Those of you who watched my docu-series, Love In The City on OWN, caught a first hand glimpse of how absolutely painful, destructive, and spiritually draining the journey of trying to start a family and not being able to do so was for my self-esteem and marriage.
Admittedly, deciding to share this experience with the world was a terrifying one. But, after many teary nights, prayer and conversations with my ex-husband, I understood that sharing this chapter of my life might possibly be the very thing that could empower another.
You see, for three-years, I went through the ups and downs, weight gain, needle probing and prodding of trying to conceive all alone. Always the optimist, I put on a hot shoe and a smile and proceeded every day “as if” everything was A-Okay, the good ‘ole smile through. The truth was, I wasn’t okay. Hopped up on hormones, I was an emotional rollercoaster filled with a deep sadness. And no one, not even my (ex) husband had a clue of the deep psychological impact of what I was enduring.
The struggle to conceive is real!
From surgery to nonstop medical appointments to injectable fertility treatments to surrogacy, to miscarriages… the stress of infertility is not only isolating, it’s a serious blow to self-esteem. Never had I felt more alone or inadequate. The guilt of not being able to fulfill my husband’s wish for a child engulfed me with a deep sadness and shame.
As women, the universal emotion we often struggle to come to terms with is inadequacy. What’s wrong with me? Why am I enough? This kind of critical self-chatter spawns all kinds of negative feelings and self -doubt.
While my experience with infertility is not an uncommon one, sharing the pain of it all in a transparent way is. This journey while painful, has taught me the power of authenticity and self-love. After many months of self-reflection and healing work, I decided to take a closer look at the facts about infertility with hope of helping others heal from their guilt.
What I learned may surprise you.
You see fertility is a medical issue that affects both men and women.
While 35% of all fertility causes in the US are due to female problems an equal number can be traced to a male problem.
Having a partner that is willing to come to terms with the possibility of it being an issue with their equipment is a huge relief for women emotionally. About 15% of couples have trouble conceiving and at least a third of those couples it is the guy’s sperm that is at fault. This is a huge number to understand. Complications can be compounded. The probability of conception is dramatically reduced if both are dealing with reproductive complications. But before you spend hundreds of thousands on fertility experts and doctors, start with the basics and educate your-self.
Time to get busy!
Sperm quality actually peaks in the winter and early spring, an Israeli study found, and low stress weekends offer your best chances of success. Ashok Agarwal, Ph.D., head of reproductive medicine at Cleveland Clinic, explains how four simple lifestyle changes for men can increase your baby-making odds.
— Get your numbers up: A Harvard research study showed that men who worked out on average of three days more per week showed 33% higher sperm count than those who do not. So to get that payload up, get that workload up!
— That smartphone ain’t so smart: To carry out their mission within the extremely critical 12 to 14 hour window of egg fertilization, those little swimmers need to be in Michael Phelps tip top swimming shape! So help them out: Put down that smart phone! Dr. Agarwal notes a Cleveland Clinic study that showed men who used their phones more had decreased sperm mobility. The study attributes sperm lack of mobility with the phones’ electromagnetic waves.
— Form Equals Function: Literally! In fact 90% plus of your man’s swimmers may be too deformed to penetrate the egg. A Harvard study found it could be excess free radicals. The good doc recommends consuming foods rich in antioxidant lycopene is one solution. Watermelon, tomato sauce, papaya are just a few foods that could boost your guys intake as much as 8,500 micrograms.
— Keep Hope Alive: Your choice of lube matters! It turns out that even lubrications that are touted as “all natural” may contain chemicals that are acidic or alkaline enough to poison your mini merman. In fact, some brands can wipe out up to 72% of your man’s offering in 30 minutes. Whoa! Save your sperm with a blend designed for PROcreation. Ask your GP if you’re not so sure about your brand.