregnancy which I do not have the expertise to talk on.
Sticks and stones may break your bones but names or comments should never hurt you. Lastly, I do think its important to not let others comments make you feel bad. Example, "How far along are you? Wow I thought you were ready to POP!" Or "Are you pregnant with twins?", "Your getting big", etc.. YOU are beautiful and growing a miracle! Do not let body image, weight, others comments ruin the most special time in your life.
I encourage most woman healing from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA) to try their hardest in healing their relationship with their body and food prior to pregnancy. Pregnancy can often bring these not so fun old feelings up of controlling food intake, weight worries and increasing exercise. During my pregnancy these thoughts were not present due to the work I put in healing my thoughts around my body and food prior. Not to mention how long it took to get pregnant. Again, being grateful and mindful can help put you in a place to encourage positive thoughts and behaviors. I enjoyed moving joyfully (never planned or intentional exercise), yoga was my BFF and I swear helped me fit an almost 9 pound baby out of my 5'0" frame. I ate whatever I wanted and in fact struggled to eat enough due to morning/afternoon and night sickness. Thankfully I was able to add more calories in without increasing volume of food eaten and took advantage of the time when I had an appetite and ate whatever I could !
I want you to look back on your pregnancy and be able to fully enjoy growing your little miracle without negative thoughts of weight and body image aside.
So much love to all of you and never forget pregnant or not to be kind to that beautiful body that does so much for you.
On my drive home after finding out I was pregnant I was crying, shaking and overjoyed. I was really pregnant! I just couldn't believe it. It seemed to good to be true. Immediately some of my old thinking started to kick in. I started to get so nervous that I could lose the baby. I had to go through multiple HCG draws to make sure it continued to increase for a viable pregnancy. After about the third draw and continued increase I started to ease up. Still, knowing the first trimester was such a touchy time I really had to get my shit together and calm down.
We had our first ultrasound, we were so excited to see the baby. Little did we know we weren't seeing a baby yet LOL but just a little dot with a sac. I was very early and they couldn't detect a heart beat yet. Which was completely normal. Everything looked great the RE said. We would be seeing the RE until he felt I was ready to transfer to my OB-GYN. During the first 12 weeks I had to give myself progesterone suppositories to make sure my lining was nice and thick for baby. The uterus eventually takes over. We planned on sharing our news with our parents and siblings on Christmas Eve. I would be about 9 weeks at this point. I did share our news to the Hypothalamic Amenorrhea TTC Facebook group right away as those girls had been through thick and thin with me ! I was so excited to share our news in a group that really helped me get where I am today. Special shout out to Dr. Nicola Rinaldi for helping me navigate my fertility treatment and Anna Phelan for creating such an amazing Facebook support group.
From the time we found out at around 5 weeks until the first trimester was completed, I had to try really hard to keep my worry at bay. Waves of anxiety would come over me and I would think "I tried so hard to get pregnant and its been such a long, hard journey, what am I going to do if I lose the baby?!" I know this was a normal feeling to have ESPECIALLY after the journey I had been on. I decided I was not going to let these thoughts get the best of me. I decided to turn any bad thought into something real or positive. Plus I wanted to be 100% completely present during this pregnancy. One of my mantras was "Wherever I am, is where I am supposed to be". A mantra is a word/phrase that is repeated that expresses ones beliefs. This helped me a ton, as the crazy thoughts poured in I would say this mantra. I also continued regular meditation/breathing and yoga practice.
Finally around week 7 I started feeling crappy. Nausea and food/smell aversions. I was SO excited to feel this ! It was so cool to finally experience what you heard from other pregnant people. I was so grateful to have aversions to food and smell. I also became a vegetarian (baby's choice, not mine) during pregnancy. The thought of meat was so gross to me ! I found many other ways to get adequate protein for baby and I.
The word was finally out to our family on Christmas Eve. To share this news we waited SO long for was such a blessing during such a beautiful time of year. I didn't want to wish time away but I couldn't wait for the second trimester knowing my miscarriage rate would go down and also to share our blessed news with all !
Stay tuned to my pregnancy journey, having a beautiful little boy and regaining my cycle post partum.
Dr. Rinaldi and help with fertility navigation.
Hypothalamic Amenorrhea TTC Facebook support group
The dreaded TWW. Two weeks where you wonder if you will conceive or not. Two weeks when you wonder, am I going to have to go through fertility treatments again and everything that comes along with it? Two weeks where your scared to sneeze wrong thinking it might decrease your chances of getting pregnant. Two weeks where you question so many things.
Two weeks where you live your life in the present moment and being so proud of yourself for being SO strong to go through fertility treatments. Thinking to yourself, whatever happens, happens. This is my journey and I accept all that comes my way. I decided the dreaded TWW wasn't for me. I tried it once and let most of those negative thoughts penetrate my mind. That wasn't fun for anyone. Not for me, not for my body or my husband. This time around I let those thoughts go if they entered my mind and focused on being mindful through gentle yoga and meditation. I also surrounded myself with family and friends ( even though they didn't know what I was going through) and treated myself with loving kindness. Don't get me wrong, this didn't make the TWW move any quicker! Those two weeks are seriously the longest two weeks of your life. Try to stay busy if you can, but most importantly stay positive and treat yourself kindly.
During my TWW, Thanksgiving was here and all the fun of the holiday season was underway. We also celebrated my nephews baptism during the TWW (picture above). It was a joyful time for myself and my family. Of course I had thoughts of maybe next Thanksgiving we will have our baby with us or I can't wait to celebrate my child's Baptism. All beautiful thoughts, there is nothing wrong with hoping and wishing in a positive way. It is when these thoughts may turn to envy or jealousy that it can be detrimental to your mind and well-being.
So, the TWW was coming to an end. I had my HCG drawn and I would call the next day to find out my results. I had to travel for work the day I was going to find out. I waited until I was done working for the day to find out the results. I felt that if I found out before work and I wasn't pregnant I would be sad all day and if I was pregnant I would be so excited I couldn't concentrate. So I walked to my car and called the nurse before I left to travel back home. My heart was pounding. I was put on hold. I brought myself back to the time I called when she told me I wasn't pregnant and quickly got those thoughts out of my head. The nurse gets back on the phone and says "Well Cynthia, your obviously pregnant". I shed tears writing this over 2 years later. It took so much change, so much hard work and so much love to bring me here. I did it, I finally was pregnant. Note, I did have some symptoms during my TWW like increased hunger, some cramping and some insomnia. My hair fell out from the time I had my first fertility treatment in May and had finally stopped when I conceived. I was so thankful for my hair to stop falling out as it reminded me each day what I was going through. Anyway, the fertility drugs themselves can mimic pregnancy symptoms, I didn't want to get too excited. So it was not obvious to me I was pregnant.
I had a 1.5 hour drive back home and I wanted to wait to tell my husband in person but I couldn't. So I called him as soon as I got off the phone with the nurse. We were both overjoyed !
After a summer of fun and turning 30 years young, it was time to continue our TTC journey. I felt more relaxed and confident that I would conceive soon. I had a summer full of fun and self care. Stopped exercising (only joyful and unintentional exercise and really started enjoying food through intuitive eating). I felt different from the initial time I started my TTC journey, I felt ready and my body felt ready.
So in September of 2015 my RE decided to try letrozole with me to see if I might respond. I forgot to mention a few posts ago, when I was diagnosed with HA I found this AMAZING support group on facebook called "Hypothalamic Amenorrhea" and "Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, TTC". These groups served as a HUGE support. It really helped to talk to other woman about what was happening to me that could relate 110%. During our journey we decided not to share with anyone, so these FB groups were so helpful. So, the RE did some follow ups with me on letrozole and he didn't think I was responding. I shared my situation with the HA TTC group and Nicola Rinaldi, the author of "No Period, Now What", responded to one of my posts. She encouraged me to say on letrozole for a little longer to see if I would ovulate. My RE was agreeable, we gave it a little more time and in fact I did ovulate. Woooooo!!! I was so excited my body was doing something !! So the following cycle in early November 2015 my RE combined letrozole with follistim injections and HCG trigger shot. This time he encouraged an IUI. At the time when my RE prescribed this, I was actually away for the weekend at Kirpalu taking a mindful meditation and yoga course. The picture above is the beautiful lake at Kirpalu. Cultivating more self care for myself and appreciating all the things I took for granted (such as the beauty of mother nature) allowed me to heal even deeper than before. I started taking letrozole while I was away and a bit after I got back I started injections again. Multiple follow ups for ultrasounds an hour away and blood work confirming everything was going as planned. As I got closer to ovulation, it appeared I had 5 mature beautiful follicles. Which meant, high risk for multiples. AH! We had waited for so long we decided to take our chances. We completed our IUI at the middle/end of November of 2015 and would find out in 2 weeks if it was successful. I said to myself I don't know if I could go through this again if it didn't work because fertility treatment is really mentally/physically draining. I softly reassured myself, this is my journey, be present and go with the flow......
It was the summer before I turned 30 years young. I just finished my first round/cycle of fertility treatments and was on a break per doctors order until my ovaries were in good condition.
Over the summer, I went to multiple weddings, a trip to Vegas and took a ton of "me" time, time with my husband and time with family and friends. All while intuitively eating and not exercising intentionally- but joyfully. Boy did it feel good! For the first summer I could ever think of, I wasn't worrying about what I looked like in a bathing suit, how I was going to look in a dress for all my weddings, letting myself eat or drink whatever I wanted when I was out with my husband, in Vegas or at all of the weddings. I took beautiful morning walks, listening to the birds chirp and the dew hitting my face and felt okay with just walking (normally is wasn't exercise unless I was sweating to death), I went hiking, I went to movies, hung out with my non-workout friends (I still hung out with my workout friends and still do to this day) and the list can go on. The picture to the left is me and a few of my friends out having FUN :) I never isolated myself from going places but the worry of eating "bad" foods often played a big role when I did go out. I felt FREE and was having SO much FUN! My head was no longer clouded with food or exercise. I was finally able to focus on all the things I was missing out on before.
So you might be thinking..... She's making it seem so easy! Or man, I wish I could do that or feel that way. You SO can ! If you have already read through the previous posts (which I totally encourage you to do), you will see I struggled with my body image, negative thoughts about food, restrictive eating and exercising -since I was a young girl. Also, I'm not going to lie that these "bad" or "negative" thoughts never crossed my mind when I went "all in". They did and in fact its completely normal for these thoughts to come up. However, it is HOW you react to these thoughts. YOU have a choice. I would notice these thoughts and let them pass bringing myself back to the present moment focusing on what I was actually doing (for example- at a wedding with my husband and maybe I thought "Ugh I am feeling so fat after I just ate" noticing that thought then realizing "I am here at a wedding celebrating my friends and having a ball with my husband on the dance floor". Over time, these types of thoughts decreased and now as I write this I can say its extremely rare I ever have these types of thoughts. It took time, patience, self compassion and practice to feel this way.
So I titled this TTC journey continued because I knew that conceiving a child through fertility treatment alone wasn't going to get me to where I needed to be to conceive and taking on a new role as "Mom". After my first round of treatment, I did not feel mentally prepared to do it again until I was in a good place. Fertility treatment is not easy, its mentally and physically draining. Woman do and can conceive without practicing self compassion, self care, managing stress and going "all in" with fertility treatments. I just don't recommend it. I don't recommend it because nutritionally your body needs time to heal and be able to provide the best possible nutrition to your growing baby. Not just my personal recommendation but my professional recommendation. I also don't recommend because after you have the baby things are difficult- you want to be your best self for this little human.
As you may have read in my previous posts I already tried a couple things before my diagnosis of HA. Clomid, Clomid + Metformin and a diagnostic hysterscopy. Nothing budged for me with these interventions, which was fine because at the time I wasn't trying to achieve pregnancy. Now it was time, years past during the journey of finding my HA diagnosis. In Spring of 2015 we started our TTC (trying to conceive) journey.
At the same time of embarking on our TTC journey I had switched jobs and now my insurance covered fertility treatment!! Bonus !! My RE suggested jumping right to injectable medications, as clomid would not work for me. We started with Follistim injections followed by a trigger shot of HCG when it was time. We decided we would try timed intercourse this round and if that didn't work pursue IUI next. I can't remember how often I was giving myself injections or for the length of time during the cycle. I am sure it varies from woman to woman. However, I do remember how nervous we were when my husband had to stick a needle in the cheek of my butt. I still can picture this in my mind LOL! Multiple ultrasounds and blood work accompanied this "fun" process. Which I am totally joking when I say its fun. Just making light of the situation. My first round/cycle of treatment was unsuccessful and followed by Ovarian Hyperstimulation (OHSS) and hair loss. OHSS put me out of work for a solid week. My hair loss was a huge kick in the gut. For me, my hair was always the thing I loved most about myself but admittedly took for granted during the days of trying to obtain the perfect body. My RE encouraged me to take a few months off to get my ovaries in good condition before trying again. This left me so sad and discouraged. I knew deep down inside I would become a Mother one day but I struggled as I saw everyone getting pregnant so easily before my eyes.
During my first round of fertility treatment I put a lot of weight on. I believe this was attributed to multiple factors such as "going all in", the fertility treatments themselves, OHSS and the hormones running through me that made me want to eat everything in sight ! I can't put all the money on my hormones making me eat, my body was in recovery mode and for the first time I was giving it anything it desired. Not gonna lie, I struggled with this A LOT. It was summer, I had multiple weddings (above picture is my hub and I at our first wedding of the season) and a trip to Vegas planned. Looking back, I can say I was extremely proud on how I handled this situation. Instead of turning to restricting food and exercising, I accepted my body for what it was. Yes, negative thoughts still popped up but I did my best to just acknowledge them and focus on positive things. For example- I am going to Vegas I am going to look SO FAT in a bathing suit. I replaced it with a positive thought such as, some people will never visit Vegas in their life and here I am on my second trip with people who love me for ME! Though I already made some positive changes such as eating intuitively, stopping exercise and working on body image. I really had to start digging deeper to help myself fully recover. For me I knew fertility treatments were not the sole answer to getting pregnant. After my first round/cycle I knew it was much more than medication but even more on continuing to fuel my body adequately, moving joyfully and cutting the damn stress. Which I had already started doing alot of self care things to cut stress but made an extra commitment to myself that from now until I achieved pregnancy/delivered the baby, I would become "present" in everyday life. This meant to start having fun, loose control more (and I mean this in a positive way- because I was extremely type A) and enjoy everything life had to offer me.
This quote hit home for me, like really hit home. I came across this quote scrolling on social media (before I removed it from my phone for a temporary time frame during my recovery).
What do you feel when you read this quote?
My initial feeling was an "ah-ha" moment and a sudden onset of tears. The "ah-ha" moment went on and said "Holy SH**, I have been enemies with my body for SO long and living distantly from it". From this point on I made a commitment to myself that I would stop trying to fix or change my body, live inside my body not separate from it, start taking care of my body, be friends with my body and lastly but most importantly love my body NO MATTER WHAT. For SO long I treated my body like it was an enemy, I was mean to it, never ever nice. I don't need to go into details on what I said about my body because I know you are or have done the same thing. Seriously though, how could I be SO mean?! My body did SO much for me! My body stuck with me when I was was depriving it energy it needed and put it through crazy exercising, especially when it was tired. During all that it also kept me well helping me fight off colds, it got my to work everyday, it provided me with a heart to love and take care of others, you get the picture- our bodies do a lot of stuff we take for granted. A simple quote may or may not change your views on your body. It may take you years to realize you need to be friends with your body. Quick side story- When I worked as a clinical RD, I had a 76 year old woman who had cancer, she was losing weight due to her illness. When I told her she needs to eat high calories/high fat foods so she could stop weight loss, she told be she didn't want to gain weight and get fat. SAY WHAT?! She was sick and potentially dying and she worried about her weight/how she looked. Do you want to be in your 70's worrying about what you LOOK LIKE?! Regardless of your health status or age, life is too short to be anything but happy with your body. Though my journey had just begun, I thank HA for teaching me how to love myself and take care of my body.
Through your journey with HA, it is SO important to learn how to love your body and accept how it is or how it might change. I was so afraid to stop exercising and starting eating more carbohydrates. Trust me, I didn't stop being afraid of my body changing overnight. It took sometime with a lot of ups and downs. How could I expect to change overnight something I learned from when I was a young girl. Okay so maybe I couldn't change overnight but I could certainly accept myself and finally become friends with my body. There are SO many emotions and feelings I went through when I decided to "go all in", I cannot begin to put them into words.
Of course my entire journey left me mentally and physically burnt out but when the RE said you will not have children naturally and will need fertility treatments, that was a hard kick in the stomach. Even with fertility treatments, if I didn't stop exercising and start eating more, fertility treatments may not work. I most desperately wanted children one day and that day came soon after my diagnosis of HA. We had no idea how long it would take to get pregnant. The RE said I could wait to see if I got a natural cycle back but he couldn't guarantee how long it would take. I was 29 years old by the time of the diagnosis of HA, so we decided it was time to start fertility treatments. I had no idea what this was going to entail but one thing I did know is that now I had my body on my side and lost my need to control/shame/hate my body. I believe this was truly an integral first step before beginning the hardship of fertility treatments.
I reached my breaking point. I could no longer continue to control or "fix" my health implications (AKA no period/PCOS/HA-whatever the hell I had) with outside sources. What I mean by this is, no more running medical tests, no more controlling food in regards to calories/carbohydrates, no more using exercise as medicine, no more body hating and I really needed to chill the F out and stop stressing over everything! I was doing the same thing OVER and OVER again and expecting different results. Isn't that one of the definitions of insanity? I really was starting to feel insane ! For the past few years, "curing" or "fixing" myself in regards to my health implications took over my life.
Little did I know at the time of my "fixing" phase that I completely 110% screwed up my metabolism. I kept trying to lose weight to have a "better" body and help PCOS, and NOTHING was happening. Mind you I was at a normal/over weight BMI. However, from years of "dieting" and food restriction/over exercising my body was whacked out and very confused. I will go into the science of this in a later post.
So, it was time for a change. It was also time to accept my diagnosis of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. So that meant no more exercise and controlling food intake or lack of. As I mentioned before, giving up exercise is something I was struggling in my mind to do since I got the diagnosis. Everything I did revolved around it, my husband and most of my closest friends did Crossfit. If you are/were a cross fitter you totally get the closeness of the community within. Not to mention the "high" after doing an intense workout. I also struggled with what was I going to tell all my crossfit friends, would they understand? I did share I had some health stuff going on but thats it. I did not share what was really going on with me as I did not feel comfortable. I will share my story of not disclosing to people about HA in a later post.
After a couple months of fighting in my mind to give up exercise and "go all in", I did it. I cancelled my membership, stopped any extra exercise and really started to get into yoga. I first started yoga when I was a crossfit member but it always took a back seat because I needed to get my "real" work out in, feel good and burn calories of course. Prior to going "all in" I followed intuitive eating, I decided I was going to try my best to intuitively eat. I knew it was time to take care of myself, even though I thought I was before. I started scheduling more self care appointments, such as massages, pedicures, spa dates, going to yoga classes (non intense) and just plain RELAXING. I relaxed by watching mindless TV, taking naps, reading fun books, hanging out with friends I didn't see much due to exercise and spending more time with family. I also scheduled myself a get away at Kirpalu. Lastly, I started working with a shamanic energy medicine/soul coach, she really helped me turn around my ways of looking at things and helped me dig a little deeper to help heal my body. Deleting social media also played a big role for me. I mean who the hell cares what anyone else is doing?! I needed to focus on healing me. All of my close family and friends I didn't need social media to connect to. Not to mention that extreme role it plays in societies screwed up image of "health".
My suggested take away for you on this post is that I want you to know I was ready to make the change to "go all in". A year prior or two years prior I am not so sure I would have been. Though it wasn't easy to make the change and I don't think it will ever be easy for anyone to "go all in", you need to be ready. You also need support and the support that works for you. My husband and my soul coach were my backbone. You will also need "tools" to fill your time that you used to spend exercising. My tools were self care tools above. My self care tools were also very important in decreasing my stress levels. Stress is also something that needs addressing during the "go all in" change. For a while I questioned how I would fill my time if I wasn't exercising, so before you "go all in" consider these things. Ultimately, you HAVE to be ready, only you will know if your ready. My breaking point PLUS the RE telling me I will not be able to get pregnant naturally was finally the kick I needed to get my health in check. What worked for me to "go all in" may or may not work for you.
Stay tuned for more updates on my journey with HA.....
Who Needs a Period? They are a pain in the a** anyway !