• Fertility Friendly Holiday Recipes!

    by Margaret Eich MS, RDN & Elizabeth DeAvilla RDN

    The holidays can be an especially challenging time for eating healthy. It’s easy to get off track even with the best of intentions when we’re constantly surrounded by sweets. We created this recipe packet to help you have some healthy go-to sides, desserts, and beverages to help you continue to eat nourishing and also delicious food during this time of year. All recipes are gluten free and dairy free or have a dairy free option. Before you dive into the recipes, here are a few tips to help you enjoy the holidays while still enjoying the foods you love:
     

    • Focus on adding instead of taking away. Instead of focusing on cutting back on sweets or on deprivation, focus on adding. For example, eating fruit after lunch and dinner would be a great habit to focus on, or filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables. When we add in lots of healthy foods, it’s helps to crowd out some of the less healthy stuff.

     

    • Have other “treats” that are unique to the season like citrus and pomegranates or walnuts or hazelnuts in the shell. These are fun treats that are nutrient dense and delicious. Of course, you’ll still have some other real treats, but swapping these in some of time helps.

     

    • Choose some lower sugar options. Sweets and desserts are meant to be indulgent, so I don’t recommend “healthy” sweets that are modified so much that they don’t feel satisfying. Even cutting the sugar by a third or half in many recipes still results in a delicious and indulgent treat. Try making treats with fruits like dates and bananas, which are whole fruits with fiber and nutrients and can help cut the amount of sugar/sweetener you need to add. Cocoa Coconut Balls in this packet are a great example!

     

    • Use nuts and nut “flours.” Nuts contain healthy fat and are nutrient dense and provide your treat with flavor and the feeling of decadence without the refined carbs in white flour.

     

    • Focus on the treats you really love and forget the rest. You don’t have to try everything, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a polite “no thank you,” when offered a dessert or drink you’d rather skip.

     

    • Rethink your drink. Instead of overdoing it with pumpkin spice or gingerbread lattes or heavily sweetened hot chocolate, make your own at home. Combine warm milk or almond or flax milk, cocoa powder and/or cinnamon, vanilla, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Better yet, buy a milk frother to make your homemade beverage really feel like a treat! See the Healthier Hot Chocolate recipe.

     

    Table of Contents

    Side Dishes

    Cooked red cabbage with apples

    Red cabbage slaw with pecans

    Roasted root vegetables

    Black bean dip

    Roasted cauliflower

    Desserts

    Cocoa coconut balls

    Broiled grapefruit

    Candied pecans

    Beverages

    Healthier hot chocolate

    Peppermint nettle tea

    Side Dishes

    Cooked Red Cabbage with Apples

    This antioxidant-rich dish and is a great accompaniment to a holiday meal or just an easy side dish to reheat along with the protein you’re having during the week. Cabbage is fiber-rich and is in the fertility-friendly cruciferous vegetable family.

    Serves 6

    1 small head (or 1/2 larger head) of red cabbage
    3 medium apples
    1 medium onion
    1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
    2 tablespoons water

    Cut red cabbage in half and remove the core. Coarsely chop and place into a large pot. Peel, core, and slice apples, dice onions, and add to pot along with cabbage. Stir to mix with a wooden spoon. Add apple cider vinegar and water. Heat over medium heat with cover on the pot until you hear the liquid boiling – about 5 minutes.  Turn heat to simmer, and cook for 1 hour or until vegetables are cooked down and soft. Enjoy!

    Red Cabbage Slaw with Pecans


    The gentle sweetness of the pecans nicely balances the flavor of the red cabbage. This is a great salad to make on Sunday and eat throughout the week. It’s also great for parties and potlucks. Cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables are rich in indole-3-carbinol, which may have a beneficial effect on hormone balance. Cruciferous vegetables are especially beneficial if you struggle with estrogen dominance, endometriosis, PCOS, or fibroids.

    3/4 cup candied pecans (see recipe below)

    1/2 medium head or 1 small head of red cabbage
    juice of 1 lemon
    1/4 cup olive oil

    Make the candied pecans first following the recipe below. While the pecans are cooling, cut the core out of the red cabbage and shred using the food processor shred attachment. You can also finely chop my hand. Finely chop the pecans, and add to the cabbage and stir until evenly distributed. Add lemon juice and olive oil, and stir until cabbage is coated with dressing. Store in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

    Roasted Root Vegetables
    Serves 6-8


    This nutrient-rich side is loaded with beta-carotene, which is a vitamin A precursor and potent antioxidant. Butternut squash and carrots are also a good sources of vitamin E.


    ½ onion, chopped
    2 medium-sized beets, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes
    6 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
    2 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    Salt and pepper
    Herbs (optional)

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add all vegetables to 9×13-inch pan. Drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and your favorite fresh or dried herbs, if desired. Roast for about 45 minutes, tossing every 10 to 15 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.

    Black Bean Dip
    Adapted from “Hurry-up Black Bean Dip” on epicurious.com

    Use this flavorful dip for vegetables, or spread on whole grain or nut-based crackers. Black beans are rich in folate, which helps prevent neural tube defects.

    15-oz. can of black beans (preferably organic beans in BPA-free cans), drained
    1 tablespoon onion, diced
    2 cloves garlic, pressed
    2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 teaspoon cumin
    1 tablespoon minced chopped cilantro
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Add all ingredients to blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    Roasted Cauliflower

    Adapted from allrecipes.com. Herbs and spices contain potent antioxidants that may help protect eggs and sperm from free radical damage. This dish is also a great way to load up the holiday table with non-starchy vegetables. Emphasizing vegetables is a great way to optimize digestion and gut health.

    14 cup butter, softened, or ghee, or olive oil
    1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
    12 teaspon ground cumin
    14 teaspoon sea salt
    14 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
    1 head (large) cauliflower, leaves trimmed

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix butter, ghee, or olive oil, dill, garlic, lemon zest, cumin, salt, and black pepper in a bowl. Cut the cauliflower stem flush with the rest of the head so it stands upright. Spread seasoning mixture evenly over the top and sides of the cauliflower, place in a casserole dish, and cover with foil. Roast cauliflower until tender and cooked through, about 1 1/4 hours. Transfer to a platter and spoon any liquid in the casserole dish over the cauliflower.

    Desserts

    Cocoa Coconut Balls

    These low sugar treats are a great way to keep the added sugar low, while still getting to have a treat. Nuts are a great source of satisfying healthy fats and cocoa powder provides an antioxidant punch!


    Makes about 20 one-inch balls

    1 cup pecans
    cup pitted dates (about 8 deglet noor dates)
    2 tablespoons coconut oil
    ¼ cup cocoa powder
    ¼ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
    1 tablespoon maple syrup
    ½ teaspoon salt

    Add all ingredients to the food processor or blender, and process for about 30-60 seconds until mixture sticks to the sides of the food processor. Roll into about one-inch balls. Store in the refrigerator.

    Broiled Grapefruit
    Adapted from williams-sonoma.com. Desserts don’t have to be all about sweets. Winter is a great time for citrus, and adding cinnamon to grapefruit provides a warming quality and may help lower blood sugar levels.


    Serves 1-2

    1 grapefruit
    ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

    Turn on oven broiler. Cut grapefruit in half and remove any seeds. Loosen grapefruit sections by using a small knife. First cut between the fruit and peel and then cut alongside each segment to loosen. Sprinkle cinnamon over grapefruit halves, and place under the broiler for 5 minutes. Serve hot.

    Candied Pecans


    Makes ¾ cup candied pecans

    1 teaspoon coconut oil
    ¾ cup raw pecan halves
    teaspoon salt
    1 tablespoon maple syrup

    Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a small pot until melted. Add pecans and stir to coat pecans with coconut oil. Sprinkle salt onto pecans. Add maple syrup, and mix to coat pecans in maple syrup. Immediately remove from heat. (If you leave the pecans on the hot burner, they will likely burn.)

    Beverages

    Healthier Hot Chocolate

    This easy homemade hot chocolate recipe cuts the sugar from about 12 grams per packet of cocoa mix to 4 grams. This is a great way to keep the caffeine very minimal and still feel like you’re having a beverage that’s a treat. Higher caffeine intake has been associated with longer time to pregnancy among women trying to conceive.

    3⁄4 cup water


    1⁄2 cup whole milk or non-dairy milk

    1 tablespoon cocoa powder


    1 teaspoons maple syrup

    Combine water and milk, and heat until almost boiling in the microwave or on the stove. Stir in cocoa powder and maple syrup. Enjoy!

    Peppermint Nettle Tea

    Here’s another nourishing caffeine-free tea option.

    Dried nettle leaf

    Dried peppermint

    Mix nettle and peppermint in a glass Mason jar with 1:1 ratio for a supply that will last from weeks to months. Cap tightly and shake to mix. Use about 1 tbsp of tea leaves per cup of tea. Adjust based on flavor preference.

    We hope you enjoy these recipes these season! If you want to learn more about how nutrition can aid your journey, call us at: 312-321-0004.

     

  • A Tradition to Remember

    by Melissa Hinshaw LMT
    It’s that time of year when everyone is moving and shaking and buying and baking and trying to make all the parties and give families equal time.  Whether you are single, married, divorced, or in between, you know what I am referring to.  During this festive, yet chaotic time of year, how do we hold on to ourselves and what we deem important?   What do each of us hope for the holidays and what traditions do we want to hold fast to our hearts when the pace is so fast and we are trying to please so many?
    The pressure of the holiday season can be both exhilarating and stressful.  In my younger years, two small children at my hip,  one with Autism and not interested at all in Christmas, presents, Santa, or family gatherings,  by the end of the season I used to feel completely wiped out, angry, resentful, and  grateful that it was all over with.   I realized I had no boundaries during this time of year and I went with the flow and did what was expected socially and and within my own family even though it was, at times, not good for me or my family at all.  I wanted my younger son, who was ecstatic about Christmas, and presents, and Santa to experience the magic that I had growing up. My childhood home was a wonderland of smells, and tastes, and decorations and presents and nervous excitement while my four brothers and sisters and I awaited Santa’s visit.  Looking back, we rarely traveled around from this house to that house or attended gatherings that my parents felt pressured to attend or did much anything stressful except for getting the lights on the damn Christmas tree.  My mom was a pro…I think because she loved this time of year and you knew it when you were at my house.  I longed for this feeling again.  The feeling of holiday joy and giving and singing and snow. I wanted it to be simple.  I wanted to love Christmas again and I wanted my children to love it too.
    After many stressful and disappointing holidays with depression looming  each and every year beginning with Thanksgiving.  After many tearful conversations on the phone with my mom, having a glass of wine when the whole thing was finally over, and asking her, “How do I do this mom?  I used to love this time of year.  How do I make it special like you did, for my boys, one who could care a less and often falls apart over the holiday break,  and one who couldn’t get enough?”  “Melissa my dear, create your own traditions.  Do what works for your family.  Say, No, when you need to.”  She was right.  I needed to create Melissa traditions, Melissa style, and engage both of my children at their individual levels yet do holiday things we could  enjoy as a family.  I took her advice.  I created a few simple traditions that we have stuck with over the years. My youngest loves it while my older son complains and requires lots of cheerleading, but we do our activities together and it makes us feel like we are a part of the holidays.   We have pictures to remind us that we have done this before and we will do it again this year.   This is a big deal for me and I cannot completely explain my reasons. I just know that being swallowed up by others’ rituals and rules and schedules doesn’t bring me joy.  It brings me sadness and stress.  Of course I enjoy celebrating with other people and sharing what makes the holidays special for them, but that is reserved for a very few.  It is ok to have quiet during this time of year.  It is ok to find peace and joy in the simple.
    I encourage everyone to find one special thing to do with your partner, your kid or kids, or your best friend that brings you to a special place. Something that you can do each and every year…something to look forward to.  Something that you decide feels good and brings joy.  Something you can share a photo of to remind you what you’ve done and to remind you that you you will do it again.
    If you need to break that is okay, too.  We are here for you, take time for a massage before or after the holidays or start the New Year off with a cleanse!

  • Myo-inositol for Male Fertility?

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Myo-inositol is a supplement that we often recommend for lowering insulin and testosterone levels and promoting cycle regularity in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). We also recommend it for egg quality. Now evidence is mounting that myo-inositol may have a beneficial effect for sperm quality in men as well!

    Myo-inositol is a molecule that your body makes from glucose. Myo-inositol is also found in foods in foods like fruits, beans, grains, and nuts. It has half the sweetness of glucose, thus if you mix myo-inositol powder into some water, you will taste a slight sweetness. Myo-inositol is critical for cell growth, cell membrane formation, lipid synthesis, and cell signaling in your body.

    According to the research, myo-inositol seems to have a beneficial impact on mitochondrial function. If you remember from high school biology, the mitochrondria are the “powerhouse of the cell,” meaning they are responsible for energy production. The idea is that supporting the mitochondria helps ensure the sperm have adequate energy production to support proper motility. In the research, incubation of sperm from men with low sperm count, motility, and/or morphology with myo-inositol resulted in higher sperm motility. Myo-inositol may also have antioxidant effects.

    A recent study of 100 men with low sperm count and/or low sperm motility looked at supplementation with myo-inositol, alpha-lipoic acid, folic acid, betaine, thiamine, and vitamins B6 and B12 to determine the impact on sperm quality. After a 90-day treatment period, there was a significant increase in sperm concentration, progressive motility, total motile sperm count, and normal sperm morphology. Within 6 months of discontinuing the supplements, the partner became pregnant in 40 cases either naturally or via IUI of IVF. No adverse effects were reported in the 100 men following this supplement regimen for 90 days.

    This study has really striking results. Because multiple nutrients were used, we can’t be sure how much of the impact is due to myo-inositol compared to other nutrients. It would also be great to see a placebo-controlled trial with myo-inositol. For now, these results are looking promising for using myo-inositol to improve sperm motility in men with subfertility of unknown cause. Stay tuned as we learn more about this important topic! 

    References:

    1. Canepa P, Dal Lago A, De Leo C. Combined treatment with myo-inositol, alpha-lipoic acid, folic acid, and vitamins significantly improves sperm parameters of sub-fertile men: a multi-centric study. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2018;22:7078-7085.
    2. Condorelli RA, et al. Myo-inositol as a male fertility molecule. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2017; 21(2 Suppl): 30-35.

  • Auricular Therapy for a Stress Free Holiday!

    By Anna Pyne LAc, MSOM, FABORM
    When holidays are not the most wonderful time of year but in fact quite stressful you can turn to Chinese medicine for help. The main treatment modalities are acupuncture and herbs. There are also a number of different accessory techniques that can be used to help enhance a treatment. One that I find particularly useful in my practice, especially during the holidays, is auricular therapy, which is basically ear reflexology.
    At the time of your acupuncture session your acupuncturist can place a few ear seeds at specific points on the ear to help resolve stress. There is a band aid type adhesive that helps hold the ear seeds in place on the skin. They do not penetrate the skin like the acupuncture needles. You have to press on the seeds in order to stimulate the function of the ear points. I recommend patients press them at least twice a day if not more. I tell them you can make it like a little nervous habit pressing on them multiple times a day, not only for stress prevention but to also help treat it when it is happening. So when you are at that family holiday party and your sister just announces she’s pregnant while you have been struggling with infertility, you have the ear seeds to press to help you through the moment. One ear point I use frequently in this regard is called shen men, which is very effective at calming the spirit. If you have any questions in regards to auricular therapy and how it might help you during this holiday season do not hesitate to email me and ask at: anna@pullingdownthemoon.com or call the office (312)321-0004 to schedule a session with myself or one of our other skilled practitioners. My office hours are all day Tuesdays and Fridays.
    Be well,
    Anna

  • 3 Reasons Pulling Down the Moon’s Prenatal Yoga Class Is Unique

    by Kellie Greene RYT RPYT
    You’re pregnant, and you’ve been doing your research. Maybe you read our blog on the benefits of prenatal yoga, or maybe your care provider suggested you try some classes. Maybe you’re already searching for a prenatal yoga class that fits.
    PDtM has a unique environment for prenatal yoga; here are three things that make Pulling Down the Moon classes different than the rest.
    1) Classes start with a check in
    Our prenatal classes always begin by giving participants the opportunity to share the highs and lows of their week with other parents who are experiencing a similar journey. Many of our clients have had memorable fertility journeys prior to pregnancy; taking the time to share and listen to one another helps everyone feel connected, stay present, and focus on the practice.
    2) Instructors understand the range of emotions you may feel
    The staff at Pulling Down the Moon are compassionate, empathetic and understanding. The yoga space is a safe environment to share the good, the bad, the ugly. Pregnancy after a loss or a difficult fertility journey is not always filled with positive emotions. Often fear, anxiety, grief, and other emotions sneak in. We understand that you can feel joy for this current pregnancy, fear that your heart will be broken, and confusion at the conflict between these emotions — all at once. We get it! Most of us have been there ourselves, and we hold space for your feelings here.
    3) Classes provide realistic and practical strategies to manage emotions
    Unlike some of the approaches to prenatal yoga, we intentionally talk about your non-preferred emotions and come up with realistic and practical strategies for coping with and managing them. We will address fears around the birth, talk about ways to involve partners, and create plans that may involve massage, acupuncture, and alternative strategies to help with physical and emotional aspects of your pregnancy.
    In addition to providing a holistic health environment to help you on your fertility and pregnancy journey, yoga classes at Pulling Down the Moon provide a community environment for women to support one another and experience the journey together. From the bottom of our hearts, we wish you the best of luck in your search and hope you find the prenatal supports that work best for you!
     We will also be offering a special Prenatal Workshop in Chicago for the New Year, learn more here. Questions?  Call us at: 312-321-0004.

  • Guest Blog Feature: Considering Single Parenthood

    By Tiffany Edwards, PhD, MPH

    In my clinical practice, I see a fair number of single individuals desiring to be parents but also feeling ambivalent in their feelings of wanting to do it alone. Their desire for a child is very real and many times combined with a sense of urgency, as many feel that they have spent considerable time trying to find a partner and now have reached an age or space in their life where time is of the essence. In these conversations, there are often common thoughts, questions and concerns that come up. In this post, I want to address two of the more common topics, namely 1) feelings of regret or ambivalence; and 2) concerns about the impact of their choice on the child.

    It is not uncommon for many single individuals desiring parenthood to feel and express frustration and resentment for not having been informed and educated about their fertility options sooner and several will share feelings of regret for not having given more thought to or prioritized their desire to have a child earlier in life. Some will question if they should have worked harder in maintaining or salvaging old relationships or made different career or life choices. Much has been written about the concept of regret and this alone could be its own blog series, but I will share a brief thought on it and attempt to summarize what others have shared as well.

    • *It is important to realize that regret, remorse, guilt, whatever you might be feeling are all normal cognitive/emotional responses.
    • *Often what you are feeling is a sign that you are more keenly aware now, of your desires, needs and wants and what matters to you most.
    • *These feelings can serve to motivate you to take action, which is often when many single individuals seek out information or take the necessary first steps in considering parenthood.
    • *Avoid romanticizing the past and the “what ifs” and instead reflect on and appreciate your own unique lived experiences. Similar to the choice you may be facing now, you were once faced with opportunities and choices in your past and undoubtedly you gave the same care and consideration in making those, as you are doing now, and made decisions that were right for you at that time.

    Some intended single parents worry about how growing up in a single parent household may impact their child. They wonder if the child’s adjustment will be stunted or if there will be parent-child relational issues, both at a young age and into young adulthood, when feelings of resentment or who and why questions may be posed. Not surprisingly, much of the current literature indicates that there are often no significant differences found between children conceived through third party (donor or surrogate) and/or reared in single parent, same-sex or heterosexual households. You can find more detailed information and references for these research findings here.

    Of course, the decision for anyone thinking about parenthood is important, whether you are single or not. Feeling comfortable and confident in your decision is key. If you are struggling with this decision or simply want to be well informed as your move forward in your plans, there are a host of support options available to you. One such is Fertility Centers of Illinois’ No Partners Needed Support Group. This group provides women the opportunity to discuss and share their thoughts, questions, concerns and experiences in their attempt to create their family.

    I hope this information is helpful to you as you think about and move forward on your desired path!

    Tiffany Edwards, Ph.D., M.P.H.
    Fertility Centers of Illinois

    Dr. Tiffany Edwards is a licensed clinical psychologist and patient educator specializing in counseling couples and individuals during treatment as well as egg donors and surrogates for those pursuing third party reproduction options.  Dr. Edwards earned her doctoral degree from Saint Louis University and a master’s in public health from New York University. She completed her pre-doctoral residency at Rush University Medical Center and two postdoctoral fellowships at Emory University School of Medicine and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. In her career, she has worked with patients to address a wide variety of psychological and health-related issues such as anxiety, depression, cancer survivorship, women’s health issues, stress management and more. In her role at Fertility Centers of Illinois, she counsels and supports patients, facilitates patient education seminars and leads support groups.

    Her caring, empathetic and supportive counseling approach aims to help patients move from fear and vulnerability to empowerment and hope on their treatment journey.

    Tiffany Edwards, PhD, MPH

    Clinical Psychologist

    Fertility Centers of Illinois

    https://fcionline.com/

    tiffany.edwards@integramed.com

     

  • A Picture Says A 1,000 Words But Never Says It All

    Pulling Down the Moon, Guest Blog

    by Lindsay Housner

    This is a picture of my family; it’s one of my favorites. On more than one occasion people who don’t know me well see this and say things like, “Oh my gosh, Lindsay, your life is so perfect that even your dog is perfect?!” The comment on our dog would be the first thing they were wrong about. Adorable, yes. Perfect? Not even close. I think our veterinarian has classified him as neurotic… Nevertheless we couldn’t love him more!

    The truth is there’s so much behind the surface of this beautiful photo (which is likely true for many of the picture perfect moments we see daily). It could never reveal all the heartache, struggle and excoriating pain it took us to get to that moment, captured in time.

    You would never know from looking at it that on February 20, 2016 (the day before I turned 33 years old), our world came crashing down harder than I knew possible when our first son, Aidan James, was born still at nearly 37 weeks and 5 days. Or that as I sat in the hospital waiting to induce labor, I was sure I was the only woman in the world that had lost her baby this late in pregnancy. Or that after experiencing the devastating loss of our beloved baby boy, with little to no answers why, we would struggle to conceive again. You could also never know the crippling anxiety I experienced for the 37 weeks and 5 days in my next pregnancy. Or the insane emotional rollercoaster I rode the entire time because while I was finally pregnant again after struggling for so long, it was near impossible for me to be happy about it. No, that wouldn’t happen until I held my sweet baby girl and light of my life, safely in my arms.

    To say our road to parenthood has been tough would be the understatement of the century. It’s tested me beyond measure to the point of breaking. Each time I broke (and it happened a lot), I found new ways and things that helped me start to pick up the pieces again.

    First, I found my “people.”  My people are the women that I was connected with shortly after losing my son that had a similar story. These women were my lifeline, the only people that I felt fully understood by and endlessly supported. I wrote novels to them via email and they always responded with words of encouragement, understanding and compassion. They have become some of my closest lifelong friends whom I owe the world to. Each new person I met introduced me to new things that I grasped on to for dear life to help me through the day.

    In the early days it was books. Anything and everything I could read, I did. Elizabeth McCraken’s memoir, “An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination” resonated with me best. It was heart wrenching but beautiful all at the same time. I recall highlighting sentences and then entire pages, and rereading them over and over because she had taken the exact words right out of my head. Feeling so understood when nothing else made any sense was very therapeutic for me.

    Then, once I built up the strength to leave my house, it was acupuncture, herbal supplements and yoga that were my savior. Which is what led me to walk through Pulling Down the Moon’s (PDtM) doors. From there my world as it exists today kept expanding when I was introduced to Beth Heller, one of PDTM’s founders, whose first daughter was also born still 16 years ago. Through an event Beth hosted one evening, I met a psychiatrist that quite literally brought me back to life. PDtM became a tranquil safe haven for me. Somewhere I always knew I would walk in feeling overwhelmed, defeated or just plain sad–and walk out with some sense of relief and hope.

    As the days, weeks and months passed, I continued looking for answers to big questions. Why/how could this happen and what are we as a country doing to prevent it from happening to more families? What I found was disheartening but who I found through the process was encouraging. The Star Legacy Foundation is one of the very few organizations I found that focuses its efforts on research and ultimately prevention of stillbirth, when possible. They are doing amazing work and have made great strides, but there is still a long ways to go. In the spring of 2018, we officially launched our Chicago Chapter of Star Legacy all thanks to one of the amazing women I’ve met on this journey, Lindsey Schmitz.  When I didn’t have the strength to get things off the ground, she did and she’s been an amazing and inspiring leader for our team here in Chicago.

    On October 15th, everything came full circle when Pulling Down the Moon hosted a beautiful yoga session in partnership with our Star Legacy Chapter in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I looked around the room and was comforted to see many of the same faces that helped get me to the family photo I shared (literally, my friend Jacqui even introduced me to the talented photographer who took it). But I was quickly reminded that there is still progress to be made and people to support as I saw many new faces.

    There are so many women and families, that while they may not have the same story as me, their journey has been anything but easy. If you’re reading this, you are probably one of them. Wherever you are on your road, I hope you know you are not alone. Whether you’re struggling to conceive, searching for answers or just looking to connect with someone who understands your pain, I am confident you can find something or someone helpful through PDTM or Star Legacy.

    There’s not a single day that goes by I don’t think about and miss Aidan. He led me to meet so many amazing people and I’ll spend the rest of my time trying my best to honor his short but beautiful life.

    To read more about Star Legacy or to get involved, please visit our Chapter website or get in touch with us at chicago@starlegacyfoundation.org.

    To read more about my story and Aidan, please visit his memorial page.

     

     

  • Waiting for Elijah

    The night before you were born, there was so much lightning. It wasn’t raining though, just hot– the hottest night of the year. Sitting on the big blue birth ball, rocking from side to side, I’d rest my head on the hospital bed during the in-between. When a contraction came, I’d sit up, open my eyes and watch the jagged stabs of light through the window as they punctuated the clear, distinct pain in my body.

    Later, the white haze of high noon would blur the edges of the clouds. By then, nothing would be clear for me. The pain and the urge to push or not push and the exhaustion and the panic would all run into and over each other, a hot, foggy murk, and I would not know when or if or how you were coming, or what my body was doing, or if both or either of us would survive.

    Everyone said it would be a snap. A breeze. A walk in the park. There will be nothing to it, they said. They said, he’ll slide right out. Nothing is like the first one, after that, it’s all downhill. Your body is ready, they said. Your body knows what to do. Your body will take over. You’ve been through it all already.

    Everything they said should have been true; but nothing could have prepared me for birthing you.

    I cannot say your birth tore me open. My body did not literally tear. Somehow, I managed to expand beyond my own capacity to accommodate not only your body, but also the hands and wrists and forearms of the midwife who reached inside to turn you and free your shoulder from the umbilical cord that had wrapped and twisted its way around you.

    And yet, later, I needed to mend.

    It’s hard to know what happened to me afterwards, where I went. I thought I knew how to have a baby – how to birth a baby and then how to mother an infant back at home. I’d done it before – I knew how.

    But I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know how to handle you, the colic. Who could blame you for being so fussy!  You had swallowed so much amniotic fluid, having descended into the birth canal, then waiting there for much longer than you should have. The fluid was in your ears and eyes and belly. You needed to recover from your own birth. You needed to be held all the time, and of course I wanted to hold you, but you have a brother too, and he also needed my love and attention.

    It’s not like things ever got That Bad, really.  I was not incapable of joy, because I did laugh and love with you. I could never not get out of bed. I did not want to harm myself or others. I never fantasized about abandoning you or dropping you out of the upstairs window.  I said “no” to many of the criteria on the doctor’s checklist when I finally went, nine months later, to get some medication.

    It was hard to describe, other than to say that I didn’t quite feel like myself. But then again, it was hard to know who my “self” was anymore. There was a dark heaviness, an anger and sadness and loneliness. There was a feeling that nothing was wrong, but everything was wrong.

    I slept upstairs for months, on the guest futon in my office. I did not know how to be married. I had no space. I felt so empty and hollow and heavy, there was no way anyone could meet me where I was.

    It was, and still is, vague and blurry and hard to understand.

    Maybe I just needed time to breathe, to mend my overstretched ligaments and allow the holes in my psyche to close back up again, after experiencing what was beyond my comprehension, to replenish the reserves of energy and fortitude that had been used up in birthing you.

    Maybe if I had been allowed to stay in the hospital for another day or so I would have been okay. Just some time to collect myself before heading back out into the world where so much would be asked of me.

    Maybe it’s because I felt so inept.

    Maybe it’s because the only ways I knew to love were suddenly limited by time, attention, and energy.

    Maybe it’s because your birth was so difficult but maybe it’s because that type of difficulty is not recognized as trauma.

    Maybe it’s because I wanted to tell my story – the story of your birth – over and over and over to make sense of it, to find a context, but once everyone knew the basic details – 20 hours of active labor, the cord around your shoulder, no c-section, nine pounds, two ounces, everyone’s fine – they had heard enough.

    Maybe I had post-partum depression. Maybe I had a chemical imbalance.

    Maybe I just needed help. Everyone had told me – 2 kids is more like 10 kids, the workload increase is exponential, etc. etc. But no one ever said, you will not know how to handle it. You will not know how to love so much, so separately, at the same time, and this not knowing will tear you apart.

    Maybe it was simply that I was an almost-40 year old woman who spent many long days alone with a toddler and an infant, and I could have used some time to myself.

    Maybe it was nothing more than that.

    My water broke first. That was a surprise. It hadn’t been that way the first time. Later, I was told that that there is much lore and myth around births where the water breaks before contractions have begun because contrary to common portrayals on TV, this sequence of events is actually rare.

    I had just gotten your brother into the bath and I bent down to kneel beside the tub and there it was, as if the bathwater had overflowed onto the floor. Of course I knew, but I still wanted to be sure. I waited. Soon, there were puddles of amniotic fluid all over the house. We called your grandparents to come for your brother. I stood on the front porch, waving until the car disappeared around the corner into the clear evening light. My heart ached, saying goodbye to my “only” son, bursting to welcome you.

    Back home again when everything was over, I was nostalgic for the hospital. There was a hippie deli down the street, and I missed the tuna sandwich on thick, soft, grainy bread, with tomato and sprouts brought to me on my one day of convalescence. I would miss the quiet, the solicitude, and that single night, alone with you, in the bed beside me, swaddled, nursing, as we figured out how to be together with you outside of me.

    Afterwards, I wanted to do it again right away, which was crazy, given what I’d just been through. I thought it was the post-partum euphoria, the hormones and dizziness. But the feeling lasted.  I wanted a third. A girl. I felt myself clinging to the hope that I would go through it all again. I knew that if I was going to do it, it was going to have to be now, that I could not make the transition in and out of this space again. I needed to keep the momentum going.  As the months wore on, though, I knew I could not handle more. This was plenty. We were enough.

    But first I had to be sad.

    I had to be sad that I am not younger. I had to be sad that I didn’t do this sooner. I had to be sad that I’m someone who needs a lot of solitude in order to feel fully whole. I had to be sad that I will never have a daughter, a Violet or Ruby. I had to be sad that your birth marks an ending for me. I had to mourn the loss of possibility, that while it is still technically possible, it is not actually desirable, given our circumstances, our lives, to have more children. I had to actually say the words to myself, No, I can’t handle more. And then I had to be sad that I can’t handle more. I needed to be sad that this will be all, and I had to go through all of that to recognize that this is plenty. That you, I, we are enough.

    Last time, I had birthed naturally, as I had wanted, but in a traditional hospital, with an O.B. With you, I was going to have a water birth. We had switched OB practices so that I could employ a midwife and use the Alternative Birthing Center and give birth in the giant bathtub. I could labor in water, which was said to be so relaxing and warm and peaceful. Floating took pressure off the joints and alleviated the affects of gravity and you would not be shocked by the sudden change from water to air and I could catch you myself as you slid out.  

    But the night you were born was the busiest of the year in the birthing wing. Someone said it was because of the lightning, the way it pierced the pressure of the atmosphere which induced labor. The tub was not available. It’s rare that so many women are laboring at the same time that those who desire the tub suites cannot have them, but as I breathed through my contractions in the triage room, I was told that there was a chance we might not be able to have a water birth.

    There was much confusion then, and conferring with various staff members. But I left that to the trusted others to handle, your father and godmother, who were with me in the hospital. I was busy, breathing, focusing, rocking, turning further and further inward in preparation for the work I would do later.  

    The lightning began to fade as the first signs of daylight appeared in the sky. There was a shift change for the staff, and once my regular midwife showed up, I knew we would be alright. She was taking charge of the situation and said that yes, we could get into the tub room because I had been there longer than the others. I only had to be dilated 5 cm before I could get into the room but that surely that would not be a problem because I had been there all night.   

    But when she checked, I was only at 2.5 cm, still. I didn’t know why it was taking so long, what was wrong, what I was doing wrong.

        Even at this hospital, with all their alternative methods, there were still rules; they followed the standard hospital protocol which allowed no more than 24 hours to elapse between when one’s water breaks and when the baby is delivered. Without amniotic fluid, the theory goes, the baby has no protection from harmful germs and bacteria and is potentially exposed to danger of all kinds.

        5 cm to get into the water, 24 hours without water.

        5 cm to get into the water, 24 hours without water.

        5 cm to get into the water, 24 hours without water.

    Later, somehow, in the space between trying to return to normal and recognizing that my notion of normal had vaporized – during the time when I tried to show your brother how much I still loved him and how much attention I still had for him, how much I could still dance and romp and play and be silly, and how much it was okay for him to be mad at me for having a baby, and how it was okay for him to not want me to sit next to him, or tuck him into bed at night, all while trying to figure out what would make you happy, not the car nor the stroller nor the bassinet, only my arms, my breast – somewhere in there a part of myself became dormant, as if stunned into stillness. It felt as if nothing within me was growing, that I had shed all the life I had.

    I was already a mother when I had you, so your birth was not the dramatic transformation into something else that had occurred the first time. One birth revealed to me how much I was capable of, was for me about capacity; the other illuminated my limitations, the point where branches can bend no further, the point of breakage. Both showed me to myself. Both were necessary for me to be whole. At the time I did not know that. At the time I did not recognize that anything was growing or alive, that deep underground, my roots were stretching, absorbing nutrients from the rich soil of my life, of our lives together.

    By now I’m Tired. I’ve been having steady contractions for 14 hours already. The tub is open. We are moving. We parade down the hall, carrying pillows from home and clothes and bags and cups of coffee and cups of ice. I feel that I’ve earned this and here we are, the large room with the queen sized bed with the flowered spread and oak headboard. The tub. The tub is full of water and waiting for me, for us. Through the window I see the blue sky and white, puffy clouds. Late morning light. I sink into the tub. Getting close to transition now. The contractions are coming quick and hard and I am breathing and the water feels so good, I lay back, rest, so that only my face and the apex of my belly with its protruding navel are not submerged in water. And then I wait. And nothing happens. When a contraction comes, several minutes later, it is weak, and barely a moan escapes my body. I wait some more. It’s afternoon now. We’re close to 20 hours now. I’ve gotten to 8 cm and now my contractions have stopped. I’ve reached transition and now I’m going backwards. I am closing back up.   

    Out of the tub and into the shower. Out of the shower and on to the bed. A walk down the hall. Nipple stimulation to get contractions going. We’ll try a breast pump. This works; the contractions are back and they are quick and hard and we are ready to go and they are in my back now. There is no water inside me and no cushion. I’m having back labor now and I’m on all fours on the bed and I have never had pain so deep and hot that it pushed me to the edge of consciousness. I do not know who I am. I do not know what I am.

    Then back in the tub and do I feel pushy now?  

    I’m not sure; I can try to push but I don’t know how. I don’t know how to push anymore and it’s not time yet. It should be time, but it’s not time yet. We’re not ready yet. Back into the shower and down the hall and back and nipple stimulation and now I feel pushy. I want to push in the tub but that doesn’t work. We’ll try the bed and now the pain the pain the pain. On my back and I am screaming and I can’t take it. I can’t do it any more I am done. The contractions are too much, it’s too fast now. It’s happening too fast and too slow and it’s not over yet and it should be and out the window is only white haze and my eyes are blurry. The room is flooded with light and I scream into the light it’s too much I’m pushing now. I’m pushing now. My body is on fire and you will be here now.

    I am in and out of that place within me that I have never known before, that I will not remember afterwards, that place that allows my body to take over. That place that pushes me out of itself, that is myself. That is fluid. I will need this later. I will want this later. But my moments here are so fleeting I will not know how to come back and this is not a place to return to, only to bring back with me. But there is no time to come back here, like waking from a dream and wanting to remember it before the day begins.

    I am pushing now for you to come but you do not come. You move down but then back up and something is wrong. It is not supposed to happen this way. It’s not supposed to be this way. I am to push and you are to emerge but you are not coming out. You have descended. You can’t stay there too long but you stay. Your head is moving now your head is out. Your skull your brain your mouth your eyes are here but now your body is stuck. We’re both stuck. There is nowhere to go because of where you are and where I am and I am done but you’re not out and there is nothing to do but scream and sob and push and breathe and pray and beg to be cut open but they cannot cut because your head is out and the only way out is through me. It’s not supposed to be this way, your body should slide right out now, but there is the cord. The cord is keeping you here, part of my body holding strong to your body, not letting you out and this is when we could die. Like a flash of lightning, I suddenly know, in my bones and skin and fluid and a new kind of scream, that something is very wrong, that you or I or both of us might not survive this. Darkness descends now. But now there are the hands and wrists and forearms, reaching in and turning. I don’t know what is happening, only more pain but there you are now you’ve been turned and you’ll slide out now, and I’m pushing and just like that there you are. You’re out. You’re out now and I’m done. My shaking sobbing body is done. But you’re quiet. There is no sound from you yet, not yet not yet and I am waiting for you still and I don’t know I don’t know if-  

    Here you are. You’re on me now, blue and slimy and crying too and mine. You’re here and you’re okay and we both made it we’re both alive and you’re out and both our hearts are beating and you’re fine and you’re here.

    Oh my God – you’re here.

     

    “Waiting for Elijah” appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of Calyx Literary Journal and is republished here with the author’s (Christine S, Massage Therapist LMT) permission.

  • Managing Your Sugar Intake Over the Holidays

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    The onslaught of sweets usually starts at Halloween and doesn’t stop until the New Year. Going into the holidays, it’s helpful to have a game plan for how you’re going to manage healthy eating. Without a plan, we may end up falling down the slippery slope of excess sweets despite the best intentions. (This is true with all goal setting. It’s important to move beyond wanting to “eat healthier” or “be more organized,” and instead have a plan in the form of specific habits that we work on in order to achieve these goals. No judgment here. I am definitely been guilty of this in many areas!) When determining your own plan, try out some of these actionable habits to help you manage your intake of sweets over the holidays.

     

    • Focus on adding instead of taking away. Instead of focusing on cutting back on sweets or on deprivation, focus on adding. For example, eating fruit after lunch and dinner would be a great habit to focus on, or filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables. When we add in lots of healthy foods, it’s helps to crowd out some of the less healthy stuff.

     

    • Have other “treats” that are unique to the season like citrus and pomegranates or walnuts or hazelnuts in the shell. These are fun treats that are nutrient dense and delicious. Of course, you’ll still have some other real treats, but swapping these in some of time helps.

     

    • Choose some lower sugar options. Sweets and desserts are meant to be indulgent, so I don’t recommend “healthy” sweets that are modified so much that they don’t feel satisfying. Even cutting the sugar by a third or half in many recipes still results in a delicious and indulgent treat. Try making treats with fruits like dates and bananas, which are whole fruits with fiber and nutrients and can help cut the amount of sugar/sweetener you need to add.

     

    • Use nuts and nut “flours.” Nuts contain healthy fat and are nutrient dense and provide your treat with flavor and the feeling of decadence without the refined carbs in white flour.

     

    • Focus on the treats you really love and forget the rest. You don’t have to try everything, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a polite “no thank you,” when offered a dessert or drink you’d rather skip.

     

    • Rethink your drink. Instead of overdoing it with pumpkin spice or gingerbread lattes or heavily sweetened hot chocolate, make your own at home. Combine warm milk or almond or flax milk, cocoa powder and/or cinnamon, vanilla, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Better yet, buy a milk frother to make your homemade beverage really feel like a treat!

    Want to learn more on this topic? I hope you will take advantage of the $75 Wild Card special this month to meet with our in-house Registered Dietitian, Elizabeth DeAvilla, for an initial nutrition consultation (save $50)! She can set-up a plan for you for the holidays and through the New Year whether for fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, or just wellness!  She can provide this support in-person (Chicago, Highland Park), by phone, and/or video consult.  Call us at: 312-321-0004 to learn more today!

  • Happy Thanksgiving

    By Kelly Lyons, L.Ac., MSOM

    Bloomberg just reported a story that placed Americans in 64th place among 195 countries who are improving their life expectancy by the year 2040. In 2016, the US was ranked 43rd among those 195 nations.

     

    The 6 health factors that influenced these outcomes were:

    1. High blood pressure
    2. High body mass
    3. High blood sugar
    4. Tobacco use
    5. Alcohol use
    6. Air Pollution

    Take a look again at these 6 influences. Most clients at Pulling Down The Moon are managing ALL of these issues very well. It is important to discuss the life-long benefits that your commitment to self-care are providing. While the short-term goal is building a healthy family, the long term benefits will be reaped once this foundation of wellness is built upon.

    For those of you who have had your children and are not sleeping, not eating as well, not finding time for yoga, and imbibing in more alcohol than you feel honestly is good for you, remember to come in and get some support.

    For those of you who are still TTC, remember that every moment of self-care adds up. Your investment in yourself now is not futile if you have not reached your family goals, yet. I truly believe that the gentler, smaller, daily choices we make are the ones that create lasting health and wellness.

    Thank you all for your deep commitment to your health. You are the finest, most dedicated clients in the world, and we know it!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    And don’t forget we are here for you–before or after Thanksgiving–though we will be closed on Thursday, November 22nd in observance of the holiday! Call us at: 312-321-0004 to schedule some self-care today!