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  • Our Journey To Parenthood

    by Jillian Delsignore

    Eric and I always knew we wanted children, always wanted a family.  We talked about it from the time we first started dating in 2016.  Going back even years earlier, I had girlfriends encouraging me to freeze my eggs but I never went through with it.  It was a combination of fear (can’t handle needles!), uncertainty of the future, my travel schedule (always an excuse!), you name it, I used it as a reason not to do it.  When Eric and I met, some of those excuses and fears were alleviated as I could suddenly see the future.  The picture of our family became clear.

    We had our first joint meeting with Dr Rapisarda at FCI in the summer of 2017.  We thought we were there to discuss freezing eggs but he said that given we were there embarking on this together, it was best that we freeze embryos.  And so began our journey to Elliott James.

    We did our first IVF cycle in November 2017.  The shots, the ultrasounds, the blood tests… it was almost surreal to experience that first time.  Your world suddenly revolves around daily injections, follicles and hormone levels.   I remember our first trigger night like it was yesterday.  We always seemed to trigger on Saturday nights! We got one embryo. One embryo from eight eggs.  It became clear we needed to continue with more cycles given the odds of success.  Those cycles followed in January and November 2018 resulting in two more embryos, both from the last cycle.

    We were never able to do a fresh transfer because of my lining. It never wanted to cooperate even when I was being pumped with hormones.  We tried our first frozen transfer in April 2019.  The process was supposed to take 30 days – mine, it took 3 months and even then my lining was barely viable for a transfer.  We were still hopeful but the pregnancy didn’t take. We tried another transfer cycle right away but we had to cancel it because my body just wasn’t responding.  It was becoming clear that me carrying our child was not going to be part of our journey.

    It was time to make a decision… try again or explore other options.  We just couldn’t risk one of our remaining two embryos.  Surrogacy was it but where do we even begin. Where do you find a person who is willing to give her body, give herself to help someone else bring a child in to the world? Then there’s the emotion of the whole process.  I wouldn’t be pregnant, wouldn’t be able to experience that, feel our baby kick, know what I would eat, how I would care for myself – that lack of control was really hard to accept but it was our path.

    We found an amazing organization, ConceiveAbilities, to help us through the entire process – finding a gestational carrier, getting us a lawyer, acting as our complete coordinator of what is a very complicated process.  We were open to finding a GC anywhere in the country in an effort to be matched quickly.  Not only did they find us a match in six weeks, they found us someone in Chicago.  We met Steffanie for the first time on video in early January 2020.  We instantly knew she was going to be our perfect match.

    Its really hard to explain the relationship that develops between intended parents and a GC.  Its intense, emotional, loving, all the feels.  This part of our journey was particularly unique because at this point COVID was upon us which meant protocols at doctors appointments had completely changed.  We couldn’t attend the transfer but drove her to and from and just waited in the parking lot. Our OB appointments became a routine of driving to the doctors office, hanging together in the waiting room and then heading back out to the car when she was called back so we could FaceTime during the appointment.  We made it work and we loved getting to spend the time together even if it was in waiting rooms and parking lots.

    We are forever grateful for the hospital in allowing both Eric and me to be there all throughout labor and delivery in addition to Steffanie’s husband.  I was able to cut the cord and we could immediately hold Elliott which was something we feared wouldn’t be possible because of COVID.  The hospital even went so far as to providing us a room on the postpartum floor.  It was amazing to see how invested in our story everyone became over the course of those 14 hours.  Doctors and nurses whose shifts had ended an hour before Elliott’s birth came back in the room so that they could be a part of this joyous moment.  Hugs, tears, the quiet moment when a doctor said to me “you’ve waited a long time for him haven’t you”.  Yes, we had waited a long time and it was worth the wait. Those moments and days in the hospital are ones we will truly never forget.

    One constant in our journey are my friends at Pulling Down The Moon. They have been with us from the very beginning.  Acupuncture and massage played a big role in not only my physical health but mental health as well.  I instantly calmed the minute I walked in the door – every single time.  It is the most inviting environment and despite my fear of needles, the acupuncture was something I came to love.  We even had to do some of our shots there!  Never a dull moment when you are beholden to the clock and miscalculate how long you’ll be at acupuncture!  The connections that I made with everyone there became some of the most important to me in this journey as I could see myself in them.  They had their own stories and worked there to help women just like me, just like them, get their families.  I found that the support doesn’t end when it was not me who would be pregnant.  They offered to help Steffanie, to let her use my package, to help the odds of us getting pregnant.  I even found myself going back throughout the pregnancy for that mental break and self care I know I would get from my Pulling Down The Moon friends.  They were also invested in my story and it meant the world.

    The journey to parenthood looks different for everyone.  When you’re in the midst of it all and feel like its not meant to be, its easy to lose hope and let the emotions take over.  I’ve been there many times.  Remember you’re not alone.  There are resources and support systems that exist to help you along your journey.  You don’t have to do this alone.  We are a stronger family thanks to this journey and are so blessed to have our sweet Elliott James.

  • 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!

  • (Guest Blog) Celebrate National Infertility Awareness Month: My Personal Journey

    Infertility – it affects 7.3 million people…that’s as if infertility took over New York City.  That is how big it is!

    This is  a special post to honor to National Infertility Awareness Month.

    It is a time to dedicate a post to all those currently dealing with infertility and for those who have overcome their infertility to reflect back, and remember how that time has forever changed you.

    When you experience something powerful in your life, like infertility, it leaves a mark with you.  You aren’t the same person that you were before.

    And that can be a good thing.

    I’ll admit, sometimes I can be a bit stubborn, especially when it comes to goals and reaching them.  I truly believe that if you put your mind to something you can achieve it. Getting pregnant and the dream to be a mom however is different.  It is a goal that you can work at and work at and still never achieve [without needing help, or rewriting what the journey looks like to reach that goal].

    I thought I did everything right.  Got married, worked to feel stable in my career, lived a healthy lifestyle, and truly waited until I was “ready”.  I stopped taking the pill and we tried [and tried and waited and waited] and nothing happened, no period and no pregnancy.

    Things weren’t happening according to “plan”, which for me as type A person wasn’t ok.

    My husband and I  went to go meet with a reproductive endocrinologist to formulate a plan.  I had to get my period coming regularly before we could even discuss trying to get pregnant.

    Fast forward one year, FINALLY after every hormone drug you could think of, my stubborn period came.  It never stayed, I always had to be stimulated to get it, but once I finally got it we could start taking the next step in the plan, trying to get pregnant. At this point I was still strong, pushing forward trying to achieve “the goal”.

    Fast forward again several months, we had tried several IUI [that came with a cancelled cycle, a failed cycle, and a chemical pregnancy].

    After our IUI tries we were starting to feel defeated. I started making back-up plans to our alternative plans, it became obsessive. We decided to move forward with IVF.  IVF felt more serious, there were more drugs, more monitoring appointments, more everything.  

    I was starting to feel the effects of the two-year plus on this journey.  My body, my mind, everything, my body didn’t feel like me anymore, I was bloated all the time, stressed out, and frustrated.

    But we kept pushing forward, and thank god we did, our first IVF attempt was a success. The moment my doctor called to tell me we were pregnant will be a moment that I will remember forever [vividly, down to the very last detail].

    It made all the struggles, all the doubt, all the everything worth it.

    So if you are reading this, just starting out on your journey, know that the journey may be hard, it may be stressful on your mind and body, but you will get there, the path may take a couple different turns, but it will end, and you will be stronger than you ever thought possible before you started!

    By: Katie O’Connor, Founder of the non-profit Shine: A Light on Fertility: inspiring fertility empowerment by sharing the journey.  We provide free support, mentoring and advocacy for fertility health.

    Photo Credit: Alaina Bos Photography, Face of Infertility

    *Join Shine Fertility for in-person meet-ups in Chicago at Pulling Down the Moon the second Tuesday of every month!  The next Shine Together event will be on Tuesday, April 9th at 6pm!

    *Join Katie on Thurs, April 25th at 6:30pm for Shine Fertility’s NIAW Panel Event!