So there we are. It had been decided. I wanted a baby. Pretty sure, anyway. Scared as hell, but yeah – let’s do it. We’d been…not trying, but not blocking…for a year and a half and nothing was taking hold. I’d come to think everything was a symptom of pregnancy, and if you read the online forums, everything is. I felt a little dizzy – so did Charlotte when she became pregnant in 2009. My pinky toe went numb – so did Sara’s when she was 4 weeks along.
Oh my god, maybe I’m pregnant! I’d think, every other month, running off for yet another test. No, Rachel. You’re just obsessive. After a while, I began to think that obsession was blocking progress.
I’d been tracking my ovulation with the Glow app for over a year, and studied the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility, to no avail. (That being said, I highly recommend this book, whether you’re looking to get pregnant or avoid pregnancy. It contains the most elemental and useful information about a woman’s reproductive system and fertility management. I’m shocked it’s not universally taught in schools).
Noel was convinced my uterus was twisted from years of hiking and backpacking (or as he says “andando como un chibo por todos lados”). His sister had resolved her infertility issues with a particular massage years before. And so in October, we ended up in Tepoztlán searching for a midwife.
After a year of failed attempts, many women would go directly to a modern fertility specialist. For us a midwife was the first choice, in part because native medicine is Noel’s path, and in part because I always prefer to attempt natural remedies as a first course. And then there’s the fact that it’s significantly less expensive than chemical treatments. I also tend to believe that if something has been practiced for millennia across thousands of cultures, there’s probably something to it.
By some miracle we managed to get an appointment with one of Mexico’s most famous midwifes. My treatment consisted of a massage – around my abdomen and down my legs – and a simultaneous warming of my ovaries. This was done by the midwife’s apprentice who swirled what looked like two burning cigars mere centimeters above my skin.
I don’t know if you’ve ever watched someone hold a lit cigarette or the likes just above your skin, as you try to lay very still, but the more time passes, the more unnerving it becomes. Just how experienced is this chica? I asked myself. Any second now she is going to get distracted and an ash is going to drop on my sweet, soft skin! Fifteen minutes passed without incident. Until the midwife hit on a knot in my calf, causing me to squeal and jump, grazing the cigar.
“Yeeeooowww!” I yelped.
“Aye, mi hija! Necesitas relajarte!”
As if having bratwurst-sized sticks burning centimeters from your skin was a common practice that I should be habitualized to.
After the prehispanic torture session the midwife went into her garden and cut several different herbs for us, instructing us to soak them in a 1:1 combination of local honey and mezcal – about a liter in total – for five days. This I would need to drink one shot of every morning until I finished the concoction.
“Well thats certainly a medicine I can swallow!” I said to Noel.
Mezcal, massages, burning incense sticks above the skin: all of these may seem like disreputable methods for increasing fertility. I was willing to keep an open mind, however. This woman had been the midwife of several of our own friends, we’d come to discover, and had been invited as far as the University of London and Russia to teach courses on midwifery. More than anything though, it was her knowledge, confidence, and how incredibly comfortable I felt with her that gave me faith.
We took the ingredients home and followed her instructions, dutifully downing a shot every morning. I continued practice of the Fertility Awareness Method, and added in one other herbal supplement I’d self-prescribed based on certain symptoms.
One month later, in November, I finished the midwife’s concoction. By early December I was pregnant. It appears mezcal and Mexican medicine have once again blessed my life.
What are your thoughts on natural versus modern fertility remedies? I’d love to hear your fertility stories, questions, and frustrations in the comments below.