The dirty secret of infertility.

The dirty secret of infertility is the massive effect it has on our whole well-being and the shame. If there’s one thing I know for sure is that being diagnosed with and struggling with infertility can bring up a whole slew of unwanted negative emotions. One of the toughest to deal with is SHAME. When we try to conceive, and bear our own biological children and have difficulty, we may start to think thoughts such as “I’m no good. My body is busted or what will my parents and friends think if I get IVF? What if I’m barren?” It can be debilitating or freeing, depending on your perspective.

Debilitating because we can sink deep into the hole of despair that there is something wrong.

Freeing, because we can see it as an opportunity and be grateful we have the medicine to do IVF and fertility treatments. This science is about 30 years old, which is younger than me. The first ever IVF was doing in the late 70’s, Isn’t it amazing how far we have come that we can actually safely freeze embryos?!

We need to get on camera and TV and talk not about just egg quality, we need to talk about shame, mental health, depression, anxiety and all of these things that are and can be true with infertility. I don’t understand why this not happening. I hear the main doctor of Anova speaking on the breakfast program what we need to do to increase our chances of getting pregnant, and love for her speak about the impact fertility has on mental health and see fertility treatments as a gift!

I am not ashamed of not being able to conceive on my own. For whatever reason, there is a block and I’m working on myself through personal development, grounding myself, reminding myself who I am to be able to bring forth a life that will be completely reliant on me.

To have a positive conception, we need to actually be able to receive. I don’t know what the magical formula is but by dismissing mental health with fertility treatments is dismissing the rest of the person. I imagine a chicken walking around without a head.

From my support group, I know from the stories of 11 other women that none of the clinics that they attend check-in with the women and ask them to participate in any mind-body or counseling. This, in my opinion, is so key would alleviate so much pain from the process. I also know that it takes time to warm up to a donor egg, donor sperm, and surrogacy. It took me two years to warm up to IVF and there is not shame in that. Everything in its due process.

We need the tools that no one has taught us to cope with constant grieving and uncertainty. We need to learn how to re-balance and put fertility into one box of our life and not make it our entire life. I understand how it can get to be a runaway train but we are the conductors of the train and can choose our speed or even choose to stop. Look at the roses and flowers growing by the side of the tracks, aren’t they just beautiful?

Stop being ashamed of your “lacking” and see it as an opportunity to learn about you. See it as an opportunity to grow. Look at it from a point of view of empowering and just how much more you will love that baby or your life without the baby because you took that time to step into a big challenge, a challenge you didn’t ask for but now it’s here. Either way it’s courageous.

You will know, that whatever you are faced with in life can be no greater than this, the act of creating life. What matters is how we choose to look and think about this journey.

Harry Potter metaphor: Sirius Black tells Harry

“You’re not a bad person. You’re a very good person who bad things have happened to. We’ve all got both good light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” We ALL experience shame in our lives, thus it behooves all of us to learn to manage it well. Instead of thinking of ourselves as bad or defective people, think of yourself as a hero of your own life, on your own hero’s journey, remembering that vulnerability and love are the truest marks of courage.

“Shame is a social concept – it happens between people – it also heals best between people. A social wound needs a social balm, and empathy is that balm. Self-compassion is key because when we’re able to be gentle with ourselves in the midst of shame, we’re more likely to reach out, connect and experience empathy.”
Brene Brown Daring Greatly.

I will continue to advocate for patients and be the fertility doula. I will continue to be vulnerable and face everything full on – for all those who are not ready to come out of the closet.

The only thing that is certain is uncertainty with infertility.

Embrace what is certain, you are a beautiful person with the tremendous capacity to love. Take a moment and love yourself.

Step into the process and be fully part of it. Talk about it. Tell everyone. You’ll be so surprised that every 6th person you talk to will have the same story as you. Not only are you healing yourself but the person who you are speaking to.

I want people to know that there is NO shame is seeking mental health support. It has saved me. There is no shame in having fertility challenges.

If I had not spoken out and used my voice then I would have not been able to make a change for other patients.

I’m grateful for the pain because we need the darkness to get to the light. But we also need the tool to know how to get past the darkness & any shame.

I am your fertility doula. I will speak for you till you are ready.

You are loved.

 

 

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Diagnosis infertility. Job description, advocate.

I made a difference at my fertility clinic. 

At the beginning of March, I met with the Patient experience officer and Dr. B after the failure of a fertility cycle. It was a two-hour emergency meeting. It happened because I was falling apart. We met because I felt like a number. I felt I wasn’t listened to and no one was hearing my concerns. I didn’t know who to turn to because if I asked the nurse the nurse couldn’t make any decisions and there were too many people involved in my care. I wanted one or two dedicated nurses who knew everything on file. I needed to tell them their support group sucked. The waiting room was one anxious space and nothing goes well at the clinic if you are not following one of the prescribed fertility boxes of procedures.

I needed to find MY voice in this entire runaway train and I needed to be heard.

I had no idea that my verbal dump changed many things at the clinic. Two months after this meeting and after my two-month break from not being at the clinic, I’ve become aware of results of this meeting.


Early morning, I’m sitting in the waiting room of the clinic. The chairs are plastic and white the walls are Tiffany blue. The door next to the reception desk opens and closes every few minutes with a sight bang. I wait my turn to see the doc. to figure out what drugs I need for the embryo transfer. I see Vee, The patient experience, walking into the waiting room and out. She waves and smiles as she sees me and stops, saying, “I really want to talk to you!”. I say, “we can talk now, I’m just waiting for one instruction but it’s not urgent”. She motions me in, we open the door, I hear the slight bang as it closes and I followed her down the hall into the boardroom of Anova. Cool, the board room. I’ve never been here, just the dark ultrasound rooms and the doc’s room. Vee seems so excited to talk to me. I wonder why…..

We sit down across from each other and talk about how I’m doing after the two-month break and the fact that I seem to be glowing. I am relaxed. I feel more chilled and definitely more grounded. I’ve put fertility into a box. Just one of the boxes that are me and it no longer rules my world. When I reflect and think about myself and who I was January until May, I don’t recognize myself. I’m so glad I took a break.

At one point, Vee stops and looks me in the eye and says, thank you. I’m confused what for…..? She looks me right in the eye, puts her hands together and says, “Thank you for speaking up, very few actually do. We don’t know how we can be better if someone doesn’t tell us, we can just think what we can do but are not on the other side. We have taken all your comments, complaints and observations and have changed our entire counseling department. We are still not perfect but want to let you know you have made an impact on for other patients”. 

Needless to say, I’m shocked because I think back how much I was hurting during that time and how long the 2.5 hr meeting was with Dr. B and the Vee. I remember I wanted to write about it but was so drained from the conversation I couldn’t bring myself to blog about it.

I tell Vee that I’m so glad this is going on and I hope that I can continue to be a voice for many patients.

What I want the clinic to recognize is that part of functional care and holistic care is to incorporate; counseling, mindfulness, hypnosis and other modalities so we can support the whole person not just the uterus, the egg or sperm.

Find your voice. We want to hear you.

You are not your diagnosis.

Don’t be afraid to let the clinic know what is not working for your treatment, you just never know, you may the catalyst for massive change.

Click here to join the conversation and get more material & resources

 

Fertility, Vulnerability & embryo transfer

Listen to Husband talking about his thoughts about the Embryo Transfer

Vulnerability and fear

From the moment the date for the embryo transfer was set ten days ago, I have attempted on more than on occasion to post to social media that this is what we were about to do. I’ve written and deleted various phrases and sentences that would allow me to click and post. It’s interesting to me, that even I, who is so incredibly open about this, in an effort to educate, balked at the idea of really letting that much vulnerability out. There are three embryos have been frozen since December of 2016. We had chosen the strongest one to be unfrozen and thawed to be transferred first. Yet, the idea of publicly either celebrating or grieving, so in the moment, made me pause and face the fear of vulnerability like never before. Perhaps this is what someone else goes through who doesn’t talk about their fertility journey to their closest people because they are afraid of showing their vulnerability and that can be very scary.

My Why

Why do I bear all and bear witness to what happens behind the closed doors of a fertility clinic so publicly? It’s because there are others who don’t and won’t for whatever personal reason talk about this topic. Whether it being, shame, guilt, self-blame, or other reasons, they need to know there are others. Today as we said goodbye to the support group , we all said how powerful and empowering it was to be in a group where we could share similar stories. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, IVF, the whole process is a whole body-mind process. Read that again, it’s a process. It’s not just someone, a friend of a friend “doing IVF”, it’s me, sharing. You may know me, or are getting to know me; here I am and thank you for coming for the ride along with me as I ride the journey.

The IVF infertility secret desire

I kept hoping that bottle of wine and one romantic sexy night (while relaxing) will do the trick, but this has not happened despite my best-laid plans and intentions. I would love to have just one person in the bedroom with me, and that is my Husband, but instead, I have a goddam orgy. From the moment this started, I’ve had to re-do me and learn some lessons about myself in the true preparation of parenthood, which may God have mercy, is also a crapshoot.

I’m having sex with 7 people at once

orgy

With the rawness of these procedures the sexiness of it all the simple act of sex or love making is stripped to a needle, an ultrasound wand, an ultrasound technician, the doctor, at least three nurses, the embryologist (plus his assistants) and the acupuncturist. This is the modern day baby. I’m making a baby with all these people. We are all in the orgy together. They are all in the bedroom with me. I don’t even mention the security guard in the lobby of the building, maintenance folks and so on. Every time we try again to have a child, all of us people get together and do it together. No less than 7 people have been intimate with the vag, sometimes three at the same time. I would say I have so many people looking at my reproductive parts that I don’t even blink when I’m told I have to take my pants down.

I was talking to someone on the phone and they said, “maybe you will get pregnant on your own”, my mind couldn’t even process that could happen. Someone needs to teach me how that actually happens. You mean it just happens?

As we head into the first ever embryo transfer I’ve been told my organs look fantastic, the shape of my uterus is ethereal, there are no cysts and I have been told by quite a few people that I look different (perhaps there is a glow to me?) or maybe that’s just the relaxed not stressed look? I’m taking this to mean that now is my time. 

What does an embryo transfer mean?

It means there already is a growing baby in a lab that is 5 days old and is about 300 divided cells, from the two cells, the egg, and the sperm. This baby has already survived and is alive and thriving. The only thing science doesn’t understand is why an embryo will attach and thrive or why it won’t.

 5 day year old embryo

Meet Elmo above

What I needed to do to prepare:

I’m taking been taking estrogen hormones twice a day, sticking them up my, um, my, right that thing. After 10 days, an ultrasound and blood work to check if the uterine lining is looking good and if it looks good I get crionone progesterone suppositories to stick up in um, ya, that thing. God, how many things must I stick up there?! This continued for 7 days till transfer day (in between I’m going to go for acupuncture) 

The day of the transfer

I had to have a full bladder for the procedure. Like an almost bursting bladder. The kind of bladder that you need to go pee but can wait. I had Patricia and Husband with me on the day of the transfer. I also had Seya there (remember her from IVF retrieval?) to do the acupuncture and to take care of us. She knows where everything is in the clinic and she was there earlier to prepare the room. I had asked her to choose a room that was different from the IVF retrieval as the retrieval was dramatic. Seya was amazing. She needs to be part of the process for every patient. We all need to be taken care of, just like Doula. She allows us to be in the moment and not think about the details. This needs to be part of all clinics everywhere. She brought me a nice warm blanket and put in the acupuncture needles. At one point she asked me where do you feel a blockage in your body. I scanned and felt a blockage in my throat and around the diaphragm. Seya went to the top of my forehead, touched a point and I felt like I was floating. I felt like I had sunk into my skin three layers down. Amazing. I put on my Tara Brach and got everyone to leave.

Soon after Seya came back, Husband and Patrica all suited up to go the operation room.

I was met by the embryologist, the doctor, the ultrasound tech, Husband and Patricia – we all there to have one big massive love making, baby-making session. A full out love orgy. I had to confirm my name and sign away. Dr. B, then put in a tube-like thing again up the vag, and then down the tube came the embryo with a flash of white on the ultrasound. All done in about 10 minutes. Lol, just as long as quickie 🙂 All professionals satisfied, they all left and Patrica plus husband and I, in full stirrups waited in the room for 15 minutes taking my mind off that I desperately needed to go pee. One nice thing they did in that room, was when I look up at the ceiling, there is a picture of the sky and clouds. So relaxing.

Finally, 15 minutes was up and ran with butt exposed to the washroom to relieve the pressure from the bladder. Ahhhhh……

Back to the hands of Seya for more acupuncture, lunch for some gnocchi and home. Far less drama than the retrieval. Now let the two week wait Hotel California begin.

That’s the medical process. That is the first 50%.

Now the actual mental emotions and mental spiritual prep. 

Don’t want to get attached to the outcome which is so hard. It’s like you can hope but not hope too much. I am feeling good. There is a fine line between craving, aversion and just letting go. I think right now I’m in the middle of these two.

I’ve been listening to Tara Brach meditations and as well some hypnosis.

Someone, please tell me if you prepared this much if you go pregnant naturally?

The likelihood of a transfer actually working is 40% up to 70% with the embryo glue.

In my support group, I know two women who did transfers, one did 2 and the other did 4 and none of them worked. We just found out that another did another transfer and it also didn’t work. 

There is nothing more I can do to increase my chances, maybe eat less dairy and refined sugar.

Medical interventions for the embryo transfer:

What the medical clinic is doing on their side is “assistive hatching” which means assisting the egg to hatch by applying a small laser to the shell so it literally hatches. They are also using this new thing called “Embryo Glue”. This helps with the embryo to stick to the uterine wall and actually implant.

Once they transfer, it’s up to God and the embryo glue to make things work, oh yes and the embryo deciding it wants to push through and grow further.

We then do two-week wait, meaning we wait two weeks to see the results.

And then it’s another 6 weeks of taking more progesterone and hoping for no miscarriage.

There is nothing more to do. 

To book an appointment with Seya please click here:
647.808.9156 www.channelhealth.ca


Please click here to know more about the journey and be able to ask me questions.

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Infertility support groups spot the good vs the bad ones

Change your mindset to change your outcome. 

I’m highly critical of support groups that allow patients to stay in suffering mode, in my mind, support groups should help patients move forward, beyond their suffering. I have a low tolerance for bullshit. I have visited and participated in two support groups. Here is how to spot a good one vs. a bad one.

Experience Support group one: December 2016

We sit in a circle in the clinic under florescent lights. Each woman staring at their phone and playing with it. There is no eye contact, not even a laugh, occasionally someone takes out a kleenex and daps away the tears from their eyes. It’s silent and incredibly awkward. We are gathered here today to spill our guts out and sit in the stillness and the emptiness of sadness and suffering.

I’m here because I’m curious as to what other women have gone through and hope to find a group as well as a facilitator that doesn’t allow me to sit in my bullshit and suffering as well as the stories my mind has created but to help me move me forward.

The facilitator checks the clock for the fifteenth time waiting for the hand to strike 5:30 pm to get the session started. She tries small talk, the weather, the rain, the what movie have you seen lately, all to get one-word answers from women that seem they would rather be everywhere but there.

Finally, the clock strikes the magical number of 5:30 pm, the facilitator clears her throat and opens the floor with a booming cracked voice, “how is everyone doing today”. Panic arises, the women dart their eyes to the floor, all hoping they won’t be picked first, all hoping the person next to them will just blurt something out.

A wee voice speaks out, “I’ll go first”, says Daria (not her real name) a wave of relief hits the women thanking their lucky stars that for that brief moment, they don’t need to talk or share, even though eventually they know they will need to. After all, isn’t that why they came to the group, for support and to find compassion for their suffering?

Daria talks, her face looks incredibly stressed and her whole body looks like it’s about to crumble. Daria tells us her story and at the end she says, “I’m so proud of myself, I declared that I won’t go to family gatherings anymore, I won’t go to baby showers anymore and that I most certainly won’t step into a Babys’R’Us anymore”. She has lost three pregnancies to miscarriages and is waiting to find out if her final embryo would take.Tears

The women turn to look at Daria, nod their heads and silently compare their own story to hers. You can see in their eyes, either relief that they are better off than her, or feel worse because of being more down the rabbit hole of fertility.

The facilitator says nothing, encouraging Daria to just to keep going and be “in the moment”, in my mind, encouraging her suffering. No one moves when Daria starts sobbing uncontrollably, the eyes of the women just darting towards the lights. Perhaps they are looking for God up there? The kleenex box is thrown towards her direction and she picks out one tissue at a time.

This continues, the same thing, “copy and paste” for six other women sitting on those Tiffany blue couches. I’m getting more drained by the second of it, my soul fighting to not get sucked into their stories. The empath in me, seeing there is more to their fertility journey than they are aware of.


Quiet mindHow to spot a bad support group? When the facilitator allows participants to wallow.

What I’m trying to get across here is that this group was all about wallowing in their pain and being a victim in this journey. Trust me I’ve been here. I have been here and have had to allow myself to grieve, but at some point, I needed a kick in the ass to move forward. I need someone to get me out of the mud puddle so I can see that that the pavement right next to me is dry and that it’s really not that bad.


A good support group, take two

The room is silent as I enter, but you can sense the anticipation. We are all new and fresh to the group. Amira is sitting at the top of the table and I find my way to my friend who I met because we were going through the same fertility journey at the same time. We’ve kept in touch with since Sept. 2016, since I started publicly declaring about my fertility challenges. I can feel this support group will be different. I can feel we will be moving forward.

Amira, sits at the head of the brown square table, with that old trusty Kleenex box at the end. She intros herself and lets everyone know, that this group is different, this group is about changing our mindset because with infertility 50% of the journey is a mindset and the other 50% is the medicine and science.

Who are we in this group? It’s an all women’s group of educated professionals with fertility challenges. All on different stages of the journey through fertility. All of them seem to be in their mid-thirties – early forties. We all seem to have come to this group because we were looking for answers and needed a reset or a mind shift. Amira let everyone speak as long as they needed, but immediately gave them something that would help move them forward in their journey, saying, “find joy in the things that brought you joy”,  or “Change your mindset and then change your outcome. 

The goal of the group is to have us leave with our tanks full by the end of the 6 weeks rather than empty. To give us tools so the next time we hit a block, we can cope better. She has said that the people who follow the support group program often go on to get pregnant. Amira says she has many examples of this happening.

I believe her, even though it’s hard to hear without blaming myself that I haven’t done better….that inner judge, always ready to shoot me down faster than I can get up.

Amira says she has countless of stories that support her theory that by practicing mindfulness our mind releases. When we take care of ourselves first, the fertility comes naturally.


What makes a good support group?

First of all, they have a description of what they are trying to achieve, usually, it should be a set of skills that you get at the end of the group. When I asked my medical team to send me a support group that has less BS and more of moving forward, they all scratched their heads and had a hard time coming up with one that would fit me. They even tried to create one because really, there is only one good support group for infertility in ALL OF TORONTO!

Amira’s group which runs for 6 weeks (I’m in the second week) actually had a schedule and a set of outcomes and skills that someone can achieve when following her program. She doesn’t allow people to wallow in their pain but moves them gently along through their puddle of mud, helping them see that if we just stepped to the right or left of the puddle, we would be out of the mud. She challenges us to look at other alternatives and being mindful of our thoughts and words. 

We still check-in at the beginning, but there are processes and a reason for each time we meet with each other. As soon as there is a ‘breakdown’, the facilitator, with empathy, lifts that person up and moves them forward.

Our words that we say, are a reflection of our thoughts. Our thoughts have the power to change what the outcome is.
Eva Braveheart

Because I have really not thought “fertility” since the end of March, my mind is totally not in victim mode. I’m so glad I took this break, as I’m ready for the next step. I’m so glad I listened to my intuition to have taken that break, otherwise I think would have been completely broken by now. It’s even clearer to me now how much everything was about fertility. Every thought, action, word – everything.

This week with Amira, we did mindfulness and meditation. Our homework was to observe ourselves and do a meditation everyday.

Being present and watching my thoughts.

Noticing how my thoughts affect my body

When I started noticing my thoughts, I found that when I had thoughts that were centred around fear (and uncertainty), my body shut down. My throat started constricting and I started to choke.

My Mindful moments and not “mindfull”.

This week I drove my car completely in the present moment. Every time a thought came into my mind, I let it go and watched it float away. I remember every minute of that car ride.

I did a mindful meditation and felt the front of the brain become activated. My whole body just relaxed. Meditation alters your brain’s neuro network and I felt when it was happening. 

I used Gabrielle Bernstein’s’ technique, of breathing in for 3, holding for 5, and releasing for three.

I noticed how grateful I actually am with my fertility journey because all the issues and challenges that are coming up are helping me find myself – who I am as a person and what is my purpose.

My means goal is going to be to do 10 minutes of meditation from now till I get till June.

If I’m going to go for 10 days to silent retreat that is 8 hours of mediating a day, I need to start practicing!

If you need more convincing that meditation isn’t just funky science, Amira came across this article by CNN, “Can you train your brain to make better decisions?” I hope this article would some more incentive to spend at least 5 minutes a day to practice meditation. Actually, the benefits of practicing mindfulness have been confirmed by brain images using MRI.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/09/business/can-you-train-your-brain/


Signing up to Amira’s support group

Amira’s support group:

The desire to have a child could be a physically and emotionally challenging journey for those who are experiencing fertility issues. This 6-week Mind-Body Fertility Program is specifically designed to compliment and support fertility treatment for those who are trying to conceive.

The program will focus on mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques and emotional coping strategies to optimize the physiological and mental well-being of participants. Emphasis will be placed on learning mindfulness-based techniques as well as mutual support within the group through shared experiences in a safe environment. The group is co-facilitated by Amira Posner, MSW, RSW from Healing Infertility (www.healinginfertility.ca)


Resources:

I used to use the app, “Headspace”, but this time I used meditations by  www.tarabrach.com