Why I Chose Women's Health and Fertility Nutrition

Have you ever seen a woman give birth? It's one of the most powerful, touching, and downright frightening events this world has ever seen. It happens every single day, yet it is anything but ordinary.

After 40 weeks of being molded and sculpted out of sight, a new life readies itself to enter this world. Suddenly, it's time for the world to receive a beautiful gift. A woman bears excruciating pain, bares her most private of parts without shame, and pushes with all she has, all in hopes of finally locking eyes with the child who already holds her heart. But she rarely does it alone.

Surrounding her from start to finish are relatives and friends, all serving as mommy coaches and cheerleaders. There are doctors, nurses, and midwives providing medical care and support. She is cocooned by community, and most within her community are other women. It's been that way forever. Women have been helping other women give birth to and mother children from time immemorial. And from well before this blog was ever even a thought in my mind, I have longed to be a part of that community of women. I have longed to support other women along their journey to create and nurture life.

It All Started When I Was a Little Girl...

I have been a science and health nerd from birth. My favorite shows as a kid included The Magic School Bus, Beakman's World, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Mr. Wizard, and just about any and every show on Discovery Health.

I remember sitting on the floor in the middle of the living room. My legs were stretched out in a wide straddle, plate of spaghetti between them (yes, my mom let me watch TV during dinner.) The channel was tuned to Discovery Health (as usual) and on the screen was a woman wailing and sweating, legs spread as wide as mine. She was pushing with all of her might to give birth to the baby I had just watched her carry and prepare for earlier in the show. I was transfixed.

A Baby Story was my introduction to the world of women's health, pregnancy, and labor. I loved the show. Seeing these beautiful, strong women share their stories of pregnancy and the early days of motherhood lit a fire in me. I knew then I wanted to be a part of this magical world of women helping other women become mothers. I decided I would someday be a midwife.

Eventually, my girlhood dream of becoming a midwife faded away. It was replaced first by a desire to be an epidemiologist, then a pharmacist, next an orthodontist, and finally a dietitian. After a brief stent in clinical nutrition, I found myself working as a community nutritionist for WIC (Women, Infants, and Children, a federally funded food assistance program.)

One day, after seeing a number of adorable waddling pregnant ladies, worn out yet glowing new moms, and cherub cheeked babies, my mind wandered to all of the women I would never see in the clinic. The women who had tried and tried to conceive, but for one reason or another found themselves broken hearted and disappointed. What about them? How could I help them? How could I help myself? After all, I wasn't getting any younger. I began to wonder if there was any way I could use nutrition to help other women conceive and help increase my chances of conceiving when the time came.

The Fire Rekindled

That's when I started researching preconception nutrition. The fire that had once consumed me, was once again ignited. I started reading stories of some of the most brave, authentic, and vulnerable women who have ever graced the world with their presence. Woman after woman, story after story, word after word, I was brought to tears as I read and watched stories of infertility and lost pregnancies. I was filled with hope, sorrow, and admiration as I read and watched the tales of these women and their families. I wanted to help. I needed to help.

The studies and books I have read have convinced me nutrition can play a powerful role in helping women conceive and have healthy pregnancies. While a healthy diet is no guarantee a woman will conceive or carry full term, it is important. Eating well balanced meals and snack is one thing a woman can do to have some level of control over her fertility and the outcome of her pregnancy.

Beyond offering nutrition advice, I have the privilege of giving women what I think is equally as important, if not more so: a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on. One of the things I love about being a dietitian is having what many medical professionals consider a luxury: time to really listen to my patients. Knowing someone hears and cares can be incredibly therapeutic. I feel blessed to be a part of a profession that allows me to advise, encourage, and comfort my patients.

It has been a long winding road from my living room floor to this blog. A lot has changed, but a lot has remained the same. I am still just as determined to help women give birth as I was then. The role I play in the process may be different than what I thought it would be, but my dedication, passion, and love for women, babies, and families hasn't budged one bit.

Kendra TolbertComment