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.
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.”
by Michele Weiss, LMFT
Realistically, I imagine that there were many factors that lead to where I am now 30 weeks pregnant. While I endured over 100 shots in my abdomen and butt, 4 frozen embryo transfers, and countless failures and disappointments, I believe it was something more than the medication and the needles that got me to a healthy pregnancy- or at least kept me going.
I want to share my story because after hearing the stories of many infertility warriors over the years in my private practice, I feel that we need to be open and honest about the real deal. I want to share my story not just so people who have no understanding (or misunderstanding) of infertility’s devastating reach can get a glimpse into our world, but so that those of us in this community of warriors can feel less alone, less damaged and less ashamed.
My husband and I are carriers of a Jewish genetic disorder that lead us to terminate a pregnancy. This is a choice that, I know, evokes intense feelings and convictions in other people. As a woman who longed for, prayed for, and tried mightily for a healthy baby, the choice just felt like a heart string being ripped from my chest. We decided to pursue PGD and IVF after this loss as our route to building a family. However, trying for a child at 38 years old via PGD and IVF proved to be longer and more complicated than we expected.
What helped me through it? There were the practical things like having a doctor and an acupuncturist whom I trusted implicitly and knew were 100% in the trenches with me (Thank you again and again Dr. Eve Feinberg at Northwestern and Kelly Lyons at Pulling Down the Moon). Acupuncture at PDtM was the only place I truly felt I could deeply and fully relax. In the midst of doctor appointments, my medication regimen, diet, meditation, etc., acupuncture helped me slow down and find my center. For me, the holistic approach to treatment helped me feel like I was doing everything within my power to get to a healthy baby.
There were 3 touchstones that kept me going–
1. Stay away from Should’s
2. Small Joys
It was a pretty simple formula, but enormously difficult to implement in the face of failure after failure.
Stay away from Should’s. I decided to keep going until my doctor kicked me out of the clinic. It can feel like insanity to continue treatment in the face of unending loss and trauma. I reminded myself that I still had options if I could just expand the vision of how my journey to baby “should” go. These are not the idyllic narratives recorded in baby books. They are our valid, messy stories of bravery and passion, nonetheless.
Small Joys. I decided that I would not let infertility rob me of all moments of joy that still existed- even when those moments of joy were teeny, tiny. I continued going to SoulCycle in between cycles because I felt happy on that bike. I cuddled in my dog’s fur. I went out with my girlfriends for water and wine (guess who drank what?). I spent way too much money on delicious teas. I went to see my favorite bands in concert, my needles in tow, and shot myself up with medication in First Aid bathroom stalls. I knew I needed to create joy where I could and to stay connected to the parts of my life that made me feel like “me” while living in the crazy world of infertility.
Hope. I am deeply Jewish in my beliefs and spiritual practices. To my own surprise, during my infertility struggles I found hope in an Evangelical preacher. I would listen daily to “my Christian Rabbi”, as I affectionately referred to him. And minus the Jesus part which did not fit into my Jewish value system, this preacher’s message helped me tap into hope in the face of hopelessness and strength in the face of vulnerability. I think that God understands that when we are in the eye of the storm, we need to be a little radical.
Then, there was the woman who checked me in for my daily blood work and ultrasound at the infertility clinic. I think she could tell that I was particularly beaten down one morning. After the standard registration procedure, she slipped me a small blue post-it note that read, “Thanks for always coming in with a warm smile. You make my day and I pray for your family to increase with a new baby. TRUST”. Her kindness touched me and reminded me to always cling to hope. I still carry her note with me in my wallet so that I can get a dose of hope if I ever need it.
Even though I am a therapist who specializes in infertility and perinatal challenges, I do not really believe in advice when it comes to these matters. I have heard enough stories to know that each one of us has our own very unique heartache and very personal struggle. All I can share is what helped me. I was fierce and radical as a means to keep going. I expanded my vision of family-building when it wasn’t going the way I thought it would or should. I sought hope in trusted professionals and strangers, alike (even in unexpected places). As I sit here with my 7 month bump, I feel grateful that mine was the messy, painful, beautiful story that it turned out to be. And I will soon be proud and humbled to write that story in my daughter’s baby book.
Michele Weiss LMFT 3166 N. Lincoln Avenue, Suite 202 Chicago, IL 60657 312-213-4690 firstname.lastname@example.org Monday, Wednesday and Friday appointments available www.mweisstherapy.com
by Kellie Greene RYT RPYTYou’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 inOur 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 feelThe 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 emotionsUnlike 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.
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.
by Anna Pyne LAc, MSOM, FABORM
Acupuncture stems from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), an ancient medical model that dates back 3,000 to 5,000 years. There are 14 main meridians or pathways that are designated to each individual TCM organ. By stimulating the acupuncture points on any given pathway you can effect the paired organ associated with that meridian. Another way in which acupuncture works, is that it allows the body to recognize how to heal itself. A common question I get is, “Are the needles coated with medicine?”, to which the answer is no. The needles are non-coated stainless steel, solid, and as thin as a single strand of hair. Acupuncture should not be painful, or minimal sensation such as a quick pinch like a mosquito bite is the worst of it.
Pregnancy is one of the most wonderful stages in a woman’s life. There are a myriad of hormonal, physical, and emotional changes occurring in the body. Such an exciting time that can also be quite stressful. The majority of our pregnant patients are high risk, as they mostly struggled with infertility from the outset. Acupuncture can alleviate or mitigate numerous common ailments affiliated with pregnancy, and when received from a qualified practitioner is extremely safe during this time*. To list a few, the following are five ways in which acupuncture is beneficial:
1. Acupuncture Relieves Morning Sickness and Vomiting
Morning sickness is quite common during pregnancy especially in the first trimester. The American Pregnancy Association states that more than 50% of women will experience it. There are varying degrees of morning sickness and a mild case can be normal. However, if it is disrupting your daily routine, or if the condition has worsened and turned into vomiting, then treatment is necessary. Acupuncture is quite effective in reducing or eliminating nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy**.
2. Acupuncture Calms Insomnia
In pregnancy the body is busy at work producing more blood to grow a baby. There is a connection between blood deficiency and insomnia according to TCM. All of the mother’s blood will go towards the baby first, then whatever is left over goes toward nourishing mom. If the patient is in any way blood deficient, there will not be enough in the end to supplement her system. This in turn will disrupt the mother’s sleep. It can cause difficulty with falling and/or staying asleep. There are many wonderful acupuncture points we use to help build the blood supply to help treat insomnia so that mom can have her well deserved restful sleep.
3. Acupuncture Helps Decrease Depression and Anxiety
According to TCM, the mind and the body are so intricately connected, that when one is off the other cannot help but be afflicted. Acupuncture helps lift the mind and regulates the mood. It can calm a racing heart and any feelings of stress. It works by supplying the body and mind with the strength required to deal with life’s stressors. If there is a need to be on medication, acupuncture can be used to lessen the dosage of that necessary medication. In a study conducted at Stanford University, researchers found that 63% of women who received depression-specific acupuncture treatments reported that their symptoms were cut in half.***
4. Acupuncture Resolves Headaches
The hormonal flux from a woman’s non-pregnant self to pregnant self can trigger or worsen migraines and headaches, especially for those women who already have a predisposition to them. In some women pregnancy can eliminate headaches completely, which is wonderful. Acupuncture offers a safe non-pharmaceutical option for treating and preventing headaches and migraines while pregnant. In the very least it can help reduce the frequency and intensity of them, if not completely eliminate them.
5. Acupuncture Can Help with Swelling and High Blood Pressure
Many women experience swelling, which may even be accompanied by pain, in their hands, feet, and ankles. Usually this symptom arises towards the end of a pregnancy, but I have seen it happen at anytime, even earlier than the typical third trimester. Swelling is a fluid metabolism issue in which acupuncture is quite effective at resolving, by improving the body’s ability to reabsorb it or free it by way of urination. The acupuncture is also extremely useful for the accompanying pain if there is any. If swelling becomes excessive it may be indicative of a blood pressure problem. In this instance acupuncture has been shown to be quite helpful in dealing with high blood pressure in pregnancy.****
If you have any questions in regards as to how acupuncture can benefit you in your pregnancy or to schedule an appointment please feel free to call the office 312-321-0004 to speak to our team or click here to schedule via Mind Body Online. Feel free to email me too if preferable at email@example.com , I am in the office all day Tuesdays/Fridays in the Chicago River North location and we are open seven days a week for your convenience. Services are available in Chicago, Highland Park, and Buffalo Grove.
*Check out our partner CocoonCare for prenatal/postnatal fitness and health coaching needs!! Try our combined Pregnant Like Royalty special available for a limited time that includes an Initial Acupuncture Consultation and Prenatal Massage from Pulling Down the Moon with a 20 pack of classes and a 20 minute health discovery session from CocoonCare!! Questions? Call CocoonCare today at: 312-348-6283.
Pregnancy Loss Journey invited our amazing Acupuncture Director, Christine Davis to participate in their podcast. Hear this feature at: ” Episode 45: Acupuncture and Pregnancy Loss ” and learn more about the benefits of Acpuncture/Traditional Chinese Medicine when coping with loss.
by Beth Heller, MS RYT
Pulling Down the Moon Co-Founder
There’s really no better time to start yoga than summer in Chicago. We all know that the summer and fall are the pay-off months: the long, warm days and amazing festivities make up for the chill wind, the snow and the salt stains that define Chicago living the rest of the year. Yet despite the upside, buzz-killing “fertility bombs” abound – barefoot babies, preggo’s in sundresses and family-filled block parties conspire to make carefree times care-full.
Should we just chalk it up as a season lost? At Pulling Down the Moon we say absolutely not. We should use this beautiful time of year for everything it’s worth, down to the last life-affirming drop. And yoga is how it happens.
I know this from experience. My first miscarriage (the first of the five pregnancies over seven years that it took to have my two kids) occurred in July of 2000. In my mind, that July marks the loss of my innocence. If you’ve been on the infertility roller-coaster you know what I mean. That was the day when baby showers started to make me bite back tears and pregnant women started pissing me off.
It also marks the start of my yoga journey. PM (prior to the miscarriage), I had been practicing yoga quietly in my home, with a book and a mat bought from Whole Foods. AM (after the miscarriage) I sought out my first regular group class. It was on Wednesday evenings at Moksha Yoga, from 6-7:30. I can still remember the scent of warm air and how good dinner would taste after class, my heart wo light for the first time in days. Chatting with the students and the teacher at the studio, I started to connect to people again.
Almost 20 years later, these first transformative days of yoga still resonate. Why? Now that I’m a teacher, I have a few ideas. First, yoga is a rehearsal for dealing with stress. We hold tough poses, feel intense physical sensations and respond with peaceful awareness. These skills translate directly to the challenges of loss and infertility. Second, my yoga practice curbed my need for other “numbing” habits like wine, sweets, and television. When I sipped wine, I tasted it. When I ate, I enjoyed. What I watched, I saw. Yoga helped me become present.
I also think yoga helped me become pregnant. It helped me cut back on running, make changes to my diet, better manage the stress of the fertility journey, and improve my sleep.
Years later, the research we have conducted with Fertility Centers of Illinois provides structure to these hunches. In our last study, fertility specialist Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron and I found that Pulling Down the Moon’s Six Week Yoga for Fertility Program decreased both the immediate anxiety felt by fertility patients, but also lowered their overall perception of how anxious they were in general. In a preliminary analysis, we also found that an online version of the program is just as effective.
In the six week program, we teach a class that is very different from a typical yoga studio class. Each week we practice a sequence of yoga poses that encourage blood flow to the belly, help manage the side-effects of fertility meds, and release anxiety and stress. Our teachers also use discussion and concepts from yoga philosophy that help empower our students to continue to connect with the world around them, and even grow and thrive. Beyond the yoga, this is a space for laughing and chat, and the start of many lasting friendships.
So, the change in the air is calling you! See for yourself how yoga can shift your fall season…whether you are taking a break from a failed cycle or prepping for the next one!
**Start this season with the with one of our Summer Passports and save 20% off our new Chicago and Highland Park in-center sessions!
By Michelle Johann
Navigating the world of infertility, I never felt like more of a failure. It was such a frustrating time where you don’t know if you will find your way out successfully. I started going to the fertility clinic before work. Our first procedure failed and that call was devastating. We were already a couple years into the process and wanted some good news. We soon realized this was a marathon and not a sprint! We tried again to get the approval, wait for the following month, and plan for the next medication regime. After our second attempt, we got a positive and were surprised with twins!
My pregnancy was uneventful. We did the required testing due to ‘advanced maternal age’ with all results clear and we learned we would be having boy/girl fraternal twins. We let everyone know past the 12 week ‘safe period’ on Mother’s Day.
We were counting the days. We had ultrasound visits with excited family members. We had brunches after appointments. Our twins were growing and we were wrapping up our 20 week appointment when the look on the tech’s face changed. We knew something was wrong. We were notified there was “funneling” of my cervix. We were in shock and the words flowed over us. Diagrams and explanations did not help. We wanted to know what this meant for our babies. We were told that I would have to go on bed rest to get to viability.
We researched what to do while on bed rest and let everyone know. Hubby made healthy meals and did everything around the house. We had a plan, we were a team, and we would do anything for our babies. I could feel the babies moving and I talked to them. I told hubby that we had to finalize our babies’ names: Payton Marie & Anderson Chris .
We made it through our follow-up doctor’s appointment and were almost 22 weeks. We were making it through for us and for our little family. On July 21st, I wasn’t feeling well. I seemed to be having Braxton and Hicks contractions. I wanted to be in denial until nothing resolved it. I told my husband that we had to go to the hospital. The car ride was a fog and my husband drove so fast. Nothing worked to stop my labor. Looking back, I can see the movements like a bystander watching a movie. It all went so fast and painfully slow at the same time.
We were moved to a delivery room. Payton’s bag broke. Anderson’s bag broke. We waited and waited. Again, it was a marathon and not a sprint. I was at risk for infection. We finally met our beautiful babies on July 22, 2012. Despite all odds due to their level of prematurity, they were alive. I saw and felt my children take their first, then last breaths.
Leaving the hospital without your baby (or babies) is an indescribable feeling of emptiness. During those early days, there doesn’t feel like a way out. My body literally failed me and my babies. We baptized our babies and we buried them. We were thankful for our village that helped us get through those days. My friend that walked in the garden with me, when walking into the church for the funeral took my breath away. My sister-in-law that gave me breast pads for the leaking as my body wanted to nurse my babies that were no longer with us. My dear friend who lost her son and was now pregnant with her rainbow, who hugged me and understood. Her husband that hugged my husband as he also understood. I will never forget the blood curdling cry that escaped my husband’s throat when the tiny casket carrying our twins together came out. It all hurt so much. His cry was what we all felt in that moment.
I had another diagnosis: Incompetent Cervix. Cervical insufficiency can happen the first pregnancy or subsequent pregnancies. It can be due to trauma from delivery, cancer, biopsies, and unknown reasons.
We slowly picked up the pieces. You don’t want to hear that time heals, as it doesn’t make it go away, but it does help. Some days you just put one foot in front of the other. We did not want to try again, then one day….we did. We researched, fought doctors, appealed insurance, and then scheduled a pre-pregnancy transabdominal cerclage surgery (TAC) with Dr. Haney. It was the best choice we ever made.
As the anniversary of their birth approached, I wanted to do something. I did a vision board. I consulted a nutritionist. I did yoga for fertility. I am forever grateful for the women at Pulling Down the Moon. They helped me heal. They helped me be at peace. PDtM, along with all the wonderful women who joined “a club that no one wants to join”, helped me not only survive, but gave me the strength to try again.
We had two subsequent failures. We were not sure if we wanted to continue to try. Five months after my surgery, I was surprised to find out we were five weeks pregnant. Naturally, for the first time in our lives–after loss, after failures, after surgeries, after everything–we had a chance for a rainbow.
It was like walking a tightrope for nine months, but I knew with the TAC that I had a 90% chance of a full-term pregnancy despite PCOS, IF, and IC. I am a different person now. I would not wish the experience on anyone, but everyone has their own journey and I am able to share mine to help others. Our five year journey for a family was completed on May 6, 2014 when Gavin arrived at 37.5 weeks. When you see me at the office and I listen to your journey, please know that I do understand.
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