Recently I a few women have asked me how I managed to have a natural healthy pregnancy, birth and postpartum at forty years old, after my history of hormone problems? Even though I suggest to women to take a year to properly prepare your body for a baby, my journey actually started twenty two years earlier.
So at 18, after stepping into my first relationship, I marched into the family planning clinic and asked for a diaphragm. The nurse looked at me quizzically, “don’t you rather want to go on the Pill?”. I was clear, no hormonal stuff, I wanted a diaphragm, which is what I eventually got. It was fiddly and not great for spontaneity, but it worked. I was happy with my choice. But of course once one becomes sexually active you need to go for Pap smears. So off I went to a nice sounding female gynae. She spent the whole session trying to convince me to go on the contraceptive pill to regulate my periods. I was adamant this was not going to happen. She spent each of three sessions gas lighting me with the fear that it was going to protect me from ovarian cancer and that I was irresponsible not to take it. I eventually gave in. Surely this woman must know what she is talking about right?
The first few months on the pill were a reprieve from my PMS moods, but the next three months were simply terrifying. Even though I started to put on weight and feeling fatigued that wasn’t the main issue. The scary part was the rage! The uncontrollable, fearsome, screaming banshie rage. I was simply terrified of myself. I felt like I could throw someone through the window any moment. So that highly hazardous packet ended up in the bin fast. So I learnt first hand that messing with your hormones was a really bad idea. Yes Mom, you were right.
Weirdly my period did not come back for months and when it did my PMS was worse than ever before.
In the meantime I had started going to belly dance classes. Standing in the dance studio, staring at my bare nineteen year old belly in the mirror, I felt more like an awkward fawn than a female. I didn’t like what i saw or how I moved, I didn’t feel at all comfortable, yet for some reason something kept drawing me back. I was desperate to be able to move like my gorgeous graceful teacher. At this time my digestive system was struggling badly. My belly would easily bloat up to 5 months pregnant. I hated my body. I hated the way it looked and how it made my life so miserable. And I hated my hormones. Embarrassingly my PMS outbursts often spilled over into the dance class. It was horrible. One day I stormed out the class crying and shouting that “I have the body of a forty year old!”, which at the time seemed really really old.
A few years later I was diagnosed with over-active candida and annovulation. After turning vegetarian at 14 (for ethical reasons) I had been living on wheat, cheese and sugar. I was motivated to take the difficult dive into my first candida detox, desperately hoping it would help solve my bloating tummy and my “weight problem”. I definitely lost weight and it helped with the chronic constipation for a few months. Some homeopathics and a 3 month course of natural progesterone cream quickly invited my period back and subdued my horrific PMS story temporarily. And even though I stopped sugar and wheat for life, the next five years was still a roller coaster of digestive issues, insomnia, eating disorders, weight fluctuations, fatigue, on and off periods and pretty cray cray mood swings.
But it wasn’t just that. The really scary part was the anxiety and panic attacks that would creep up on me out of nowhere. There was never any ‘reason’ for them in the moment. I wasn’t worrying about anything. I would just start feeling dizzy as if I was leaving my body and this surge of mental, emotional and physical overwhelm would move through me. That was terrifying. My perception was completely skewed and I felt like I couldn’t trust myself.
At 26 I spent two months unable to sleep more than 3 hours a night. I crashed – hard! Next thing I knew my friends mother bundled me up and swooped me off to her peaceful home for a month. Wray Whyte happened to own the internationally reknowned organic natural progesterone company Natpro (which she started after healing her own hormone horror story). Wray dosed me up on l’tryptophan to get me sleeping . She lathered me in progesterone cream, made me drinks filled with amino acids, vitamin B’s and adaptogen herbs, and of course she fed me the most fantastic grounding organic food. She even convinced me to eat organic chicken for that month. Wray was convinced a small amount of animal products was key to hormone health.
I quickly landed in my body. I could breathe. I could relax. I could sleep. It was as if someone lifted a thick translucent veil and I could perceive the world from my center for the first time. My energy levels returned within days. My mind slowed down and my brain began to function again. All sense of food cravings or eating disorders left the building. I had not idea that this is what it felt like to be in your body.
I soon made myself useful as Wray’s assistant, lapping up the fountain of wisdom that flowed from her lips – hormone wisdom! I learnt that my big issue was my hormones, ta da! I learned about estrogen dominance and endocrine disruptors. I quickly replaced all my petrochemical body products with simple nourishing organic ones. Looking through her astounding library we started a discussion about bipolar disorder (which a therapist had suggested to my mother that I may be suffering from in my teens – clearly she hadn’t heard of PMDD). Wray agreed with the late Dr Katherina Dalton, that mental disorders such as bipolar may well have their roots in a hormone imbalance.
I left Wray’s safe nest with the knowledge that taking care of my sleep and my hormones was key for my health and sanity. I continued to use the natural progesterone cream.
But two years later I was still struggling with many symptoms including fatigue. I was handed adaptogen herbs again and this time really paid attention. After a month I realized they were a game changer. My energy levels doubled during the day and my sleep improved at night. Around the same time my best friend introduced the raw food lifestyle to South Africa.
This was the next big piece of my puzzle. I had been living on cooked food most of my life. By getting my digestive enzyme levels up I could eat plates of organic raw food. It was the first time I really felt satiated. I didn’t spend my day thinking about what I was going to eat next, I could actually go more than three hours without getting hungry! And my energy levels increased even more. I dived into rawfoodism feet first. And after three years I woke up one morning craving fish. I soon became a regular at the local sushi bar and later reintroduced some steamed veggies, which felt so soothing to my still ‘not quite right’ belly.
My thirties was my time of working on my emotional story. I went to many different practitioners and teachers including the beautiful Fiona Almeleh. I worked through layers and layers of self-judgement, ripples of lineage stories and hoards of shame and guilt. I was desperate to feel comfortable in my own skin.
Books like The Return of the Feminine World Soul by Llewellyn Vaughan Lee helped me to realize than so much of my story was also the story of millions of other women. I realized why women, especially mothers, are dealing with levels of stress that are simply beyond humane. It’s the structure of our patriarchal society. We were told that strength is shown by individualism but humans only thrive in community! Not only are we suppressed by capitalism but we have lost the village, and we have a lot of healing to do to reknit our much needed sisterhood back together again. Women have always supported each other until we weren’t allowed to a few hundred years ago. Together with my two best friends we healed layers and layers of sisterhood trauma.
And of course as the body mirrors everything I still had some physical healing to do. At 38 I was finally diagnosed with Ecoli based SIBO. After 2 months of the SIBO cleanse (not the easiest process), I finally felt my true healthy self for the first time. I couldn’t believe the change. My belly stopped bloating completely (unless I ate something dodgy of course) and I could sleep deeply. My energy levels were great during the day and being grounded became my new normal. It was almost surreal.
A few months later someone handed me a bottle of wonderful organic hemp CBD to trial. After a month a fell pregnant yet only a year later did I discover the amazing repair work CBD does on our mitochondria, which is why it’s amazing for upgrading our quality of fertility.
Having my daughter at 40 was the best possible time for me. I had so much to heal and so much to learn before she came. I feel truly blessed that I am able to be fully present for her each day. And I am grateful for the fact I had learnt how to take care of myself properly beforehand, something that all mothers really struggle with unless it has been deeply ingrained.
I hope you found this helpful in some way. As I say to my clients, what took me 22 years can easily be done in one year.
I have culminated my years of research into the Hormone Wisdom course to support you in your fertility journey.
Love and Blessings