Despite all my learnings about sexuality and fertility; last year I had a lapse into invincibility. I thought I had a firm handle on it all – my body, when I ovulated, my sex drive and that I would call on my own fate when I was ready for baby 2.0.
Alas, life had other plans and I want to use my recent happy accident to mark how much a woman’s fertility can shift over the years using my own experience as a guide for exploring contraception, the menstrual cycle and our delicate hormonal balance. What has really shone into the light for me over the years is how closely our fertility and our sexuality are intertwined as women, even if you don’t want to have children.
It all goes back to 2007 when I ditched the contraceptive pill happily in the bin. I can’t remember the name, just the fact that it was meant to stabilise my androgen (male) based hormonal acne by adding a ton of oestrogen to my system. Yeah, that didn’t work. My partner and I plodded along with condom use at more fertile times and withdrawal method at others. I never fell pregnant by accident; somehow it all just made sense organically without me holding a deep understanding of sex and the cycle.
When I started learning sexology in 2011, the foray into humanity, biology and possibility spurred a long-held desire to play with conception. At the time, I was stressed and burnt out from my day job. What I wasn’t factoring into my fertility was this sense of pushing that dominated my life. My pushing was a conscious choice and whilst I conceived after a few months, the pregnancy didn’t progress past 7 weeks. At the time, there was no silver lining and I thought it was the end of the line. I simultaneously wanted to keep trying and to never try again. But my body was soon to reveal more to me about what was going on on a very subtle level. After the healing from the miscarriage, we kept trying but it was adding more stress to my life and sexuality than was comfortable. When you want children but feel time is still on your side, there can be this threshold where it is tempting to pause trying because there is always one more thing to do. For me, this became completing sexology studies and more travel. Looking back, this was right for me and there was still plenty of time for the more that always exists. Life went on. My sexuality continued to expand and explode post-miscarriage. This kept my focus internal and pure.
In 2013, my love of TED talks steered me in the direction of Alissa Vitti, who is a pioneer in women’s health. Her work in the realm of hormonal balance and syncing your life with your menstrual cycle is unparalleled and her words and perspective swept me up. I cleaned out my system after recognising the warning signs for a prolonged luteal phase (the phase before your menstrual phase). I was spending a lot of time living on the cusp on my period coming with engorged breasts and mood disruption. What I thought was an ongoing ally to health – soy milk – soon became something I distanced myself from very quickly as I pinpointed that it was creating oestrogen dominance (hence the symptoms) and a sluggish menstrual cycle.
Fertility can be miraculous and conception can happen against all odds but what we neglect to acknowledge is the fickle, sensitive, beautiful symphony that is the endocrine system, which relies on a predictable chain of events to generate optimal health. Like a bunch of dominoes, if one falls out of sync, the rest can too and what happens or isn’t happening with your cycle can be indicative of your fertility pathway.
As the year progressed, I learn more about what my cycle would respond to and what felt like pushing. I began to connect with why my sexuality is so responsive at some points and so quiet at others and the rest of the year felt like a hormonal reset. What I love about Woman Code is it isn’t restrictive and it isn’t fad eating. My life had variety and flow. And this opened up my body to conceive without stress and in optimal health in early 2014.
Fast forward through eating for whatever I needed throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding and back to cycling again in 2015. I enjoyed and embraced the return of my menstrual flow because breastfeeding and the high prolactin levels are like a form of limbo to me. Enjoyable in its own right but I missed the ebb and flow of being outward and inward in all the facets of my life through my cycle. The return of bleeding was also an acknowledgment to being dynamic – not solely a mother anymore but a woman and a mother. I returned to eating for my cycle to optimise my hormonal health just for me, not for conception this time.
This is where the universe inserts its other plans. After not being on hormonal contraceptives for almost 9 years and cycle syncing again, life was feeling pretty clear and I was back in my body. We had bought condoms but I was so out of the habit of using them that I only used one before the time that fate decided that it would play its hand and leave my meticulous planning in the dust. Neither my partner nor I have a recollection of the moment. Alcohol was never involved, just that the withdrawal method had always worked. This time, it didn’t and I discovered at almost 6 weeks gestation that I was pregnant. It was unexpected, it was welcome. And it dawned on me how mysterious fertility is; how it has its own workings and that I needed to get the fuck out of the way this time – conception doesn’t regard my timeline. I recognise thousands of women don’t have the experience of a surprise pregnancy and that this form of conception can be undesired when in a completely incompatible situation. But one thing I’m sure of is that most women are more fertile the second time around. Their body just knows what to do. Mine just knew what to do. It was clear, it was receptive. It is a testament to the years of listening to it.
Do I have regrets about my knowledge not aligning with my reality? Not at all. Do I have any regrets about not being on hormonal contraceptives. Never. Because I believe in being responsive to our bodies, not controlling. And this is where modern medicine loves to intervene – hormonal correction with hormones, not via your lifestyle or your nourishment. This to me is empowerment vs. being powerless.
Adapting to life’s surprises and following your body rather than telling it what to do is authentic living. It will feed your sexuality and sensuality more so than living in a state of flat lining. Your libido will see the light when you are off hormonal contraceptives that leave you with little reactivity, bleeding in-between periods, no periods, no libido and hormonal issues that remain unaddressed under the medicine.
We are living in a time of ample contraception options that don’t involve hormones. This is exciting and moves women into a paradigm where we understand our bodies. This is a wisdom used eternally to trust and follow and we are getting back to this.
If you are experiencing fertility issues, stress around trying to conceive or a sex drive that leaves little to be desired then it is time to stand up, own it and move with the flow of your primal nature. Because there is more than conception waiting on the other side of a life in sync with your cycle.