Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mind and Body, part 1

I promised a description and my thoughts on the mind/body fertility workshop I went to. First, let me just say it was fabulous. I highly recommend it if you have the opportunity.

The overall philosophy is not about helping to get us pregnant, but about helping us be happier in our lives. It is about getting us to follow our hearts for what we should be doing now. It is about getting us to restructure our thoughts about our bodies and our struggles.

It started out with a description of the relationship between stress and infertility. Hormones that are released during the flight or fight response to stress can interfere with hormones needed for normal fertility functioning. As the constant churn or reminders of IF bring up that stress response (i.e., each new dr visit, each pregnancy announcement, each return of AF) it puts us in a constant state of stress. This part of the workshop did veer close to the "just relax" mode of advice, but still it was much different. We talked not only of relaxing in general, but using breathing and body visualization techniques to activate the parasympathetic response rather than the stress response. She also gave us strategies to practice relaxation techniques before events that we believe will be stressful, such as while in the dr's office waiting room or before a group gathering where we know there will be pregnant women or talk of babies. I used it during my dr appointment on Monday and it did make me feel better. We also practiced being mindful and present in the moment rather than let our thoughts wander to the past of previous failed cycles or to the scary future.

The nurse who facilitated this workshop seemed caught off guard that all the women there brought our husbands. Usually it is a room full of women and maybe one husband. Some parts of it was like couples counseling. We talked together about what we actually visualize when we say we want to be pregnant or want to be parents. About how we see the difference between those two statements. We practiced active listening techniques and strategies to not let talk of IF or treatment take over our entire relationship.

Let me say just a bit more about this distinction the facilitator kept trying to make all weekend. How is being a parent different from being pregnant? What does it mean to say you have your "own" child? If we define these statements and separate out what parts are important to us, then that can help guide us to what other alternatives we may open ourselves up to. For example, adoption is one way to be a parent without having the experience of being pregnant. But for someone whom the experience of being pregnant or childbirth is important, using donor sperm or eggs could be a good alternative. We have just started the process of thinking in these terms and so have not come to any realizations yet. I think that I am still operating in my brain when I say I am open to adoption. For me, given all the difficulties and risks of comparing IVF to adoption, adoption seems more "logical" to me. But in my heart it feels like giving up. And right now I am not willing to do that.

We also talked about strategies for dealing with various scenarios we find ourselves in. For example, we talked about my struggles to create boundaries with my mother and her ignoring all boundaries anyway. Another woman there has a similar struggle and her solution has been to tell her mother they are taking a break when in fact they are not doing so. I am going to give that a try. We talked about ways to find time to nurture ourselves in this process. We compared doctors and clinics in the area to see what other options there are for our treatments. We compared western medicine to eastern medicine. We did some journaling.


  1. That sounds really great. What an amazing experience.

  2. This was a cool post. Everything you guys hit on in that workshop is stuff I need help with. Living in the moment is especially hard for me, I find myself thinking "this upcoming cycle may not work and how crushed will I be?" when I'm doing simple stuff like making dinner with hubs. What a waste of QT with hubs. :( Thank you for sharing!!

  3. It sounds like a very interesting workshop. I need to look into the availability of something like that around here.


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