Around this time of year, 6 years ago, Louise and I should have been experiencing one of the most exciting, albeit sleepless, times of our lives. Instead we were coming to grips with a condition that ends 1 in 4 pregnancies.
Part of the challenge was that I didn’t really even know about miscarriages. Of course I knew that people lost babies but I thought it was pretty rare. Not something that would happen to us. And I certainly didn’t know the process that Louise’s body had to go through.
Looking back I think it’s partly because miscarriages aren’t talked about openly. It’s emotional for the couple who have gone through it. And it’s awkward for the people who aren’t sure how to respond when it comes up.
It might be my Australian brashness or perhaps it’s just me, but on more than one occasion I’ve answered the question about why we only have one child with a brief summary of the ones we’ve lost. Not to be awkward, but to just help normalise the topic a bit. Although mind your own effing business might sometimes be easier.
Less than a year later our lives were turned upside down again but thankfully due to the healthy arrival of our little Sebastian. But even this wasn’t without drama as all throughout this pregnancy we were expecting a girl. Another lesson in knowing what is certain in life and what isn’t. Being told the correct gender from a scan isn’t a certainty. Our standard advice for friends now when we hear they’ve been told the gender is to wait until it comes out.
Fast forward a couple of years and we experienced another loss this time much further into the pregnancy. This was a completely different experience to our first loss as there had to be a lot more medical intervention to help Louise’s body go through its ‘natural’ process. This really hit us hard, but in a different way. Having a 5-year-old we had a much better idea of what we were losing, or not gaining, from having a baby.
Following the loss of Henry we were given the option of a full post-mortem. We wanted to understand why for our own sake, but also to help others in the future who might experience the same. Although my feeling was that whatever happened had happened, what if the outcome had have been something that was caused by or passed on by us? Waiting for the results was pretty nerve-wracking. We wanted to know the ‘WHY’. So it was a mixed relief when the consultant told us they couldn’t find any reason why Henry’s heart stopped. It just did.
Since then we’ve had our fair share of emotion fuelled discussions about continuing to have kids where we’ve both had opposing views. Then we’ve both changed our opinions and again had opposing views. We have both currently settled on the decision that we’d like another child so the process continues. But sadly not without further loss since.
We’ve talked about getting help or more tests but because we know we can conceive naturally (we are reminded every morning around 6:45) we’ve decided to just see how things go and see what improvements we can make to help our chances.
Health is such a large part of conception as the health of both parents at the time of conception will determine the health of the child. It will also be a determining factor of whether you conceive in the first place. What’s probably not as commonly known is that around 40 per cent of fertility issues are considered to be male factor.
The male perspective on fertility and child loss are conversations that are even less common. I guess, particularly with fertility, men aren’t reminded of their ability or inability to conceive every month. For most of us men it’s something we only have to think about when, or if, fertility becomes a problem. And even then I still think the focus isn’t initially on us.
It’s also a tough conversation to have as a man as so much of manhood centres around, well, our manhood.
When starting the conception process a significant proportion of effort comes from the man’s side, especially if you want things to happen naturally. I’m not talking about just physical effort but if you ain’t got strong swimmers then they ain’t going to hit the target. And this mostly comes down to the man’s health.
We are both generally healthy eaters but Louise found a book called ‘Fertile’ by Emma Cannon. The book talks about a holistic approach to fertility which fuses Eastern and Western traditions. It’s full of practical ways to improve health and well-being but mostly it’s got a lot of specifically created recipes.
The recipes are all about introducing key nutrients to cleanse and optimise your body ready for conception. Most of the book is targeted at women, I think because it’s mostly women who will read it, for the same reasons I’ve mentioned above. But there are small snippets for men which cover foods that are helpful for men.
Over the last year I’d already dropped my daily breakfast pastry, after finding out my cholesterol was on the high side. I’d taken one of the Thriva.co blood tests which I found really interesting. The pastries were replaced with porridge but following the advised recipes I’ve now supercharged this with a whole array of useful fruits, nuts and seeds. Check out the photos above.
The dinners in the recipe were all tasty but I think the biggest change was the lunch soups. Being at home these days made it easier for us to eat the same foods and there was a wide range of really tasty soups. Including an amazing beetroot soup.
Foods to boost men’s health
Although all the meals were generally healthy for your body there were three specific foods that Emma recommended for men to help with conception:
One study found that eating two handfuls of walnuts a day improved the shape and motility of sperm. That’s about 60g of walnuts a day! It’s thought to be due to walnuts being rich in omega-3, antioxidants and folate.
Pumpkin seeds contain phytoesterols – these improve testosterone production and reduce the size of enlarged production. There’s also zinc and antioxidants that play a part in maintaining healthy testosterone levels.
This was an unexpected one, but tomatoes contain the carotenoid lycopene which has been associated with improved sperm shape, count and viability.
Who knows if it eating more healthily will result in a sibling for Sebastian. But it certainly won’t harm our chances and I’m sure it will help with my general health as well. I particularly want to make sure I’m around for as long as possible to milk all I can out of every success Sebastian, and any other Suttie children, will have.
The book Fertile by Emma Cannon is available on Amazon: