Posts By: Brendan
With 1 in 4 couples now experiencing some level of infertility there is a very real chance that you won’t be able to solve your problem before time runs out.
If infertility does anything to a person, it makes them aware of how they spend their time. Most of us spend most of our lives acting as though we are unconcerned about the passage of time. We waste time on an astronomical scale.
There is an upside to this – not being rushed or hurried is a rare personality trait that keeps us from getting stressed! But is this you, is this why you are ok to wile away the hours? I doubt it. In fact, I suspect you are the opposite – most likely you are rushing and trying to make up time on a daily basis. Most likely you are stressed in some fundamental way.
If your time has never seemed to be that precious to you, and you now find yourself facing infertility, I have two messages for you, one is hard-hitting, and one is hopeful.
The hard-hitting message is that this moment can be used by you (if you choose to do so) as a wake-up call. It is, in philosophical terms, an opportunity to correct a wrong way you look at the world with a less wrong way. Meaning we never actually have a perfect view of the word or of our place in it, the view we hold is akin to a map, a close approximation of reality but not actually reality. The closer our view is to reality the better we tend to get on in the world.
It may be a reality that you have not been valuing your most precious perishable asset – time.
Maybe you felt that you could squander it because there was always more time to get it back? I certainly did.
Maybe you felt that you could let your health slip because you had more pressing matters to attend to and that there would be time to get it right eventually. I certainly did!
Do we judge ourselves for this? Not even a little bit. We do what we do because that’s the best way we see of doing it at the time. To judge ourselves for this is to waste yet more time and compound the problem.
To accept it – and learn from it – that’s the process life calls us to do. That’s the journey infertility urges us to go on.
The hopeful message is this – you can, in most cases, fix your problem. But if you are not ready or willing to face the pain of accepting the bitter truths about yourself, then you are not able to update your world view and so you will stay where you are – with the problem you created.
You must first be open to solving the deeper problems in your head before you can hope to overcome the deeper problems in your body. There is huge hope there. You hold ALL the power to do that. It’s the only real power you hold.
“Are birds free from the chains of the skies?” asked Bob Dylan.
Are we ever really free? Do we even know what it means?
We want to grow up so fast because we think simplistically as children that once we are adults, we will be autonomous and able to ‘do whatever we want’. This notion gradually gets replaced by the needs of life and the reality that responsibility for our freedom is actually a heavier burden to bear than the lack of freedom we experienced as kids. The irony is that as kids we have freedom, yet we yearn for entrapment because we are biologically programmed to model our parents.
Pursuing the goal of parenthood really does seem insane on some level when you consider the extra layer of responsibility we will be taking on, and yet we are compelled to do it.
Studying the parenting practices of some of the remaining indigenous cultures is a real eye opener – the stresses and restrictions we brace ourselves for in this western society are practically non-existent there. There appears to be no trade off in ‘freedom’. Even the jokes so common in our culture about having no social life for ten years due to kids have no counterpart in these tribal societies. They just don’t sense it the same way.
I’m going to posit that the real reason for this is because they understand freedom and we don’t.
Freedom is about accepting 100% responsibility for our experience of life.
Our ‘experience’…..not our circumstances, not what happened to us, not what was done to us, but what we experienced from those things.
What we experience is of course deeply internal and personal, but the reality is that we alone have total control over this function, and it is our experience of events that shapes our lives.
If we experience parenthood as a burden, this will shape our lives, and indeed will negatively impact our kids. If however we experience parenthood as just another exciting event on the journey of our lives, then we meet it with dignity and confidence and get on with doing what ever we have to do.
Intrinsic to this idea is the idea of having to do ‘extra work’ because we are now parents – but consider this – all it should really be is a diversion of attention away from one type of ‘work’ to another. If we find ourselves having to do ‘more work’ just because we now have kids to mind – then you gotta ask – what were you not doing before that you had such free time?
Freedom in an internal thing, it comes from assuming responsibility to do what needs to be done, not from having nothing to do!
I’ve always had this sense that I’m not the best at what I do.
It has driven me to be better, but it has at times also driven me to distraction.
The concept of ‘being the best’, I’ve come to realise, is an illusion. There are very few places it can ever be proven. Winning the top prize in sport is one place, but even that is a revolving door where nobody is always the best.
I used to worry that whenever I ‘sold’ myself as a natural fertility consultant that whenever a client hired me to help them become fertile there was always that chance that I would fail and that they would have been better to find a different (better) consultant. The logical conclusion to this thinking process is that I aught never enter the arena at all, and instead work to find the very best practitioner for my clients and refer them all to that person.
But the world has a funny way of disabusing you of stupid notions once you are clear on what you want in your life. In other words, once you set your sights on a worthy goal that you are absolutely clear about, and you pursue it with all your heart, you tend to achieve it.
You tend to achieve it regardless of whether or not you ever hire the best person to help you get there. The real power is with you, the key is in your own commitment. Once you move to achieve something worthwhile the world seems to move with you.
When getting results is all that matters, searching for ‘the best’ is only a distraction. Who you really want is someone who brings out the best in you, because the answers are already inside you.
People who hang out in infertility forums will have heard about Natural Killer Cells.
For some they are a mysterious possible ‘cause’ of failed implantation or even miscarriage, for others they are ‘something that can be treated away with drugs’, and for others they are this unknown entity that might be ‘killing’ their fertility.
In fact, NK cells are protective, they are part of our defence system, they kill invaders, but they can also kill an embryo attempting to embed into the womb lining, if they sense it as an invader.
Why would they sense an embryo to be an invader? Well the simplest answer is – because it is an invader!
The real question is why is mom’s immune system not shutting down the NK cells? This is the normal way it works.
The immune activity of these NK cells is carried out by a bedazzling array of chemicals called cytokines, and just as in all aspects of happy human physiology the key factor here is ‘balance’.
When an embryo shows up in the womb it issues signals to the womb lining – sort of like “Hey mom, I made it, I’m here, feed me”.
An immune conversation takes place whereby the embryo begins to burrow into the endometrium using a series of inflammatory cytokines to assist it.
Once it settles in it needs to attract a blood supply – this also requires a series of inflammatory cytokines to be issues at the site.
So, all in all it is an inflammatory time for that portion of the womb.
This inflammation, mediated by various cytokines, which are messenger signals, result in the arrival at the site of implantation of a bunch of uterine Natural Killer Cells aka uNKC’s. Oh oh!
Well, no, this is all normal – uNKC’s are responsible for helping the embryo bed down and get settled in. Mainly they signal the local tissue to accept the embryo – or rather they provoke a response from the womb lining that sends a signal to somewhat suppress the local immune cells activity, so they don’t get too aggressive. In other words, a conversation takes place that invokes ‘immune tolerance’ of the invading embryo. Tolerance is the key word. Tolerance is another way of saying ‘balance’.
Incidentally, it is believed that all this inflammatory activity surrounding the embedding of the embryo is what causes the nausea in early pregnancy. This nausea may be unique in the world of women – it’s the only time nausea is wished for, welcomed and celebrated!
Once things settle down again in the womb, typically at the end of the first trimester, all this inflammation changes shape, moving from what we call a TH-1 state, to a TH-2 state. In simple terms this means it switches from being pro-inflammatory to being anti-inflammatory.
Interestingly it is this anti-inflammatory state that seems to be responsible for many of the positive effects’ pregnancy has on existing conditions, from endometriosis to various auto-immune conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis.
The 2nd and 3rd trimesters typically take place with a Th-2 (anti-inflammatory) bias, and indeed baby is born with a heavily biased TH-2 immune system. This, by the way, is why breastmilk is really needed, it does what formula milk cannot do – provide the necessary bacterial colonisation to reactivate Th-1 immunity and thus bring balance to baby’s immature immune system. (Formula milk provides nutrition so baby can grow and not starve, which is fine, but it can’t provide the micro-biologically active component of breast-milk.)
So, let’s go back to these Natural Killer Cells in the womb. They are not the same as the NK cells in the blood, they have a different job. What does it mean then if your blood test shows elevated NK cells? What does it mean if a uterine swab shows elevated uNK cells?
Well, from a medical point of view it most likely means “Oh well, we don’t know why you have this going on, but to help you stop miscarrying, or to help you conceive, we are going to have to suppress your immune system so these things go away and you can get on with pregnancy.”
Now I can buy this, even as a natural fertility advocate I can see the point of using immune suppressing drugs to get the job done, so fair enough, this is an option, but my approach to it is to take steps to bring about balance earlier on – to remove or reduce the reasons why ones immune system may be ‘overactive’ in the first place. There are many different angles on this, with infection being only one, but there is always a common underlying factor and it is connected to the idea I mentioned above ‘tolerance’.
Specifically, in our gut we also have a system of tolerance, called oral tolerance, and this system concerns itself with informing the body about what foods to not reject mainly, and which foods to accept as harmless.
The key thing to understand here is that through a complex channel of communication from the gut to the brain, whatever state the gut is in gets reflected through out the body. If the gut’s system of oral tolerance is ‘lost’, i.e. of you have lost oral tolerance – then you will begin reacting to foods you should not ordinarily react to. Once this continues long enough the body wide systems of tolerance also begin to malfunction. In short uterine tolerance of the foetus is related to oral tolerance of food because the messengers that govern it are the same.
To close this out with an analogy that might allow for better understanding – imagine sleeping in a castle knowing the enemy is outside the gates but also knowing that the gates are well protected and have been for years. This allows you to sleep soundly. Now imagine the guards at the gates are missing or unable to guard properly – this would kinds affect your sleep wouldn’t it?
That’s the same for the body. A fully intact gut allows for a more secure feeling in the rest of the body – because the gut IS THE GATE, this is where most of the bad stuff can get in.
To stretch this analogy a bit more – if the gates have been unguarded for some time, then some enemy agents will get in and set up as sleeper agents inside the castle, ready to do damage. This is akin to infections. So even if you do beef up security at the gates, you then must go and seek out any sleeper agents.
This is the process of healing!
Everything is connected!
Character development in the Game Of Thrones is what keeps us watching it.
The theme is always the same – the character gets ripped from their usual life and must confront pain, suffering and loss of identity – until finally, if they prevail, they re-emerge as their new stronger more grounded more powerful selves.
Would Arya Stark have preferred to remain as she was in season 1 or become who she is by season 8? It’s not an easy answer, but one thing is for sure – she sees a different world now than she did then. She understands people at a much deeper level, she has found a part of herself that is no longer scared (nor bored) of the world.
It would be almost impossible for the new Ayra to communicate with the old Ayra. The common frame of reference just would not exist for them to exchange meaningful ideas.
Once you change there is no returning to the old you, but AS YOU CHANGE there is immense pressure to return to the old (still not truly gone) you.
Change is hard, but it is necessary for growth and it is necessary in order to overcome infertility.
Change happens internally but it comes from confronting and accepting reality – as opposed to what you think is reality! In other words, it comes from updating your worldview so that it more closely reflects reality. Mostly this means grappling, not with the outer world, but with ourselves. It means telling ourselves the truth about ourselves – about our hang-ups, about our blind spots, about our prejudices and about our failings.
The beauty of an action adventure is that it forces itself on the character, it comes to you whether you like it or not. You are forced to change, to adapt or to die. Eddard Stark couldn’t adapt – he was a good man with a righteous life, but he refused to change – and so he allowed himself to die.
We can respect him for that in one way and criticise him in another, because we are no different.
If you can’t bring yourself to cut loose from the old you in the process of adapting to the reality of the Now, then you can’t overcome your ‘issues’. It doesn’t have to be so dramatic though – bit by bit we can change, but only if we are open to it.
Imagine life in the future – with your baby, or your toddler, or your 8-year-old or your teenager, or even your adult children. That’s a lot of imagining!
But if you can’t imagine it first, it can’t happen.
Everything we create we create twice – first in our minds eye, then for real.
The hard part, especially if you are working through infertility, is creating it for real, but if you can’t create it first in your imagination then you are missing a critical step.
You may want a child, you may even think it’s all you want, but if there is a kink in your subconscious that prevents you from really believing and imagining and feeling what it would be like – then that’s the issue you need to solve first!
You are attempting to create life – you need to get creative!
I have a strange question on my website that prospective clients must answer before I send them my program brochure. (Actually there are a few strange questions on it!)
“Do you know your life’s purpose?”
It’s a rare person who replies honestly “Yes”.
I remember Oprah saying one time that if you didn’t know your life’s purpose then your mission should be to find it. What she meant was that everything gets better, more focussed, more meaningful more successful if you are pursuing your purpose, and once you realise this then you have no choice but to go in search of it, because even searching for it is as good as having it!
Pursuing your purpose doesn’t mean you ‘have’ the life you want, it means you are moving towards it all the time.
I agree with Oprah in sentiment but disagree on the specifics of it.
I no longer believe that everyone has a singular life purpose.
I no longer believe that we must find ‘it’ or else our lives will be wasted.
I strongly believe that we can mould our own purpose by working to solve our own problems as they arise (as opposed to avoiding them).
Defining that purpose in words can be difficult, but I know that we all have a sense of it, regardless of how we explain it out loud.
The tragedy is how so many people reach the end of their lives oblivious that they could have defined their own purpose ages ago and went off in search of it thus making a much more meaningful life in the process.
Your life’s purpose can’t be “to have a baby”, because you can full fill that purpose over a 30-hour period of labour as you actually deliver the baby.
Your life’s purpose can’t be “to be a parent”. Any ejit can be a parent, any parent can be an ejit. Just being a parent is not a purpose. Sure – it can be a worthy ‘goal’, and for my clients it’s a goal that requires a lot of work to achieve.
A purpose is a teleological concept, it emerges from the ‘Why’ question.
Why do you want to have a baby? Why do you want to be a parent?
What gets you up in the morning?
If it is to do something you really don’t want to do and doesn’t even get you any closer to what you do want to do – then you will have to reckon with that as part of your journey back to fertility.
Everything is connected!
To push through the rough waters of infertility your heart needs to be totally committed.
Weeks after you were conceived your heartbeat for the first time, and everything you’ve done since then has been driven by its power.
Your heart came first, even before your brain!
There is no more powerful metaphor – we can’t do anything properly if our heart is not in it.
We may believe with our brain, but it’s our hearts desire that carries us through the storm.
Get ready to be inspired:
Imagining the future you want won’t make it real, some level of action is also needed. That seems obvious, but less obvious is that if you are to succeed you must first imagine your success, your future, the dreams you really desire, because whenever you create something, you create it twice – first in your minds eye then in real life.
To succeed you must first imagine your future into existence – only then can you go and create it.
What I find strange is why so many people refuse to do this feeling it to be too silly a task!
Countless good people get sucked into infertility forums hoping and praying that somebody in there will have the answer they so desperately desire.
The fact that these places offer solidarity is a huge and worthwhile benefit of joining them, but the potential for the positive to degenerate into the negative is an ever-present risk. When groups come together for emotionally charged reasons it is only a matter of time before strong personalities rise to the surface – and if these personalities are themselves unbalanced or egocentric the entire tone of the conversation can shift towards victimhood – one of the most disempowering and insidious faces of ‘faceless’ support groups.
If you find yourself in a forum that is obsessed with symptom comparison, program boasting, doctor cheerleading or bashing, differential diagnosis and drug regimen advice from novice lay people – think about leaving.
If you choose to stay be strong in yourself and know that the power to overcome your problems lies in you, not in a random support forum full of people like you who will happily offer opinions about facts. Don’t confuse the two – a blood reading may be a fact – but what it means to you is just an opinion.