Fertility

What if your baby-making attempts are hurting your chances of success?

"We’ve been trying for years. We’ve seen fertility specialists and have failed multiple in-vitro fertilization procedures. My doctor says we need a donor egg. Why can’t we have our own baby?”

I hear these statements far too often. Couples generally come to see me, as a last resort, after a drastic medical course denies the men and women their dream of having children. Most couples arrive at my office financially, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. And they often find my answer shocking.

I tell the couples to quit trying so hard— the last thing they expect to hear. After all, they sought me out to give them the missing piece, the one thing they may have neglected in their all-consuming quest for their child.

I’m no stranger to the infertility process. I spent years trying to conceive my first child. I was fresh out of medical school, was brimming with medical knowledge and scientific facts, and considered myself as healthy as possible. I ran every day, counted calories and knew all there was to know about reproductive diseases. I gave up alcohol and coffee, choked down wheat grass, charted my temperatures and had intercourse at the appropriate times. Yet, the harder I tried, the more my goal of getting pregnant seemed to elude me. Never once did it occur to me that my “trying” was the problem.

As with many other people, I tackled my infertility like everything else I had been taught in our goal-oriented society: I was prepared to fight it. I grew up believing if you want something bad enough, and if you try hard enough, you’ll get it. All I thought about was my goal and how I was going to achieve it. This approach had always worked for me before. It got me into medical school and allotted me all kinds of material rewards. Why wouldn’t it get me a baby?

In medical school, we learned extensively about fighting disease, not achieving health. And I practiced what I had been taught. The harder I tried to conquer my infertility, the more the fight within my own body continued.

Out of utter desperation, I sought help from Chinese medicine, which made no sense to me. I was the ultimate skeptic. But I opened my mind just enough to discover that all of our energies have opposing charges, like protons and electrons. I learned that “yang,” or male energies, were highly active, vibrant and outwardly oriented, and “yin,” or female energies, were reflective, inwardly oriented and receptive. And somewhere in the depths of my being, this weird medicine made sense to me.

I realized that in being occupied with chasing my goal, I never noticed the sad fact that my body couldn’t receive a baby. I had been neglecting my receptive female energies, the ones that would allow a pregnancy to take hold.

Take this little quiz, checking off which responses fit your personality. Then see if you, like me, lean a little more toward male tendencies.

YANG: FIGHT MODE

I must take action.
I don’t have time to relax.
If I don’t try, I won’t have a baby.
I am fighting my way to a child.
My life is very different since trying to conceive.

YIN: RECEPTIVE MODE

I can accept things as they are.
I allow myself time to rest each day.
I can recognize that all other creatures conceive without trying.
I am caring for myself first.
I still enjoy the same things in life as before trying to conceive.

All of my responses indicated that my body was preparing for a fight. And a universal medical truth is that we can’t be in fight mode and receptive mode at the same time. When we are in yang, forcing mode, our bodies actually divert blood flow away from our reproductive organs. Our reproductive tissues then can’t respond to the reproductive hormones. Instead, they are primed to respond to the stress hormones. As a result, our bodies perceive danger and, like animals in the wild, we turn on nature’s contraceptive process, which is undetected by Western medicine.

Chinese medicine, however, can perceive subtle imbalances in the body’s energies that may cause small shifts in the physiology and may prevent pregnancy.

My Chinese doctor told me to relax more, to walk instead of run. She taught me to breathe deeply into my lower abdomen. I learned to think less about the goal of my pursuit and to regain focus on how to live my life. I received acupuncture, which lowered my stress response, improved my reproductive hormone levels and returned the blood flow from my brain and large muscle groups to my reproductive organs. I drank Chinese herbal tea, specially prepared for me, that seemed to nourish my depths. I stopped counting calories and began to eat in line with what nature intended.

I started to sleep better. I started to feel better. As frightened as I was to give up the fight, the fight ended. I learned to deal with my emotions instead of run from them. I started to mother myself. I learned to live my life more authentically. And I began to study Chinese medicine, which started to make more sense to me than Western medicine.

When I became more yin, more receptive, my children came. I had learned to be a mother, not a fighter. I learned to care for my body, mind and soul. And now I give other women who are trying to conceive what I was given. And, it works. Nature never fails. Nature continues to help women in their mid-40s, couples with every conceivable reproductive disorder and those who have felt slighted by everything Western medicine has offered them. Nature’s way allows the space for our children to come. Slow down. Stop the fight if it isn’t working. Breathe a little deeper. Rest a little more. You’re going to need it when your children come.