• Tips for Spring Restoration

    By Cathy McCauley, LMT

    Spring arrives this month, and with it, more cold days (perhaps even snow)!  But March also brings the promise of new life. I love this time of year. The ground starts to smell fresh and ripe. Small green buds begin to swell from the earth reaching up, up, up. Birds chatter in the trees. The sun stays in the sky a little longer each day. After a long, cold winter of hibernation, spring restores nature’s beauty.

    Spring inspires us to restore ourselves, too and these self-care techniques will lead you to restoration of mind, body and spirit.  

    Hydrate. Drink a glass or two of water first thing in the morning. Keeping yourself hydrated helps boost your mood, improves brain power and protects you against disease.

    Make a gratitude list. Spending just a few minutes a day writing down what you are grateful for can dramatically shift your day. The more gratitude you have, the more open to abundance you become.

    Breathe. Set aside a few minutes each day to practice breathing. There are so many benefits! Among them, diaphragmatic breathing alleviates stress, reduces pain, strengthens internal muscles and moves blood to organs and tissues. If you’re not sure how to get started, schedule an Open the Breath (™) massage to receive some hands-on breath work coaching.

    Stretch. Five to 10 minutes of stretching in the morning increases energy levels, enhances circulation, reduces injury and centers your mind. Even better is a regular yoga practice. Pulling Down the Moon’s yoga classes can give you a jump start!

    Eliminate something from your diet that isn’t serving you. Instead of overhauling your entire diet, start by taking out one food that doesn’t nourish your body. Replace it with a different item that supports your desire for restoration. Learn even more by working with a nutritionist!

    Do you have ideas on how to restore yourself or tips for others? Please share them! I look forward to seeing you in the center. Many wishes for a beautiful spring!

    – Cathy

    Cathy is available for Fertility Enhancing, Therapeutic, Prenatal, and Postpartum Massage services at our Highland Park and Buffalo Grove offices!  Schedule with her at: 312-321-0004 today!

  • Guest Blog Feature: Epiphany as Turning Point

    by Marie Davidson, Ph.D.

    As I write this it is actually the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated in Christian tradition as the day the Wise Men arrived from the East after the birth of Christ, led to their destination by a star. The Merriam Webster Dictionary also offers these definitions of epiphany: “A sudden perception of the essential meaning of something;” an intuitive grasp of reality through something simple or striking;” and “an illuminating realization.”

    Many years ago, as measured in ordinary time, but not all that long ago as measured in emotional impact, I experienced an epiphany that made all the difference to me as a suffering fertility patient. I dwelled in distress much of the time, my thoughts haunted by the many challenges of treatment, the succession of disappointments, and, worst of all, the complete absence of any certainty about how this fertility drama would turn out.

    One morning, my moment of epiphany arrived quite suddenly. No wise men or wise women arrived, and no guiding star appeared, just a swiftly dawning realization of what I was really going through—right now—in my life. To this day I cannot say for sure what brought on this intuitive grasp of reality at that particular moment. I suppose it was the result of many, many months of efforts to not embrace my situation. My distress had served to only highlight my sadness and anger and to keep me from moving past that.  It was just no longer a reasonable option to keep this exhausting process going. So, I had a serious, mildly humorous chat with myself.

    This is what I said:

    “OK, Marie, this is what’s going on in your life right now—you and your husband have been in a battle against infertility (and against each other, truthfully.) Infertility sucks, but it’s what you’ve got. You didn’t cause it, and you may or may not overcome it in the way you hope. You don’t know the end of this drama you are in because the screenplay isn’t finished. But there is something you can do, and that is to accept the role you’ve been assigned and act it out as skillfully and graciously as you can. Inhabit the script! Be the star in your own drama, dammit!”

    Or something like that, it’s pretty close to the internal conversation I had. I definitely know I made a conscious decision to star in my own story. I would be the guiding star leading me to my unknown destination.

    My life improved after that. Far from wonderful and still plenty of stress and anxiety, but I had a peace of mind that had eluded me for a long time. I rather think I excelled in playing myself—the woman who happened to be an infertility patient; the woman who accepted her inability to control the next act in the play I was starring in; the woman who was now able to experience the other parts of her life without the dark film of infertility blocking the view.

    I did not know then that my life’s work would be a career counseling fertility patients. What a privilege it has been.  A number of years ago, I met a woman who had come to talk about family-building options. She’d been through a lot of treatment with no success. I noticed how even-keeled she was as she spoke of her history and I commented, “You seem to be handling all of this pretty well.” She said, “Well, you should have seen me a year ago, when I was a complete basket-case.” I asked, “So, what happened?” Her answer was, “One day I decided to accept the basic background reality of my life.”  I smiled. “You had an epiphany.”

    Over the years, I have found it very useful to apply the same kind of epiphany to other life situations—the ones you can’t control but must live in and through. Whatever it is I struggle with, I try my best to be as skilled and gracious as I can be, even if I won’t win any Golden Globes. Strangely, the experience of an infertility journey can give you a valuable perspective on how to deal with the inevitable brick-bats of life.

    Marie Davidson, Ph.D.
    Fertility Centers of Illinois  

    Dr. Marie Davidson is a licensed clinical psychologist and patient educator. She specializes in counseling individuals and couples who are coping with infertility, and has provided counseling services to patients, donors, and surrogates since 1992.  Dr. Davidson earned her doctoral degree at the University of Illinois in 1988. She facilitates patient education seminars on numerous topics such as considering egg donation and cracking the door to adoption, leads several women and couples support groups, and is widely published in the fertility field. She has been an invited speaker at many professional meetings.

    Her personalized care and detailed understanding of the treatment process have been a welcome and supportive resource to many couples and individuals as they seek to grow a family.

  • 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!

  • 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.

     

     

  • 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!

     

  • How Yoga Saved My Life (and Sanity)

    Hi! I’m Alison, Al, or Ali and I have been practicing yoga for 13 years. I still can’t do a handstand without my friend (the wall), but that doesn’t matter because the things yoga have done for me are immeasurable. Over the years, my love for yoga, and its many forms, have grown and changed, went silent, went over the top, and made me broke (thanks Lululemon), ALL THE THINGS…..

    I’ve used my yoga practice to maintain fitness or weight, sometimes to ease my mind, for naps in savasana, and at times for a home when my home was less than an ideal place for me. I’ve talked until I’ve been blue in the face to my friends and family about why they should do yoga too. I would say things to them like: “the music is so calming”, “you will build confidence”, “you will meet new people”, but with all this blabber if you are anything like me, you might find that yoga distinctly changes or even saves your life (if I’m being dramatic, as I tend to be :). Let me be clear: yoga can help you through any major life change, good or bad, and gives you the strength and self love that you need. Let me count the ways yoga can help:

    Confidence. Built from our work on the core. Discover that public speaking or meeting new people isn’t that scary.

    Courage. Try something new off or on the mat or maybe the strength to cope with a chronic illness, anxiety, or depression.

    Comfy Clothes. No more jeans because OUCH! How cute are yoga pants with a sweater and boots?

    More healthy choices. To relax, breathing techniques and/or mantras work better than booze or stressing eating. I still like to indulge in a glass of wine every once in a while, but I no longer drink to relieve anxiety.

    Trust. In the universe and your individual journey. A consistent yoga practice can help you let go of anger about the past and fears about the unknown future

    Friends, confidants, business connections. Yoga has introduced me to an entirely new network of friends and yoga is always more fun with a buddy. I have gotten jobs, had a lot of fun, and traveled the world with people I’ve met through yoga. Who would have known?!

    I could go on and on, but I’ll let you experience it for yourself and hopefully you will want to make your own list. Come check out a class with the yoga crew at Pulling Down the Moon (Cassie, Christina, Kellie, Diana, or Me).  Special Holiday Support Editions of Yoga for Fertility available for a limited time (Join me with Rolling Enrollment through January 7th on Mondays at 5:30pm in Chicago, start on Wednesday, November 28th at 5:45pm with a NEW series with Diana in Chicago, or join Christina starting December 2nd at 2pm in Highland Park!)

    We all have our individual styles of this ancient practice and we will help you keep your calm during whatever journey you may be on. Please join us for special Yoga for Fertility holiday support series, Prenatal Yoga After Infertility, and/or private yoga sessions. Register here. Questions? Call us today at: 312-321-0004! Save 20% off Yoga for Fertility this season as our gift to you with the promo code: GIFT20 today!

    Alison Lautz, LCSW, RYT

  • Guest Blog: A Personal Journey

    Five years ago, after deciding to start a family, I became pregnant for the first time. Although my husband and I were nervous about a miscarriage in the first trimester, once we got to three months, we relaxed and started planning for the arrival of our son. I was staying active, eating healthily, doing everything I was told to do, and so it didn’t occur to us that our son wouldn’t be born in the summer of 2014. Then, in April 2014, our lives changed forever. At 25 weeks, I started having contractions. Within a few hours our son died in utero. I will never forget the look on the doctors faces as they desperately searched for a heartbeat but couldn’t find one.

    Later that night I was induced, and Luca Thomas Sturdy was born at 4 am on April 4th, 2014 weighing 1.7 lbs. There was no first cry, Luca was born into silence. Our midwife stayed with us, crying by our side, and encouraging us to hold him, of which I am so grateful to her. Luca was perfect, tiny, but perfect.

    The next few weeks and months were the hardest time of my life. I felt like everything I knew to be true was gone and I couldn’t understand how life could continue. It took months for the reality of what had happened to sink in. I would look in the mirror and think ‘thats not me, thats a women whose baby has died. No, it is me, that’s who I am now.” I had become one of the ‘other people’ that terrible things happen to. We got through it with the help of a wonderful counsellor and support from friends and family, but it fundamentally changed us both, and how we looked at life. We realised how unpredictable life can be and how naive we were to this previously.

    It also reinforced how much we wanted children, and so we started to try again. We were constantly told what had happened was ‘bad luck’, and that we’d have our ‘rainbow’ baby. We conceived quickly again, but this was the start of a series of loses, four more in total, all apparently unrelated and ‘bad luck’.

    After the third loss, we started IVF and begun seriously researching adoption.

    IVF bought its own challenges and a great deal of resentment. I resented having to inject myself, and having to deal with daily phone calls to tell me if any of my eggs had survived and fertilised and then if any of the embryos had developed over night. I started to resent the idea of pregnancy – I didn’t want to deal with this anymore, I just wanted a child. IVF was a horrible reminder of how little control we had and it turned becoming parents into a numbers game.

    Luckily, we had talked about adoption in the past so looking into it wasn’t a huge leap for us. As we researched it more, we understood it wasn’t a simple ‘plan b’, but came with unique and serious challenges. It added to the isolation I already felt when I compared the decisions we were making to friends around us. We had to let go of all our preconceived ideas of what our children would be like, and what how our lives would unfold.

    We tried two rounds of IVF, both unsuccessful. Our lives had turned into a constant battle with fertility and grief. If we weren’t putting all our energy into trying to get pregnant we were recovering from another loss. I was embarrassed to contact friends as the only news I ever had was another loss, and I felt like people were running out of energy to support us. Suggesting we should have hope seemed farcical. I hated that this had taken over our lives so completely and felt so withdrawn from everyone around us who were seemingly breezing through life, now trying for their second or third child.

    Through counselling I realised that I was avoiding my biggest fear; that we would never have children, whether through conception or adoption. It was like a monster in my peripheral vision, lurking just out of sight, but close enough that I could feel its presence and it filled me with dread. I decided to face this fear. I thought alot about what our lives could be like if we didn’t have children. I wasn’t ready to chose this path, but in facing it as an option, it helped me to see that there were so many possibilities and I could let go of the fear of any one path not working out.

    And then an opportunity arose to move from London to Chicago. We realised how good it would be for us to be in a new place, and have a new focus, so in January 2017 we moved to the mid-west. After another loss, we decided to stop trying to conceive and focus on adoption – we had just been approved to adopt by the state of Illinois and were excited to start the matching process.

    Four days after making the decision to stop trying, I had a positive pregnancy test. I cried, not out of joy or happiness, but at the thought of the inevitable loss this represented, I was devastated and petrified of how this one would end. After four and half years I finally, genuinely, did not want to be pregnant. I had accepted that we would start our family a different way, and was excited about this. But we pulled all our energy, and started the process again. I had my first scan at five weeks, surgery at eight weeks for a transabdominal cerclage and began weekly progesterone injections. I had multiple emergency trips to the hospital believing the baby had died. I felt sick going into every scan, which I was having every two weeks. But, despite everything, in between all the anxiety and stress, there were amazing moments – feeling the baby move, my husband singing to him, imagining the moment we would meet him (when I could bring myself to have this fantasy). We decided at 36 weeks we had to tip the scale and focus more on excitement rather than fear and so we bought some baby clothes. Once I got over the initial anxiety I couldn’t stop smiling as I held these tiny clothes and thought about our baby. I used every tool available to me to get through those nine months – acupuncture with Kelly, yoga including Prenatal Yoga After Infertility with Kellie, meditation, massage with Christine S, mantras, group therapy, swimming, walking.

    I am writing this on Oct 16th, and our son Adam James Williams-Sturdy is three months old today, having been born on 16th July weighing 6lbs 8. He is an absolute joy and we still cannot believe he is here with us. Despite everything that has happened to us, we feel like the luckiest people in the world when we see his beautiful smile and his big bright eyes. He was born on Luca’s due date, four years on, and looked just like Luca when he was first born. One day we will tell him about his big brother.

    I hope that sharing my experience helps others to accept that there is only so much of life that we can plan and predict, and by letting go of the rest, you can find new paths forward and new ways to be happy. This is the legacy that Luca has left us.

  • Is it Time To Consider Egg Donation?

    You’ve done it all. Diet. Acupuncture. Yoga. Reiki. You name it. You can only do so much to improve the quality of your eggs, so how do you know when you are ready to move on and use an egg donor to build your family?

    Know your limits

    When you first started on this journey, you probably didn’t think it would take this long to get pregnant. Perhaps you gave yourself a limit as to how many fertility treatment cycles or how much time you would allow yourself to try naturally before considering alternatives. It’s important to create some sort of threshold of what you can handle; not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and financially as well. A crucial step in this process is feeling like you did everything you could to achieve a healthy pregnancy.

    Don’t rush

    If age or egg quality have been factors for you on this journey then you probably have felt rushed to squeeze in treatment cycle after treatment cycle. The good news with egg donation is that age and egg quality are no longer a factor for you. You may need to grieve the loss of using your own eggs before you can consider collaborative reproduction. This takes time. Try not to rush through the grieving process. Once you’ve moved through those pivotal stages of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression, you are more likely to allow yourself to accept that egg donation is a good option for you.

    Make a choice

    Egg donation might not be your first choice, but people choose to pursue this route because it is the best option for them. The first egg donation was a little over 30 years ago, so the process is still very new. It’s a personal choice and one that takes a lot of thoughtful care and planning. There is freedom in choice, but sometimes reviewing all of the options can be overwhelming. Try not to let others’ opinions influence your decision. They aren’t making this choice; it’s for you and your partner (if you have one). When you are ready, you may want to share the decision with a trusted friend or relative. Consider who may be a good person for you to confide in. Remember, once you tell you cannot “untell.” If you don’t feel like you have a good source of support, then you can choose not to tell anyone right now, and that is ok!

    Be proactive

    Fertility treatments are costly, time-consuming, painful, and stressful; doctors and nurses using terminology you barely understand don’t help either. But remember that you are your own best advocate. Ask questions if you don’t understand. Speak up. Take notes. Be the “annoying” patient. It’s better to know upfront than be surprised later. If you are educated and informed, it will give you the power to make decisions that are best for you. If your clinic has a mental health professional on staff, you may want to speak with them. Otherwise, you may want to get a referral to speak with someone privately. Sometimes it’s easier to speak with a complete stranger about what you are going through. There are communities of women just like you. Check out Resolve.org for local, peer-led support groups or nonprofits dedicated to supporting women through their family building journey.

    Stay present

    There is no time like the present moment. Worrying about the future likely won’t serve you right now. You have an important job to do, and that is making sure you are in the best space possible to carry a pregnancy. Take care of yourself. Do the things you love to do and try not to worry about what’s to come. When you find your mind wandering bring yourself back to your breathing. It is a constant cycle of energy you can focus on if you need to regroup. Remember, you’re in control. You’ve got this!

    Photographed by Juan Carlos | © 2018 TK Photography | www.tkphotographychicago.com

    Michelle Duchin began her career as a clinical social worker at one of New York City’s top-rated fertility clinics. For nearly a decade, Michelle provided supportive counseling to individuals and couples considering advanced reproductive technology to build their families. Michelle joined Treece and Associates Psychotherapy as a full-time clinician when she moved to Chicago and sees individuals and couples experiencing a range of issues including anxiety, grief, loss, academic/professional transitions, and more. She received a certificate in Yoga-Informed Psychotherapy, which allows her to incorporate mindfulness and breathing techniques in addition to traditional talk therapy. Michelle also conducts assessments for egg donors, sperm donors, gestational carriers, and intended parents who are pursuing third-party reproductive care. For more information about insurance accepted or services provided by Michelle Duchin, please visit her practice website: www.chicagotherapy.com

    Resources:

    https://resolve.org/ – support groups, resources
    https://www.sart.org/ – finding clinics, stats
    https://www.asrm.org/ – finding professionals
    https://progyny.com/ – infertility benefits