“Every step of your journey is important, and when you feel like you’re failing, it’s not a failure, it’s just another chapter in your journey.”
Do you feel drained of all your energy after suffering a miscarriage? The emotional and physical exhaustion you feel now is normal, and it is important you allow your body to heal and get back to normal before you start trying for another pregnancy.
“We all need to start raising conscious children so they’re not dealing with these fertility issues we’re dealing with.”
In this episode of the Finding Fertility podcast, we speak with Allison Schaaf, founder of Miscarriage Hope Desk, a safe space for women struggling with recurring pregnancy loss. She started this space as a friendly resource she wishes she had when she struggled with infertility and miscarriages.
Listen in to learn the importance of preparing your body both physically and emotionally for pregnancy after a miscarriage. You will also learn the importance of allowing yourself to feel the joy of pregnancy after a miscarriage and change your mindset about your fertility.
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Connect with Allisson:
Hello beautiful and welcome to finding fertility. I'm your host, Monica Cox from finding fertility.co And I created this podcast to help get you to start thinking outside of the box and realise that your infertility might have nothing to do with your lady bits rooted in functional medicine and personal experience. Finding fertility is all about looking at the whole body and finding the root cause of your infertility. Finding fertility does not diagnose, prescribe or treat any issues of infertility. But what we do is take a holistic approach and improve your diet and your lifestyle to get you steps closer to creating your dream family. Just by being here with me listening to this podcast, you're already going down the right path to making your dreams come true. Let's do this together. Happy Friday. Oh, welcome back to another episode of finding fertility. I'm here with Allison from the fertility hope desk. I'm super excited to have her on because I think we have a lot in common. Our own personal stories have brought us here to give you guys supporting guidance so we can make you know make your journey a little bit less long, chaotic, you know, all those things. So welcome to the podcast.
Hi, thank you for having me. I'm excited to talk today.
Yeah, so we were just talking before, but let our listeners who don't know who you are just a little bit about yourself and what led you to create the fertility hope desk.
Yeah, so my name is Alison Shaw. And I was just saying before that, you know, as with I think most people that end up in the fertility world, it's kind of like you end up they're not expecting to be there. Right. So like, I knew I wanted to have a family. My husband I started trying and ran into the issue of not only having a miscarriage but then having multiple recurrent miscarriages and just really feeling at a loss of like, wow, I didn't realise this could happen like I you know, I had, you know, I had some friends that had a miscarriage a miscarriage, but like having them back to back, like what was happening to me just felt I felt very alone. And like there weren't really resources out there for me. And so, in going through all of that, I definitely felt called to create something specifically for people struggling with miscarriage. And that's where I, I also had a background as an entrepreneur, so kind of always was into creating, you know, resources to help people. So that's the inspiration behind miscarriage Help Desk.
Yeah. And so in your journey, what were the doctors saying about your reoccurring miscarriages?
Yeah, so early on, I was actually, you say lucky, but like, I did have a doctor that after the second miscarriage, that let's do some testing, I found out I had a blood clotting issue called antiphospholipid syndrome. In some ways that gave me kind of like maybe more confidence than I should have had, because I you know, into like, Oh, now I found my AI. And I found that the thing I can fix it right, like I can do the Lovenox and do the protocol. So went in and did that for the third pregnancy. I actually did make it further along. But unfortunately, ended up miscarrying there as well went through kind of two more miscarriages and actually shifted and ended up adopting for my first son, just because I'm sure a lot of people that struggle with infertility can relate like, I just felt like I was on this downward spiral, my, like, couldn't get out of it. And I was like, I need to shift my focus away from kind of me and my body, and like all of these things and figure that out. But I wanted to give myself the time and space to do that. And, for me, like, adoption was always something I'd kind of like planned on doing. At some point, I just figured it would be like, I don't know, you know, you have these plans of how you're going to build your family. And now I just kind of, I think I have like that much control. But, you know, I just think the doctor would be eventually part of my journey. So we did that and then actually went to IVF. And ended up with no viable embryos, which was kind of crazy, considering the fact that I, you know, for the most part got pregnant fairly easily. I think even the doctors are pretty shocked about that. And, you know, at that point, you know, very low right, like I'd had all these miscarriages and then I was like, Well, let me try IVF and if nothing else, I can have these embryos and maybe they'll have some options of like different ways we can move forward if I'm not able to carry and when that didn't work. It was pretty devastating. But then, you know, I think was the second cycle after that I got pregnant with my son and you know, had this You know, healthy pregnancy. And another issue you asked the question was, you know, what, what issues and I mean, ultimately, I won't know all of them right. But like my my husband also found out that he had sperm DNA fragmentation. So I do believe that that contributed to some of our miscarriages as well. Male factors are something I talk a lot about, especially with miscarriage because infertility in general, I think the the man is ignored a lot. And especially with miscarriage, I've had several doctors say, well, you're getting pregnant. So it's not the sperm, but the quality of the embryo is still a 5050 thing. So, you know, I do like to remind people that with miscarriage, you should still be looking into both, you know, a big and firm health and issues with the male and female factors. So I do think that maybe there were both kind of issues on both sides of play for us.
To present it such a, like a shitty thing that the women just get like, well, it's you, you know, your husband's sperm is fine with the generic testing that they do. And it's just not true. And when you are dealing with those factors, you got to come in at so many different angles. Because a lot of the times it's various things. My first IVF to was a, like a complete failure is like a super shambles, like no viable embryos. And you're just like, the doctors are so shocked. You're like, young, you're fit, like at that time. Like I wasn't having reoccurring miscarriages, but I wasn't getting pregnant at all, like not even a whiff of like two pink lines. And yeah, like you just think, well, IVF is is gonna, you know, give us the baby. But yeah, it gives you answers. Some of them you might not like, but it's that information. So, on your second cycle, was there anything that you changed up?
Between? No, it wasn't my second cycle of IVF. Just my second like cycle afterwards?
Oh, you got pregnant naturally afterwards? Okay. Sorry. Sorry, you just automatically go their
cycle? Two different meanings there. But yeah, I just got pregnant on my own. And yes, like, we actually had decided that we were gonna do another round of IVF. But we are going to revisit the protocol also do like kind of 90 days of like, very, like, go all in on supplements and stuff. I mean, in the past, I'd done that. Like, I've always been gluten free. I've done year off very and all that. But like, we really both me and my husband, we're in the middle of doing kind of a, you know, no sugar, no alcohol, no caffeine, just like all of the things like, let's really like if we're going to do this again, like, Let's go all in. So we were in the middle of doing all of that, and I'm sure that helped. Right? And, you know, I don't know, I mean, ultimately, again, like you don't know what the thing was, or if there was a thing and what's at play there. But I do think that for sure. The you know, going in on lifestyle and all of that help
your person. I mean, the thing is, is in some situations, you can't pinpoint it. But you definitely I feel that it's is like a continual thing, right? So I think you made the right decision for you and your body to go, Okay, I'm going to stop, I'm going to rest I'm going to adopt, I'm going to feel the joy with my son, I'm going to move forward with my life and just that act of loan is so powerful for not only your mental health, but your for your physical health, right, it's all connected. And I think IVF is, is very similar to a test or like a diagnosis, right? Like it's it's a shot a snapshot in time. And you can't really determine your outcome from that one event. Right people are left devastated like the doctors allegedly told us there's nothing you can do you have low a quality, you're 30 That's it, try another round of IVF. And at the time, it wasn't like we were super knowledgeable and like haha, we'll show you it was just like, well, that doesn't make sense. Like why would I just jump into another round of IVF when it didn't work? Yeah, like you it was like, Well, probably not as smart as you but a friend recommended diet and lifestyle changes and that like put us on this new journey. I can tell you exactly like why my natural pregnancy work but because I was like so in depth with every step. But our last medical treatment was with two frozen embryos. They look Good, we didn't have them genetically tested, but they look good. I had the diet, I had the lifestyle, I had the immune suppressing drugs. I had the whole Caboodle and I still had a miscarriage. So you can feel like you're doing everything right. And you're failing, especially with medical treatment, because it is literally a yes or no with it. But it's really important to understand that doesn't, that doesn't dictate your outcome? In like the future, right? Yeah, like both of us. Like, for me, it was two cycles later, I got pregnant naturally after that. So it's really important to know, like, every step of your journey is important. And when you feel like you're failing, it's not a failure. It's just another chapter in your journey. And you get to decide where you want to go, right. Like, we're definitely both out here saying, just keep trying, keep going, keep going, you got to listen to your body. And if it's time to stop and recoup and heal, then that's, that's your next up.
Yeah, but also to your point, it's kind of like, if you could look into the future. And that's, especially with adoption, because our adoption happened, like, way faster than is really normal or to be expected. But I always would say, if I think if I knew in the moment, like when it was going to happen, I wouldn't have ever been so, you know, stressed and anxious, which you shouldn't, you know, you're trying to like not be stressed and anxious. And so I tried to remind myself of that of like, wow, sitting here. So if there's someone listening to this, they're like, Oh, I just feel like it's never gonna happen. But if you actually knew the day, then you could just like, calm down and breathe. And that's what you need to know is to be able to trust like, oh is going to happen. And if I knew, like, when I went through that failed cycle, if I knew bolt, but in two months, you're gonna be pregnant. I could have just, you know, chilled and like, not been so devastated. But it's hard to know that in the moment that like, Wow, it really is gonna get better. So
percent. When I first started this podcast, it was like the infertile diagnosis and hindsight, it's a bitch. Right? Like, it's easy to sit here and say, do those things. But we both know, in the middle of it. It's feels impossible. Yeah. Yeah. Was there anything mindset that you did to kind of reframe your journey of the fertility issues of literally taking over your life to shift it into? Right, I'm living my life while dealing with fertility issues.
Yeah, I mean, I think there is some of that that definitely happened along the way. I mean, for me, the big shift, and pivot was like, deciding to take that focus off and focus on adopting. And one thing, though, that did happen is I did so in the things that I always say, right? It's like, oh, as soon as you adopt, it'll just happen. It's like just magic, right? And it did happen, right? So after, right, the fifth miscarriage actually was two weeks after we adopted, so I got a positive pregnancy test. And I was I was excited. I'm like, here it is, here's what everyone said was the secret sauce, like, it's just gonna be like, my kids are gonna be nine months apart, you know. And, of course, that didn't happen, like I did miscarry right away, then. So there, and then I did actually make the decision, I was like, Look, we have a new baby, I want to enjoy this. Like, I don't even want to have the thing of like, let's, if it happens, it happens. Like we actually did, I was like, I need to stop for the next, you know, six months, we can go back and do some testing, but I want to actually like enjoy the six months and not be on the fertility train and be into that. So we did make that decision to just kind of like, put that to the side and like trust that we had time. And, and we did and I'm I'm glad and I think then going into it again, it really allowed me to come into it with a change of mindset. And like he said, you know, being around a baby and having all of that kind of just changes your your Outlook
100% In between our last, or last two frozen embryo transfers for various different reasons. We didn't try naturally. And I never really thought about it until you just said but it was a very amazing, great time of peace. Because as you know, you've literally lived like six years of your life in a two week wait cycle or in an IVF cycle. And to just release that, and it's one of the things that I say to my clients is that if you're dealing especially if you're dealing with deep rooted autoimmune issues, I have advise you to use protection to stop trying one for mental clarity in to, when you're healing, your body will eventually reach a point to get, like, to a certain point of pregnancy, but it might not be able to maintain that pregnancy. And then once again, you're thrown into the heartbreak of miscarriages, your site, you know, like there's a lot of recovery time physically and mentally from miscarriages. And if we can just shift that mindset of the time poor that we all feel during infertility, and yeah, like, hey, time is actually on our side, our bodies want to do this, we just need to give it the right direction to where to go. And for most people, it will eventually do that with or without medical assistance.
Yeah, no. And I see that a lot, especially with the you know, with a recurrent losses of like, oh, well, the best way to get over this is to just get pregnant again. And that is just like the I'm, I feel like I felt trapped without a few times, right of like, oh, well, let me just keep trying, because as soon as I get pregnant, this will heal any hurt that I have from this past miscarriage and really, you know, looking back and easier to like, again, the time sight thing, but you know, looking back, if I could have said, hey, look like let me take a month or two and just like really he'll and and I did do that then eventually along the way, but you know, just it is so important to take that time for yourself. And that way when you know, it does come time to fall pregnant again. You're ready. And again, physically, yes, but also mentally and emotionally. And I think sometimes those are overlooked, especially by doctors. They're not sitting there asking you like, Hey, are you emotionally ready? Are you sure? A doctor's not going to take that? So exactly. Need to advocate elephant ask yourself that question. Yeah. Which is
hard. And I know I've admitted this before on the podcast is that my first miscarriage was my first pregnancy. And that happened, like six years into my journey. And so I kind of was still putting up these blocks of like, I'm tough, like, you know, like, I'm okay. And I didn't really take the time to mourn it. I was, I was, I know, it's awful to say, but like, I was happy, I could just get pregnant. Like, that was something I didn't believe I could do for a really long time. And in hindsight, we just put the like happy shades on and, you know, I took the summer off, and I started drinking again and like it just wasn't necessarily a good time to grieve. And now that I'm doing like, all this emotional trauma work, I'm like, okay, I can like start grieving my babies. And I always feel so both of my boys are rainbow babies. And especially my last one. Because my second miscarriage was really like we were blindsided by it. We were so confident it was gonna work that we were really blindsided. And it wasn't until my son was born. And I could realise that I had to lose those babies to have him because he was the one that was meant to be here and it's so bittersweet, but you have to you know, yeah, those two just weren't meant for me and weren't meant for our family because like we transferred two embryos. I was supposed to be pregnant with twins, right? Beyonce was pregnant I sold two egg yolks like it was meant to be until it wasn't and it's it's really hard to see that in the moment that after the fact that yeah, it's he your two sons were meant to be in your life
well yeah and I had exactly a very I mean a different situation that very much the same so that third pregnancy I mentioned that was like my really out of all of them the toughest miscarriage where I had the confidence that you said that you had those on the new protocol I made it to like I think it was like the 10 week appointment at the time again, like the most devastating prime moment in my life and then when we went to adopt that night, you know, when I was there the hospital I asked I pulled up my phone and I could never get the dang you know pregnant the you know, pregnancy tracker off my phone that showed the week of pregnancy I would be in it because it removed from my computer but it would not leave my phone and it said that I would have been 30 and a half weeks pregnant and so I went up to the nurse and I said so because the clothes adoption I said how far along was the mom when she a birth and she said 38 and a half weeks and I'm like I mean my whole body I was like this is my baby right like to this whole time like I was pregnant and like praying for this baby and I thought it was the baby my belly and sure enough like my son was there he was waiting for me and Just you know, it was not the plan that I had in mind.
Oh my god, I got goosebumps scared. Die is such an amazing story. And I've had another woman, Brittany on to the podcast and to talk about her adoption story. And it's very similar to her. It was like that baby was hers. Right? Like,
when it actually happens, right? It's just like, in a moment, you don't know. But then when you look back, you're like, Wow, all of this really was falling into place.
Yeah. What's your advice to women to help them get to that place before it happens now, right, like using your wisdom, your hindsight, your experience? Like is there like one kind of phrase or mantra that you can say, or you encourage women to do to get to that place? sooner?
Yeah. I mean, it's hard to it depends on where you're at. And breathing is like the biggest thing, right? Just like learning to breathe in silence, right, like going on a walk in silence. I've used a lot of mantras throughout my journey, it kind of depends, like, so even, you know, if you get like, once I would get pregnant. Like, that's when I really lean heavy into mantras, right? Like, today I am pregnant. Because being pregnant after going through miscarriage, it can be really hard and like, you want to enjoy your pregnancy, but then you've got all these other worries. And so that's where I feel like once I was pregnant, I had to, like lean into like all these practices even harder, because I did want to allow myself to enjoy the pregnancy. And I had to be very intentional and purposeful in terms of like, allowing myself to feel the joy of pregnancy and realising like look, no matter what happens. I am going to enjoy this pregnancy Right? Like if I miscarry again, like that's gonna suck. Like it's gonna be awful. But me like not enjoying the pregnancy now is not going to make that miscarriage any less awful, right? Like, just allow yourself to enjoy and get excited. And I think you can do that in another part of the journey to have like, look, allowing yourself to kind of be calm and relaxed and joyful and excited, like allow yourself to get excited. And then if it doesn't happen, or something goes wrong, then yeah, that's gonna suck, but you protect it. It's like your go into this protection mode of trying to protect yourself. And it really just doesn't protect you, it really just doesn't allow you to feel like those fun feelings that you could feel if you allowed it. Does that make sense? Reverse it?
Yeah, it's that protection thing that everyone does. And I think we do it more so during infertility, and I know now that it actually doesn't protect you, and it encourages, like, almost shit to happen, right? Like, my I used to say, if I get pregnant, like all the time, that's what I would say, to protect myself if it doesn't really matter if, and this was like way before I got into mindset work, but I just changed the if to when, when I get pregnant. And so subconsciously, you're telling yourself like it's going to happen. So let's do the physical things to make it happen. Where if you're sat there saying I'm broken, I'm infertile, I can't get pregnant, you know, all those things, subconsciously, you keep just supporting yourself, and you're gonna do physical actions. So I don't think you have a great control of when, when you get pregnant, I think it's written in the stars. Like, just with your health, it's a long build up to your physical things that are going to produce the outcome. So if you feel like you did something on the Tuesday, and then you had the miscarriage on the Thursday, it doesn't work that way. Like that's not how your body works. So that's why we encourage women to take that three to six months to really build up that strength and that healing in your body to maintain that pregnancy. But yeah, it's it's, I don't know, do you feel you could be really honest in this community, because my community is is is growing a tough skin. Do you feel in the infertility world that there is this kind of negative negative feeling negative emotions that we hang on to? And that we talk kind of in a negative way about our fertility, that we are diagnosis that we are infertility, instead of flipping it around? Like I'm dealing with fertility issues, like we hold on to the fertility issues? Do you see that?
Yeah, I think it can be hard to like, redefine and like let go of and one thing this isn't exactly what you're talking about, but like one thing I've noticed a lot in Like with the miscarriage community is when I built miscarriage of death, I thought it would be people that are like struggling with it right now. And the thing that surprised me is how many women were attracted to our platform and like became part of the audience that had had a miscarriage, like, several years prior, like they had kids already, like they were done with art, like, it was like, so far in the path that they were so attracted to. Kind of like, you know, like an Instagram post or something or like messaging, because they never gone through it, right. Like it was, like, still stuck with them. And that's kind of like what you're talking about earlier, like, you know, needing to release that, like, go through the emotions, and to realise, like, if you don't do it, now, it's gonna come up later. And so I was surprised of like, I will still have women reach out like, to me privately and be like, Look, I had a miscarriage like five years ago, I've never told anyone, like, maybe I only told my husband, maybe I didn't even tell my husband, but like these women have never. And it doesn't need to be like, oh, I want to share it publicly on a Facebook post. But you know, at least share with like some friends and some family members or you know, you'd be surprised when you start sharing, like, the friends that you might not expect that have gone through something similar. And then moving past it. Yes. So I think coming back to the original question of like, going through the feelings and grieving and going through the process, but then kind of like there is another side to it right? And not getting stuck in that. So figuring out kind of tools of like, how do I get unstuck from this defining me and just like moving through it, like feeling the feelings and then moving on and redefine and be like, this is something that happened to me in the past, if it doesn't define who I am in the future.
Yeah, exactly. It's, I feel like it's a really important place to be striving towards, right. Like, it's not going to happen overnight. I feel like I'm still dealing with stuff, you know, like, but when I started sharing when I started the podcast, and really started being vocal on social media. This is when I started realising that I had some PT, post traumatic stress, like I had, like, I didn't deal with that stuff. I kind of just buried it away. Because I was a strong girl, I didn't cry, I just got on with it. Like, no one would have realised I was dealing with heart. I mean, all our friends and family knew we never kept it a secret. But, you know, I never was publicly crying on camera or even crying to my friends. Like my husband's probably the only one that seen me cry over it, like everyone else saw my brave face, and I was just getting on with it. So I do think holding space for yourself and finding that community and that support is is crucial to releasing it and moving on. Now moving on but honouring your children, your angels, honouring yourself of what you went through, and then thriving in the future.
Mm hmm. Yeah. So and one thing that I will throw out there that was so instrumental to me and like, kind of helping with all that was, and I know, there's a lot of different modalities out there. But in therapy, there's one called EMDR and it helps you to work through traumatic events. And I I've realised like one of my miscarriages, I had a therapist was like, oh, yeah, that was like a trauma. And that really is kind of like changed my mind. Like, wow, yeah, I went through something really traumatic. But then with EMDR like, I didn't realise how much I needed it until I got into actually doing it and I was like, wow, I have held up all these memories. And it helps to kind of reprocess those memories and helps you to process those emotions and I didn't do that until after my son was born. I mean, think if I could have done that before, but like that tool has been so amazing and helping me to like process through a lot of those miscarriages so anyone and I think any there's so much infertility world even if it's not miscarriage, maybe it's like, you know, a failed cycle or something failed transfer, something like that can be very traumatic. And so, finding a tool like EMDR, or some sort of therapy that can help you process that as like, really, it needs to happen. Again. Like I said, it's it doesn't happen now. It's gonna have to happen later because those don't just go away over time.
100% I use something similar emotions, Emotional Freedom tapping. And um, yeah, man, like some of the memories, you're like, What the fuck, like, that's crazy. And they for me, I haven't felt I needed to work they anything through infertility is all repressed childhood stuff. And yeah, it's really weird when you get into it because you're like, I had a happy childhood. You know, like I, I've, I feel very lucky, the childhood that I have compared if you're going to do a comparison game, and it's like, but why was I dealing with an a full blown autoimmune issue at like undiagnosed at 17? Why did I not feel worthy of becoming a mom? Why did I not feel worthy of love and acceptance and help and support? And why didn't I feel like I couldn't cry? Right, like all these sayings. And so yeah, I think I think our generation of women who dealt with fertility issues back in the early 2000s, just kind of started seeking out different modalities of holistic things, because we weren't getting either the answers or the support from the traditional medical system. And we've kind of unleashed this like, Can of Worms of like, okay, we want to help you get pregnant, but we want to help you become a conscious mother, because you need to, we all need to start raising conscious children. So they're not dealing with these issues that we're dealing with. Obviously, there's genetic stuff that, you know, that's like a whole different conversation, but it's really important. And it's baby steps, right? Like, if you told me to do Emotional Freedom tapping, like in my second year of infertility, I would have told you to fuck off. That's woowoo. That's like weird, no way. And now I'm like, neck deep in it, right? So just be kind to yourself that if you don't feel like you connect to these things, just find what you can connect with. And like, keep going from there.
Yeah, it's a journey one step at a time, for sure. Yeah, definitely.
Well tell our listeners where they can find you and where they can connect with you.
So miscarriage Help Desk and all of the places so on Instagram, it's at miscarriage Help Desk. And that's the website. One thing I will mention on the website is we have a library of articles. And these are not like fluff pieces. That was the one thing that I was always really enjoyed at was when he you know, go to Google and find anything about, you know, save antiphospholipid syndrome, or sperm DNA fragmentation. It was just these articles that like treated us like we were in third grade. And I'm like, No, I want to know the research. I want to know the science. I want to know why this protocol. And so those articles are very in depth. So if there's anything related to miscarriage, we've probably done a very in depth article. So definitely check that out. And then with podcasts, it's miscarriage help desk, and Facebook group, probably missing some things. But the main thing too is we also have a testing checklist. So that's something that's very popular. So miscarriage help desk.com/labs And you can sign up and get a free download of our testing checklist. So you know that you're going in the right direction with testing.
Yeah, super important. Well, thank you so much for making this accessible for everyone and sharing your wisdom and knowledge and, you know, putting a community together. I can't even speak. It's getting hot here in Hawaii. But yeah, all your information will be down in the show notes. And thank you so much for taking the time and speaking with us.
Well, thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. And I'm a big fan of what you are doing helping women that are struggling. We need more people out there like you. It's awesome. So keep it
up. Oh, thanks. Right, we will connect soon. I'm sure have a beautiful day and we'll see you next week. Thank you once again for tuning in to the finding fertility podcast. If you're loving this podcast, please leave us a rating and review and let us know how this podcast is supporting you to get steps closer to creating your dream family. I hope you have a beautiful weekend and we will see you next Friday for another episode of the finding fertility podcast.
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Anything written or said about health and diet are my opinions, that I have formed over the years, through trial and error, study, reading, listening and observing. What worked for me may not work for you. I am not a doctor, nutritionist or dietician and all medical advice should be gotten from a qualified professional. Product recommendations are based on what I used during my infertility journey or wish I had.
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