Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How to Get Pregnant When You're 39

I'm feeling the need to testify.  In grad school, my friends and I would go to the local baseball games and be endlessly amused by the guy hawking drinks, hot dogs, and peanuts.  After you bought something from him (I think his name was William?), he would tell you to "testify" that his drinks were the coldest and his hot dogs were the hottest.  He was awesome.  I need to testify now about an entirely different matter, but it's hard not to bring up William any time any testifying happens.

This testifying is how I got pregnant (and stayed pregnant) at age 39 without any spectacular means. 

There's a lot of talk about fertility among the older set these days, and by older, I mean late thirties/early forties - in other words, 39-year-olds like me.

In the last few years, pop superstar awesomeness Gwen Stefani delivered her third child at age 43 and Halle Berry delivered her second child at age 47, but since we recognize this is as somewhat unusual, we might question just how they got their aging uteruses to work so youthfully.  There's the possibility of the intervention of science, but there's also the possibility that they are genetically blessed people whose female parts are defying the laws of nature which tells us that women become less fertile as they approach age 39.

There's that number.  39.  My number.  Last year, the Atlantic published a fabulous article on the myth of infertility at age 35.  I highly recommend reading it.  But even that article which gives hope to ages 30 through 38, recognizes that a real decrease in fertility begins at age 39.  Again, my age.

So here's how I got pregnant at age 39 without IVF, without Clomid, and without breaking the bank.

After our second miscarriage last year, my husband and I sat in an OB/GYN'S office while the doctor ruthlessly and carelessly discussed our loss.  He came in to the office after making us wait an hour after our appointment, didn't bother introducing himself to my husband, and then looked down at my chart for about five silent minutes.  "Yes, the tests confirm a miscarriage," he announced as if I didn't already have ample evidence.  (Miscarriages are not quiet events.  One knows when one has had one).  Then this doctor went on to explain that given my age, I would have difficult getting pregnant because my eggs were essentially not good anymore.  He recommended a fertility specialist.

We left the office feeling worse than when we came in.  Some doctors have that special gift of making a difficult experience even worse.  This doctor was so gifted.

In the next week, I called and made an appointment with the fertility specialist and received a form in the mail that we were to fill out and return before our appointment.  But as I went over the form which asked all sorts of questions about what we were willing to pursue in order to grow our family, I realized I wasn't comfortable with any of the options set out for us.  As a Catholic in my late 30s, I cannot flaunt a perfect record in the department of sexual activity, but I do have this going for me -- I have never been on the Pill.  Again, my particular road to where I am now is spotted with missteps and self-administered blinders, but after all my sins, I have always tried to figure out how to return to and lead a healthy, Godly sexual life.  Admittedly, that's a lot easier when you're married.

So as a married, Catholic woman who tries to let God run the show, I knew I couldn't pursue the fertility specialist.  I just wasn't comfortable with it.  God wouldn't let me get comfortable with it.  And what's more, the more we thought about it, the more unreasonable the OB sounded.  After all, I didn't have a problem with fertility.  I conceive almost immediately upon trying.  It's the carrying the baby to full term I couldn't seem to make happen.

I hit the Internet and searched high and low for information on natural fertility.  I read everything I could find on diet and supplements and stress and exercise and all the other things that probably do help to make a more livable environment for a baby.  I went on a gluten-free diet, I tried cocktails of vitamins and supplements.  But nothing really changed until I found a site about Catholic fertility which introduced us to the Creighton Model.

The Creighton Model is a natural reproduction approach that gives women (and their partners) information on how their particular cycle is working (or not working).  After finding an new OB/GYN in Fort Wayne who practices the Creighton Model, my husband and I were on our way.

My first meeting with Dr. Christopher Stroud, our new OB/GYN, was intensely cathartic.  He reviewed my chart, listened to me talk about the previous doctor, and told me, "I wish all woman came in here with your 'problems.'  All due respect to (unnamed other doctor), but he's wrong.  I deliver babies all the time to women in their forties."

There's a common phrase in Catholic conversation I should introduce here: "Contraceptive Culture," which means we live in a culture that treats fertility as a problem that needs to be fixed.  That's hard to argue as I've treated it that way for a goodly portion of my life as well.  But here's Dr. Stroud telling me that he delivers babies to women in what is supposed to be their post-fertility years all the time while my previous doctor says he sees infertility and miscarriage all the time in the same set of women.  The difference?  As a doctor who advertises his Catholicism, Dr. Stroud sees a lot of Catholic women who have never treated their fertility as a problem.  Fort Wayne, Indiana is a really Catholic town.  There are a whole lot of huge Catholic families here and Dr. Stroud's delivered a whole lot of those babies.  It's no wonder his experience varies so widely from other doctors.

So my husband and I started the Creighton Model classes which taught us how to chart my cycle.  Over the next three months, what the particular biomarkers would reveal is the why behind "infertility, repetitive miscarriage, abnormal bleeding, recurrent ovarian cysts, pelvic pain, premenstrual syndrome, etc …"

Once we determined my particular problem, in the words of my doctor, "profoundly low progesterone," and since we knew exactly when that occurred in my cycle because of my observed biomarkers, we were able to move forward with conceiving with confidence which we did immediately and which resulted in an already sort of huge four-months-pregnant me.

Total cost of Creighton Model classes?  Around $60.  Compare that to the cost of other fertility treatments which are not always effective, are often more invasive, and which are certainly more costly.

Using the Creighton Model, "76% of couples achieve pregnancy during the first cycle.  For couples with infertility, the overall pregnancy rate runs approximately 20 to 40% during the first six months."

I know the Creighton Model is not the answer for everyone.  I have dear friends who have benefited from other treatments and who have beautiful children as a result and that is nothing more than awesome.  I wouldn't deny them those pursuits for the world.  All I will say is that this is what worked for us and I needed to testify.

Lots of non-religious people are using the Creighton Model now either because they can't afford other treatments or they want to try a different approach.  This is me testifying, which, for the record, is not a very Catholic thing to do.  But still, William, I'm inspired by you.  I just had to testify!

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