Category Archives: Infertility

Herbs for Your Reproductive Tract

by Paula Youmell, RN

Herbs are amazing, healing tools because herbs are whole foods.  Whole foods nourish each and every cell in your body. 

Whole food eating means feeding our bodies the way nature intended.  This means eating foods in their natural state, as close to the perfectly “whole” state in which nature provides them.  This also means following the natural growing seasons and eating more foods that are locally grown and produced, in season. Whole food nutrition is eating in balance, which in turn keeps the body in balance.  Foods grown naturally develop with the right proportion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats intended for that particular food.  They contain balanced vitamins, minerals, phyto-nutrients, and enzymes. This natural balance for each food ensures that the body can properly utilize the nutrients. 

The effects of moving away from our whole food diet and eating a refined, processed, and convenience food diet are very prevalent in our society.  (Ask me for my educational handout titled Whole Food Eating for an easy introduction to healing body cells with whole food nutrition, pyoumell@gmail.com)

One of the biggest tragedies of human civilization is the precedents of chemical therapy over nutrition.  It is substitution of artificial therapy over natural, of poison over food, in which we are feeding people poisons trying to correct the reactions of starvation.    Dr. Royal Lee

As a culture, we have created the same scenario with our healing medicines, including those for healing the female body.  We have moved away from whole, natural medicines to the processed, refined, factory made pharmaceuticals that upset balance in the human body.  Just as refined, factory made food products upset the body’s natural balance.

Herbs, whether ingested as a medicinal infusion, taken as a tincture or in any other form of herbal medicine, are whole foods.  The nutrients in the herbs: vitamins, minerals, phyto-nutrients, and the nutrients yet to be discovered, are utilized by the body cells to cleanse, nourish, and heal each and every body cell.  Herbs specific for the female reproductive tract are nourishing to the reproductive organ’s cells.

So often we get the message from main stream media and medicine:  Do NOT use herbs as they are potentially dangerous.  This is as crazy as saying that eating beets, apples, or any other natural, whole food is potentially dangerous.

When we eat a beet, an apple, some broccoli, or any whole food, our body digests and absorbs the nutrients in the whole food to nourish our cellular health.  The same process of digestion and assimilation of nutrients happens with herbs.  Herbs are whole food; herbs are healing medicine.

Herbs are plants (leaf, root, stems, bark, berries, seeds), like a beet or an apple, that have nutritional and healing properties with affinities for certain tissues.

Stinging-Nettle-Image

Herbs for female health are many and each has its own healing purpose.  Used in combination, they create powerful healing energy in the female body.

Some excellent female healing herbs are:

  • Stinging nettles
  • Red raspberry leaf
  • Wild yam
  • Chaste tree berry
  • Motherwort
  • Red clover flower
  • False unicorn root
  • Passion flower
  • Don quai root
  • Wild carrot
  • Ginger
  • Blue and Black cohosh
  • Squaw vine
  • Black haw
  • Yarrow
  • Pennyroyal
  • Mugwort
  • Partridge vine

These herbs balance female hormones, tone and heal the female organs, and add nutrients to every cell in your body.

A simple healing tea I used to make for my roommate, many years ago before I had become a certified herbalist, to ease her menstrual cramps:  chamomile tea with 30 drops of black or blue cohosh tincture.  When she moved into her own apartment, just up the street, she would call me every month and ask me to bring her a jar of this cramp relief tea.

For specifics on which herbs to use for your personal needs, contact an herbalist in your area.  In the Potsdam, NY area?  Give me a shout.

Herbs for healing other organs: (Just to remind you how amazing herbs really are!)

  • Saw palmetto for the prostate
  • Hawthorne berry for the heart
  • Rhubarb root for the colon
  • Milk thistle for the liver
  • Nettle as a general nutritive herb (Yes, I truly love nettles!)
  • Dandelion and burdock root for liver cleansing and nourishment

The list of herbs and the cells / organs they nourish goes on and on.  These are just a very few example of herbs and the cells / organ they have affinities to nourish and promote healing. This healing action happens because the herb adds whole food nutrition to your body cells.  This is the same thing a beet does; feeds your body cells.

Stinging nettles are my favorite herb!  Nettles are a power house of nutrition and healing energy for the whole body.  I add nettles to every combination herbal formula I create. Use nettles in your female healing remedies!

With that said, I recommend you read up on the herb you want to ingest for its nourishing, medicinal abilities.  Learn about the herb and its healing affinities before you make the decision to take it.  Contact your local herbalist for help in choosing the right herb or blend of herbs to add to your whole food dietary plan to promote personal health and healing.

Words from a happy client that demonstrates my point about herbs and whole body healing; that body cells are nourished by ingesting herbs:

Thanks Paula! The herbs you recommended for my peri-menopausal symptoms have really helped! No more migraines, moodiness, or horrible night sweats. After years of challenging health symptoms, I am very happy to be healing with whole foods, including female healing herbs.  Sherry B.

Herbs are whole foods.  Use them wisely for healing your female energy and whole body healing.  Blessings of health, Paula

Red clover flower and Red raspberry leave, combined with my favorite herb: Stinging nettles, are the three herbs I recommend for a fertility infusion to drink daily.

Paula Youmell is an RN, author, holistic healer, and blogger who thrives in northern NY State, USA.  Learn more about her healing lifestyle at www.HandsOnHealthHH.com, http://www.wholefoodhealer.com, or http://www.wisewomenredtent.com

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Filed under and Hormone Cycle, blood, growing up, healing, Infertility, Menopause, menstruation, miscarriage, mooncycle, motherhood, PMS, Reproductive Health, sex

What IF?

By Keiko Zoll (from Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed, April 25, 2010)

I was so inspired by so many of the questions raised in the Phase One of #ProjectIF that I couldn’t pick just one to respond to. I saw this as a collective lamentation laid bare for the world to see. So many of these questions have flittered through and lingered in my brain at one point or another in our journey that I simply had to include them all. My hope is that this video captures the “everydayness” that is coping with infertility. So, here is my response to #Project IF. More about my thoughts on #ProjectIF below the video.

What IF I can’t pick myself back up after each setback?
I have seen the gamut of human experience and emotion this week. I’ve been going for Iron Commenter for ICLW, my first time trying it. I’ve read so much already – for every small victory: Aunt Flo still hasn’t shown up, a successful transfer, social workers secured- there are just as many crushing setbacks: empty yolk sacs, canceled IUIs, no matured blasts, the birthmother backed out. I’ve read and commented on just over half of this month’s participating blogs so far, and the sheer variety and depth of experiences is humbling, overwhelming, and at times, comforting. When you find someone, an otherwise stranger to you, who is going through nearly the same experiences, positive or otherwise, there is instant kinship between you and she, somewhere in the mix of wires and signals and binary code. In this mess of electronic tangles, we find connection.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far in this year of coping, crying, laughing, and learning, it’s that the road through infertility is indeed a bumpy one, and sometimes we diverge so far off course we hardly even recognize where we are anymore or from where we’ve come. All we know is that we are weary from the journey.

My hope in making this video was to answer this question above, to inspire those struggling with any aspect of IF to find the strength to press on, to find peace, to remain inspired and to remind them to be true to themselves.

What IF I got rid of the anonymity and put a real name and a real face to a story of IF?
Like most ventures on the internet, I got scared of putting my real name out there, much less my face. I hid behind my Hebrew name because it was convenient, and I think because in many ways, I was still ashamed, angry, and bitter at my diagnosis. Over this past year, I have grown and learned so much. I wouldn’t say I’ve healed completely, but I’ve let go of a lot of baggage and realized that I can only move forward with my life if I allow myself to do so. I have found and met amazing people on the internet and in real life who understand this struggle. And I realized that legislators don’t care about internet pseudonyms. They care about constituents with names, verifiable addresses, and most of all, votes.

So, allow me to introduce myself, dear readers:

Hi. I’m Keiko Zoll. *waves* Yes, my Hebrew name is Miriam. (I’m still the same old Miriam, but you can call me Keiko. I wasn’t kidding when I said I was half-Japanese.) Yes, I’m 27 years old and yes, I live in Boston, MA. I still love food, travel, camping, scrapbooking, and playing a ridiculous amount of Modern Warfare 2. 

I live and cope with my infertility every single day, but I refuse to let it bring me down.

I’m taking this a step further. As I mentioned in my post about National Infertility Awareness Week, I posed a challenge to folks reading this blog to out themselves out of the IF closet on Facebook, Twitter, their blogs- wherever. Not only am I doing this myself tomorrow via my FB status message, but I’m sharing this video on my Facebook profile and Twitter accounts too.

What IF my video can help erase some of the stigma surrounding infertility, and give a voice to millions who may be otherwise silent?

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Filed under Hannah Wept Sarah Laughed, Infertility, Keiko Zoll

The hardest letter to write

By Keiko Zoll (Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed, November 10, 2009)

Dear-

Well, this leaves me at an impasse. I’m writing a letter to someone I have never met, never named.

Let’s try this again, shall we?

. . .

I began this letter as an exercise in grief, in letting go. The goal was simple: write a letter to the genetic child I’ll never have – a textbook psychotherapy homework assignment. Each time I would craft some eloquent opening in my head, rolling it around on my tongue without committing to speak it aloud or put it to paper. I would have these passing thoughts like express trains, blurring past the local stops leaving a windy wake and the knowledge that a thought had passed through this station without stopping, intent on the same ultimate destination.

Each time I thought of crafting this letter, I would be a few sentences in when I realized I would jump right into the body of the letter and neglect the greeting. I was addressing a letter to an unnamed child, always resulting in an awkward two-sentence false start. Before I could commit to anything more than those two sentences, I went on happy tangential daydreams thinking of names. I think this is exactly what they mean when folks mention “that twinkle in your mother’s eye.” That twinkle is possibility, and what drives us is giving that possibility a name. It’s like putting a lasso around the unknown: “I don’t know what my child will look like, but I’ve got a name for them.”

Infertility aside, I have no idea what my child will look like. Even if we could make a baby the old fashioned way, there’s no way to predict the way mine and my husband’s genetics would combine visually. After our vacation in Japan, I ached for an adorable little Japanese baby with their rubbed-the-wrong-way static electric hair. I am genuinely curious to see what a quarter-Japanese child would look like, rather, wanting to know what my quarter-Japanese baby would look like. Would he have big ears like his daddy? Would she have soft skin like her mommy? In the end, I don’t know and for the first time on this crazy ride, I’m okay with not knowing.

Genetically, I’ve got some real beasts I’d potentially pass down: thyroid problems, obesity, a history of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in my extended family, not to mention my own infertility issues. How cruel would it be to pass on my infertility to my daughter? It’s just not ethical. But my thick dark hair, my rich brown eyes, and my high cheekbones: these are lost. My seemingly petite mouth and almond shaped eyes that can portray a myriad of exaggerated facial expressions at a given moment: those unique faces that are genetically passed down with the same facial muscle structuring (“oh he looks just like his mother when he laughs” or “she has her mommy’s smile”) – this legacy of visual expression is lost. I grieve for this face that should have been.

I grieve for this now lost moment when I look in my child’s face and see myself, really see my genes and my visual characteristics. I grieve knowing that from an evolutionary standpoint, I didn’t make the cut. I deeply grieve the loss of a child that is part me, part my husband, from their very fundamental genetic makeup. I grieve for the misplaced miracle in utero, where the very essence of me and my soulmate are joined by cosmic biology, a Darwinian leap of faith.

I hold this image of you tight in my arms: I smell your hair and stroke your cheek and smile back at the smile that looks just like mine. I cradle your face in my hands as you balance on tiptoes to reach up to me. I kiss you on the forehead, and release you like so many cells and dust and stars into the cosmos.

. . .

But you are still out there.

. . .

When your father and I met, we recognized something in one another. I saw a part of myself in him and he in me, that recognition of an old soul long separated into many pieces, as if to say, “Hello, at last. I have found the part of my soul that has been missing all these years.” When we found each other, we fit our missing pieces together and found completion.

Or so we thought.

Let’s not kid ourselves: we were only fifteen at the time. We had a little growing up to do.

. . .

After a heaping tablespoon of the real world, we could maturely interpret and internalize just what it means to be soulmates. We wanted everyone to know and share in our joy with each other. We wanted to shout it to the rooftops and we did – we were surrounded by our loving family and so many dear friends as we told the world: “Here! Here is my heart, my joy, my breath! I have found the one in whom my soul delights.” We danced and danced and danced and as we each clung to a corner of a red napkin, hoisted high on the shoulders of those that love us, we were truly a reconnected old soul, laughing with joy and contentment.

The stars laughed with us that night.

. . .

What I have realized is that you are still out there. You are that little piece that has been missing from our souls and while it might take me a little time to find you, I know you’re out there. You may not look the way I thought you would, but I will love and welcome and cherish you just the same. And when your father sees you, he’ll remember you too and say smiling, “Hello at last, little one! We’ve been looking for you. Come, tell us of your travels! We have so much to share with you.”

I will look into your eyes and I will recognize you from so long ago, thankful that we’ve found you after all this time.

. . .

In the clear night sky, the stars hang hopeful.

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Filed under Hannah Wept Sarah Laughed, Infertility, Keiko Zoll, letter

You Asked, I Answer: Infertility Questions

By Keiko Zoll (Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed, August 27, 2011)

Our Infertility Journey So Far

Keiko and Larry, High School SweetheartsThat’s us from when we dated in high school, circa 1997 or 1998.

Where are you on your infertility path right now? Are you still leaning more towards a DE cycle than adoption at this point? And when can we look forward to your cycle?
There have been a few things since my last infertility journey update in June. Right now we are still leaning very heavily toward donor egg, although, and this is totally random: I may have ovulated on my own this week, but because I’m rocking the Zombie Leper Shingles, not so much with the sex this week. We are going to continue our “experiments in natural babymaking” again. And just in time for the hurricane: a light period. So no “we’re stuck inside and there’s nothing else to do” sex either. Awesome.

Right. So, still leaning toward donor egg but adoption is not off the table as a second option. The challenge right now is that everything depends on my insurance. I have, very luckily, rockin’ insurance that will cover basically half of our total costs. Right now, we’re looking at about $15K out of pocket.

The original game plan was to select a donor by the end of this year, get the ball rolling, and aim for an April/May transfer if everything went swimmingly. And right now, things are up in the air because I need to make a game plan should I leave my job, which is a very real possibility and soon. I promise next to my immediate family, my blog readers will be the first to know when things get off the ground.

How does your husband feel about you being so public about your emotions and your relationship? Has the blog affected your relationship? If so, how?

I started this blog as a way to cope and initially, wrote under a pseudonym. I’d ask, and then nag my husband: “Did you read my blog today?” Sometimes the answer was yes, of course, and other times he’d play catch up the same way I do with other blogs I follow. There’s a certain degree of self-censorship that occurs; rarely do I write about some of the more intimate details of say, our sex life. But I have written about some nasty fights.

When I broached the subject of doing my video and revealing my name and face, I of course ran it by him. He was more than supportive and has continued to be even more so since then. Larry gets that my blog is more than just dumping my emotions for the world to read (which yeah, a lot of times it can be). He gets that this fuels a sense of impassioned personal fulfillment for me. And that as much as this blog is my space, Larry is very much a part of it. Sometimes, I even let him write here (and I hope to have him do it more in the future).

It’s hard to say if this blog has affected our relationship; it certainly factors into our life together, say, watching an episode of Castle together versus writing a blog post. Larry understands that my blog has become a platform for me to finally start figuring out just what the heck I want to do with my life, and in being supportive of me, my goals, and this blog, then it’s fair to say that yes, in that sense, my blog has affected our relationship for the better.

Infertility Support & Resources

Keiko Baby PictureMe at three months old. Chubby cheeks you could pinch right off.

I am unfamiliar with the donor egg process. How do you choose donor eggs? Do they have photos of potential donors? Are there specific requirements that you and your husband have for the potential donor?

There’s definitely a lot to answer in this one question. So first, let me point you to a couple of posts that might be helpful. The first is this helpful overview of the donor egg process from RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association. The second is a mish-mash of helpful info from RESOLVE of New England’s Donor Egg Decision-Making Seminar back in June, that I live-tweeted. The third is a post I wrote early last year about wrapping my brain around choosing donor egg as our option: A Donor For Your Thoughts. That post might help answer how we chose donor eggs.

As far as what we’re looking for in a donor… we’re looking at three basic characteristics:

  1. Brunette
  2. Caucasian*
  3. College educated with good academic history

That’s pretty much it. The * indicates that ideally, we’d love a donor of Japanse or Asian descent, as I’m half-Japanese. And to make things in a really nice neat little bow, it would be awesome if she were Jewish. But finding a Japanese-Jewish donor is a bit of a challenge, so we’ll settle on those top three for now.

Keiko, I’m a twenty three year old woman who desperately wants to conceive someday. I have poly-cystic ovarian syndrome and have been told that I’ll likely never have children of my own. Help.

First of all, I just want to say that I’m so sorry you’ve gotten this diagnosis. PCOS can be a very overwhelming disease when you’re first diagnosed, but take solace in knowing there is a huge online community out there for support and education.

So here’s my advice.

  • Do you like your doctor? Trust them? Feel comfortable at your appointments? If not, consider seeking a second-opinion from a doctor you are more comfortable with. You want to make sure that not only you have an accurate diagnosis, but a professional who’s willing to work with you whom you trust.
  • Do your homework, but do it in moderation. It’s easy to don the Dr. Google hat and get sucked into the self-diagnosis and worrying vortex. Pick up a couple of trusted PCOS resources. Check out a few online communities. But give yourself only an hour or less a day to do it- you don’t want to overwhelm yourself.
  • From what I know of PCOS, diet plays heavily into the disease, so it’s worth making an appointment with a nutritionist. I know there are also implications for other health issues so you want to make sure you’re giving your body the best nutrition you can.
  • Find other PCOS bloggers. Read their blogs, reach out, and connect with them. And find those online PCOS communities – I know they’re out there.
  • Seek out IRL support, too. Whether it’s a private therapist, a clergy member, a friend you can count on, or even a support group – it’s important to talk about how it’s affecting you emotionally.

That’s all I’ve really got. Since I was originally diagnosed with PCOS in 2000 but then went to college and had my head up my ass, I don’t actually have any good PCOS resources off-hand. I’m more in the POF/POI camp at this point. That said, I know I have many readers here who are in the PCOS boat.

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Filed under adoption, Hannah Wept Sarah Laughed, Infertility, Keiko Zoll, Reproductive Health