My Breastfeeding and Fertility Journey by Teresa Palmer
I’ve always wanted tons of children. I had envisioned 6 rugrats running around in a beautiful chaotic mess of a home. The last video I have of my Nanna before she died is where she tells me that all she dreams for me is to have lots and lots of children since she knows it’s everything I’ve always wanted. Sure, I wanted to be an actress and I assumed I could do both, I still do. I am getting to live the life I wished and prayed for in my career plus I get to live out my dreams of being a mama to my precious almost 2 year old son Bodhi. I figured I’d be pregnant most years and have kids about 18months apart. I welcomed and became excited at the idea of “2 under 2” and “3 under 5” Bring. It. On.
Well Isn’t it just funny how life seems to laugh at you when you tell it how and exactly when things will happen for you. As my son drew closer to 1 years old I was patiently waiting for my period to return- I was told that “once it returns you’ll be able to get pregnant.” Finally when he was 14 months old I got my first period- yippee I’d be pregnant in no time! That first month I rang my doctor very confused “umm I think I got my period again? But we were trying so hard! Could this be implantation bleeding??” No. It wasn’t. I just wasn’t pregnant.
They say it’s fun to try, well not so much for us. It became stressful, confusing, sad, disappointing and down right unsexy. Legs in the air, pillows under butt, maybe legs propped up to chest is better? How about the time my husband carried me upside down from the couch, down the stairs and on to the bed so I could go to sleep post sexy time but without gravity ruining our chances to make a babe. It got a little wild in our household, Mark was feeling the pressure, we fought about it and soon it had been a year of us trying to get pregnant with number 2. Meanwhile I was obsessively googling EVERYTHING about age gaps between children, fertility and breastfeeding, peeing on pregnancy sticks and getting the Internet lingo down for peeing on a stick BFN= big fat negative and BFP= big fat positive. I read some press stories about how I was pregnant with number 2. I wished.
I probably spent close to a thousand dollars on fancy ovulation packets, pregnancy tests, progesterone creams, fertility teas etc. yet month after month a very sad looking BFN.
Then there was that cruel month when OMG is that a very very faint BFP??! Yes it was, cut to 3 of the most blissed out weeks of my life, would it be another boy? A girl? “Bodhi who’s in mummy’s belly?” I know they say wait till 13 weeks to tell people but what the heck? I’m going to share it around to my friends early because I’m just too excited. Then came the absolute kick in the guts- we went to the doc for our heartbeat ultrasound. Bodhi was with us, we filmed with excitement. “I’m so sorry but there is no baby”. I stared at the screen, willing to see something. But they were going to be 26 months apart, baby was going to be a Taurus, I had my meeting with the doula scheduled for tomorrow?! My husband, Bodhi and I looked around that little room and all cried together. A Molar Pregnancy. Never heard of it. Basically everyone drops a crappy egg at one point in their life and my body did and of course it was the month we finally conceived.
So you have the symptoms of being pregnant but really it’s just a potentially cancerous tumor that grows, no baby. The word Chemotherapy got thrown at me as I was whisked in to an operating theatre. It was all a blur. I soldiered through the only way I’ve known how, I cried myself to sleep for a few days, sheepishly texted those I’d told and let them know that we were no longer expecting Bodhi’s new sibling. I was slightly comforted by the fact that it was never a baby in the first place since my egg had no DNA however the idea of it being a baby was very real for me. I had to break up with the idea of who that baby would be. Four days later I had to start filming a movie in Berlin. So I had to move on, no other choice. I had to be monitored weekly with blood tests to check to see if the tumor would grow back but thankfully my HCG numbers dropped rapidly enough and I didn’t need any chemo. One blessing there.
So here I am 5 months past MP nightmare. It’s the new year and I am feeling positive, alive and excited, but only because I have had to shift my thinking. Here’s the thing I haven’t yet shared- throughout this whole process I have still been breastfeeding by avidly nursing toddler throughout the night and day. My doc had told me to think about weaning before I tried to conceive again and told me that technically we haven’t been struggling with infertility because well we’ve still been breastfeeding and that is known to inhibit fertility (in some woman not all) the high level of prolactin which makes the milk, suppresses the progesterone levels, the hormone that makes it possible for a fertilized egg to implant in the uterus. So month after month we may not be able to implant because of the breastfeeding. I thought because I had my period each month that I was fully fertile. In fact I didn’t even realize until further testing that woman can actually get their period but not in fact be ovulating at all. So there I had it! I could wean immediately and get pregnant faster (worked for majority of my friends) OR keep trying until B and I are ready to end our breastfeeding journey, but that could mean not getting pregnant for another year or so.
The lesson I learned was that universe works the way it wants to and for me I know that I’m not willing to wean my child just to get pregnant. I’m committing to child led weaning and therefore my “expectations” and “plans” go out the window and I’m looking at another beautiful gift of the wisdom in letting go of the control. Giving over to the experience I’m currently having, staying present and allowing what will be to happen. It was a hard lesson initially but to lean in to that has been the most healing journey so far and I feel the obsessiveness alike away. Literally MOST of my friends are now pregnant and it feels so wonderful being able to truly enjoy their journey from afar without the anguish, fear and attachment surrounding having another baby. I trust that I will be pregnant again when both my body and Bodhi are ready to welcome new life and I will embrace the timing as the perfect moment for all of us.
UPDATE: Two months after I wrote this article I FELL PREGNANT with a beautiful little boy!! I decided to day wean, one week of doing that and I was pregnant! We have seen our sweet little guy a bunch of times now during the ultrasound and by the time you are reading this I will be 14 weeks pregnant! I couldn’t be happier AND I had secretly wanted another little boy, I feel overjoyed and blessed. What a journey it has been.