What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Born and raised in the Caribbean, I can’t remember ever being given over-the-counter or prescriptions drugs to cure a cold, help with a headache, or soothe a scrape. All of our remedies were homeopathic and our medicines found in either our backyard or that of a neighbor.
In my grandmother’s yard, there were (to name a few) bananas, avocado, passion fruit, aloe, West Indian cherries, and soursop — a superfood fruit that has been said to prevent and cure cancer. There were a gaggle of different grasses and bushes, including lemon grass, that my grandmother would pick for tea, and a particular leaf she would wet and rub in our armpits when were musty. And when I say our I mean my cousins and me.
There were three of us kids and seven adults in my grandmother’s four-bedroom, one-bathroom house. Our water was delivered into a cistern, so it had to be rationed. We couldn’t afford to heat that water, so we would boil it for baths or take cold showers. We had no air conditioning to get us through the insufferable heat, no car, little money, and louvered windows without screens to protect us from critters like tarantulas, which crawled into the house often.
My grandmother worked at the elementary school I attended, my mother worked wherever she could, my late aunt worked for an airline, my late uncle worked for the governor, and my other late uncle was mentally unsound, so he never worked. My uncles were an alcoholic and drug addict, respectively, and didn’t contribute much to the household.
So, the women held it all together.
They taught my cousins and me how to cook, clean, sew, and live off the fat of the land. All of our food was freshly prepared and fast food wasn’t a thing on our 30-mile island. When we got our one-and-only McDonald’s back in the early '80s, no one knew what to do with its “nasty American food,” as my mother called it. We had our own culture, our own way of life and we didn’t care to understand how people on the mainland did things, with their fast food and pills for every ailment. We didn’t have much money, but we didn’t need much, and when one of us got sick, it was nothing a couple teaspoons of castor oil and a cup of, what my grandmother called bush tea, couldn’t fix.
Thirty years later and over 3,400 miles away, things have changed, then, changed again. Today, I prefer to seek homeopathic remedies to manufactured chemical drugs, and you couldn’t pay me to roll through a McDonald’s at this stage in my life, but I’ve ripped through thousands of Filet-O-Fishes in my teen years and in my twenties. I’ve done my share of pill popping during those years and subscribed to a lifestyle that has become more commonplace around the world.
Fast this, instant that.
But, I returned to my island roots when I married another islander, back in 2011. Our house was filled with the sounds of Bob Marley and the smell of fresh, home cooked Caribbean food, every day. We had indigenous ingredients shipped in from the West Indies and because of his Rastafarian religion and lifestyle, I became a pescatarian for a year and a half. My body thrived during this time and now, years after our divorce, I am so grateful to him for having brought me back to myself.
This is the version of me my partner has come to know over the years, and I’m sure I annoy him with all my natural, non-toxic stuff, but I mean well. I’m all about teas and roots, oils and energy. I am obsessed with my beauty, which translates into an obsession with health and happiness, which to me is what makes people beautiful. So, over the past several months that we have been preparing for pregnancy, I have carried on with my belief that natural is best. And for the past several months, that belief and its practices have continued to work for me, until now.
I read that taking evening primrose oil (EPO) could help produce an excess of egg white cervical mucus (EWCM), ideal for conception. So, a couple months ago, I started taking the supplement at the start of my cycle and stopped taking it upon ovulation, as recommended. Simultaneously, I also stopped drinking the Woman’s Moon Cycle tea and my Maca Lattes, just incase we conceived during that time. None of these are recommended for pregnant women.
Well, sure enough, soon after I stopped taking the EPO, I noticed an increase in cervical mucus, though I’m not sure how egg-whitey is was, but, it was abundant. That’s the upside. The downside is that I think it caused over a week of mid-cycle bleeding and horrible cramps.
Christ on a cracker.
Initially, upon scouring the Internet to see what could be causing the cramps and mid-cycle bleeding, I found nothing about Maca Root or Moon Cycle tea causing this in other women. It took me a couple days to remember I had been taking EPO, and when I looked it up, I found post after post of women suffering from the same side effects. Well, needless to say, that’s the end of my relationship with EPO! To counteract its effects on my hormones, I continued using the Maca Root to regulate my cycle, again, which worked. And as I’m doing this, there is my partner, just shaking his head, supporting me in my compulsiveness.
I find it comforting to be taking this journey with an old friend. I find it soothing to know that we’re in this together, for better or worse. I like that he stands by me (sometimes giggling) as I mix my teas and roots, swallowing my oils, determined to prepare my body for baby, as if it’s not already prepared. It makes me smile when I think of how he has coped with my Virgo anxieties and excessive planning, and doesn't say, “I told you so,” when something I try doesn’t work out, like the EPO. It eases me to know that I am supported during this journey by my love and others who love me, because as long as I’m happy, they’re happy.
I can’t wait until our baby can feel this.
In the interim, as we head into Christmas and the New Year, we’re gearing up to come out of our preparation stage and head into our official trying to conceive (TTC) stage. Over the past several months, we have both prepared ourselves by reducing our stress and workloads, improving our diets, setting sound financial and lifestyle goals, and just enjoying this time together. We know that TTC can take some time and we are certainly not in a rush.
It will happen when it happens.
But, as part of making this transition, I will be taking time away from xoJane and my lifestyle website, The Gorgeous Girl’s Guide, as well as social media and just about everything else. I will return just after the New Year with TTC updates and hopefully soon, some very good news. Thank you for coming along on this journey with me. I hope to see you all back here is three weeks, especially those of you who are hoping for also preparing for pregnancy in 2017.