As an aspiring actress, I always thought my big break was going to be landing a part in a Broadway play. But when the diagnosis of “secondary infertility” arrived, I never imaged that my “big break” would come in the form of a breakdown. How could this be happening? I was in my early forties, and after years of pursuing neurosis as a primary career, I was ready to settle down. I had finally found the perfect man to share my life (who was undoubtedly worth waiting for), and I was yearning for the child I thought would make our family complete. A game-changer in the form of infertility was not on my radar.
Sign up to receive inspiring, expert advice on living your best life from Books for Better Living and Penguin Random House.
My first impulse was to assemble a team of the best and brightest to fix me as quickly as possible. It’s what I’d always done — call on experts to help with whatever ailed me. I planned to enlist one of those experts to track down my last fertilizable egg and attend to the mechanics of turning that egg into a baby.
The problem with that plan was that none of the fertility specialists I attempted to enlist into my baby-making team would consider standard avenues of treatment, such as fertility drugs or in-vitro-fertilization (IVF). Sadly, one well-meaning doctor after another stated that my soaring hormone levels had narrowed my childbearing choices to zero. The only option left was egg donation … When the syringes arrived, I stuffed the package into the back of the linen closet. It just wasn’t an option I was ready to embrace.
I took my first step into the maze of alternative fertility treatments with a Native American medicine woman, who opened her consultation by asking if I was having intercourse with my husband and then proceeded to press down on my chest bones while recounting numerous stories of success. Before my departure, she discreetly motioned toward a small ceramic bowl where I was to leave my $150 in cash.
Then I tried homeopathy with its tiny white sugary pellets that melted under my tongue. A month later, I decided to move on to specialized fertility acupuncture. Each of the four acupuncturists I consulted with made me lie on a narrow massage table as they poked me with needles that pointed in every direction. I felt like some rare breed of porcupine. They also recommended I start jumping rope “to shake up the organs.” I tried all of their suggestions, from taking daily hot and cold showers, to making love on a bright red sheet. I did it all for several weeks with no measurable change.
A year had come and gone, and I still was not pregnant. The pile of unpaid bills was the wakeup call I needed to halt any further pursuit for a miracle infertility cure.
Just as I was giving up hope, it occurred to me while skimming through a diet book, that becoming stronger and healthier could, perhaps, rejuvenate my wilting ovaries. Improving my relationship with food was something I had always intended to do—someday— when my life hardened into a perfect mold, with self-discipline, willpower, and free time pouring in like melted wax. Now, I imagined my baby leaning over the clouds, dimpled hands cupped around its mouth, yelling: “Go mom, go! You can do it!” Even if I don’t get pregnant, I thought, at least I’ll be the healthiest I’ve ever been.
Because I had a goal worth fighting for, the diet and lifestyle changes were, for once, surprisingly easy. Pretty much overnight, I went from being a sugar and caffeine addict to a green juice-guzzling, quinoa and tempeh enthusiast. I had the physical part under control but tackling the emotional piece was more daunting. It meant acknowledging that after years of psychoanalysis, I was still a child of Holocaust survivors—engaging with the voices within me that questioned whether or not I had earned the privilege of a fully lived life. This time, instead of silencing such voices with platitudes of positive thinking, I engaged in conversation with them through carefully crafted visualizations and movement sequences.
For the first time since the diagnosis, I did not look for a fertility expert’s validation. What mattered was that every item on the list of infertility remedies made perfect sense to me.
Eight months after initiating my experiment, on a scorching August afternoon, the voice of the nurse on the other end of the phone announced my reward. “…I-N-D-I…, oh yes, Julia, the test came back positive. Congratulations, you’re pregnant.”
For many of the millions of women and men longing for a baby, fertility treatments offer a welcome alternative path to parenthood. For me, the fact that my fertility doctors knew of no current technique that would fix me turned out to create the most powerful opportunity of my forty-two years. After a lifetime of abdicating all decision-making to experts, my elevated FSH levels were a portal toward becoming my own fertility authority.
Julia Indichova is the author of The Fertile Female: How the Power of Longing for a Child Can Save Your Life and Change the World & Inconceivable: A Woman’s Triumph over Despair and Statistics. The 20th Anniversary Edition of Inconceivable is due from Harmony Books in 2017. The Fertile Heart™ Ovum Practice is an original fertility enhancing program that emerged through a decade and a half of counseling. Julia Indichova’s work has been endorsed by leading reproductive endocrinologists, and her story and program was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, Oxygen, Discovery Health, Huffington Post, and other outlets. Julia’s profile is featured in the 9 People to Watch This Year (2016) Cover Story of the Hudson Valley Magazine. After 9/11 she initiated The 9/11 Bowing Project focused on applying the tools of her fertility program to the peace efforts.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock