The decision to try for a baby was finalised by the looming deadline of turning 40. It really was now or never. When I did get pregnant, I instantly regretted putting it off for so long. As I’ve never experienced ‘broodiness’ or that expression that always makes me cringe slightly: ‘aching ovaries’, I had no idea that it would feel like the best thing that had ever happened to me. I knew I was extremely fortunate to get pregnant so easily, and the risk I’d taken by waiting for so long.
The truth was, I was terrified of having a child. Scared of giving up my routine, my independence, and my time. But to be really honest, my real fear was one of loss. I lost my own mother when I was a still a child. It was only when I got pregnant that it dawned on me: there was only one thing worse than loosing your mother as a child, loosing a child as a mother.
Throughout my pregnancy I would look at her scan picture and pray that she wouldn’t break my heart by not arriving. I couldn’t buy baby clothes for months for fear I might somehow ‘jinx’ this incredible fortune,which I didn’t feel worthy of. The first time I stepped into Mothercare, I ended up crumpled in a corner of the store unable to stop the tears. I had to leave and calm myself with a hot chocolate. I don’t think I have ever felt so vulnerable as when I was carrying my daughter.
Being an ‘older’ mother
I was 39 when I got pregnant in June 2018, and turned 40 in November. Did you know that statistically people are more likely to do something life-changing in the year before a milestone birthday? So at 29, 39, 49 etc. Entering a new decade makes people more likely to run a marathon, buy a house, have an affair and sadly, commit suicide. It’s interesting the weight we place on such milestones, when age can be quite arbitrary.
Medical approaches can seem quite arbitrary too. At 39, with no health issues I was considered very low risk. If I had conceived a few months later at 40, I would be reclassified as high-risk. I do wonder if this feeds into a cultural expectation of how we should feel at a certain age. Whilst pregnant I watched a YouTube video by well-known pregnancy author. It was all about how much harder pregnancy is after 40. But I felt it took very little account of lifestyle. How often do we identify health issues, tiredness, fatigue as age related, without fully investigating the cause? Many of the factors that I believe enhance fertility, are far more dependent on lifestyle than age.
I’ve had the odd comments about my age, which can sting a little, but for me the time was right. There are no guarantees anyway. What I do know is that I am far fitter, energetic and healthier now than I was in both my 20s and early 30s. It wasn’t until my mid 30s that I completely turned around my health and lifestyle.
So here are some of the factors that I believe impacted on my fertility:
At the start of my pregnancy journey I booked to see my doctor. I went to the appointment scared I’d be told off for leaving it so late. I wanted to enquire about IVF, as I had already convinced myself that this would be the only option, before even trying properly! The doctor recommended I start with folic acid. I bought some good quality pregnancy supplements, and fell pregnant a couple of months after taking them.
After my initial panic that I had left it too late, I tried to let go and not stress about getting pregnant. I downloaded an ovulation app, but didn’t really follow it. I definitely wasn’t scheduling in and optimizing fertility windows. I’ve heard this before; that the more relaxed you are about the process, the quicker it happens.
I’d also eliminated a lot of stress in my life. This included a stressful job, and finishing redecorating my house after it has been rented out for several years. Following my illness, I had already got rid of a lot of environmental stress from toxins such as cleaning products, and I had also cleaned up my diet.
I fasted for a month, and pretty much fell pregnant when I stopped. There is so much evidence to show the health benefits of intermittent fasting. I was following an OMAD approach (one meal a day), rather than 5:2. This recommends eating all your calories in one meal, and fasting for the remaining 23 hours.
Whilst detoxing my body, I detoxed my house. I’d listened to the audio of ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’, and starting implementing the Konmari method. I used to be a total hoarder, a car boot sale junkie. Every Sunday I’d fill up the car with vintage sewing and craft books, unusual pieces of furniture and 1960s crockery.
After my illness, I knew I needed to reorder my life. So 8 years ago I began the process of de-cluttering and organising. Stripping back the chaos in my life to create more peace. I moved from a 3-bed house to a 2 bed flat, and simplified my life even more. But even then, my flat was like a jigsaw puzzle, every cupboard packed to the brim.
Six years later I moved back to my house, and discovered Marie Kondo. This was the missing piece in finally getting the house under control. Life felt a lot simpler, everything had a place and there was no longer any need to tidy up. The house just seems to stay tidy now. It might be a bit of stretch to correlate pregnancy with decluttering, but I do think that it creates a huge shift in energy. If anything, it made me feel ready for the arrival of a baby, by quite literally ‘getting my house in order’.
I’d not drank alcohol for around 5 or 6 years before I got pregnant. It is widely recommended to remain abstinent whilst trying to conceive, but this can be hard to follow. It’s difficult when so much of our culture revolves around drinking. One or two can seem insignificant when everyone else is sloshed. Even when you do stop completely, I think it can take a few months for you body to fully rid itself of the residual toxins.
Exercise and diet
Up until pregnancy I was kickboxing, and teaching Pilates. I had to stop kickboxing for obvious reasons. I struggled to maintain regular exercise during my pregnancy as I was either sick or exhausted. But my body was fit and strong leading up to this.
I’ve followed a pretty ‘clean’ eating regime for the past few years. I’d cut out my much loved coffee and switched to decaff. I was really strict with my diet after my illness and did not eat gluten, dairy or sugar. Gluten and sugar have crept back in, but in small amounts. However, I’m sure my body has majorly benefited from a long period of excluding these from my diet.
You cannot underestimate the power of replacing rumination with a conversation with whatever life force you believe in. When Zahra arrived and I looked into her eyes, she seemed so connected to that source of life. That mysterious place where we all come from, and where one day we will all return. The source of pure love.