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  • Yoga for Holiday Stress

    by Christina Thompson Olson RYT RPYT

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? But if the onslaught of holiday parties, shopping, and family gatherings has you feeling a bit stressed out, you’re not alone. How many more times is Aunt Ginny going to ask when you’ll be having a baby? Before you snap or find yourself making up stories to distract from your fertility situation, try these simple yoga techniques to stay grounded and let all that chatter melt away.

    Get into your breath

    Before reacting to someone or something, check in with your breathing and see if you can allow it to slow down. Try Samavritti pranayama, or equal breath to help calm your mind and relax your body. Start by bringing your attention to the tip of your nose, inhaling and exhaling through your nose if comfortable. Notice the length of your inhale and exhale, and work towards equal breathing by silently counting to four on your inhale and exhale: “In-2-3-4, Out-2-3-4”. Let your breath move deeply through your abdomen, expanding your diaphragm as you inhale and gently drawing in as you exhale, working towards twelve rounds of breath.

    Gently move your body

    Try some easy yoga poses to relieve stress, even if you’re in the restroom at a holiday party! One of my favorite moves to ease tension in the mind and body is the forward fold, which can be done in a variety of ways. Try a halfway forward fold or L-shape, walking your hands down a wall (or on a countertop) as you take your feet hip-width distance and create an L-shape with your body. Take 4-5 deep breaths to relax your shoulders, lengthen your spine, and send your sitting bones back evenly behind you. Then take your feet wider and find a dynamic squat-forward fold by bending your knees as you exhale and returning to the forward fold with an inhale for another five rounds of breath. 

    From this wide leg forward fold, with hands either supported by a wall or on blocks, take a gentle open twist by bringing your left hand under your face and lifting your right hand up towards the sky, or to your right hip. Breathe deeply for several rounds of breath to gently massage your digestive organs in this twist, and then repeat on your left side. Take one more symmetrical forward fold of your choice, coming up slowly when you’re finished, and hopefully you’ll return to your holiday season feeling a bit more at ease in your body.

    Beat the Winter Blues in the New Year with a FREE Yoga for Fertility Community Class (with me!) in Chicago or in Highland Park with Cassie on January 11th at noon!

    Did you know Yoga for Fertility can reduce anxiety by 20% or more in just six weeks? Join my next series in the New Year to support your journey starting on Saturday, January 25th at noon!

  • My Journey to The Moon

    Hello beautiful readers!  My name is Christie Frisch and I’m delighted to introduce myself, having recently joined the team at Pulling Down the Moon, River North.  As a postpartum doula and licensed massage therapist specializing in fertility, prenatal and postpartum care, I am a passionate advocate for women and the women-identifying, especially when it comes to supporting new, expecting and trying-to-conceive mamas in experiencing each unique journey into parenthood to its fullest.  I feel incredibly fortunate to get to do what I love every day.

    My own entry into motherhood was a crucial turning point for me in so many ways, inspiring me eventually to redirect my professional focus into holistic wellness.  In those richly transformative early weeks following my daughter’s birth I recall feeling that no one around me seemed to “get it,” despite my having numerous family and friends nearby.  An internet search led me to a new moms group, where the universal complexity of our experiences impressed upon me deeply.  What other dimension of the human condition could offer the potential for such beauty, and also such rawness?  I was fascinated.  And I wanted to help support women in tapping into as much of the beauty as possible, despite the natural stress and challenge each journey brings.

    I’ve lovingly refined my signature treatment, energy balancing massage, which I tailor to each client’s needs over the expansive course of the childbearing journey.  From fertility enhancement all the way through the “fourth trimester” I seek to lift up and understand each client’s evolving needs, listening actively throughout consultation and each treatment as I integrate sound, reiki energy work, aromatherapy and guided meditation to create the ultimate massage experience (I like to think of it as a “massage plus”). My approach is inclusive and empowering, and we are all about incorporating time-honored healing arts from around the world to enhance our clients’ experience at each juncture.

    2019 has been an exciting year for me for a host of reasons, not least of which has been joining the fabulous community of wellness professionals at the Moon.  It is with much gratitude that I am now offering the five-part Fertility Enhancing Massage protocol to Pulling Down the Moon clients on Tuesdays and every other Friday at the River North location.  I received extensive training in the FEM protocol under Meredith Nathan, which I found to be both complementary and enriching to the modalities I’ve previously employed.

    It’s already been abundantly rewarding to work with Meredith and the massage therapy team at the Moon, where I’ve found so much like-mindedness among us.  My approach has always been grounded in the view that at its best, massage therapy has the potential to activate and enhance the body’s self-healing ability, producing real results that can positively impact our clients’ lives.  I view my work as nothing short of guiding my clients toward realizing this potential for themselves.  There’s no greater privilege than working with others who share such belief in the value of our work and I greatly look forward to the chapter here ahead.  I look forward to taking care of you when you schedule your massage therapy appointment!  Take time for your this season and let us support your journey at each stage!  Book Now

  • 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 $99 Wild Card and save $51 this season!

    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

  • 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)!

  • 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!

  • 5 Root Cause Approaches to PCOS 

    By Diana Zic, RPYT, Certified Functional & Integrative Health Coach

    Whether you’re starting to plan your family, you’ve been on your journey for a bit, or have had your kiddos; having a conversation with your doctor about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) can be a good idea if you are having symptoms!

    What is PCOS and is who affected?

    PCOS it is one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders in women. It affects 7 million women in the United States alone. In fact, September is PCOS Awareness Month! Statistics show this impacts all races/ethnicities including: Caucasian: 4.8%, African American: 8.0%, Hispanics/Latinas: 13%, as well as, an added concern for teens as obesity increases. 

    For some women, symptoms can appear as early as their first menstrual cycle. Unfortunately, most women don’t know they have it until they start trying to conceive. PCOS can often looks like what is termed “normal” symptoms to have as a maturing woman. For example, you may have acne, anxiety (reduce anxiety and stress!), depression, or an eating disorder. 

    The diagnosis of PCOS varies based on the criteria used by your doctor and may look for the following: hyperandrogenism, chronic anovulation, polycystic ovaries, and oligoanovulation.  

    PCOS affect 7 million women in the US alone.

    What Causes it?

    Genetic predisposition appears to be strong with this diagnosis.  Many women have mothers and sisters struggling with the same condition!

    GOOD NEWS! Lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and stress reduction combats against your predisposition!

    So, what are gals to do if they suspect PCOS? 

    Keep reading for tips!

    1. Talk with your doctor. It’s important to get the appropriate testing done to get clarification! A simple blood test and ultrasound is all you need to get started.  You may even be eligible for a free check-up! Learn more here.
    2. Dietary Changes. Lose the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets. Choose complex carbs, which are high in fiber and moves through your body more slowly so your blood sugar levels stays level. According to the Mayo Clinic, even a modest reduction in your weight – for instance, losing 5 percent of your body weight – might improve your condition. 
    3. There are also supplements available that may be helpful. See the new research on PCOS and CoQ10 Supplementation today!

    Here’s a prior blog of mine for some ideas of foods to start incorporating now. 

    1. Be active. Exercising daily helps to reduce and/or prevent insulin resistance, reduce inflammation and it’s the happy drug for your mind by producing endorphins. It also helps to reset your HPA Axis – reducing stress! Try the Moon Salute Sequence today to see what a difference a few minutes can make! Join Pulling Down the Moon’s 6 Week Yoga for Fertility Series starting September 24th (for those trying to conceive), or CocoonCare’s schedule (for pre/postnatal care) to see for yourself! 
    2. Get support. As I mentioned, 7 million women in the USA have PCOS, so don’t feel like your abnormal or broken beyond repair. We can help you implement these changes, reach out!

    Wanna learn more on the root cause approach? Try the You Pick Two Special during PCOS Awareness Month to try two services (Acupuncture, Massage, Yoga for Fertility, or Health Coaching) for only $199!

    Be well, 

    Diana

  • PCOS and Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation

    By Robin Miller, RDN

    Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common causes of infertility in women, affecting up to 10% of women of childbearing age. Despite what the name suggests, it is actually a disorder of the endocrine system–think hormones! You can even be diagnosed with PCOS even without having ovarian cysts. 

    PCOS is characterized by high levels of androgens (“male” hormones), including testosterone, androstenedione, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), dehydroepiandrosteron (DHEA) and DHEA sulfate (DHEA-S). Higher than normal levels of insulin are also common due to to insulin resistance (much like that seen in type 2 diabetes) over time. When you have insulin resistance, your insulin isn’t working as well as it should to signal for glucose to be transported out of the blood and into the cells of the body to be used for energy. To compensate, the pancreas produces more insulin leading to high insulin levels, which seem to drive the higher testosterone levels in PCOS.

    A recent study suggests that supplementation of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), has beneficial effects on glucose metabolism as well as serum total and LDL cholesterol levels in people with PCOS. In this study subjects took 100 mg of CoQ10 daily for a 12-week period at the conclusion of the study a notable improvement in overall fasting glucose, insulin resistance, and total and LDL cholesterol was observed in subjects. 

    So, what is Coezyme Q10?  Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a nutrient that occurs naturally in the body. CoQ10 is also in many foods we eat. CoQ10 is involved in energy production and acts as an antioxidant, which protects cells from damage and plays an important part in the metabolism.  

    Unfortunately, as we age, naturally occurring levels of CoQ10 in our body decline. Evidence suggests that supplementing CoQ10 may help many different conditions such as high blood pressure and heart failure and most recently PCOS. 

    Want to learn more about how supplements can help you? Schedule a  nutrition consult and work with one of our Registered Dietitians to develop an individualized supplement and treatment plan specifically designed for you!

  • The 4 Pillars of Health: How to Be & Stay Healthy

    By Christine Davis, Acupuncture Director

    Everyone has advice for you: Do this, do more of this, don’t do that, do less of that. This is the only thing that works. Everyone is different, so nothing works for everyone. Eat more of this. Eat less of that. Exercise more. Exercise less. Weigh more. Weigh less.

    I think that, particularly because of the internet, you can find information to support every theory out there on literally everything. It’s hard to know what to trust, what is actually true. While it can take some time to find the things that work for us to stay healthy or find balance, I do think there are a few things that we can universally take as truth.

    Here’s what I’ve found:

    • Slow Down. I started with this one because it helps to make all the rest possible. We hear this a lot, right? Take time for yourself, relax, find ways to unwind. But how do YOU do that? I think it’s necessary to take some time every single day to be quiet and listen to what your body, your mind, and your heart are telling you. Some days, you might have more time, some days, it’s only 2 minutes. But this has to be a priority like any other. When you take time to be still, whether in meditation, taking a walk, listening to quiet music, doing yoga, or even in an acupuncture session, this is time to hear yourself: your thoughts, how your body feels, where your mind is. What works for one person may not work for another. Remember there’s a reason that we call meditation a “practice.” It’s a process, not a destination. It recharges you, helps you find yourself and your goals, and strengthens your ability to cope with the challenges that life throws your way.

     

    • Eat Well. There are so many theories out there about how to eat, what to eat, where to eat. It can all get very confusing! But I think we all know what things don’t feel right – whether it’s refined sugars/carbs, greasy/fried foods, too much salt, portions that are too large, etc, so staying clear of those as much as possible is critical. The more I go through life and doing the work I do, the more I realize just how important these things are. A study that came out last month showed that unhealthy diets are responsible for 1 in 5 deaths worldwide. Even if our diets are only “kind of” unhealthy, those foods could be contributing at the very least to inflammation, endocrine dysfunction, and thereby problems with fertility. If you are feeling lost in the woods about where to start, make an appointment for Nutritional Counseling with one of our amazing Dietitians.

     

    • Sleep. Oh this is a hard one. We all think we can get away with sleep deficiency, but it always catches up to us in the end! The key is to try to stay consistent, even if you can’t be perfect every night. Aim for 7-8 hours, as close as possible to the same time to bed every night and wake up every morning. Of course, you will have special events, travel, and other things that try to throw a wrench in the works, but the more you condition yourself to stay consistent, the more your body will be prepared to sleep well when it’s time. Other things to try:
      1. Stop drinking anything caffeinated after 10am if you plan to go to bed by 10pm. Caffeine can stay in your body for up to 16(!!!) hours, so plan accordingly.
      2. Try a simple chamomile tea about 30-45 min before bedtime – steep in 4oz or less of water so you won’t have to get up to use the restroom during the night.
      3. Stay away from devices 45-60 min before bed. It’s tempting to try to catch up on emails, surf Instagram or space out to some Netflix, but trust me on this, sleep is way more important!
      4. Clear clutter from your house in general, but definitely from around your sleeping area. There should be nothing that reminds you of stressful situations or work. Keep your sleeping area as simple and comfortable as possible to invite relaxation and rest.
      5. If you are still struggling to fall and stay asleep, try acupuncture to help regulate your diurnal cycle.

     

    • Exercise. This is another one that gets pretty complicated, but the bottom line is that you need to move your body on the regular. Medicated IVF cycles notwithstanding (when walking and gentle yoga are safe, as well as, recommended), getting your heart rate up and doing some resistance (free weights, muscular isolation, etc) exercise are necessary for us as humans. Our driving, sitting lifestyle has caused us to not have to do these things for basic needs, so we have to go out of our way to find them. If you love going to the gym, then do it! If you hate going to the gym, then find what works for you – yoga, martial arts, ballroom dancing… If you enjoy it, you’re more likely to stay with it. I had a personal trainer as a patient one time. I remember asking him what the best kind of exercise was. Do you know what he said? He said, “The best kind? That’s the one that you DO.” 100% accurate. If you are someone who has strayed away from exercise or maybe never had a regular practice, it’s time to make friends with the feeling of moving your body to make it strong and healthy. Find what works for YOU.
      • >I want to make one side note here to say that you may be someone who exercises TOO much which can also have adverse effects on your body. It can be difficult to let go of an ideal of weight, shape, or status. If you are dealing with a BMI that is below optimum, consider discussing what’s going on with your MD, Dietitian, and acupuncturist.

    That’s it. That’s all I know. None of this is new. But this stuff does work – tried and true. Some of it takes real willpower, but setting the wheels in motion now can help you find your healthiest self for life.

    Try Acupuncture for only $75 in May!  Learn more about holistic health options for the journey for you and your partner at the Shine Together In Person Meet-up with Pulling Down the Moon’s very own Christine Davis presenting on Tuesday, June 11th at 6:00-7:30pm at our Chicago office. Register to save your spot today!

  • Guest Blog: It was my team who knocked me up!

    by Michele Weiss, LMFT

    Realistically, I imagine that there were many factors that lead to where I am now 30 weeks pregnant. While I endured over 100 shots in my abdomen and butt, 4 frozen embryo transfers, and countless failures and disappointments, I believe it was something more than the medication and the needles that got me to a healthy pregnancy- or at least kept me going.

    I want to share my story because after hearing the stories of many infertility warriors over the years in my private practice, I feel that we need to be open and honest about the real deal. I want to share my story not just so people who have no understanding (or misunderstanding) of infertility’s devastating reach can get a glimpse into our world, but so that those of us in this community of warriors can feel less alone, less damaged and less ashamed.

    My husband and I are carriers of a Jewish genetic disorder that lead us to terminate a pregnancy. This is a choice that, I know, evokes intense feelings and convictions in other people. As a woman who longed for, prayed for, and tried mightily for a healthy baby, the choice just felt like a heart string being ripped from my chest. We decided to pursue PGD and IVF after this loss as our route to building a family. However, trying for a child at 38 years old via PGD and IVF proved to be longer and more complicated than we expected.

    What helped me through it? There were the practical things like having a doctor and an acupuncturist whom I trusted implicitly and knew were 100% in the trenches with me (Thank you again and again Dr. Eve Feinberg at Northwestern and Kelly Lyons at Pulling Down the Moon). Acupuncture at PDtM was the only place I truly felt I could deeply and fully relax. In the midst of doctor appointments, my medication regimen, diet, meditation, etc., acupuncture helped me slow down and find my center. For me, the holistic approach to treatment helped me feel like I was doing everything within my power to get to a healthy baby.

    There were 3 touchstones that kept me going

    1. Stay away from Should’s

    2. Small Joys

    3. Hope

    It was a pretty simple formula, but enormously difficult to implement in the face of failure after failure.

    Stay away from Should’s. I decided to keep going until my doctor kicked me out of the clinic. It can feel like insanity to continue treatment in the face of unending loss and trauma. I reminded myself that I still had options if I could just expand the vision of how my journey to baby “should” go. These are not the idyllic narratives recorded in baby books. They are our valid, messy stories of bravery and passion, nonetheless.

    Small Joys. I decided that I would not let infertility rob me of all moments of joy that still existed- even when those moments of joy were teeny, tiny. I continued going to SoulCycle in between cycles because I felt happy on that bike. I cuddled in my dog’s fur. I went out with my girlfriends for water and wine (guess who drank what?). I spent way too much money on delicious teas. I went to see my favorite bands in concert, my needles in tow, and shot myself up with medication in First Aid bathroom stalls. I knew I needed to create joy where I could and to stay connected to the parts of my life that made me feel like “me” while living in the crazy world of infertility.

    Hope. I am deeply Jewish in my beliefs and spiritual practices. To my own surprise, during my infertility struggles I found hope in an Evangelical preacher. I would listen daily to “my Christian Rabbi”, as I affectionately referred to him. And minus the Jesus part which did not fit into my Jewish value system, this preacher’s message helped me tap into hope in the face of hopelessness and strength in the face of vulnerability. I think that God understands that when we are in the eye of the storm, we need to be a little radical.

    Then, there was the woman who checked me in for my daily blood work and ultrasound at the infertility clinic. I think she could tell that I was particularly beaten down one morning. After the standard registration procedure, she slipped me a small blue post-it note that read, “Thanks for always coming in with a warm smile. You make my day and I pray for your family to increase with a new baby. TRUST”. Her kindness touched me and reminded me to always cling to hope. I still carry her note with me in my wallet so that I can get a dose of hope if I ever need it.

    Even though I am a therapist who specializes in infertility and perinatal challenges, I do not really believe in advice when it comes to these matters. I have heard enough stories to know that each one of us has our own very unique heartache and very personal struggle. All I can share is what helped me. I was fierce and radical as a means to keep going. I expanded my vision of family-building when it wasn’t going the way I thought it would or should. I sought hope in trusted professionals and strangers, alike (even in unexpected places). As I sit here with my 7 month bump, I feel grateful that mine was the messy, painful, beautiful story that it turned out to be. And I will soon be proud and humbled to write that story in my daughter’s baby book.

     

    Michele Weiss LMFT
    
    3166 N. Lincoln Avenue, Suite 202 Chicago, IL 60657
    
    312-213-4690
    
    mweisstherapy@gmail.com
    
    Monday, Wednesday and Friday appointments available
    
    www.mweisstherapy.com

  • (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!