… MORE LIKE MY WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT JOURNEY
I’ve been wanting to write this blog for a few months now, and while it’s been swirling in my mind I couldn’t get myself to just sit down and write it. So thank you for taking the time out of your busy life to read this – I hope you walk away with some knew form of knowledge, or better yet, empowered to take your fertility into your hands now – no matter where you fall on the spectrum.
So yes, we’re going to talk about periods here (menstruation, moon cycle, body fluids, pregnancies, all the things).
LET’S GO BACK – BACKGROUND OF MY HORMONE HEALTH
I got my first period when I was around 12 years old. And like most women, that’s all I knew – we bleed once a month (roughly). For the next four years I had pretty light and infrequent periods; I was an athlete so my doctor said it was probably due to low BMI. When I was 16 I went on the birth control pill because I wanted to be safe and didn’t want to get pregnant. I was on it for 11 years before coming off of it cold turkey in December 2017.
Side note – I would not consider going off any medication cold turkey; I wish I was more educated then and started supplementing with vitamins and nutrients to support my hormones in that transition. I did however, start taking a prenatal then, with the hope of getting pregnant sometime in 2018.
WHEN I WAS ON BIRTH CONTROL I NEVER THOUGHT I FELT ANY DIFFERENTLY BECAUSE OF THE MEDICATION, BUT NOW I SEE THINGS VERY DIFFERENTLY.
Around 16 was when my anxiety started; something I contributed to the stressors in my life at that time (not to say my stressors weren’t adding fuel to the fire, but I don’t believe anymore that they were the cause). While I was on the pill my cycle was regular, unless of course I missed taking it for a day or two. (I later learned that the bleed on hormonal contraceptions is a withdrawal bleed, and not a real period). I had low lobido for years, something I was incredibly shameful of. I would experience skin breakouts like perioral dermatitis randomly during the seasonal changes (you can read on why I thought I needed to break up with my favorite food here for more on that). For years I expressed gut health symptoms to my doctors, but never once did anyone try to help mitigate them (one of the many reasons I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition).
I never related any of these symptoms to birth control – in fact, I never even considered the birth control pill to be medication, I considered it ‘my pill,’ without any thought, any consideration to what it was doing to my body besides helping me not get pregnant. For 11 years I took a prescribed medication blindly, without any awareness of how it was impacting my overall health, mood, sex drive, and future fertility.
IN 2018 I WAS DIAGNOSED WITH AMENORRHEA
When I came off the pill in December 2017 I assumed and expected that it would take a few months for my body to regulate. What I didn’t expect was for my period to not come back at all, known medically as amenorrhea (loss of period). So I went to my OB/GYN like most of us do, and she prescribed me estrogen and progestin, which ended up stimulating a period and I was so relieved – I didn’t feel “broken”.
My cycle did not return after that, though. In fact, I never menstruated again in 2018. I decided to take matters into my own hands. While I greatly appreciate medicine, I wasn’t going to spend another year+ of my life taking medications to ‘balance my hormones.’ I went on my way and let me body do it’s own thing to come back into homeostasis.
About 1 year ago – I feel like I’m an entirely new person from her!
Towards the back half of 2018 I learned of Post-Birth Control Syndrome, coined by women’s health expert Dr. Jolene Brighten. Essentially, my hormones were so out of balance from the pill, my body didn’t know what to do. And yes, I didn’t know what to do either. I continued to be naive admittedly, and just let nature takes it course (laughing at myself now, because I cognitively know that our bodies can adapt when given the tools to – just like I teach all my clients! It’s not the easiest to make change when you’re in it, and in it without expert support).
These drugs [birth control] are designed to shut down your entire reproductive system. They stop your brain from talking to your ovaries and stop ovulation. And this may sound well and good until you try to call it quits.
There is also evidence showing that side effects that begin while on birth control don’t just go away when you stop. Things like low libido, anxiety, depression, gut symptoms, autoimmune disease, and inflammation.
Dr. Jolene Brighten, Post-Birth Control Syndrome + How to Heal (article)
IN OCTOBER 2018 KYLE AND I CONCEIVED.
SUPRRISE to all of us! Within the first two weeks of us “trying” we naturally conceived. I say “trying” because I still hadn’t had a period, so I had no idea when my cycle was – I didn’t know if I was even ovulating. We just decided to give a try, and magically we conceived. It was one of the happiest days of my life.
pregnant with baby angel around 6 weeks, happy as can be <3
Sadly, in December 2018 at 8 weeks pregnant we miscarried – you can read my full story here.
It was that experience – my baby angel who I now recognize is truly my angel and saving grace – that catapulted me into my fertility health journey.
MY FERTILITY JOURNEY, NOW
For the first several months of this year I was saddened and confused, my anxiety was coming back, I was recovering from my foot surgery, I was grieving my miscarriage (my baby angel) – yet I was hopeful for the future of my health and our family. I assumed I was ovulating, since I did get pregnant, but I still had an irregular period; I only menstruated once in the first half of the year.
Something profound happened to be during the Scorpio Full Moon this past May that cracked me open and propelled me into a new being. I dropped into my true, authentic self like I had never experienced before (which is the cornerstone of my coaching and teaching). Without going into all of my spiritual experiences since, I can say with absolute certainty that God and baby angel are guiding me on this new found path.
It was at this point that I realized that all of my health challenges (anxiety, gut, skin) over the years were due to my hormonal imbalances. I started reading WomanCode by Alisa Vitti to learn about my actual body and what being a women actually means. I say this very matter-of-factly: for my nearly 30 years here, never once did I ever consider my hormones or endocrine system – the very thing that makes me an actual WOMAN!
At the same time I reached out to my badass, smart, loving friend Kate Naranjo who was starting her Fertility practice, Bird and Bee. All of her recommendations were based on my personal challenges and goals, and are based off of current research.
Kate taught me how to work with my body to understand my cycle, like how to take my Basal Body Temperature and analyze my cervical mucus. She reminded me of the importance of endocrine disruptors in our environment, including personal and household products. I had already been transitioning all of my products to non-toxic and clean, so this journey just amplified the importance of my switch even more.
NON-TOXIC NATURAL OR ORGANIC PERSONAL AND HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS & BRANDS I’M CURRENTLY LOVING:
DoTerra for all essential oils including On Guard Cleaner for the best all-around household cleaner (contact me if you’d like to try some!)
Follain.com for all my makeup products (RMS Beauty, W3ll People, and Vapour are my go-to’s)
Mother Dirt from Thrive Market for shampoo
Pearl Apothecary by Emerging Energy for literally any facial or bodily skin oil or lotion
Cocokind for makeup removers, face masks, and some makeup
Raw Elements sunscreens and lip protectant
Fre Skincare for skin cleanser (read more about them in my blog post here) *use code LIVE1 to save 15%
I also tuned into how exercise was effecting my hormones; did my cortisol and adrenaline feel too heightened after exercise? Or did I feel energized, but controlled? I switched up my routine and reduced my Studio Barre exercise to a couple days a week rather than 5x a week, and focused on low impact exercises like Melissa Wood Health’s full body pilates/yoga sequences. It’s made a huge difference in my hormone levels and overall physical health.
I’ve even purposely put in a little weight to support my hormones (and practiced a lot of mental and emotional self-love and acceptance surrounding this).
Kate recommended supplements that would help balance my hormones like Vitex and Cod Liver Oil (need all the fatty acids I can get to build up these hormones!). She encouraged me to continue acupuncture with our favorite Oriental Medicine Doctor, Dr. Mary Claire Dilks at Emerging Energy. Dr. Mary also crafted herbal teas for me to drink daily that nourish my body and hormones with nutrients. Together, the three of us worked on boosting my fertility to stimulate ovulation and menstruation.
And we succeeded! Not only did I ovulate, but I menstruated!
IT’S HARD TO PUT ALL OF MY THOUGHTS, LEARNINGS, AND EMOTIONS INTO ONE CONSOLIDATED POST.
The empowerment I feel is incredible I can’t even put it into words. I am an entirely new woman, quite literally. Now that my hormones are balanced my anxiety is far and few, my energy levels naturally shift week over week (normal for a woman, since it’s in response to our hormone levels), and my gut and skin challenges are nearly gone. I’m confident that I will get pregnant again and maintain a pregnancy (of course I understand the possibility is always there, but I continue to do a lot of healing around the fear of that happening again).
The knowledge I’ve gained in this experience is empowering in-and-of itself from learning how a women’s hormones fluctuate in harmony throughout the month, to understanding that we have about a 2-3 day window of peak fertility (though sperm lives a few days longer), to owning the fact that I had to take my own advice and actually make lifestyle, mindset, and emotional changes if I wanted my hormones to balance.
WHEN MY PERIOD CAME, I CRIED WITH TEARS OF JOY.
We live in a society that shames women for having a period. I’m on a mission to help re-write this. Periods need to be celebrated: it’s our bodies’ natural ebb and flow that begins this cycle towards ovulation. We menstruate because conception hasn’t occurred. And let’s be honest, we are designed to conceive and reproduce. Without this cycle, we wouldn’t exist. Coming from someone who has had hormonal imbalances for the majority of my life, it feels damn good to be in balance.
In addition to educating myself, monitoring my diet and exercise more closely, and working alongside fertility experts, I expanded my network of healers and did a ton of spiritual and emotional work. It would be unfair if I didn’t emphasize the vital significance of my spiritual, emotional, and mental health, and the healers that have guided me.
WHAT I’M DOING TO MAINTAIN MY HORMONAL BALANCES:
In a nutshell, I’m continuing to educate myself, live in harmony with my hormones (not against), continue with my diet, exercise, and lifestyle optimization plans, and expand my network of fertility practitioners and healers.
taken a couple weeks ago – living in balance and bliss
WHAT THIS ALL MEANS FOR MY CAREER
…BECAUSE I CANNOT NOT DO ANY OF THIS!
In my truest being I am put on this Earth to help women realign with and live in sync with their true, authentic self. I use my experiences to empower and enlighten others, and now I know that my hormonal health journey is the clear path for helping as many women as I can reclaim their womanhood.
I am currently undergoing trainings to be a Fertility Awareness Coach, Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga Teacher, and Postpartum Doula. And I am SO excited and eager to begin consulting all women on their paths!
Please share this with your sisters, friends, cousins, coworkers, and any woman you know that is struggling with their fertility and hormonal health. I hope this empowers you to take control of your fertility NOW, no matter where you are in your life. It’s never too early to optimize our hormones and take control of our womanhood.
Sending you so much love and light!