At 31, doctors told Joy Hawk she was infertile. Determined to be a mom, Joy went through a two year in vitro fertilization (IVF) process which allowed her to give birth to her daughter, a small baby girl very near failure to thrive. After doctors discounted Joy’s questions about the possibility of her daughter’s health problems being related to food allergies, Joy started doing her own research. Based on her research findings she radically changed her and her family’s diet. As a result Joy, in July, will be giving birth to her third child, a baby conceived naturally. On the first try. Now she helps others do the same.
Here is a bit of her story.
How did you figure out changing your diet would cure your infertility?
I figured it out on accident. I had to go through IVF to get pregnant the first time. I gained 80 lbs while I was pregnant and I gave birth to a child who was on the brink of failure to thrive. She was not very big and she had health problems from the time she was three weeks old. I suspected her problems were food related, but the doctor’s poo poo’d me. I started educating myself. I started learning how to use food as a path to nutrition to help her.
In the process of learning about nutrition we started talking about having a second child and I knew I did not want to pump all of those hormones into my body again. I talked to a woman who was told she would never have kids. She spent 3 months at a raw food clinic and ultimately was able to become pregnant twice naturally. Talking with her is what planted the seed in me thinking I could get pregnant naturally if I changed my diet.
Did you go to a raw food clinic?
Yes.I was at the The Creative Health Institute for 10 days. I came home and continued doing it [raw food diet] for three months.
How was the second pregnancy?
I was impatient and frustrated that change didn’t happen overnight. I was working off my own internal timeline. My acupuncturist told me that had I been a little more patient it would have worked naturally, but I just wanted off the raw food diet. I found it to be a very difficult regime to stick with. We did an IVF again and it worked immediately whereas we’d had multiple failed attempts with my first child. My second child was so much healthier at birth. She was 2 lbs heavier, did not have any food allergies, has never needed antibiotics and has never had an ear infection.
And the third child?
When my second child was about 9 months old I decided I wanted to go to school to learn more about nutrition. When I started school I thought I ate pretty well, but I quickly realized my diet was not that good. I started experimenting on myself and my kids and through that ongoing process I’ve made radical changes to my diet. Up until I went to school, I thought because we had broccoli at dinner and some spinach with breakfast, we were healthy. I did not have any understanding how many leafy green vegetables people really need to eat.
Then I started learning about the toxins in our environment. I read Slow Death by Rubber Ducky and started getting rid of plastics in my life. I stopped using Tupperware and changed over to glass. I got rid of my kids’ flame retardant pajamas. I was just experimenting with a lot of things just trying to get healthy.
And then kind of on a whim one night I said to my husband, ‘What do you think about a 3rd? What do you think about me getting pregnant?’ He said, ‘Sure.’ I don’t think he really thought it would work and we ended up getting pregnant that night. In the end, my intention with diet changes was not to get pregnant, my intention was to be healthier — it worked. It cured my infertility. I truly believe this will be my healthiest baby yet.
What was your diet then compared to now?
It evolved over time and with each kid. With my business, that is the thing I really try to impress on my clients. People come to me and they are eating McDonald’s and they look at what I am eating — chia seeds, cacao, raw milk and the bone broth and people are like, ‘No way, that is way too big of a stretch for me.’ But I tell them, this has been an evolution over 8 — 10 years. I tell them that I used to eat McDonald’s too. With every child my diet has gotten progressively better.
What was the first kid diet?
My first kid I joke and say she was conceived on Sun Chips and ice cream. I thought Sun Chips were healthy back then.
And today what is your diet?
Raw milk, bone broth, I probably eat a ½ pound of collard greens a day, lots of salad, avocado, pasture raised meat and eggs, no processed foods, no corn syrup, no GMO, no soy. I really try to limit gluten and corn. This morning for breakfast I had homemade broth, ½ and avocado and 2 eggs from pasture raised chickens. For lunch I’ll have sautéed greens, sprouted flax crackers and some salmon salad with tomato. For dinner I’m making my daughter’s favorite chicken sage soup using the homemade broth, chicken from pastured chickens, celery and sage. I might make coconut sweet potatoes as a side as I have some that I want to use up and my kids LOVE that dish. I’ll snack on apples and almond butter; a glass of raw milk; yogurt with hemp, chia and bee pollen; kale chips; milk thistle tea; kombucha; nuts; fermented pickles or sauerkraut; goji berries; and for dessert I might make myself a smoothie with peanut butter, cacao, raw milk and yogurt and dates, or some homemade coconut milk with chia seeds.
On your website you mentioned that you worked through issues you had around food.
I come from a long line of not-so great mind sets around body image. My grandmother was obese, so my mom has lots of work to do around her own food issues. My father grew up with a mother who was bulimic. He said that he was 8 or 10 years old before he realized that it was not normal for mommy to go and throw up after dinner on the porch. Needless to say, he has his own set of issues.
I did not have good role models for a healthy body image growing up. It was always impressed upon me that fat was bad, not something that you wanted to be and you needed to watch what you ate, even though both my parents were overweight back then. It was never about health. It was about portions and calories. So I grew up obsessed with my body. I can remember from the time I was 13 thinking that I needed to lose 10 lbs. My entire life I was obsessed with how much I ate and how much I weighed and what size I was and what the number on the scale was. I knew that it was an issue and that I had a problem, but it was not until my first daughter was 8 months old that I realized that I had a responsibility not to pass this down to her. I went to a therapist and I got help and that was the beginning of the shift for me. I realized what was more important to me than being a size 6 was that I was healthy and that I felt good.
In your blog you said, ‘I realized that health was what I had been chasing all of these years.’
I say to people all the time and they look at me like I have three heads, ‘Our bodies are not counting calories. They are counting nutrition.’
Very well said.
I am completely oblivious to fat and calories.
What advice do you have for people who are struggling with infertility?
First I’d say let’s flip the switch in your head and take the focus off infertility and put it onto creating the healthiest environment possible to grow and nourish a baby. You have to look at your nutrition. For people who are new to this I would say just add more leafy green vegetables to your diet. Kale chips have been all the rage lately as most people find them at least palatable. Also try green smoothies, green juices, sautéeing greens and more salads. It really depends where you are with your diet.
The other thing is toxins. People have no idea how many toxins, how many endocrine disruptors they are exposed to on a daily basis. Not only does this impact fertility, but it impacts the health of the baby to be. I try to meet people where they. My business is not a one size fits all program.
What is an example of toxins or endocrine disruptors in our everyday lives that could be affecting fertility?
Plastic. What you store your food in. Have you ever used Tupperware and put pasta with tomato sauce in it and when you are done with it the Tupperware gets that red orange stain in it that you can’t get off?
The reason for that is because plastic is not a stable substance like glass. Acid, heat and fat are three of the things that effect plastic so when you put hot tomato sauce it is literally breaking down the plastic. The problem is not that you can’t get out the stain. The problem is that the sauce has literally become a part of the plastic and the plastic has become part of the sauce that you will then eat. We spend a ton of money on the food we eat, to buy organic, to make good food and then we turn around and put it into plastic and stick it in the microwave. Not only are you eating toxins from the plastic, but by putting it in the microwave you have irradiated the nutrients in the food.
Do you have other examples of toxicity we are exposed to in everyday life?
Nail polish, lotion and shampoo.
What components of nail polish, lotion and shampoo are toxic?
Phthalates, parabens, polyethylene glycol are some of the chemicals added into body care products and they are toxic with links to fertility problems, developmental issues and birth defects. Polyethylene glycol is also found in oven cleaners. People should not be buying this stuff and especially women who are pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, and you should especially not put it on kids.
What was your fertility doctor’s reaction to you getting pregnant after being told you were infertile?
I haven’t talked to him. I keep thinking I should. I think I am used to doctors poo poo’ing this and I wouldn’t expect him to be particularly supportive of it. I can remember talking to him about nutrition and acupuncture the first time I was trying to get pregnant and basically he said, ‘It is not going to hurt you.’
How long had you tried to get pregnant before you got pregnant with your first daughter?
I think it took a little more than two years. It took a full year with a second one.
Did you feel infertility changed your personality?
Oh my gosh, absolutely. Looking back on it I am glad it happened. I think I am so much of a better parent. I think I am so much more aware of the miracle that my children are. I am not saying I don’t have moments where my kids get under my skin, but I never lose sight of the gratitude. Fearing you may never get to be a mother is a profound experience. Unless you have been through it I don’t think you can understand the pain that is associated with it.
Did you try anything other than IVF with your first two daughters?
No. They thought my case was so bad that they recommended I just skip over IUI. My second we did FET, which is Frozen Embryo Transfer, it was with the remaining embryos from the previous IVF attempts, but those never worked.
It is amazing the simplicity of the solution.
Let me clarify to say the simplicity of my situation. However, I can remember desperately searching the Internet for any kind of information that would help with fertility and it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I wish I would have known everything I know now back then. I don’t think there was any medical reason for me to have infertility treatments.
In many, many other cultures they have pre-conception rituals. In the Masai culture in Africa six months prior to women getting married they drink special spring milk from a cow. It is raw milk and it is only the spring milk that is good. In other cultures they eat fermented bread with raw butter. It is fascinating to me these cultures have pre-conception rituals and we don’t have anything like that here. Here, you go to the doctor, you get a prescription for a pill and they tell you not to drink and smoke. There is no awareness of the idea of a pre-conception diet at all. At least, no doctor has ever mentioned it to me. What you eat three months prior to pregnancy is just as critical as what you eat while you are pregnant and what you feed your child after it is born. It is crazy to me. You are creating brains and hearts and lungs and it is crazy to me there is not a diet preparing the body for this.
And now you have 3 kids.
I am going to have 3 kids. If you would have told me in 2003 that I was going to have three healthy kids in 2012 I would have never believed you. It is amazing how far I have come. I thank God every night for all I have received.
To learn more about Joy’s consulting services to help couples with infertility please see: http://howtogrowababy.com .