Sarah Hunter knows heartache. She desperately wanted to become a mum, but was denied it at every end and turn.
Years of trying to conceived failed and adoption of a child at home and abroad ended in further sorrow. But she turned not to medical science and the miracles of IVF, but natural therapies.
Incredibly, it worked. Sarah, 36, and husband Chodak are now the proud parents of Nyima, two, and are expecting their second child in the new Year.
The Cantley couple have launched Fertilisearch, a natural fertility centre to help other couples going through the same ordeal to search for the information they need on natural alternatives to IVF.
Q. For how many years had you tried to conceive - and how did it feel when it didn’t happen?
A. I tried for 13 years and became very despondent. It felt like failure on my part. How come everyone else seemed to be able to get pregnant and I couldn’t?
Eventually I was diagnosed with “an unexplained fertility issue” and offered IVF. But I refused it because at the time IVF was fairly new and seemed very extreme. When I looked into it I discovered it pushed your body into the menopause and back again.
Q. So you tried to adopt in the UK. Why did that door close to you?
A. We were advised that as we had no immediate family close by to support us, it would not be viable. Also one of us would have to give up work for 12 months, which would not have been possible at the time.
Q. Then you had some incredible news - your husband’s brother in India asked you to adopt his child. That sounds so unusual to people in the west...
A. In India it is considered an honour and a fantastic opportunity to be given the chance to come to the West. My husband came to England from Tibet when he was seven after being adopted by his auntie here. His brother was keen for one of his children to be given the same opportunity. Also, Buddhism believes in non-attachment and materialism. It is quite common for parents to give their child to others who are better-equipped to care for it. They see it as being about what’s best for the child.
Q. What happened?
A. We were there at the birth. We felt blessed to be there to see him. We also felt for the baby’s mother, but we knew it was what she wanted. We came back to the UK and prepared everything, then went back six months later to arrange the adoption. We looked after the baby for two weeks while we waited for the forms to be finalised. This was difficult; the baby had already bonded with the parents.
Q. What went wrong?
A. We legally adopted the child in India under Buddhist law. However, when we went to Calcutta to collect the baby’s passport we were met with barriers at the passport office. There was nowhere to turn, we felt helpless and couldn’t understand what was happening.
Q. So you had to give up and come home without him?
A. Yes. We came home to an empty nursery. The child stayed with his parents and we are in occasional contact, as lines of communication to the village are not good.
Q. Did you and your husband Chodak give up hope?
A. Yes, we honestly thought the last door had closed and that parenthood wasn’t meant to be. Then one of our friends who had been trying to get pregnant was told by a psychic reader she would have a baby girl and got pregnant a few months later. We went to the psychic and were told we would have two children, but it would be in around two years’ time. It gave us hope, but we were sceptical.
A year or so later, the same friend invited us to her psychic supper with a medium from the local spiritual church. The woman did what she called a body scan on me and told me not to trust what the doctors were saying, that I had a problem with my left ovary and my thyroid and an intolerance to red wine.
Q. Did you believe in such things?
A. I was sceptical, but curious. I have always been a spiritual person as opposed to religious, so I had an appreciation for the metaphysical.
Q. Then you tried infertility reflexology. What happened?
A. After much research I discovered a reflexologist in London who specialised in fertility reflexology and had seen some amazing results. I decided as a last attempt I would try it and see if he could find any underlying issues that had not been picked up by western medicine.
The first session was quite painful as so many imbalances in my body showed up as pain in the feet. But after just three sessions, my years of painful and irregular periods ended, I could physically feel when I was ovulating and the pain got less and less. I began to have more energy and feel less stressed. I changed my diet to include more vegetables and more water, cutting out caffeine and alcohol and after 10 sessions of reflexology over three months, I fell pregnant. I couldn’t believe it. Plus I felt fit, healthy and ready to carry my child. I had a happy, healthy pregnancy.
Q. Do you think the reflexology is why you got pregnant?
A. Yes, combined with reducing stress levels, meditating and doing yoga. I think stress was largely preventing me from getting pregnant and the reflexology relaxed me and made me more aware of my body. After 13 years of trying to be a mum, I finally gave birth to our daughter Nyima. It was the end of such a long journey and the beginning of an even longer one.
Q. Now you are 23 weeks pregnant with your second child. Was getting pregnant a second time much easier?
A. No. We were told it would be but I was sceptical and I was right. Nothing happened for two years. So I made time for yoga and meditation and booked a holiday. The holiday hotel’s spa offered free reflexology and I discovered I was pregnant afterwards.
Q. What do you hope Fertilisearch will do?
A. Help women understand their options. IVF isn’t the only hope, I believe natural therapy and lifestyle change are the key to taking control of your fertility and I want to pass on my experience and help others to realise the dream of having their own child.
I refused IVF and disagreed with doctors’ opinions. To become pregnant is more than just having a good sperm count or fertile eggs. I believe you need to be happy in life and truly understand your body and your mind. At our Fertilisearch centre in South Parade, Doncaster, I work with experts in reflexology, reiki, counselling, nutrition and hypnotherapy and provide one-to-one mentoring and life-coaching in a three-month programme.
We would love to hear from women willing to be case studies for us. They can contact Fertilisearch on 01302 590 222.