Fertility in your Forties / Honest Insight from Midland's Paige Appel
Paige Appel // Fertility in your forties
We’re honored to share Paige’s inspiring fertility journey with you all. Her determination and radical vulnerability are so commendable, and we couldn’t be more in awe of her strength in the process. We aim to make this platform a wealth of knowledge for all types of experiences in life, and Paige has some incredible insight to share.
Q & A
How you glow: We’ve been following your fertility and pregnancy journey for years and are so happy for your upcoming baby. We would love to know what you’ve learned along the way that women struggling with infertility themselves need to know.
Paige Appel: It has been a rocky journey for sure! I’ve learned so much in the last three years but I’m sure there is so much more to learn. Fertility and infertility are a fascinating study of not only the female body but of our environment, stress, spiritual life, physiology, and inner workings of both male and female reproductive organs. I want to say first that it’s not always an advanced age issue, although I had many doctors tell me that was my case. I know friends who are in their 30’s that have had a tough time conceiving and carrying a child. But my path was a confusing one as I already have a child who I gave birth to in my 20’s, so naturally (and naively) I figured it would be easy to have another later in life. I was one of those people that thought I was completely viably able to conceive again because I had regular periods. I think a huge mistake so many women make is thinking that if their periods are regular and normal they are technically able to conceive and have a healthy baby at anytime. That’s definitely not true, and was a pretty profound lesson to learn as I went about my research after two miscarriages.
HYG: What did that lesson ultimately lead to?
PA: Well, mostly a lot of self-healing and self-care. But biologically speaking, egg and sperm quality are key! You can have regular periods until you hit menopause but if the eggs are not healthy, they either won’t take the sperm or they will create a genetically unviable embryo. Same with sperm quality. A man can have a lot of sperm but if they have low morphology or motility, they won’t penetrate the egg. We had both of these issues according to our doctor. Percentage wise it was a 3% chance of conceiving a healthy baby. I’m not much of a Western doctor follower so after the two miscarriages and three failed IVF/IUI attempts, and a recommendation to get an egg donor, we set out to do more work on ourselves with alternative education.
HYG: Tell us about the alternative education findings.
PA: Some of the usual alt-routes like acupuncture, Chinese herbs, CoQ10, and vitamins. But once I dug deeper I discovered blockages both spiritually and biologically. I had blood panels run by my integrative chiropractor as well as an oxidative stress test that was off the charts high. He recommended glutathione, and more Vitamin C. My thyroid was also off. My blood pressure was low. I was short of breath and slow to lose weight in my abdomen. All signs that my stress and cortisol levels were too high. My body was not functioning at optimal levels. I also drastically changed my diet thanks to Danica Thornberry’s Seed Fertility diet. I felt a huge shift in health by eating according to her women’s cycle plan. It makes so much sense and she has a user friendly guide on her website about how to increase your egg health with diet. Spiritually, I was angry. Depleted. Envious. Doubtful. I had to work through that to clear myself of the toxicity I was holding in my being. I had to surrender to my own reality and stop punishing myself with negative patterns and resentment.
HYG: That’s all so important and helpful. What are some of the key diet changes you made?
PA: I drank a lot of raw milk and raw eggs. Danica has a great recipe for a fertility shake that is raw milk, raw egg, cinnamon, ginger, and honey. I added Maca and Tocos and it was so delicious and nutty. I kinda miss drinking it! I would have one during the fertile time of my cycle once a day. I also upped my seaweed and spirulina intake. A lot of super greens and Shatavari root for fertility. I also took adaptogens from Moon Juice, magnesium for stress, milk thistle for my liver, and didn’t drink alcohol or eat much sugar. I was on a mission to cleanse my eggs! The Seed Fertility guide has a very intuitive diet plan: cleansing foods during your period like green juice, raspberries, cultured foods. Fertile foods during your pre-ovulation time when the egg follicles need estrogen nourishment. Foods such as sushi, eggs, coconut, olives, and raw milk. Post ovulation warming and anti-inflammatory foods such as lentils, couscous and roots, stews, squash and pineapple smoothies. It felt so aligned with my body’s needs and I felt strong and healthy. Much like The Woman Code book. We are designed to have different nutrients at different times during our cycles.
HYG: Tell us how you did end up conceiving.
PA: The good old fashioned way! We were in talks to go to Spain or Russia as I had spoken with a woman on the east coast, Elizabeth Katkin, who had success at a clinic in Russia after failed attempts here in the states. We were taking some time off from the process to re-set and enjoy life again and about 4 days before my Skype call with a clinic in Spain, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. I was so nervous of course that I would miscarry again but something did feel different this time. I really felt all my integrative hard work to clear my spirit and cleanse my body helped me with egg quality. And same for Talmadge, my partner.
HYG: That’s such good news for those still trying. What are a few resources or tips for those wanting to boost their fertility naturally?
PA: Definitely the Seed Fertility diet. The book “It Starts With The Egg” by Rebecca Fett. A good naturopath and taking a deeper look at what’s going on in your body. Definitely upping your anti-oxidants and lowering your stress. Acupuncture and seaweed and long walks for blood flow. “Spirit Babies” book by Walter Makichen. Disconnecting from other’s journeys and connecting with yourself and your partner. I think I went to IVF because I was desperate and the doctors were telling me I was “advanced maternal age” and “high risk”. I did lean into the process but I also felt rushed into it due to the language they use in those practices. It wasn’t from a place of conscious openness or even the thought that this was the best route for us. It was from fear and I didn’t like the way that felt. I also despise those terms for women over 38 years old. I’ve had at least 5 friends get pregnant naturally in their 40’s and deliver healthy babies with no high risk involved. I am grateful for the experience and the education though, I can’t harbor any ill feelings towards what got me here.
HYG: How glowy do you feel now that you are 6 months pregnant?
PA: Finally feeling a little glowy! The first trimester was difficult emotionally and physically. I was very sick with nausea, acid reflux, some spotting, a chest cough, and overall depressed and worried. I was in bed for most of it. Wasn’t until about 18 weeks that I surfaced again and felt like I could smell food and not want to gag. My cough subsided and I began to take longer walks. I miss exercising, I need to do more hiking and yoga and breathing exercises now that I’m 24 weeks. The cellulite on my thighs is real! I do hope in the future there will be more glowy photographs of older pregnancies. I have grey hair, more wrinkles, a saggier rear end, and less stamina than I did with my first pregnancy but I’m really trying to embrace it all and be grateful to my body at this age.
HYG: Did you turn to any fertility support groups or seek counseling for the struggles?
PA: I didn’t attend any public support groups except sharing in a women’s circle with my spiritual teacher in Taos, NM while on retreat with a group of women. I let a lot of anger out there and she really helped me surrender to my own journey. As did the ladies I was on retreat with. It was very healing and I’m so grateful to them and to Jan, my teacher, for the safe space to let go of my pain. I also saw Paula Mallis for a conscious conception session that was very powerful for me in making space for the baby to come when she was ready. I highly recommend women see Paula privately and attend her circles at WMN Space. My close friends (and friends on instagram) have been the most supportive cheerleaders for me and I’m so beyond grateful to everyone who has held space for me to have this baby.
HYG: Do you have a birth plan or any holistic tools you are considering using for labor?
PA: Surrender. I had a home birth with Rem, my son, and it was a great experience and a quick labor. I had all the candles and music etc but I don’t remember them nor did I consciously need them once labor started. I was so in my own head and body that it was very much about me and Rem and not any external circumstances happening. I’m not quite sure my birth plan at this time but I’m meditating on it and have spoken to midwives and doulas and know the answer will come soon. But as little intervention as I can get and the more mindful I can be is my plan right now. Oh and everyone pregnant should read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and Nurture by Erica Chidi Cohen, two musts.
HYG: Thank you for sharing your story with us! Any last words of advice for women trying to get pregnant?
PA: Don’t let the negative stories in. Be open to the process as long as it takes… be open to all ways a baby can come into your life. Adoption, egg donors, sperm donors, surrogates, alternative healing forms, manifestation, surrender, etc. It’s not too late, you’re not what the stories tell you, you are your own being with your own voyage and you will find your way to your baby.
Photography by // Annie McElwain