• 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

  • Acupuncture During Pregnancy

    By Christina Livas L.Ac.

    As an acupuncturist working in the fertility field, I am frequently asked if Acupuncture is safe during pregnancy. I am here to answer that question! Acupuncture is a completely safe and effective treatment for minor to moderate pregnancy symptoms. It is important to know that there are many medications that are considered unsafe to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. That is why many patients turn to acupuncture (as I did during my own pregnancy) to treat even common symptoms unrelated to pregnancy to avoid taking medication unless it was deemed necessary. 

    Here is a list of symptoms Acupuncture can treat during your pregnancy journey.

    First trimester:

    Second Trimester:

    • Lingering first trimester symptoms
    • Pain
    • Sinus congestion
    • Hypertension
    • Preeclampsia 
    • Emotional Imbalance

    Third Trimester:

    • GERD/acid reflux/heartburn
    • Neck pain
    • Back pain
    • Sciatica
    • Rib pain
    • Leg cramps
    • Headaches and migraines
    • Insomnia
    • General discomfort
    • Itching 
    • Sinus congestion
    • Anxiety
    • Preparing the body for labor

    Postnatal:

    • Discharge
    • After pains
    • Perineal pain
    • Incision pain
    • Breast discomfort
    • Fatigue
    • Insufficient Lactation
    • Mastitis
    • Baby blues/postnatal depression

    While acupuncture can treat a variety of symptoms during your pregnancy there are still areas of the body that should not be needled while you are pregnant. This makes it very important that you choose an acupuncturist that specializes in fertility and/or pregnancy. Pregnancy is an amazing and exciting time in your life and you should make sure your body feels amazing too!! 

    Book your appointment with Christina in Highland Park or Buffalo GroveAcupuncture support for fertility, pregnancy, postpartum care, and general wellness is available in Chicago seven days a week, too!  Book an Initial Acupuncture Consultation with the October BOO-GO Special and get an Acupuncture Follow-up for FREE ($95 value)!

    Specials are available with services from our partner CocoonCare AND Pulling Down the Moon!  Check it out today!

    References:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31392990 – low back pain and pelvic pain
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30423471 – anxiety and depression pre/postnatal
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30261764 – treating nausea and vomiting
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31483927 – safety of acupuncture during pregnancy

  • Abdominal Massage During Stims…Is it Safe?

    by Meredith Nathan LMT

    Lately I’ve had an increasing number of clients raising a concern to me: is abdominal massage safe to receive during IVF?  Some have been warned by their doctors…others have seen precautions online.  And others may have intuitively wondered, as their own abdominal discomfort increased during stimulation.

    The concern is valid – during stimulation, the ovaries grow rapidly, sometimes even reaching the size of grapefruits.  With this increase in weight, ovarian torsion is more likely, and so any deep contact with the ovaries would be ill-advised.  Someone experiencing ovarian hyperstimulation, a condition whereby the ovaries over-produce follicles during stimulation, should be especially cautious.

    There isn’t a clear-cut yes or no answer to this question.  Certain types of abdominal massage should definitely be avoided: for instance, Mercier Therapy, which utilizes a deep raking technique to the uterus and direct massage to the ovaries, can be a wonderful modality in preparation for IVF, but should definitely NOT be received during stimulation.  Other forms of abdominal massage might be safe, but should probably be avoided if the Massage Practitioner isn’t an expert in the field of fertility (and especially in working with IVF clients).  Though their work *might* be helpful, without the proper levels of education and experience they might unknowingly put added stress on the reproductive organs during this delicate time.

    The FEM (Fertility Enhancing Massage) Protocol™ developed at Pulling Down the Moon, was actually created specifically to assist IVF patients as well as clients undergoing other forms of A.R.T.  Each abdominal technique was designed to decrease stress to the reproductive organs while simultaneously increasing circulation and lymph, and promoting organ oxygenation and alignment.  Direct pressure is never applied to the uterus or ovaries; rather, surrounding tendons, muscles, and ligaments are worked while the fascia and connective tissues surrounding these areas are warmed and stretched.  Additional techniques that don’t involve touching the abdomen are also used to boost blood flow to the reproductive organs.

    FEM Massage Practitioners are trained to stay in high communication with the client during any abdominal massage techniques, and to adjust their work if the client experiences any discomfort.  The work usually feels quite good (many clients fall asleep during it), and many clients report a decrease in bloating and abdominal discomfort after the work is done.  There has actually never been an incident of ovarian torsion or injury to the ovaries of any kind reported by a Pulling Down the Moon client after receiving a FEM massage.

    Clients who have a history of hyper-stimulating should only receive our Relax & Integrate session during stimulation, which is even gentler in its approach to working the abdomen (versus our Blood Builder sessions, which use more powerful techniques).

    When dealing with your fertility, the best approach is always to stay safe and do no harm.  If you have any questions or concerns, raise them with your FEM Practitioner, so you can create the most helpful and safest approach to your reproductive health.

    Learn more about FEM during our upcoming FREE webinar on Oct 16th at 6pm Finding the Silver Lining on Your Journey! then Book Your Appointment!

  • Acupuncture Explained

    Kelly Lyons, L.Ac, MSOM 

    The value of your practitioner
    Why do I need to come in to the office?

    One of the beautiful aspects of acupuncture is that your body is seen and understood as the complete instrument that it is. Your acupuncture point system is endlessly evolving. If you have graduated out of weekly or twice weekly acupuncture sessions, or have fallen out of the habit of coming in to the office, this post if for you.  It is also for those who are at the end of their fertility focus, may be on a break, or are wondering if they can use acupuncture for different reasons. 

    What is important about coming to see your acupuncturist is that they will assess the current state of your health and choose point combinations that will tune your instrument, or all out repair it. It needs to be done in the office every now and then, even though we send you home more educated, with homework, or with goals accomplished.  

    There are ways to make this easier and less stressful. Pull out your calendar!  As you assess your healthcare plan for the next year, look at the entire year ahead. Break it down into quarters, seasons, and peak stress times. Book a sequence of appointments for at least 2 weeks before an event like a holiday, a change in season, or as the quarter winds down. Book 2 appointments the week before tax season or school starts.  It is great to touch base with your wellness team to be reminded of how to stay on track. This will help you be at your best.

    Women have the opportunity to use their menstrual cycle, also, for scheduling structure. The frequency of office visits depends on what is going on for you, and what your cycle or the year is like. Talk to your acupuncturist to find out what fits best for you. For some, it could be coming during your period, to help keeps things moving. For others, it could be better to come in before you ovulate.  Reach out and ask us how we can help recharge your wellness routine.  

    Come in and see us then have a great Fall!  Book and save in October with our BOO-GO special that includes a FREE follow-up session ($95 value)!

  • It’s Time for a Prana Party

    By Alece Demaray, RYT500 + CPYT

    I have a question and I want you to be honest (and not judge yourself for your answer)!  How do you feel at the end of the week? Do you feel exhilarated …exhausted…fulfilled…or like you could dive into a large pizza?  Forget about a week, what about in a day? Does the day leave you feeling happy and whole OR empty and broken (or somewhere in between)?

    Life has a pace to keep up with.  There are appointments to make, deadlines to meet and challenges to tackle.  The constant hustle can drain you of your vigor. The fertility journey can be especially depleting.  The stress can rob you of joy and the worry can overwhelm your sense of peace. Prolonged imbalance of your energy can lead to anxiety, depression, physical pain and even sickness.  Not ideal for anyone, especially those trying to conceive. 

    Unfortunately, it is not possible to completely eliminate stress from our lives.  That would be unnatural and out of balance. It is possible, however, to COUNTER the drain of energy OUT with replenishing energy IN.

    In demanding times, it’s easy to forget that you are in the driver’s seat of your life.  You control the speed and can pump the brakes as needed.  You have the personal power to enhance your vibration in the world and boost your PRANA.  Prana is a Sanskrit word that means your vital energy, a.k.a. your gas in the tank, the strength of your blood flow, the fullness of your breath, your will to thrive!  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, prana is the same concept as “chi” or “qi”.  

    Prana is ESPECIALLY important when on the path to conception.  Not only do you need enough energy to sustain yourself, but you also need enough energy to grow a human!  So how can you boost your prana?

    We gain prana by doing things that nourish us, both physically and spiritually.  For me, that means eating vegetables and lean proteins, to stabilize my blood sugar.  It means going to the lake to be by water, so I feel more balanced. It means taking a bath on a Thursday night with my favorite essential oil and meditating in the morning, before the activity of the day picks up.

    What boosts my prana is not necessarily what will enhance yours, as we are all unique individuals.  Here are some ideas that could help to nurture your vital essence. Which resonate with you? 

    • Being in nature
    • Eating well – lots of vitamin rich food
    • Moderate exercise that leaves you energized – NOT depleted
      • YOGA is WONDERFUL 😊
    • Deep Breathing
    • Journaling
    • A cup of tea with a good friend (grab a FREE cup of a caffeine-free blend for your journey while at our center!) 
    • A cup of tea by yourself 
    • Listening to music that soothes you
    • Taking a rest
    • Getting good sleep
    • Treat yourself to a massage
    • Meditating
    • ANYTHING THAT MAKES YOU FEEL MORE WHOLE, REFILLED AND REPLENISHED WITH YOU.

    You can call it Self Care, you can call it a Prana Party…  they are the same wonderful thing: Taking time to slow down and take care of YOU.  Build your energy reserves so you are capable, creative and authentically you – radiating out in the world, with a sense of balance and ease.

    If you are inspired by this concept of Prana and harnessing it to support your fertility journey, inquire about the next Yoga for Fertility series at Pulling Down The Moon!

    • Try a FREE Yoga for Fertility class in Chicago or Highland Park on Monday, October 21st at 7pm!
    • Interested in joining the series?  New sessions are starting: Thursday, October 10th at 6pm for Online Yoga for Fertility; in Chicago on Saturday, October 12th at 12:15pm and Wednesday, October 30th at 7pm (with me)!  For Highland Park, the new session will start on Monday, October 28th at 7pm!

     

  • 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!

  • 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:

     

     

  • Lower Stress from Conception to Postpartum with Massage

    By Cathy McCauley, LMT

    You’ve received the results – you are pregnant! Take a deep breath. It may have been a long road to get to where you are now.

    Pregnancy is an exciting time, and you’re probably feeling a mixed bag of emotions. Maybe you have concerns or stress. These feelings are normal as changes occur in your life and in your body. However normal, it is important to find healthy ways to deal with feelings, emotions and stress during pregnancy.

    Chronic stress during pregnancy can impact you and your baby as more blood is sent to the extremities rather than to the internal organs as a result of the “fight or flight” response. With blood being sent to other areas over the internal organs, stress can compromise blood flow to the baby, perhaps by as much as 65%. This may result in lower fetal heart rate and blood oxygenation (Gorsuch and Key 1974 as cited in Osborne 2012).

    Massage for Health
    One way you can improve your health and well-being during pregnancy is to receive regular prenatal massage. While multiple sessions can have a greater effect on improving pain and lowering anxiety and depression, even one massage session can offer benefits (Moyer et al 2004 as cited in Osborne 2012).  The Unwind the Mind Massage is safe and supportive from transfer through the first trimester at 14 weeks, the Prenatal Massage can be enjoyed throughout pregnancy, and the Postpartum Massage after delivery whenever you feel comfortable or are cleared by your doctor.

    Safe, therapeutic touch provides you with deep levels of relaxation that signal your parasympathetic nervous system creating physiological balance, steadier blood pressure, pulse and respiratory rates; regular blood flow to the uterus, placenta and fetus; and healthier immune system functioning, emotional states, and responses to stressful stimuli (Nichols and Humenick 2000 as cited in Osborne 2012). This is good news for you and your baby.

    In addition to the therapeutic touch, evidence shows that having a strong support system may reduce pregnancy complications. A study of several hundred pregnant women who had difficult life changes in the two years immediately preceding and/or during their pregnancy found that those who also had strong support systems had one-third the complications of those who experienced similar stresses without a support system (Nuckols et al. 1972; Hobel and Colhane 2003 as cited in Osborne 2012).

    Pulling Down the Moon wants to help support you through your pregnancy. Whether choosing prenatal massage, nutrition, acupuncture, or one of our community events; we offer nurturing care for you during this exciting and stressful time of transitions.  Our partner, CocoonCare can support your prenatal/postnatal fitness, health coaching, and informative workshop needs!

    Take time to relax and celebrate with a massage todayCathy is available in Highland Park on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays, as well as, Buffalo Grove on Tuesdays! Enjoy savings with our package options throughout your journey!

    References:
    Osborne C. Pre- and Perinatal Massage Therapy, A Comprehensive Guide to Prenatal, Labor and Postpartum Practice. 2nd edition. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2012.

  • 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/