The Pregnancy Project: 8 Tips on First Pregnancies, Motherhood Preps, and Fertility Doctors

HOPE-ia na, EXPECTorant pa. 

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This was me ever since I got married in August 2014. One of the things that my parents and my in laws told us during the wedding reception messages was not to leave the honeymoon bed without giving them their first grandchild. We also wanted the same: to build our family. We tried our best. We “worked hard.” (Sort of!) The first year of marital adjustment flew by with its requisite struggles. I even worked from home to lessen the stress of commute.

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Some women these days now have the option not to raise children and I highly respect these women for taking a stand like this. But I am one of those who really wanted to have a baby and experience becoming a mother. We were both 29 when we got married.

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This post is not for those normal and “amazonic” women who find it easy to get pregnant. This is for women like me who needed a little extra help in the fertility department— busy women, women who are entering their thirties or forties who are racing against their biological clock, women with specific health conditions that hinder their fertility, and all those women who have been pressured by their own or other people’s excessive eagerness. Every pregnancy is a different experience, but here are some of the things that helped me. I am opening up about my experience and providing these tips in the hopes that it will help other women like me.

8. Relax and calm the hell down.

This is the first and hardest tip of all. I think that apart from what other people expect from me and my husband, my very own extreme eagerness to try to conceive (or TTC as they call it in most online women’s forum posts) worked against me.

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Each time that my period gets delayed by a few days, I’d rush to the nearest drugstore and pee on a stick. (Take it from me: it will have two distinct lines on the pee test if you’re positive no matter what time of day you pee.) It came to a point where I threw away an entire box of negative pregnancy test kits because I no longer wanted to think about it. At the back of my mind, I was already thinking “May mali ba sa akin? Baog ba ako? Baog ba siya? Baog ba kaming pareho? Mag-aampon na ba kami? Magkano kaya ang in vitro fertilization?”  The struggle is real. I was overthinking it.  One day, I just got fed up with all the pressure. I still wanted to have a kid but I removed the compulsive need to have a baby bump. I explored my own intentions. I prayed, did some calming yoga exercises, and assured myself over and over again that it will happen in the right time if it’s meant to happen. I also acknowledged that the world will not end if I don’t have a child.

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And the moment I stopped overthinking it, it finally happened. So, chill and enjoy life while you wait.

7. Take a moment to ignore the noise and ask yourself honestly: Is this really what YOU want?

It also did not help that we got numerous questions in almost every social gathering: “Ano ba, wala pa ba kayong nabubuo?”, “Asan na yung apo namin? Anong petsa na? Naiinip na kami!”, etc. It came to a point where I no longer wanted to attend reunions or gatherings just to avoid this question. On my best days, I just joke, laugh, and tell them “Papaano ba kasi, may seminar ka ba para diyan?” Even the most random of people will have the audacity to ask you, like the neighbor and vendor in the next street who asks me “Hindi ka pa ba nabubuntis?” every time I pass by her store. With gritted teeth, I shook my head at her every single time. I don’t even know basic things about her like when her birthday is but she feels like it’s her civic duty to ask me why I am not yet pregnant.

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Part of me felt offended, too. Is this really all I am reduced to now as a married woman, a fertile uterus for an embryo? Other people mean well. But honestly, they can take the fun out of the whole family building experience if you let them. Make sure that if you are trying to conceive, you are doing it because you and your husband genuinely want it, not because everybody else expects you to have it.

6. Lurk, engage, or get tips from like-minded women. 

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I specifically found a lot of comfort from the Two Week Wait community. I don’t post there but I read  positive pregnancy stories or testimonies of people who are in the same boat as I am. It’s really hard to avoid thinking about symptoms when they happen. Even the microscopic changes in my body are suddenly important and magnified. The truth is, the pregnancy symptoms and pre-menstrual symptoms are eerily similar. Your single friends, much as they love you, will only be bored to death about these details. People who easily get pregnant will just tell you that it’s easy even when it’s not like that for all women. Having like-minded people is essential for your sanity.

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5. Have a complete medical checkup and deal with your health issues. 

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This may seem overkill for some people, but I had three doctors due to my unique health circumstances: a therapist for my mood, a nutritionist/fertility doctor for my overall health (more on that later), and an OB-gynecologist. In addition to my mood swings, I had myoma or a small mass in my uterus, a thick endometrium or uterine lining, and polycystic ovarian syndrome which makes my menstrual cycle completely irregular. All these conditions collectively make it extra difficult for me to conceive. I was not healthy and I had to deal with all these health problems before my body can properly host another human being inside of it.

4. Consider a fertility work-up with an expert, and COOPERATE. 

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I had a fairy godfather for my pregnancy who helped with the baby dust, and he is a molecular nutritionist and physical rehabilitation expert, not an OB-gynecologist. My OB-gyne prescribed folic acid supplements to me. But in addition to this, I got a fertility work-up with the help of Dr. Richard Arceo. Since I was dealing with multiple health problems, I did not want to kill my kidneys with too much maintenance medication. With an open mind, we went to around ten sessions in his clinic in Quezon City. I became pregnant on the third month of our treatment with him. He helped balance my hormones with the help of nutritional supplements. Most of the treatments in this work-up are all herbal and natural, so I can still continue taking them even during my pregnancy. Because of his help in regulating my hormones, I also managed to ditch the maintenance medication for regulating my mood, which are class D drugs or certified fetus killers. He even knows my menstrual cycle better than I do because of his diligent charting of my symptoms. I highly recommend him. (Send me a tweet or DM to @hmbarr7 if you want to get Dr. Arceo’s complete details.)

3. Make the necessary lifestyle changes.

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Vitamins are not enough. With Dr. Arceo’s guidance, I avoided specific food groups that contribute to my mood swings and fertility issues. I tried to eat more fruits and vegetables, and avoided too much consumption of sweets and dairy. I also ate two boiled eggs per day to increase my folic acid intake. I established my weekly cheat days so as not to deprive myself. But this sacrifice was all worth it in the end.

2. Chart your cycle. 

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I downloaded an iPhone app called Period Diary or P.D. and I used it to log my menstrual cycle, symptoms, mood, and sexual activity. Some of the more industrious women even chart their basal body temperature daily. Based on the data I put in, the app notifies me about my ovulation phase or fertile days (what they call the “fertile window”) and in fact, it informed me when I was already 10 days delayed or late.

1. Make the necessary decisions and preparations. 

Once you get that positive result from urine or blood test, the final tip is to make the necessary preparations. I had my prenatal checkup as soon as I got a positive reading. I bought vitamins and took them religiously. I also began wearing more loose clothing and guiltlessly gave in to some of my food cravings. To help my baby be more healthy than I ever was, I also agreed with Dr. Arceo that I will breastfeed the baby when he or she comes out. Fortunately, Orange and Peach gave me an advanced Mother’s Day gift by sending over their breast milk storage bags and nasal aspirators.

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They also gave me MosRepel, a Taiwan-made mosquito repellant wristband containing all natural ingredients which can help protect me and my baby from the dreadful Zika virus. Each wristband’s protection lasts up to 240 hours and is a natural alternative to mosquito repelling lotions. Because conceiving is extra difficult for someone with my condition, I was also advised to rest at home during the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy. It was tough to embrace this requirement, but I am doing it now and hoping for the best.

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“The Pregnancy Project’ is not something that you check off your To Do list. It’s a combination of life decisions, lifestyle changes, personal sacrifices, optimism, and good timing. As Alma Moreno’s parody Twitter account had been notoriously known for, I can now say “I conceive!” But I truly know that this is only just the beginning of my journey as a first-time mother.

Orange & Peach + MosRepel

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