• Guest Blog: Keeping the ‘Tingle’ Alive While Trying to Conceive

    by Alison Lautz, LCSW, CYT

    Hi all! Happy February aka the ‘Love Month’ or for all my friends living in Chicago the ‘Get me the Heck Out of this Frozen Tundra Month’. I come to you not as a fellow fertility patient, but as a therapist, yoga teacher, support, and girlfriend.

    It’s no secret that trying to conceive can take a real toll on your sex life and relationship. Struggling to have a baby when you want one can transform sex from a fun and pleasurable activity to just another task within our very busy lives. Mix in the complex emotions that infertility can cause for both partners, and it’s not a shock that many find their relationship adversely affected by the feat of getting pregnant. The co-founder and owner of Pulling Down the Moon, Beth Heller, once told me “A strong partnership can survive even the most difficult of fertility journeys”. Please take a moment to think about what that means to you. Then take some more time to think about some of the moments when you have felt stress or tension build with your partner during your journey to conception.  

    The stellar news is that you don’t have to let infertility destroy your sex life or negatively impact your relationship. You can keep your relationship strong, no matter what the outcome of your infertility treatments are, by putting your love and friendship before anything else. Don’t neglect the spark or butterfly feelings that you’ve always had in your relationship, that ‘tingle’ that made you want to commit yourselves to only each other. Keep having sex just for fun, respect your partner’s privacy, and look for other ways to cultivate intimacy and fun between the two of you.

    • Keep the Fun in Sex

    Many couples who are trying to conceive get so wrapped up in the baby-making logistics of sex (ovulation strips, basal body temperature, supplement regimen, fertility friendly positions) that they don’t remember that they actually used to enjoy sex before they decided to try for a baby. Even if you’ve been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby for years, you should still have sex just for fun. Make a clear distinction between sex that you’re having for procreative purposes and recreational lovemaking.  Reserve specific positions for procreative sex, or only have procreative sex when you’re fertile. Spice things up by having recreational love making in other rooms in the house and leave the procreative sex for the bedroom

    • Respect Your Partner’s Privacy

    When you’re experiencing any major life struggle like infertility, it’s healthy and normal to want to vent with your friends, co workers, and family. Please proceed with caution as sharing with your personal support networks could lead you to divulge aspects of your sex life or relationship that your partner wants to keep private. First of all, talk to your partner before you talk to your friends or loved ones. Ascertain whether your partner is uncomfortable with the thought of others knowing the details of your fertility struggles. You should still be able to talk about your frustration, sadness, guilt or other feelings about infertility, without divulging private details that could potentially embarrass your partner.

    • Put Your Relationship First

    Whether or not your fertility treatments are successful, you and your partner still want to stay married and happy, right? That won’t happen if you don’t put the relationship first. Of course, becoming parents is important, too, but you should make nurturing your relationship the main priority throughout the course of your infertility treatments. Continue to bond over trying new things together, taking trips (but avoiding the Zika), cuddling, cooking together, or just a much needed date night (try the FREE Valentine’s Day Date Night at Pulling Down the Moon!) on a regular schedule.

    • Have some fun with something like a ‘Spontaneity Jar’

    What does this mean? Each partner lists ten fun, random, yet still attainable things that they enjoy on slips of paper. When you have a free hour, it’s one partner turn to draw out of the jar. These “activities” can be as simple as go on a neighborhood walk for a glass of wine (I will be hosting a yoga & wine night March 7th!) or ice cream, massage each other (here is a how-to couples massage video!), watch a stand-up comedian on Netflix, or take a yoga class together. Or you can get really goofy, the possibilities are endless.

    • Self Care

     

    What does this mean to you? Please don’t    neglect your body and mind during your fertility journey. You may need time with your girlfriends, a hot bath, an hour of quiet reading, a ‘sick day’ from work, a massage or spa day, a regular yoga practice, a support group (Shine is great), or talk therapy with a therapist outside of your inner circle who can offer unbiased insight and support.

    Want to explore taking care of yourself with therapy or a regular yoga practice? Alison Lautz is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Yoga Teacher (including Yoga for Fertility and private yoga at Pulling Down the Moon Chicago) in private practice in River North. Alison has over twelve years of experience working in healthcare settings in the areas of perinatal mood disorders, adjustment to parenthood, loss, grief, infertility, anxiety, depression, chronic illness, sexual assault, domestic violence, life transitions, and relationship shifts.  Here more from Alison on staying connected with your partner while TTC at this FREE Shine Together: In Person Meet-up with Shine Fertility at Pulling Down the Moon Chicago on Feb 12th! 

     

    Alison specializes in helping clients through life transitions, relationship shifts, depression, anxiety, chronic stress, and self esteem issues. She has a passion for working with women experiencing perinatal mood disorders, infertility, high risk pregnancy, perinatal loss, and adjustment to motherhood. Prior to starting her own practice in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, Alison worked for many years with pregnant and postpartum women at Northwestern Medicine’s Prentice Women’s Hospital.

    Alison uses her warm personality, training, and experience to help clients find peace and success. This allows them to become the best version of themselves. She uses a client centered approach combined with a variety of therapeutic techniques including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Mindfulness, and Strengths Based Therapy. She strives to create a comfortable space which allows for individualized growth and change.

    Alison is a Psychotherapist, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, an Accredited Case Manager, and a Registered Yoga Teacher. Alison obtained her Bachelors of Arts from University of Iowa followed by her Masters in Healthcare Focused Social Work from University of Illinois at Chicago. Please reach out to learn more about how Alison can help support you on your journey to parenthood.

     

    Office:

    222 W Ontario Street Ste. 310

    815-341-9244 (call or text)

    info@alisonlautz.com

    www.alisonlautz.com

     

  • 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.

  • Lost that Lovin’ Feeling?

    Trying to make a baby?  Sounds like fun! You start with the exciting decision that it’s time.  You throw your previous precautions to the wind, pull the protection, and get down to business.  First month no dice? No problem – that just means there’s more time to practice. Second month is still a no go?  That’s alright – third time’s a charm!

    But after three months you’re still looking at a defeatist stick with a ‘Not Pregnant’ sign.  Starting to get a bit frustrated, you decide to be more intentional. Cycle tracking apps on your phone, ovulation predictor kits, and basil body temperatures rule the day.  But several months later, you’re still not pregnant.  

    Your doctor tells you you’re well within the range of normal, and not to worry about it till you’ve been trying unsuccessfully for a year.  You become obsessed with online chat rooms discussing the rare exotic fertility benefits of eating pineapple during a full moon. Sex is totally scheduled.  And you’ve traded in post-coital cuddles for lying on your back with your legs in the air, even though thebump.com says this won’t actually help you get pregnant.  It can’t hurt, right?

    The twelve months pass.  Now you’re in a Reproductive Endocrinologist’s office with your partner receiving every test (make sure to schedule your Fertility Awareness Check-up if you have not yet!) under the sun.  Various clinical approaches are being discussed that involve artificial hormones, daily injections, and reproduction involving petri dishes and insemination.  Long gone are the fantasies that you might get pregnant on a romantic getaway somewhere in the Caribbean…

    Sound familiar?  The good news is that for most couples there is a baby waiting at the end of this fertility rainbow (even if it comes in the way you least expected).  The bad news is you never imagined that making a baby could be so utterly un-sexy.  

    Going through fertility challenges is hard in many ways.  It can be a source of feeling inadequate, depressed, and anxious.  It can create money worries, and an obsession with the passing of time.  And it can be hard on a marriage. What makes it even harder is losing the connection of physical intimacy through the process.  Sex feeling like a chore, or worse yet a reminder of past disappointments, isn’t good for anyone.

    During your fertility journey, be proactive in finding ways to keep the romance alive!  Cook together, go on dates, and send each other flirtatious emails (yes, even when you’re NOT ovulating!)  Get a blood-building massage (these sessions in our FEM protocol help with follicle production and uterine lining, but as a perk they often boost the libido as well), a couples massage (or try yoga with your partner!), or better yet, practice giving each other massages.  Hold hands, gaze into eachother eyes, and tell your partner the thing you love most about them. Going through struggles together is helped through more attention to praise, and remembering the reasons you fell in love with each other in the first place.

     And know that weathering this storm together will ultimately make your relationship stronger, and your appreciation for the gift of family greater.

    Work on that spark with massages for both of you!