• I Never Thought Becoming a Mama Would Be Hard…  

    My parent’s were able to have my sister and I.  My husband, Daniel, has parents that went through infertility, and with the help of medication, were able to conceive him and his sister.  And sure, you learn things in sex ed class, but no one teaches you just what real life can bring when you find out you cannot have a baby on your own.

    Dan and I had gone back and forth for many years about wanting children and how many.  We both came from families in which there are two children, and although that seemed like the obvious choice, something was not settling right with me.  For example, we have one dog, Mr. Big, and we love him to pieces.  For nine years, he was our fur-baby, and I didn’t want another dog.  And although animals and humans are not the same, my heart was in the same place…if I could have a baby, I wanted to have one.  One in which I could set all my heart and efforts on.

    After over a year of trying to conceive, Dan and I were referred to a specialist to look into our fertility struggles.  After a surgery to clear a blocked tube, finding out about a cyst I had, and enduring many, many blood tests, it turned out that there were problems on both sides, and the odds of conceiving without medical assistance were less than 1%.  IVF would give us a chance of up to 75% success in conceiving, and not knowing what I would be in for, we decided privately that IVF would be our shot (no pun intended) to have a baby.  

    And so we informed our extended families of infertility and the journey of IVF we would be headed upon.  Our fertility doctor is one of the best in the Chicago land area, and we felt as positive as we possibly could in a situation of the unknown.  I had seven eggs retrieved, and all seven were successfully fertilized.  In the process of IVF, we ended up losing some of the embryos and were down to three to be sent for genetic testing.  One did not make it, and one came back positive for transfer.  There was one embryo that did not come back with a result, and I remember the doctor’s office asking me if I wanted to have the embryo retested.  Dan and I decided that we did, and while that embryo was sent out, I could have the embryo that came back positive transferred.  

    And so we did.

    A few days after a successful transfer, we were cautious and careful in everything I did.  I took off work the day I went for the blood test to find out whether or not I was pregnant.  I wanted to be alone.  

    And then I got the call…the transfer worked, and we were pregnant.

    I decided not to tell Dan until he got home, as I wanted the chance to surprise him like other women got to do when they took a successful at-home pregnancy test.  Except my way was through several blood tests at the doctor’s office.  I had baby Air Jordan’s and flame-less candles set up in what would be the future nursery.  When Dan came in, he went upstairs and was surprised with the good news.  He was so happy, and I was feeling things I couldn’t believe…I was finally pregnant.

    Right before the transfer it is important to note that we received information that the embryo that needed to be retested came back positive.  Stunned at this news, we decided to keep that embryo frozen and would think about the possibilities later.  

    It was time for some additional blood tests to see how the transfer was doing and the pregnancy progressing.  I remember getting the call telling me that the HCG numbers should have doubled but mine did not.  They would need me to come in again for another test.  Worried about what could happen, I did all I could to shield Dan for the heartache and pain of bad news.  The numbers were not rising, and I had a miscarriage.  

    We were devastated.  

    Making those calls to the family members was only part of the pain.  Knowing how excited Dan was about me being pregnant, and then telling him we had lost our baby, well, some moments truly make you stronger in life.  That pain is something I will never forget.

    Still…we still had one embryo left that could be transferred.  Soon my body healed and with continuous shots and medication, I was ready for the transfer of the final embryo we had; the “surprise” embryo that was retested and came back positive.  I remember that whole week acting completely different than I did with the first transfer.  I was doubtful and felt like I needed to prepare myself for disappointment again.  It would help me when something bad happens this time around if I already expected it.  But, Dan reminded me to stay focused on this fighter embryo.  

    And so I tried with all I had in me.

    We had the transfer, and I remember our nurse specifically telling us to do everything opposite we did with the first transfer.  “You’re not superstitious are you?,” she asked.  Being that I am not, we tried to be as normal as possible and not live in fear of the tiny embryo that was fighting to stick inside of me and become a positive pregnancy.  And even though my body was reacting completely different with this transfer than from the first one, I did all I could to remain calm.  Daniel was my greatest supporter and without him, I don’t know if I could have stayed true to my word on believing this time would be different.

    Then the day came for the blood test to determine if I was pregnant. This time, I went to work and tried not to think about what the result would be.  When I got the phone call that afternoon, the nurse was happy and told me the transfer was successful, and we were pregnant.  Still, knowing that things could take a turn for the worse (the HCG number was still lower now than with the first transfer), I played my emotions cautiously.  A few days later, I took another blood test, and the HCG number grew more than expected.  I remember getting the call and this time things were dramatically different.  The pregnancy was healthy and successful and although anything can happen, we were further along than before!  I called Dan with the news, and I will never forget the tone in his voice or how he responded that day.  It was an amazing moment of complete joy.  

    Speed up nine unforgettable months, and on April 19, 2018, my water broke.  On April 20, 2018, after four hours of pushing, I gave birth to the most beautiful, healthy blessing in a baby boy.  His name is Ferris Jobs, and Dan and I love him so much our hearts hurt.  We chose not to find out the gender or tell anyone our name choice.  When the nurse handed him to me and said I had a son, Daniel and I looked at each other and cried.  It was the happiest moment of our lives.  

    In the story of Ferris, I wouldn’t change a thing.  

    He will grow up knowing that he was born to do great things, that he was wanted and loved by his parents more than anything in this universe, and that there is a guardian angel always looking out for him.  

    He is our rainbow baby, and the greatest love of my life.

    **Check out Tess’ book, I’m Very Ferris, in the tea room at Pulling Down the Moon in Chicago on your next visit and follow us on Instagram for an upcoming giveaway to win your own copy! Participate in the Candlelight Remembrance Yoga with the #waveoflight on Oct 15th and let us honor your little one lost too soon during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

     

     

     

    BIO:

    Entrepreneurship has always been Tess’ dream job, and after having her miracle baby boy, Ferris, she realized there was no better time than the present to follow this dream. Ferris is Tess’ last embryo and the answered prayer of faith, love, and science through IVF.

    Tess made the decision to become a professional children’s picture book author and compose the I’m Very Ferris series after leaving corporate America and, once-and-for-all, jumping into the risk of starting her own company. Reading holds a very special place in her heart, and this next stage of her career has Tess teaching something she is so passionate about in the lives of children through her picture books. Tess is also training to run the New York City marathon in November 2019.  She loves to host parties and celebrate life, no matter how small the occasion! 

    Tess earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from Elmhurst College, which is also where she met her husband, Dan.  

    “I am a mother, first and foremost, and everything else comes second.  I believe you really can have anything you want…but you are going to have to work for it and expect nothing to be handed to you.  I am a do’er and believe in living the good life. Having my health, loving so hard it hurts, and remembering that life was meant to be lived  – that’s what is important to me.

    My husband often calls me his real-life Steve Jobs because I respect what Steve said and live my life and teach my son to believe in the following whole-hearted:  “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore     them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

    LINKS:

    https://tesskossow.com/

    https://www.facebook.com/imveryferris/?modal=admin_todo_tour

    https://www.instagram.com/tesskossow/

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/tess-kossow-100657178

  • Myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol for PCOS

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    In honor of PCOS Awareness Month, we’re sharing some of our best tips for managing PCOS with diet, lifestyle, and supplements. We love working with clients with PCOS, because there is so much you can do by changing your habits to positively impact PCOS. A PCOS diagnosis is based on the Rotterdam criteria, which includes 1) irregular menstrual cycles with absent or irregular ovulation, 2) cysts on the ovaries, 3) elevated androgen levels. Two of these 3 characteristics must be present for a diagnosis of PCOS. 

    Another common characteristic of women with PCOS is insulin resistance with 60-75% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance regardless of body weight. When you have insulin resistance, your insulin isn’t working as effectively as it should to get glucose out of your blood and into the cells of your body to be used for energy. The pancreas compensates by pumping out more insulin. These elevated insulin levels seem to be at the root of the elevated androgen/testosterone levels commonly found in women with PCOS. Thus addressing the insulin resistance in PCOS may help lower insulin and testosterone levels and improve menstrual cycle regularity. You can read more about managing insulin resistance here.

    So this is where inositol comes in as a really helpful supplement. Inositol is a nutrient found in beans, grains, fruit, and nuts that research has shown to be beneficial for PCOS. There are 9 different forms of inositol, but two forms have been shown to be beneficial for PCOS. These are myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol.  Myo-inositol in combination with D-chiro-inositol may help lower insulin and testosterone levels and increase menstrual cycle regularity in women with PCOS making it a very helpful tool in your PCOS management strategy. The body’s normal ratio of myo-inositol to D-chiro-inositol is 40:1, and a recent study has shown that this is the most effective ratio in supplemental form for restoring ovulation in PCOS. At Pulling Down the Moon, we carry Ovasitol, which contains the recommended 40:1 ratio of myo-inositol to D-chiro-inositol.

    Beyond PCOS, myo-inositol also may improve egg quality and may reduce risk for gestational diabetes when taken during pregnancy. Book a nutrition appointment today to further discuss ways to help manage your PCOS!

     

    Reference: Nordio M, Basciani S, Camajani E. The 40:1 myo-inositol/D-chiro-inositol plasma ratio is able to restore ovulation in PCOS: comparison to other ratios. Eur Rev Med Pharm Sci. 2019;23:5512-5521.

     

  • Finding Calm

    by Christine Davis, LAc MSOM

    With each passing year, things seem to get busier. More appointments, more work requirements, more life events, more things to do. Then there’s the well meaning family members and friends: why aren’t you pregnant yet? My friend tried This Thing and it worked for her, so you you should try it, too! Then there’s social media and the internet: EVERYONE seems to be happier and more successful than you – here’s what you SHOULD be doing to do to be happy ALL THE TIME. It’s all a never ending stream of NOISE. Where does it stop? How can you simmer down and quiet the stream of mental debris that constantly stimulates worry, fear, anxiety, and frustration?

    Here are my suggestions. They aren’t a complete list, but these are the important ones. It may take time to incorporate them all: 

    1. Say it with me: “No.” “I’m sorry, I’m not available.” It’s ok to put yourself first and say “no” when what is being asked of you will compromise your wellness. Clear a path for your ability to think clearly, breathe, and do the things you need to do to feel balanced. Much like Marie Kondo’s method for clearing physical clutter, you need to decide what’s important in your life mentally and emotionally. Say YES to the things that create the life you want (even though they may be difficult, too, sometimes) and NO to the things that are holding you back from that life.
    2. Disconnect. Social media has been fun over the past couple of decades, right? There are some good and some (really) bad parts, but study after study emerges showing the negative impact that it can have on your mental and emotional state. If you are having trouble completely disconnecting – especially if work or other interests require you to connect with SM – limit your interactions with these apps/websites. Give yourself a specific time frame in which you allow yourself to use them in a positive, uplifting manner.
    3. Get help. There is no shame in reaching out to a professional if you need help with mental wellness. This could be a mental health professional, a religious guide, etc. Someone who you trust, who is impartial, who has training in helping to guide you is ideal. This doesn’t mean you are signing up forever – sometimes a few sessions can really help to clarify and ground you. I feel like the best therapists are the ones who hold a “mirror” up, so to speak, so that you can see things as they are, then help you to appreciate the beauty that you see.
    4. Center yourself. This could be with meditation, prayer, yoga, journaling, long walks by the lake – whatever helps you to focus on one, two, or ten things–instead of the thousands of thoughts that are constantly flooding in otherwise. I like to think of Georgia O’Keefe’s “Sky Above Clouds” painting – the thoughts are just clouds floating past. Try not to hang on to them and instead just observe them and let them float past. There are some amazing smartphone apps: FertiCalm and FertiStrong, Insight Timer, MindfulIVF, Headspace, etc. that have tons of guided meditations for everything from general anxiety to trouble sleeping to going through an IVF cycle.
    5. Find gratitude. Keeping a Gratitude Journal helps with this. Write just a line or two each day about something you are grateful for. It could be the delicious muffin you had for breakfast, the painless phlebotomist experience, your favorite song coming on the radio, the friend who went out of her way to give you the support you needed. Many studies have shown that focusing on the positive aspects of life actively literally rewires the brain to feel happier and more positive.
    6. Try Acupuncture. A modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture is a therapy for the mind, body, and spirit. With regular (once or twice per week, usually) treatment, you will see many aspects of your physical, mental, and emotional self come into balance. Acupuncture is known to be helpful for everything from pain to allergies to digestive stuff to fertility, but it can also be helpful for balancing the mental state and emotions.

    Firstly, an acupuncture visit is usually very relaxing! Most who haven’t tried it don’t believe me when I say that, but when else do you take 30 min to just lie still, no phone, not going to sleep (although it’s ok if you do!), not talking or listening (except to quiet music)? This is a deeply restorative time to be quiet, soft, grounded.

    Acupuncture has mounting  scientific evidence showing that regular treatment can help with reducing anxiety, depression, and other emotional disorders. In TCM, there is a strong connection between the physical state and the emotional state. By creating a state of harmony throughout the physical body, balanced mental/emotional wellness is the natural outcome. 

    In TCM, fertility is associated with the element of Water. When water is too abundant or too scarce, the earth and all forms of life suffer, including our own bodies. The element of Water shows its emotional imbalance in the form of Fear/Anxiety. When we are in a constant state of stress (life, work, family, infertility, etc), we put ourselves into a constant state of “fight or flight.” This creates a situation in which our bodies focus only on staying alive for the moment rather than long cycles like those required for fertility. By using acupuncture, we are able to break that constant loop of stress, find grounding, and reconnect with our natural cycles which can lead to improved fertility.

    Choosing to find serenity in this life takes effort. Just think about when someone says, “Calm down!” or “Relax!” Has anyone ever calmed down or relaxed just by hearing that? I don’t think so. By regularly making the choice to build the space for quiet, for reflection, for balance, you are creating a foundation for the life you are searching for. 

    Learn more during our upcoming webinar “Acupuncture for a Medicated Cycle” on Tuesday, September 17th at 6pm! Click here to register to view it live or watch the replay at your convenience!

    Ready to get started? Book your appointment now and save with the You Pick Two special this month!

  • From Practitioner to Patient: A Different Kind of Journey

    by Jillian Thomas, LMT

    Never in a million years did I think I would be in the position I was a few months ago.  My In Laws met my husband, son and I at a diner near our house.  They had just come back from a cruise the day before.  My mother in law proceeded to tell us that the doctor had told her she needed to go on dialysis-that she was  in Stage 5 Kidney failure.  Instantly the idea popped into my head.  I knew my blood type was 0+ and while sitting in that diner, my gears were turning.  After we left the diner, I told my husband my thoughts.  I wanted to get tested to see if I could donate to his mother.  Over the next two weeks I nervously thought of how to offer my kidney to her.  We invited my In-laws over for dinner one night, and while chatting in our family room, I told her.  We had been trying to conceive for about 9 months for our second child- to no avail.  I shared with her that I believed that there was a reason why we weren’t getting pregnant and that was so I was able to give this gift to her. She was speechless.  It took her two days to be able to come up with the words to thank me for offering.  We scheduled our initial appointments at University of Illinois at Chicago to get onto the registry.  After several vials of blood and several meetings with various health care professionals, we were sent on our way. Two weeks later, I received a call from the nurse coordinator to tell me that I was a perfect match. My mother-in-law and I both laughed in disbelief at the news.  This was really happening. Here we are now, with the transplant planning process started, still in disbelief that this had come together so fast.  It is amazing to me how there had to be an incredible amount of situations that had to line up in order for this to become a reality.  How could this be incidental? Our desires for a second child must be put on hold for a while, but this means that our child and future children can have their Nana around a while longer. No good plan survives its first encounter with a harsh reality.  Maybe sharing my story might be able to resonate with others going through difficult times and having to make difficult decisions.  

    As I am preparing for the next steps, I scheduled my Cleanse Massage and my Therapeutic Nutrition Consultation with the team at Pulling Down the Moon to support my wellness during this process.  I am grateful to have found ‘The Moon’ and joined the Massage Team to support women on their journeys with fertility, pregnancy, postpartum care, and all the stressors life brings.  I will go on leave for this journey after my mother-in-law’s clearance is finalized and looking forward to supporting your journey before, as well as, after my recovery!

    Let us take care of you on your journey and book your massage today!

    (Pictured: Jillian Thomas and her Mother-in-Law Joan)

  • Guest Blog: The Stress of It All

    by Kellie Stryker MSW LCSW

    According to reproductivefacts.org, “Infertility often creates one of the most distressing life crises that a couple has ever experienced together. The long term inability to conceive a child can evoke significant feelings of loss. Coping with the multitude of medical decisions and the uncertainties that infertility brings can create great emotional upheaval for most couples.” 

    Kristin L. Rooney, BA and Alice D. Domar, PhD with Boston IVF wrote: “Infertility is often a silent struggle. Patients who are struggling to conceive report feelings of depression, anxiety, isolation, and loss of control. Depression levels in patients with infertility have been compared with patients who have been diagnosed with cancer.1 It is estimated that 1 in 8 couples (or 12% of married women) have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. Despite the prevalence of infertility, the majority of infertile women do not share their story with family or friends, thus increasing their psychological vulnerability. The inability to reproduce naturally can cause feelings of shame, guilt, and low self-esteem. These negative feelings may lead to varying degrees of depression, anxiety, distress, and a poor quality of life.”

    It’s normal to experience times of stress throughout the infertility process. However, it becomes a cause of concern when the feelings become persistent or prolonged. 

    According to reproductivefacts.org, if you experience the following symptoms for a prolonged of time, you may benefit from meeting with a mental health professional. 

    • Loss of interest in usual activities
    • Depression that doesn’t lift
    • Strained relationships
    • Social isolation 
    • Thoughts that are consumed by infertility
    • High levels of anxiety
    • Diminished ability to concentrate or accomplish tasks
    • Change in your sleep patterns, appetite or weight 
    • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
    • Persistent feelings of pessimism, guilt, bitterness, anger or worthlessness
    • Thoughts about death or suicide

    Help Is Out There 

    The following resources are dedicated to helping you improve your Reproductive Mental Health: 

    • RESOLVE: The National Infertility AssociationRESOLVE provides free support groups in more than 200 communities; is the leading patient advocacy voice; and serves as the go-to organization for anyone challenged in their family building. 
    • ASRM : American Society for Reproductive MedicineASRM is a multidisciplinary organization dedicated to the advancement of the science and practice of reproductive medicine. The Society accomplishes its mission through the pursuit of excellence in education and research and through advocacy on behalf of patients, physicians, and affiliated health care providers. The Society is committed to facilitating and sponsoring educational activities for the lay public and continuing medical education activities for professionals who are engaged in the practice of and research in reproductive medicine.
    • Pulling Down The MoonHolistic care for family health and fertility should be highly personal, compassionate, and customized to meet the unique needs and complex challenges of each patient. Founded in 2002, Pulling Down the Moon recognizes the stress and emotional turmoil and fatigue that can come with infertility as well as your day to day health. 
    • Shine Fertility Shine supports women through mentorship, community and education. We empower women by encouraging a proactive approach to fertility health and fertility preservation.

    Taking Care of You

    It’s ok to be sad, frustrated, angry, resentful, bitter and whatever emotions you may be feeling at this very moment. You are allowed to feel all of the above and more. Sit with it. Don’t force yourself to put on a brave face when you are going through unimaginable pain. However, when you are ready, allow yourself to work through the emotions you are experiencing. 

    Georgia Witkin, Ph.D with Progyny wrote: “You may not have control over the physical effects of fertility treatment, but you can take control over many of the psychological effects. What you think and what you do shapes what you feel, so choose thoughts and behaviors that reinforce your sense of control.”

     

     

     

    Kellie Stryker is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and owner of Rain to Rainbow Counseling. Kellie has over 10 years of experience in the mental health field. Kellie currently lives in Crystal Lake, IL with her husband and 1 yr old daughter who was conceived through infertility treatments. Kellie’s mission as a Reproductive Mental Health Counselor is to provide support to others as they navigate through their infertility journey. 

    Rain to Rainbow Counseling offers supportive services which are focused on all aspects of Reproductive Mental Health which include infertility, grief, loss, miscarriage, stress management, adoption and pregnancy counseling. Rain to Rainbow Counseling is currently in network with Blue Cross Blue Shield of IL and Optum United Health Care. In Person and Online Telehealth Sessions are available.


    Benefits of Online Telehealth: 

    • Confidential: Rain to Rainbow Counseling uses Simple Practice, a secure and HIPAA compliant program.
    • Online Client Portal: No software to download. Private login and password for each client. 
    • Same benefits and techniques: Only difference is we see each other on screen instead of in person.
    • Convenience: Can literally be done from when and wherever you are comfortable.

    References:

     

     

  • Put On Your Rose-Colored Glasses

    By Alece Demaray RYT 

    I consider myself an optimist and a person who is capable of staying grounded through the whirlwind of life.  This is generally speaking, because being positive is a practice and life is always willing to test you.

    When I started to see a specialist on my fertility journey, I became quickly overwhelmed at the amount of appointments I had to fit into my already full schedule.  Thankfully most of the appointments could be completed early in the morning prior to work, but the early wake ups, finding parking and long days started to wear on me.  In addition, I was feeling stressed at trying to plan ahead of what cycle days I would have to go in, so I could plot my schedule/travel around my new commitment. I became agitated and overwhelmed.  NOT what you want when trying to conceive.  

    Once I got in the routine of the appointments and how they fit in my life, I started to appreciate them more.  For one, I am so lucky to live in a place where this top-notch care and specialty exists. I also began to feel very grounded around my early morning appointments because of what I was doing after them.  After each appointment I would carve out some time go to get some breakfast prior to moving into the rest of the day. While nourishing, I would reflect on the good, what I was grateful for… the level of care I was able to access, my supportive partner, my flexible work schedule, the warm food in front of me.  I would write around 5 things and often that act of writing 5 things stimulated more words to flow. I found that my ritual would leave me feeling calmer and connected to myself. It prepared me to take on the day ahead with a renewed sense of vigor.  

    It can be difficult to find the good when you are feeling down, but I assure you- it is always there.  There is always something to express gratitude for, even if only the shoes on your feet or a snuggle with your pup.  Finding gratitude has a myriad of benefits including improved sleep and fostering a greater sense of contentment. A study carried out by Emmons & McCullough in 2003, also confirmed that people who practiced gratitude daily exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical aches and pains, felt more connected to others and were more optimistic, thus improving their ability to make progress towards their goals. 

    Gratitude has a way of slowing you down and filtering your view of life, allowing you to see the rosy hues.  They are there, BUT it takes some reprogramming of the brain to recognize them BEFORE you see the dark tones.  Believe it or not, we are programmed to find the threat in things first. This stems from way back, when humans were being chased by lions and tiger and bears (oh my) and had to defend themselves to survive!  Thankfully we do not need to operate that way, but our mind is still programmed to scan our environment for what is wrong, what is threatening us. As a result, we can see “threats” in people that we don’t like, jobs that over-stress us and get caught up in drama, losing sight of the bigger picture.  

    There is good news.  We can take conscious action to retrain the way our mind works.  We can flip our attention to see the good. To notice the sun before the feeling the humidity, to savor the doughnut before counting the calories, to admire your accomplishments before obsessing over what is left to do.  

    So how can you make the shift?  It is easier than you think, but it takes a daily commitment that you are more than capable of doing.  Get a notebook and spend 5 minutes every day to jot down 3-5 things that you are grateful for. That is it! Commit to your gratitude journal for 30 days and then check in.  Do you enjoy it? Have you noticed any shifts in your mood, relationships and life?  Good things, abundance and high vibes attract more good things, more abundance and higher vibes.  It’s time to put on your rose-colored glasses, so you can see and experience the beauty around you, your life.  So, start now. What are you grateful for today?

    If this conversation lights you or if this conversation agitates you, let’s talk about it!  I will be at Pulling Down the Moon for two FREE events this summer and will kick off a Yoga For Fertility series in August.  Dates are included below. I hope to meet you soon… and in the meantime, stay grateful, bask in the sun and taste the sweetness of the season.  Soak up the goodness that life serves daily.

    All at Pulling Down the Moon in our Chicago Location.  Check out Yoga for Fertility and our Calendar of Events on our website for more details!

    • Go Prana Go:  8/24 @ 10am, FREE –> Space is limited. Register here to save your spot!
    • Yoga For Fertility SeriesJoin the current series on Sundays at 11:30am with rolling enrollment through September 22nd and then the next series starts on Tuesday, September 24th at 7pm –> Register via MBO here.

    Questions? Let us help at: 312-321-0004!

  • The Two-Week Wait: Your Holistic Guide to Wellness

    The anticipation, anxiety, the loss of control and not knowing what to expect can be especially difficult during the “two-week wait.” The two-week wait – between ovulation and when your next cycle is due to start – can feel as if you are in limbo as there is no way to tell if you’re pregnant. 

    You may find yourself watching for signs and symptoms of pregnancy. Each twinge in your belly, tenderness in your breasts and feeling of fatigue, asking yourself, “Does this mean I’m pregnant? Or am I getting my period?”

    The questions, the “what if’s,” the TIME all feels endless and one seems to build upon the other until what you’re left with is a gigantic ball of anxiety and feeling a loss of control. 

    What if instead of “getting through” the two-week wait, we were intentional and mindful of nurturing ourselves by creating a plan? This holistic guide to self-care will provide you with a plan for nurturing yourself in four areas: physical, social, emotional and spiritual. 

    Physical

    Sleep is not only necessary and restorative for our bodies, it also allows us to cope with our feelings of anxiety and overwhelm in a more manageable way. If you find yourself having difficulty falling asleep, here are a few helpful tips:

    • Keep a journal or notepad next to your bed and write down the thoughts, worries or items on your ‘to-do’ list. Say to yourself, “This will be here for me if/when I need it.” Sometimes the act of writing something down allows for a cathartic release of whatever we’re feeling preoccupied with.
    • Listen to a guided meditation app before bed to relax into sleep and take your mind off of the two-week wait. Bonus: the more you practice, the more this cues your body and mind that it’s time to sleep.

    Gentle exercise such as planning a walk to a scenic place, a lake or forest preserve. Getting outside can have a calming, centering effect while you are present in nature. Try Yoga for Fertility poses on your own or building community through practice with others. Schedule an Unwind the Mind Massage, “This session was created to be a safe oasis from post-ovulation stress, boosting immune and endocrine function, while supporting a potential pregnancy.” (Pulling Down the Moon, Fertility Enhancing Massage (FEM)

    Social

    • Plan a social outing with your partner or friends. Socializing provides an outlet for connection as well as a distraction from the thoughts and feelings you maybe preoccupied with. And, it’s fun! What activities do you enjoy doing? Want to try something new? Try being intentional about planning enjoyable activities, especially during the two-week wait.

    Emotional

    • Create a list of friends, family members or supports you can reach out to check in with during the two-week wait. Is there a fellow member of your support group, a friend or family member who has an understanding of what you’re going through? Who acts as a sounding board, offers encouragement or provides a fun distraction? Write these supports down so that when you’re feeling especially alone or overwhelmed during your journey you have a few go-to people you feel safe reaching out to.
    • Mantras can have a powerful and empowering impact. Choose a word or short phrase you would like to be the focus during your two-week wait. How would you like to feel and respond to yourself and others? Write the mantra on a post-it note or schedule it as a daily event on your phone to be reminded of your intention. 

    Nurture ~ Empower ~ Peace ~ Joy ~ Warrior

    Spiritual

    • Practicing meditation & mindfulness “Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment… Being present is the most powerful place to be.” Thich Nhat Hanh. Bringing your attention back to the present moment can help decrease feelings of anxiety and increase self-awareness. New to meditation? Try a guided meditation app. There are guided meditations specific to fertility, sleep, anxiety and grief that you may find especially helpful in starting or ending your day.

    In summary, while creating a plan doesn’t take away the uncertainty, it may allow you to feel a sense of control with how you choose to meet this part of your fertility journey. Creating a plan for the two-week can be a nurturing way to care for yourself during a time when your thoughts and feelings may be overwhelming. Take this time to connect with yourself, your partner and those you enjoy spending time with who play a supportive role in your journey. 

    Links:

    Emily Heilman is the founder of Flourish Counseling & Wellness. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Certified Perinatal Mental Health specialist (PMH-C), she specializes in perinatal mental health and wellness, supporting women and their families navigate their fertility journey, the pregnancy and postpartum period, and throughout motherhood. Her experience in the field of women’s and perinatal mental health spans the past 13 years where she has worked in community mental health, hospital settings and private practice. Emily offices are located in the Chicago Loop & Oak Park. To learn more, visit: https://flourishcounselingltd.com/

     

  • Yoga at the Plate

    by Cassie Harrison RYT

    When I think of July, I think of baseball.  I imagine it has to do with hoping a few of my favorite players make it to the All Star Team and that my team will be over .500 by then. So it’s no surprise to me that a Baseball analogy found its way into my teachings during my online Yoga for Fertility class. I used it to demonstrate the power of being present. So grab the peanuts and join me in an at bat experience of past, future and present through a batters mind.

    A batter’s at bat, they adjust their grip and the pitcher gets ready to throw the first pitch. The batter’s lost in thought, thinking about the last time they faced this pitcher, remembering how bad it went, would it happen again? A feeling of dread overcomes them, the batter begins to feel helpless, powerless, and decides they can’t can’t get a hit when, Whoosh! A fast ball whizzes past them. The batter didn’t even see it coming.

    A second batters at bat, takes a few practice swings, steps up to the plate, and eyes up the pitcher. The pitcher throws the first pitch, a curve ball, the batter swings and misses. The batter regroups, steps back up to the plate, starts to think about what the pitcher will throw. Will it be another another curve ball? Maybe a fast-ball? What should I be ready for? Adjusting their stance, fidgeting with their hat, glove, trying to anticipate what’s coming, and trying to be ready for it all.They worry about what’s coming next, the pitchers throws, the batter still trying to decide what’s coming when another curve ball bends past them. Strike!

    A third batters at bat, they take a few practice swings, feels the weight of the bat in their hands. They adjust their helmet and gloves until they feel snug and right. They walk towards the field, listening to the roar of the crowd. Excitement begins to fill them as they get closer to the plate. Stopping just short, they take a few more swings, knock the dirt off their cleats,  and take their stance. They look at the pitcher and can see them spinning in ball in their hand. They hear the catchers breath next to them, and in their peripheral they see the infield moving closer. They feel the energy changing. They wait, watch, eyes sharp, mind quiet. They squeeze the bat, kick the dirt, and listen for what the pitcher is about to throw. The pitcher gets the call, whoosh…crack, the ball flies deep to center…  

    Which batter are you in your fertility journey? Are you like the batter lost in thought reviewing the past? The past are our memories, it happened, it might feel like you are reliving it, but it’s done. Like the batter, if are you lost in what happened and unable to move forward, the world will continue and you will miss it. Maybe you identified with the batter worrying about the future? You are so busy trying to figure it all out and anticipate everything that instead you’re missing what is happening now, unable to react to your current circumstances. Are you afraid to step out of your thinking mind, fearful that what you’re working towards won’t happen if you’re not constantly thinking about it? This could result in living in fear. Fear of making a mistake, not doing everything, not staying on top of current procedures, etc… you name it! The future is yet to come, not set in stone. The only thing real is what’s happening at this very moment. Are you missing it, because you are numb with thought? The more your mind is here, present, the more you will be free from thoughts that don’t serve you and cause the constant chatter, mind stuff (in yoga we call it citta). Sometimes those thoughts are painful and we escape them by planning ahead or reviewing the past. I’m asking you to be present with them. By facing them makes this present moment not only real, but may give you an opportunity to heal.  If your thoughts are mostly those in past or future, your mind has sabotaged your time and taken you away from the present. We aim to be the third batter, in tune with what’s around you, finding your center. The power of presence calms and quiets the mind, taking away our state of worry or panic. We surrender to the present moment and tune in to our true selves. In the present we are not being driven by the emotions behind the thoughts. We’re here and now, the mind is quiet. We are present with what is around us. Not reacting to the emotion, the fear behind the thoughts. Do and plan the schedule of what you need to stay on track on with your fertility journey this summer, but then step away from the clock and be present. Swing into now and hit your center. Don’t let the fear of striking out, stop you from playing the game!

    See how Yoga for Fertility can shift your summer at our FREE workshop on Monday, July 15th at 7pm.  There will be a special REI Q&A at the start of the workshop! Then join our next Yoga for Fertility Series in Highland Park starting on Monday, July 22nd!

  • Pride and Community

    by Cassie Harrison, Yoga Team Leader RYT

    June is pride month and festivities are already underway in Chicago and its suburbs. We were lucky enough to have our own Pride parade near us in Buffalo Grove, IL. Regardless of how you identify, you will need support through your journey.  Finding community early in the process will help make it more manageable and maybe even enjoyable. What’s often forgotten, at least in the beginning and not until after one faces setbacks, is to take care of oneself. Often I get students in my Yoga for Fertility class who are yoga novices and come to me with an attitude of “well it can’t hurt to try yoga.” Darn right, you should’ve been here from the start! If you’re going to carry a baby, are you (or your partner) preparing your body to support a pregnancy? Whoever is involved in the process to create a family will need community/emotional support, nutrition, exercise, and self-care.  

    Community is priceless. I felt very alone during my fertility struggle and it wasn’t until I found a community that I realized how much I needed it. One’s path to parenthood is a personal journey, with or without problems. With problems, it just makes it harder to keep it personal and/or private. Schedules getting disrupted by always needing to go appointments, taking medications (that may or may not make one crazy), and add in the emotional roller coaster … well you get the idea. Go. Now. Find your community.

    Here are a few resources to get you started:

    Additionally, below are a few LGBQT+ resources available to those in the Chicago area:

    And what I thought was an nice article from a lesbian couple struggling with infertility:

    Enjoy some food and yoga tips today at:

    • Food is medicine, eat better. Period. EWG.org has a list of fruits and vegetables high in pesticides to stay away from, called the dirty dozen. They also test consumer products and rate them, most important to stay away from are endocrine disruptors. Start there to help decide when to go Organic and identify  products in your home that could hurt your fertility.

     

    • Hello Yoga. It’s both exercise and self care wrapped up in one beautiful package. Yoga connects the mind and body, a moving meditation. It supports the physical body by promoting hormonal balance, improving blood flow, and helping support tissue detoxification. Not to mention self-massage (drink plenty of water after a practice!). A few of my favorite yoga postures (that anyone can do, yes that includes you!).  These poses require focus, which settles the mind. Find a quiet space inside or out, and practice Eagle, Reclined Figure Four, Warrior (I, II, III) and Camel.

    Eagle 

    Reclined Figure Four 

    Warrior I 

    Camel 

    Have a great summer. Make time for yourself, the kind that fills your bucket! Find your community, eat well, and practice (key word here) yoga.

    Namaste. 

  • Reconnect Through Partners Yoga!

    By Christina Thompson Olson, RYT

    Has your fertility journey created a disconnect between you and your partner or loved one? Whether you’re going through this together or on your own, trying to conceive can feel isolating and lonely. Partners, family members and/or friends may have the best intentions of supporting us on our TTC journey, but sometimes it takes a little creativity to find ways to reconnect with our loved one — consider partners yoga!

    Keep It Simple

    If you hear partners yoga and immediately picture yourself trying to balance in the air on your partner’s legs, not to worry. I’m not talking about acro yoga; just some simple yoga poses you can practice with a partner to enjoy a relaxing time together. These are safe during most times of your cycle or treatments, but always check with your doctor if you’re unsure. Try these poses in your living room or maybe even outdoors now that the weather is getting nicer! Start by sitting cross legged with your back against your partner’s back, noticing your breath and your partners breath, and feeling the support of their back against yours.

    Intimacy

    Partners yoga can build intimacy and trust by opening the lines of communication. Even just the simple and honest communication required while coordinating movements can help us reconnect with ourselves and our partner, no matter what else is going on that day/week/month. For the next pose, stay seated back and extend your legs out in front of you for a supported forward fold. One partner will fold forward towards their legs while the other partner gently leans back; then come back through center, maintaining contact as you switch. Move slowly with your breath, making sure to communicate your comfort level during this one!

    Stress Relief

    In yoga we link breath and movement which helps to relieve stress and tension in the body and mind. Practicing yoga poses with a loved one allows you both to feel the centering, grounding effects of yoga. One more seated pose where you’ll reap these benefits is the gentle seated twist, practiced back to back. You and your partner will each start by placing your right hand on your left knee and reaching your left hand back to your partner’s leg or hip; lengthen up through the crown of the head on your inhale and twist a little deeper to the left on your exhale, looking over your shoulder if it’s comfortable for your neck. Continue to breathe, coming back through center when you’re ready, then take this twist to the right.

    Support during TTC and beyond

    Practicing yoga with your partner is a great way to connect and feel supported during your TTC journey, after getting pregnant, and beyond. Make your way to a standing position, allowing your partner to help you up from the floor, and face each other standing within arms reach. Step your feet out wider than hip-width distance, taking the toes out and bending the knees into a goddess squat. Ground down through the feet as your shoulders stack over your hips, then reach your arms towards your partner and clasp forearms. You can decide how intense to make this squat by bending more deeply, or lessen the intensity by gently swaying side to side, straightening one leg and the other as you maintain eye contact.

    Lighthearted

    Don’t forget to have fun with these poses and try others from your yoga practice! Balancing postures are a great reminder to not take ourselves too seriously. Try a tree pose standing next to your partner, balancing on one foot as you draw the sole of the other foot towards your calf or upper thigh, and offering support with an arm behind your partners back, or interlacing the hands closest to each other as you reach overhead. Feel your standing feet rooting into the earth as your arms reach tall overhead, and enjoy this shared experience together!

    Try one of our FREE summer events while space is available and our current Yoga for Fertility schedule on our Calendar today! Call us to schedule a private yoga session in Chicago or Highland Park for you and your partner at: 312-321-0004.