• Car and Fertility Maintenance: A Metaphor

    By Cassie Harrison RYT RPYT

    Most of us have a car (or something similar) to take care of. With that responsibility comes maintenance and care. We do this to ensure our car is reliable and available for use.  Yet it might still break down. That dreadful red engine light comes on and flashes its ugly light annoyingly in our face. Our heads fall back against the seat and maybe like me, you’ve thought “Why? I don’t have time for this! I just took my car in, everything was fine!”  We do everything right and yet, it doesn’t run as expected. Car maintenance is akin to our fertility journey. We maintain and care for our bodies by eating right, exercising, lowering stressors, following doctors’ orders, and taking vitamins, just to name a few. Yet our bodies don’t perform as expected. So instead of getting that red warning light, we get negative pregnancy tests. While we don’t have control over the results of our maintenance, we do have control over our reaction to the “news”.  You might not be ready to consider Plan B, but be aware of your attachment to the results of Plan A. We keep maintaining, expecting different results, yet we get more of the same. F@@k! This isn’t what was supposed to happen. We are so tied to “Plan A”, that we can’t or are not ready to consider other options. Instead of holding so tightly to Plan A, can we open ourselves to Plan B? With the ultimate goal of becoming parents, regardless of how we get there.

    If you always looked at your car as broken and unreliable, it’s not a stretch to say you might think of it negatively. Possibly referring to it as “Old Unreliable” or “That Car.” In time you might grow to resent it. The same goes for our fertility and our body. We can choose to go through this journey broken and sad, coloring our fertility black or instead we go through it hopeful and optimistic. Which would you rather choose? Unlike the car we are not broken, yet it feels like it.  The next time you get unexpected fertility news, take a deep breath and step off the emotional roller coaster. That isn’t to say not to have your emotion, by all means have it, but then step back and decide how to move forward. It’s when we get off the emotional roller coaster that we can reassert control of the process. One way we can reassert this control is through breath-work, yoga, and mediation. Add these to your treatment plan today!

  • We Don’t Have To Own It

    by Faith Donohue MSW, LCSW

    From an early age we are taught that “our body is our temple”. To respect it and expect for it to be respected.

    As we grow and mature, our bodies go through many changes, not all of which are welcomed, but we are forced to embrace nonetheless. In an effort to avoid embarrassing moments, we quickly learn to chart our periods and be prepared for when “our friend” arrives (in the middle of science class). Over time, it becomes a part of who we are. We own it!

    As teenage girls, rarely did we sit around talking about how the changes in our bodies represent a path to parenthood. More often than not, we talked about the bloating, cramping and uncontrollable emotions, and perhaps, how to avoid premature parenthood. But as you read this and giggle because it brings back memories of your teenage years, it cements the idea that this is my body and I am responsible for it -the good, the bad and the many changes I must be prepared for. We own it!

    As we continue to mature and become sexually active, if not prepared to start a family, we work hard to prevent pregnancy. While we are well aware of how to protect against unwanted pregnancy, the reality is, if we get swept up in the moment, make a silly decision while partying, or simply find ourselves in love and it just happens, the result of that encounter is ours. Knowing this, we as women take it upon ourselves to ensure that an unwanted pregnancy does not happen. We own it!   

    And now, we are married and ready to start a family. We schedule the appointment with our gynecologist, chart our cycles and prepare a romantic evening that will lead to the conception of our baby. We count the days waiting to find out if pregnancy occurred. Day 14, 15, 16… and you get your period. We tell our partners the disappointing news, ensuring them that there is always next month. We own it!

    Months go by, sometimes years and still no baby. We schedule another appointment with the gynecologist and the testing begins. As research supports, the testing begins with us. It is often not until all female issues are ruled out do the doctors consider that it may be our male counterpart’s medical condition that’s preventing pregnancy (that’s a topic for another time). For those who have gotten to this point, we often feel like we need to coax or coddle before and after our partners’ appointment -like they just did us this amazing favor! (Funny, I don’t recall anyone needing to coax or coddle me when I went to all those doctor appointments trying to figure this out.) We own it!

    I am sure you get the picture by now. We are taught from an early age by our parents and society to be responsible for our bodies. And, as with most things in our life, we take that responsibility seriously because if we don’t, there could be unwanted consequences. We own it!

    And now, here we are being told that fertility treatment is about to begin. With mixed emotions, we jump in. We have no idea that we are about to turn over our bodies to a stranger, our reproductive endocrinologist. You are poked and prodded, often half-naked. Once again you find yourself charting, scheduling early morning appointments and waiting for the phone call with instructions about what to do next. We own it!

    Here is where I want you to stop. You took good care of your body all these years and now you are about to embark on a journey with a partner you can trust and lean on to help you care for your body and soul. This is where the conundrum begins -giving up control of your body, the thing that you spent a lifetime controlling. But if you allow your partner to help, it can be an amazing release. It can take your relationship to the next level.  It also provides your partner an essential role the journey.

    • *Have your partner attend the doctor appointment to discuss the treatment plan
    • *Have your partner order the medication and have it delivered to a place that will ensure its proper handling
    • *If you are wearing an ovulation bracelet, have your partner manage the data gathered
    • *Have your partner administer shots
    • *Keep a calendar in a place where both of you can manage your cycle and appointments
    • *Have your partner schedule and drive you to the next appointment (you can grab breakfast together as a part of your routine)
    • *Have your doctor call your partner with any instructions
    • *Have your partner plan a romantic evening  -It’s important to stay intimate during this process
    • *Have your doctor call your partner with the results of the pregnancy test
    • *Have your partner tell you the good news, “we are pregnant,” or the bad news, “there is always next month.”

    The process is challenging and we find ourselves needing to “own it” but the reality is we now have partners who want to be there for us, protecting and loving us. Try not to own it, let your partner in, tell your partner what you need, listen to what your partner needs. Communicate and support one another. And, together, own it!

    I have spent over 25 years helping individuals and families overcome a wide array of challenges. During the course of my professional life, I have gained an expertise in reproductive health, family building including fertility treatment, assisted and third party reproduction, and adoption and foster care, as well as depression and anxiety that often accompanies life’s challenges.  I have assisted individuals and couples as they think through their decision to have children. If pregnancy can’t be achieved, I have counseled individuals and couples in processing their loss, and aided them in exploring alternatives. I understand the struggles of pre/postpartum and post adoption depression.  In addition to providing therapy, I have completed mental health and donor assessments needed to pursue third party reproductive services. -I accept BCBS PPO and BCBS Blue Choice and I offer weekday, evening and weekend appointments.

     

    Faith Donohue, MSW, LCSW

    4256 N. Ravenswood Ave.

    Chicago, Illinois

    312-399-3284

    Faithdonohue3@gmail.com

    **Know that you are not alone on this journey!  Whether with a partner or going it as a single person, our community is here to support everyone on their road to parenthood! Try a free webinar, a Yoga for Fertility class, or just reach out and we will answer your questions at: 312-321-0004.

  • Moon Mantras

    by Kellie Greene RYT, RPYT

    The fertility and pregnancy journey can often be riddled with anxiety, fear, and doubt. Our yoga instructor Kellie Greene draws on more than ten years of experience to give you a brief overview on why adding mantras to your coping toolbox can be beneficial at any point on your journey with Pulling Down the Moon.

    What is a mantra? 

    Mantras are something we discuss in both the Yoga for Fertility and Prenatal classes. They can be useful in yoga postures that are held for a longer period of time, or doctors appointments, waiting for test results, and daily encouragement. It can be helpful to disrupt the stress hormone cycle, and boost the beneficial hormone oxytocin. It also gives parents something they can control.  A mantra can be a simple phrase, a word, a prayer, or an intention. It is typically repeated several times in a row during a challenging experience, or several times throughout the day.

    Why choose to use mantras?

    The fertility and childbearing experience is one of great stress. That may present as anxiety, difficulty making decisions, depression, fear, or passing physical symptoms. A mantra is a tool meant to bring some level of calm. It can be helpful to remind yourself of a feeling you wish to evoke to replace the stress response. Or, it can be helpful to remind yourself that this part of your journey is temporary. Regardless of why your have chosen to try a mantra it can give you something you can control, or allow you to shift your focus intentionally on to something positive.

    Common fertility mantras- 

    • This is temporary  One day at a time
    • I will be a parent It will happen for me
    • I am healthy, I am whole  I can do this
    • I am not alone  I will stay patient and trust
    • Common Prenatal mantras –
    • My baby is healthy and happy in this moment.
    • The information I have tells me baby is fine
    • My body is doing exactly what it needs to be doing in this moment
    • My baby is safe
    • I trust my body
    • Today I am pregnant

    The fertility and pregnancy can be lonely, and filled with many emotions. It’s ok to be your own loudest cheerleader. Each day can be a new mantra. You can use it once or a 100 times.

    If you would like help choosing a mantra that is right for your situation talk to one of our yoga instructors before or after class. Check our schedule for a time and location that is right for you.

    *Join Kellie for Yoga for Fertility on Saturdays at 9am and Prenatal Yoga After Infertility on Saturdays at 11am in Sept and October!

  • Breathe—for Your Health

    by Cathy McCauley, LMT

    You aspire to feel well and whole, yet sometimes, the path to wellness and wholeness can seem like a lot to add to the “To Do” list. Another thing to stress about doing. Wouldn’t it be convenient to find one simple, daily activity that could improve whole-body health?

    One activity exists. You already practice it. It’s breathing!   

    Trouble is, many people don’t breathe to support whole-body health. In fact, many people breathe in a shallow, restricted manner that actually impedes health.

    Diaphragm Functioning

    Consider for a moment the functioning of your thoracic diaphragm muscle. It attaches along the inner rim of your lower rib cage and is the primary muscle responsible for your respiration. It is dome-shaped or looks like an open umbrella. When you breathe in, the diaphragm contracts and pushes down against the abdominal organs, which allows the lungs to expand to receive fresh air. When exhaling, the diaphragm relaxes upward against the lungs, helping to expel air from them. The more efficiently your diaphragm contracts, the more air will be drawn into your lungs.  However, if your diaphragm does not contract efficiently, you end up with shallow breathing.

    Got Stress?

    Now knowing how the diaphragm works, consider what happens when you are constantly stressed out. The body responds to stress (both good and bad types) automatically by tightening the abdominal muscles, among other responses. When stress becomes the norm, continual abdominal tightness restricts the diaphragm and in turn, shallow breathing occurs.

    All the systems of your body can be affected by shallow breathing. Reduced oxygen intake can raise your blood pressure, create low-level anxiety, decrease immunity, cause mental and physical fatigue, reinforce serotonin and cortisol hormonal imbalance, and disrupt digestion.

    Just Breathe

    Thankfully, it’s not too late to learn and practice how to relax your breath and breathe fully from the abdomen. Perhaps it’s time to sign up for a yoga class or schedule an “Open the Breath” massage with us. Or try the “Breath of Happiness” YouTube tutorial. Do what you can to get started.

    As reported in our “Open the Breath” massage client information, the health of your body, and specifically your reproductive organs, is greatly affected by the movement of your breath. In fact, the human body is designed to discharge approximately 70% of its toxins through respiration. As deep, full breathing engages the diaphragm, the organs are kneaded and churned, fluids are renewed, and stagnant, toxic build-up is flushed out. The pelvis is bathed in oxygen-rich fluids, helping to balance the chemistry of the blood. Deep belly breathing also creates tone and alignment in the pelvic floor, while promoting movement in its connective tissues. Developing a deep, free breath is fundamental in preserving abdominal pliability and mobility.

    Another benefit of belly breathing is the relaxation response. Deep abdominal breathing stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system and enhances your cellular, hormonal, and psychological processes. Your bodies conserve and restore energy, build immunity, and regenerate injured tissues. The relaxation response can even lower blood pressure levels. In addition, a deep breath can encourage a feeling of groundedness.

    You aspire to feel well and whole. Breathe—for your health!

    Be well,

    Cathy

    See Cathy in Highland Park on Mondays and Thursdays for massage therapy and starting July 17th she will be available on Tuesdays in Buffalo Grove as well!

     

  • Tips for Managing the Emotional Rollercoaster of IVF

    Anyone who has struggled with infertility can attest to the physical and emotional strain that accompanies this path to parenthood. The rollercoaster of hormones, hope and disappointment, comments made by others, and grueling medical schedule makes anxiety nearly universal to the treatment process.

     As a result of this increase in anxiety I would encourage you to consider self-care as a fundamental tool to cope with the anxiety that is inherent to the process.  Self-care includes:

    • Pamper yourself. Between the daily hormone injections, the blood draws and ultrasound of an IVF cycle, your body takes a beating!  Be sure to give yourself a little extra TLC. Get a massage, make time for yoga or take a nap. Treat yourself to what you enjoy. You’ve earned it.

     

    • Find support. Though you may feel alone in this process at times, infertility is quite common. You may already know friends or family members who have struggled with infertility. Talk to them. If you don’t know anyone look for a local support group or a mental health provider who specializes in reproductive health.

     

    • Stay rooted in the present. It can be overwhelming to deal with the countless details of IVF: the medication regimen, the monitoring, the instructions, the potential outcomes. Sometimes it is too much to take in all at once. If you find yourself stressed about the process, bring yourself back to the present. What is happening in this moment? What do you need to do today, not tomorrow or next week? Focus only on the next step and then the next step, one step at a time.

     

    • Ease up on your schedule. Cut obligations where you can. Delegate work or chores if possible. Ask for help from friends, family, colleagues or neighbors.  Fertility treatment is a time-intensive process–letting go of any extra responsibilities will give you the time take care of what is really important while decreasing the stress of trying to juggle too much.

     

    • Remember your life outside of fertility treatment. It is easy to get swept up in the process so that conceiving becomes your sole focus. What did you like to do before you began treatment? Paint? Walk? Read? Do it again!  What in your life is going well? Do you have great friends? A good husband? A job you like? Focusing on those good areas in your life doesn’t mean that getting pregnant isn’t a priority, it simply helps to balance out your attention and lower anxiety while you undergo treatment.

     

    • Get help if you need it. If you find that your anxiety becomes unmanageable or if you’re struggling with depression, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Many women need a little extra help during this difficult time.

     

    Ariadna Cymet Lanski, Psy.D

    Clinical Psychologist, Wellbeing Chicago

    Dr. Ariadna Cymet Lanski is a clinical psychologist who offers a wide range of psychological services to meet the unique needs of individuals and couples coping with fertility challenges. Her services include consultation and support during various stages of fertility treatment, consultation for individuals using egg/sperm donor or gestational carriers.  Additionally, Dr. Cymet Lanski conducts egg donor, gestational carrier, and Intended Parents assessments.

    Dr. Ariadna Cymet Lanski’s clinical practice specializes in reproductive health issues -from preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum adjustment to parenthood.  Through the years, Dr. Cymet Lanski has provided support and assistance in understanding the psychological impact of fertility issues and other reproductive crises.  She has helped many patients to manage stress and feel empowered about their choices. To this end, Dr. Cymet Lanski frequently utilizes mindfulness concepts and is a strong believer in the relationship between emotional and physical wellbeing.

    Since 2011, Dr. Cymet Lanski has been an active member of RESOLVE and the ASRM Mental Health Professional Group (MHPG), having served and then chaired the MHPG Membership committee.  She has presented in various national and international medical conferences including various presentations at the ASRM annual congress.

     

    Well Being Chicago

    Ariadna Cymet Laski, PsyD

    30 N. Michigan Ave

    Suite 906

    Chicago, IL 60602

    312-320-4837

    www.WellBeingChicago.com

  • ‘Letting Go’ Through Yoga to Find a Deeper Peace

    by Alison Lautz, LCSW, RYT

    Over dinner a few weeks ago, a friend and I chatted about her attendance at the Wanderlust Yoga Festival in Chicago. I unfortunately had not been able to make it which was a big bummer. My girlfriend had recently been through some big, not so great, life changes and had said that spending the day at the yoga festival was very healing for her. She shared a quote with me that one of the Wanderlust teachers had started their class with that really resonated for her life and current situation. The quote by an unknown author read “It was never mine carry, so today I lay it down”.

    This is where the beautifully simple, yet abstract and often elusive idea of “letting go” comes in. As a yoga teacher, I use this phase often during my classes and for many of us, hearing the words “let it all go,” may be one of the reasons why we step on our mats.  These comforting and supportive words ease our minds both off and on the mat. Fully letting go to create more space takes courage, trust, and faith. This 100% translates to life off of our mats and igniting the strength to tackle head on whatever struggles we are facing.

    As we practice yoga, we connect with our divine nature and our higher selves. Letting go may feel different each day. Sometimes it feels active and moves forward into more knowledge. Other times letting go feels like acceptance, sometimes it feels like a release. It can mean a celebration, while other times it feels like surrender or a rest. However it feels to you, it is important to remember that this practice of letting go evolves and grows deeper the more you do it. It’s a practice and it’s not meant to be perfect right off the bat and you can’t expect it to be.

    The lack of control that we have while trying conceive can seem very unfair. The waiting game is frustrating, isolating, tiring, unpredictable, expensive, and lengthy. Increased ease through our fertility journeys can be found if we work on and practice ‘letting go’. Once we start to channel our ability to ‘let go’, we find that we can transfer this skill to be useful in other parts of our worlds; work stresses, relationship issues, time management, parenting, financial fears, and health management, just to name a few. Come check out Yoga for Fertility or the Two Week Walk to work on ‘letting go’.

    “It was never mine to carry, so today I lay it down.”

    by Alison Lautz, LCSW, RYT

    Join Ali in her new series of Yoga for Fertility on Mondays at 5:30pm! Questions?  Call us at: 312-321-0004.

  • 3 Tips for Staying Together While Navigating Infertility

    By Amanda Hofbauer MA, AMFT

    Infertility can wreak havoc on a relationship. Trying to get pregnant may begin as an exciting journey to bring a new life into the world together, but it can quickly become a steep climb filled with painful procedures, blame, shame, difficult decisions, and financial burdens. At some point you may look over and no longer recognize your climbing partner.
    Here are 3 tips for maintaining your relationship with your partner while you climb:
    1. Acknowledge your losses: The path of infertility is fraught with loss and grief in many forms. Disenfranchised grief happens when we experience a loss that is not socially recognized. For instance, there are not funerals for miscarried babies or sympathy cards for unsuccessful IVF attempts. Not only are these losses not formally recognized, they are often not even spoken. Couples suffer silently, often without the support of their friends and family. Anticipatory grief happens when we begin to grieve the seemingly impending loss. We begin to think we will never have a biological baby, and we start to grieve in preparation for that loss.
    Take time to acknowledge these losses as a couple. Share your grief with your
    partner (even if your experiences of grief are different) and find ways to mourn
    together. This may mean creating your own ritual to mark a loss.
    2. Act as a team: Don’t let infertility become one person’s problem or responsibility.
    Share the logistical burdens like scheduling appointments as much as possible. Go
    to appointments together whenever you can, even if the appointment is only
    medically “for” one of you. Try to be together when you receive results of tests or
    procedures – even if it’s through a conference call – so that one person doesn’t have
    to be the bearer of heavy news. Be curious about your partner’s experiences that
    may differ from yours, such as how it felt to go through a certain medical procedure
    or what kind of emotions they are experiencing each step of the way.
    3. Create infertility-free spaces: Infertility can easily engulf an entire relationship.
    Go on a date night where you’re not allowed to talk about anything infertility related. Rediscover activities you used to enjoy that have fallen by the wayside since you starting dealing with infertility. Reclaim your sex life by taking a short break from baby-making sex by only having sex at times when fertilization cannot occur. Infertility does not have to define your relationship.
    The climb is exhausting, unpredictable, and may or may not end with a successful pregnancy. But by prioritizing your relationship amidst the chaos, you can ensure that you will still be together when the journey ends.
     
    Couples therapy can also be a helpful resource while navigating infertility. Contact me to set up an appointment and start the process today. I can be reached at amanda@relationshipreality312.com or 312-857-6270. Amanda is a Couple and Family Therapist at a private practice in downtown Chicago. She specializes in helping couples who have experienced or are currently experiencing infertility. Find out more at amandahofbauermft.com.
     Resources: Diamond, R., Kezur, D., Meyers, M., Scharf, C., & Weinshel, M. (1999). Couple therapy for infertility. New York, NY:
    The Guilford Press.; Humphrey, K. (2009). Counseling strategies for loss and grief. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

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