Posts By: Brendan
Infertility is a private subject for most people. There’s something about it that is wired into societies subconscious that makes those suffering it not want to talk about it and prevents friends and colleagues from knowing how to.
But meet any couple going through the ordeal and you’ll mostly come away with a sense that they are trying really hard, coping, working through it in solidarity.
This is often true, but it’s a false perspective far more often than you might think. Many couples on this journey are either not ‘working through it’ or lack a sense of ‘togetherness’, a sense of unity and common purpose.
Zoom out from the picture to get a wider perspective for a moment and you will see that this idea is not so unusual. Very few couples are lucky enough to have good communication in their relationship, most struggle with this in some way or another, it’s the norm!
Entering a long term committed relationship is meant to be a ritual that ties together to ropes of two individuals lives so that they become stronger together, and thus are better positioned to raise children. The fact that we bring ‘personal baggage’ into our relationships is not the problem, indeed relationships should be secure loving places where self-discovery is allowed so that each individual can grow through the baggage. But alas this is not the reality for so many people, with separation and divorce rates a testament to this.
Zoom out further and even this is not surprising – most of us do not have good communication with ourselves, let alone with others. We don’t really know ourselves! Society doesn’t encourage this kind of self-discovery, indeed religions often impede it (whether this is deliberate or accidental is up for debate) and so we sort of blunder on in our lives struggling with a very deep lack of clarity about who we are, what we truly want and how to go about getting it without hurting others. Into relationships we bring all this baggage, where it becomes amplified.
Relationships amplify personal problems, and infertility amplifies relationship problems, but buried within the problem is the key to the solution itself. Problems are signposts that point the way – but only if you are wiling to see them for what they are – gifts that guide you through the dark interior of yourself.
Infertility is a tough challenge to bear and to beat. It requires clear thinking and total commitment from each individual. If you play the victim card, if you turn away from the deeper truth, if you can’t bring yourself to acknowledge your own baggage and do something about it, if you fail to see it as a great opportunity to get your life back on track, if you can’t get yourselves on the same page with the same dreams and same goals – infertility will unravel the ropes of your lives and steamroll over you leaving only bitterness and regret. Infertility is a direct reflection of life, it’s an invitation to get your act together – we only get one chance to do it, then it’s gone forever!
What is it about humans that allows us so often to give out advice we won’t take ourselves?
Why do we tell children not to curse, yet fail to follow the same standard personally?
Why do mediation counselors end up in divorce court, unable to settle their differences?
Why do investment advisers not follow their own advice to diversify assets for greater security?
Why do soccer players of all ages berate their teammates for mistakes they themselves often make?
Why do nutritionists sometimes eat junk food despite advising their clients to avoid it?
Why is it OK to think the rules don’t apply to us?
Why are we comfortable with contradictions in our own lives that we would regard as hypocrisy in others?
I believe the answers are simple:
It’s not because we don’t value the truth. (Though it might be too bitter a pill to swallow at times!)
It’s not because we lack situational awareness. (Though some of us do!)
It’s not because we are too lazy. (Indeed, many of us work too much!)
It boils down to one thing – We are not ready to change that aspect of ourselves just yet.
The need for change is not so urgent for us that it supersedes the inertial familiarity we possess about ‘the way things are’.
The pain of not having what we want is not yet as powerful as the fear that makes us hold on to habits we identify with, even though they no longer serve us.
The pressure to change is just not strong enough to force us to deal with it.
The tragedy of life for so many humans is that we don’t wake up to this plight soon enough to take meaningful action that would propel us on a journey of adventure and self-discovery that is really worth living.
The tragedy is that we die with regrets!
You have a big decision in front of you.
It concerns how you will go about solving a huge problem in your life.
If you can’t solve the problem, you will have to adapt to a new reality and your life will be changed in ways you do not desire.
It all feels new and bewildering but resist the urge to panic and rush. Take your time weighing up the options, looking for strategies, acquiring new information and finding out how stuff works. All of this will stand to you.
Whilst there’s never been a time in history where so many people have this problem, there has also never been a better time in history to have this problem.
Solutions exist in abundance – but decisions need to be made, hard decisions.
In the final analysis you must prepare yourself to jump even though you won’t have all the information, and act even though you are not ready. Time marches on regardless of your plight and though the answer lies within you, it must be coaxed to the surface.
If you can keep your head while all around are losing theirs and blaming it on you, then you can find the courage to do the one thing so many people cannot bring themselves to do – take a leap of faith in yourself.
It’s so tempting to just keep your head down and plough on hoping your body will come good and you will be able to become a parent.
We’ll try again next month, we could be lucky, you never know!
If you have been trying for over a year and there is still no bun in the oven, then somethings wrong.
Ignoring the fact will definitely help you get through the day, so it has its upside, but as strategy it’s useless. Alas this is what most people with infertility are doing!
On the other side of the road – you might have taken one step further and acknowledged your plight, and if so well done, it’s not an easy thing to admit to yourself, but if ‘facing up to it’ means going to the doc for help, taking drugs, or quitting smoking – OK – it’s better than nothing, but if that’s all you are willing to do then you are still keeping your head down and ploughing on hoping your body will come good. You’d need to be VERY lucky for this to work.
It may be true that you are infertile but facing up to the truth means more than just acknowledging it, it means really looking hard at your past to see what it is you have been doing all this time that has derailed your fertility. It also means taking a hard look at your future life to see what it is you really want. If you don’t really want kids, then I hope we can all agree that you should have shared this with your spouse long before they became your spouse.
If you do really want kids, then this is when the consequences of facing up to the truth get real for you. You want something your body won’t allow you to have.
You can solve this problem – philosophically speaking you need to alter the inner terrain of your body so that it gives you permission to have kids.
You can restore your fertility, but you can’t restore it by staying the way you are, that’s the truth.
You probably have food intolerances – most people have some.
That fact is disputed by mainstream medicine though, but whenever groups of people are tested out on a food elimination diet, most report a general sense of improvement in wellbeing.
Some report dramatic life changing experiences and others report minor improvements in things like sleep, skin, hair, energy, digestion, bloating or such like.
The general consensus is that things are the way they have always been. Traditionally very few people were officially diagnosed with food intolerances, and so this state is regarded as the norm for the population.
But the reality is that things are not the way they always were. The entire food system has changed, wheat itself has changed, soy is not the same as it used to be, meat is composed of different profiles of fat now. Everything has changed, except the viewpoint of mainstream medicine.
Allergies are different to intolerances – but both can generate elevations in a particular type of antibody in the blood (knows as IgG), whilst some food intolerances don’t generate these antibodies at all but instead just cause some sort of symptom – like gas or bloating.
For reasons rooted in the philosophy of medicine, most doctors don’t take intolerances seriously and would strongly challenge the view that something as ‘innocuous’ as simple bloating could have any effect on your fertility. The idea is laughable to many!
This ‘philosophy’ I mention is based on what we call Newtonian Physics, which set the trend in science ever since the apple fell from the tree! It has resulted in our current paradigm of reductionist science which has brought us so much progress it’s amazing, but it fails to recognise the essential interconnectedness of everything.
Bloating can mediate infertility – here’s how:
Immune cells at the wall of your intestine react to some or other food molecule – let’s say it is wheat.
The reaction causes a release of chemicals which affect the surrounding population of microbes– which in turn generate the symptoms you experience – let’s say a sense of bloating, by producing lots of gas. Ok you might say, just pass the gas and all is good – no? No!
With repeated exposure to wheat your immune system will switch its dominant mode to one of ‘activated’, meaning it will become increasingly alert to ‘foreign invaders’. Your genes will turn on to produce more and more of the immune molecules (cytokines) that your body thinks it needs to defend against the foreign invading food molecule to which it is intolerant. Take this far enough and your body will become hyper alert to invaders and begin suspecting more and more food molecules. (A little bit like airport security suspecting more and more people of being terrorists!)
With your immune system generally on hyper alert it will begin suspecting that actual invaders like sperm or even a developing embryo are real threats – and it will take them out!
Everything is connected. The Amazon forest creates clouds that rain on mountainsides eroding rocks and liberating diatoms that reach the oceans via the rivers. The diatoms feed life, which blooms and produces oxygen for the earth. The diatoms die and form rock, which becomes desert, whose dust gets swept up in the winds which deposit the dead diatoms back into the Amazon forest to nourish the trees that were not even planted when the cycle started. Everything is amazingly connected!
The food we eat is connected to our immune system’s ability to sense the world around us.
Our immune system is connected to our ability to create life.
There is no drug that can undo the negative effects of it – only change can accomplish that, and you have the power to change if you can summon the self-belief to do it – because even your self-belief is connected to your fertility!
We all know people who have some obvious overly introverted side to their personality that prevents them from reaching out and sharing their soul with others. They are our work colleagues, our neighbours, our parents, our siblings, our friends, our team-mates and they may even be us.
They might be nice, capable people who never give you a bad vibe, but you know you wouldn’t give them a job managing others because they just don’t inspire that kind of trust.
In the privacy of their own minds they probably know this about themselves. Maybe they think of themselves as shy, or awkward, or quiet, or boring, or lacking in confidence.
Time marches on and eventually this person feels restless and wants some variety in their life, so they apply for a job that stretches them more than they have been used to.
This is when the birds come home to roost. The interviewer sees the same old person, shy, quiet or boring, un-personable and hard to get a good chat flowing with. They are not doing it on purpose, they wish they were different, in their own mind they are trying very hard. But the interviewer can only judge what they see in front of them and offers the job to someone else.
Why do they choose to remain the same all these years? Why don’t they change?
With all the psychology we now know about how to change, with all the books, all the coaches, all the therapists, all the people who have gone before, all the help that is within easy reach of most people – why the hell do they obstinately maintain the same personality all their lives when they know it is not serving them?
Why do you?
If you can answer this question to yourself with honesty so raw that it hurts your heart to even think about it – you will have in your hands the keys to a fulfilling life. It is our personality, not external circumstances, that create the problems we face in life – problems we have the opportunity to solve. But solving them requires changing ourselves, which is the one thing humans seem hell bent on not doing!
If the outcome of your adventure is guaranteed, then it’s no adventure at all.
If the risk of failure isn’t real, then there’s no motivation to pay attention
If the solution to your problem is certain then you need no effort to solve it.
With no effort comes no growth, with no growth comes no change, with no change comes … no change.
Can you solve your fertility problem by doing what you’ve always done, or does something need to change?
You are working away in your life, getting things done, pulling your own weight, doing what you must do.
Great – but what if the way you are living is working against the thing you want most?
This is the most common situation of all. We are too busy and too settled into ‘being busy’ to take time out to contemplate the notion that we may be drifting further away every day from the one thing we want most.
Sure – we are getting some of what we want, we are making ends meet, paying the bills and earning a weekend glass of wine – but these are the day to day things – what about the big things? Like having children!
Let’s say having children is the thing you want most in life right now – but alas you have sperm or egg quality issues that are preventing conception. That’s a tough one, and it’s not a problem you can solve by putting your head down and working away as normal hoping it will get better on its own, because it won’t. Something’s gotta give!
Most men in this situation deal with it by asking their doc if there is anything that can be done for them – and when the doc says ‘no’ – they simply accept it. The same guys are also most likely to believe that IVF is the only thing worth doing next.
To guys like this, the idea that they might have to stop smoking or drinking beer seems like a big ask. Some will try it, but if it doesn’t work (and it usually doesn’t) they go straight back to the beer and fags again – coz – why wouldn’t they, it didn’t work.
Most women in this situation google stuff, talk to their mother or friends and eventually also talk to the doc, maybe follow a course of drugs, maybe give up wine and maybe take a supplement – just in case.
BUT the hard fact is this – Most couples who run into fertility issues stack the decks against themselves by never clearly deciding to go ALL OUT to fix the problem no matter what it takes.
Doing this changes the game.
Our inability to make a clear decision is rooted deep in our psychology and there are three main reasons for it.
One reason can’t make clear decisions is because we don’t know what’s possible…the solution to this is to choose to believe it is possible even though you don’t know how, then set out to find a way.
The second main reason we can’t make clear decisions is because we don’t really believe in ourselves. This is due to our upbringing and life experiences. The solution to this is deceptively simple – you must summon self-belief to your aid and proceed as though you totally believe in yourself. Eventually, with enough persistence, you will.
The third main reason we can’t bring ourselves to make clear decisions is the worst reason of all – we are too comfortable with the way we are and don’t want to change.
We might be able to bring ourselves to give up smoking and drinking for a time to see if it works…but when it doesn’t – we revert, meaning we don’t really change. Why? Because we never really committed to change in the first place.
All of us go through this for different aspects of our lives, it’s normal, the thing is – you don’t want to resist change if it is preventing you from getting the thing in life you want more than anything else – like kids!
There is another way to phrase this: If you can’t bring yourself to really change then it’s fair to say that you value the way you currently are MORE than you value that thing you are telling yourself you want most!
That’s worth thinking about.
I was speaking on the phone to a prospective couple recently, and although the guy asked me a fair question, I knew it was coming from a hostile place.
He essentially asked me why I wasn’t world famous if my programs were so successful.
It’s a fair question – but it’s also a question coming from a worldview that I believe is skewed. Essentially it is a view that suggests – “if you are good you should be famous”!
From that logic they must believe that “to be famous you must be good (at whatever you do)”.
It’s pretty simple to deconstruct this thinking and show why it is flawed – deeply flawed, however I do empathise with the sentiment of the question, whatever about the logic.
I know that most people who contact me interested in the program but unsure of committing to it have doubts. (This ultimately is the reason for the phone calls!)
It’s a significant investment and I know that it would be easier for them if they could see a queue of clients out the door and down the street, or see my program up in lights on the tv.
Social proof is a real thing – alas I have issues with the principle of it – I believe it is unfair to ask my clients to publicly broadcast their participation is a deeply personal and private program such as Return To Fertility, when most don’t even tell their best friends about their struggle. So unless my mind changes on this I choose not to do it.
My position on it is that I can only ever work with a limited number of clients, and if I work flat out for the rest of my life – although I would feel a deep sense of accomplishment, gratitude and success, (tinged no doubt with some frustration and sadness for the few for whom the program was not enough to get them over the line), I would still not make a dent in the global problem of infertility. I’d never be famous no matter how good I was.
Fame is a mass media creation, it’s not the result of contribution necessarily! It is something I actively do not seek as I believe it would detract from my work.
The reality is that every client gets broad, deep personalised support from me, and that programs are complicated because they revolve around the lives of real people with real problems. My program adapts to you!
There is a significant part of me that wants to do whatever I can to reach as many infertile couples as possible and help them over the line. I also would love to be able to bring down the cost to make it more reachable for people in general, (currently the overall cost is comparable to a foreign holiday for a family, or a round of IVF), and so it is a dream of mine to streamline the program so that I could do this, but alas this will take time, if it is even possible to streamline such a complicated program.
I am working towards it all the time though, but I have a hard time believing that I’ll ever become the George Clooney of Natural Fertility – if for no other reason that he’s just not anywhere near as good looking as me!
In the end I refused the couple entry to the program. This is something I have to do from time to time and though I hate doing it, it’s for the best all round. Most of the time it is the woman who is driving the search for a solution to the infertility problem. This is often true even if the guy is the one with the issue.
There is a male/female psychology at play here that can be very frustrating to witness, but 9 time out of 10 if the guy is not on board with the program he may still join due to the pressure of his wife – but it usually either fails or we have a very hard time working together.
I wish I had a better way to solve this problem but alas I continue to search for answers to this. For now, it is best for everyone that couples are firmly on the same page and share the same desire to have children and the same willingness to surrender to a program that will most likely get them over the line if they do their part fully.
Commitment, self-belief and willingness to change are the key elements in your success – my fame or lack thereof – has zero bearing on your outcome, and your outcome is all I care about, end of story!
It’s becoming a pretty regular occurrence nowadays to read articles proclaiming that vitamin supplements are useless. It’s usually some newspaper or magazine, some ‘official’ website, some outspoken doctor, or some myth-busting blogger talking about the latest published science paper that back up the argument that we are all wasting our time taking supplements.
Sometimes it seems to me that ‘science’ is not in touch with reality because I know from experience that I simply could not get the results I get without employing copious amounts of supplement support for my clients. What gives?
The premise of most of the anti-vitamin articles is that the writer is trying to protect the public from false information by alerting them to the fact that much of the advice to take supplements is wrong.
Fair enough, but there is another reality overlain on the story which is that these arguments are increasingly nested inside a huge morass of conflicting socio-political opinions that mostly have nothing to do with vitamins or supplements or science!
This, of course, is the way the world is. C’est Lá Vie!
The ‘morass’ I speak of has spawned what appears to be – on one side – a backward superstitious fact-hating truth-denying stubborn exclusive group of individuals collectively thought of as the alt-right, – and on the other side – a supposed forward-thinking science-loving myth-busting inclusive group of individuals collectively thought of as the alt-left.
I stress the words “…what appears to be…”, because that’s all it is, a narrative, a story line that is quite easily punctured to reveal that this divide is not real. It is not REAL!
Real people, with real concerns, living (or at least trying to live) real lives, are not even close to being that easy to categorise. Only the extremes are. Only extreme ALT’s are obviously categorizable into left and right, and this of course is what they want! Everybody else spans the spectrum depending on the issues and the context. At least they do in the privacy of their minds – if not openly.
The official line is that vitamins are a waste of money.
The narrative supporting this is that anyone who ‘believes vitamins are any good’ are denying hard science and must therefore be either thick, ignorant, or wilfully Alt-right and in denial. Wow!
Here’s something to ponder though…most of the narrators of this line of thinking have lost all pretence of objectivity (one of the hallmarks of good scientific thinking). They have taken sides because it suits their personal belief system. Pure and simple!
What’s worrying is that we all do this at some time – it’s a human failing you might say. It wasn’t a failing in our distant past, it’s a failing now because we are exposed to SO MUCH information. In fact, you could argue that it is because we are exposed to so much information that this failing must come to the surface. We pick sides because that makes emotional sense to us, and anyway there is just too much data to pick through.
But let’s back up for a bit of objectivity. We have to make ourselves ‘back up’ because we are invested in the topic, so we are compelled to introduce some objectivity. We don’t want to, but if we hold truth as the highest value then we must force ourselves to. It is possible to hold a strong opinion on something and yet take a genuinely objective view on it to see if you can learn something new. Who knew?
It’s the unwillingness to be objective that is the problem, not the point of view one has before going into the subject.
So – let’s be objective.
First there are too many papers to tease out, so we have to content ourselves with doing what we can. This means we won’t get it perfect, but this is life, and it is ok.
Most science papers examine a very narrow topic and the researchers try to control the variables as much as possible.
Most public facing articles that report on the science paper (be they blogs, news, or periodicals) are commercial entities that use their writings to make money. They cannot tease out the boring details of a paper because it would mean losing their readership, so they summarise and present opinion to the readers rather than letting them make up their own minds. This is how mass media works!
So, in general you can’t get good analysis from mass media. Not even from something like 60 Minutes or Readers Digest! You are always going to get opinion, more than facts and detailed analysis.
(It’s the same with this blog!)
The reality is that sensationalist headlines make sweeping generalisations based on very narrow lines of research. Even the authors of the research papers are often forced to come out and say “Hey…wait a minute…that’s not what we said”.
The issue could be boiled down to one pertinent fact – research findings cannot be extrapolated to any given individual, so mostly it is true to say that headlines don’t apply to you – specifically to you!
Everyone’s best bet is to engage an individualised mindset and use that as a template to find their way through the huge subject of health, and forget about all the headlines, stop worrying about random articles that pop up and confuse or worry them.
Science will work in your favour, but not if you have a mindset jammed to one side or the other.
Personalised investigation will get you great results but not if you allow yourself to be easily thrown off course by random opinions.
Be prepared to weigh up facts within your personal context but most of all know that faith in yourself will take you further than anything. It is this above all that allows you to get results because you WILL come across conflicting information, you will be thrown by headlines and opinions, you will face uncertainty and overwhelm when you set your sights on a big and worthy goal, but you WILL prevail if you can allow yourself to be objective and open minded.