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Iris Fertility: A Practical and Emotional Infertility Sherpa Service on your Path to Parenthood

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Emotional Fertility Sherpa

In 2014, after a soul destroying decade of trying – and mostly failing – to get pregnant with and without fertility treatment, Iris Fertility was born.

Through Iris Fertility, I provide independent practical and emotional support and companionship to individuals before, during and after fertility treatment – whatever its outcome. I work alongside people by carrying the emotional and practical load associated with fertility treatment: an Infertility Sherpa.

The idea for Iris Fertility grew inadvertently and organically from my husband’s and my own experiences of fertility investigations and treatment.

I vividly remember the day we received our initial results: a surprisingly dirty and ripped sofa in an unusually empty waiting room. Just one other couple looking sad, apprehensive and slightly numb. I’d somehow managed to convince myself that we weren’t going to be looking sad at all because everything was going to be OK. We’d only ended up here in the first place because I’d been over-exercising and had sent my body into shock. Being here was all just an aside. Plus, I had my ‘lucky’ scarf with me. It was all going to be just fine. So, when we were greeted by the Registrar who looked significantly less upbeat than the first time we’d met him, I had an inkling that life was about to change. What I hadn’t expected was to be asked to take a seat while we watched him divide an A4 sheet of paper in half and proceed to make what looked like two shopping lists. As it transpired, it was his ‘aide memoire’ for telling us all the ‘his and her’ reasons why we weren’t getting pregnant.

I was still determined that everything was going to be OK. That I was going to ‘do’ infertility differently. I wasn’t going to get caught up in it the way that others did. It wasn’t going to define me. And I was totally and utterly wrong. I couldn’t see out. It was all I could think about. I now know I would have done anything to have a baby. I also know now having bumped into the Registrar (turned Consultant) a few years later that he didn’t need that ‘aide memoire’ after all. He told me that day is going to stay with him for the rest of his career.

Life certainly did change for us that day. Significantly. And over several gruelling years and 11 rounds of fertility treatment we experienced: extensive male and female investigations and surgeries cycles of IVF + ICSI frozen embryo transfers stimulated and unstimulated IUIs treatment with and without the help of a known and unknown donor pregnancy losses the pregnancy and birth of our first son subsequent failed cycles of IVF + ICSI – this time with fertility treatment ‘add ons’ a pregnancy involving multiples with first trimester complications the arrival of boy/girl twins on the day of the Junior Doctors strike (and, perhaps unsurprisingly, after all of that) some complex emotional health issues.

The crashing waves of hope, loss and despair commonly associated with fertility investigations and assisted reproduction treatment became the dominant feature of my life. During the time we were locked into fertility treatment I felt sucked in, spun round and spat out. I was lonely, vulnerable and isolated. Friends were either pregnant or announcing the arrival of their first, second and third child. Things got so bad that even the new friends we’d met through fertility groups and forums were onto their first and second children through IVF. In fact, it seemed like the whole world was getting pregnant with and without help. It felt like everyone I knew was embroiled in their new lives with little ones. People disappeared. Caught up in their worlds of nappies and late nights. A world I didn’t understand. A world I felt completely separated from and desperately wanted for myself.

Looking back, I think it’s fair to say that infertility totally took over my life. And that hideous land of limbo felt never ending. I became an expert in my own body and amassed a wealth of fertility-related friends, professionals, resources and information. I also found myself being the ‘go to’ person for others who needed support.

It became apparent to me very quickly that whether we were using an NHS or private clinic the information we received at our appointments often didn’t give us the full picture in terms of what treatments, services and medications were available to us for the issues affecting us. Quite often we were given information that was specific to the particular clinic rather than what was available throughout the country (or, indeed, abroad). I also remember one clinic recommending we sought out the treatment and services of a particular overseas clinic (with which it had a strong connection) when, in fact, I discovered the same treatment and services were actually available in a clinic in a neighbouring city not far from our home. The implications of using an overseas clinic and its services were not explained. I felt trapped in a system and I felt trapped in a hugely commercial and competitive industry which appeared to me to be lacking transparency and independence. I didn’t know where to turn. I didn’t know who I could really trust. All I wanted was to be fully informed of all the options and if I wasn’t being fully informed to at least be told that was the case rather than being presented with information as if it were complete.

I also often wished that someone could do it all for me. Not the treatment itself as such but all the peripheral ‘other stuff’. All the many seemingly ‘little’ yet time-consuming tasks that ate into every area of my life and all those precious moments when I could have been doing something nice for me but instead was glued to my iPad or had my head in a specialist book or was on the phone to a clinic trying to find answers and to sort out logistics for the next appointments and procedures.

And then there were all those other times when there was nothing left to do other than to sit down and cry. And scream. And shout. Or even celebrate. Those were the times when I needed someone who just ‘got it’. Someone who had experienced fertility treatment but who was no longer caught up in it. Someone who didn’t need me to explain. There are some amazing fertility counsellors out there to whom Iris Fertility regularly signposts clients but I also wanted someone to be there for me outside of the dedicated counselling appointment times. Someone to be there for the updates. For those ‘Argh. Can you believe they said that to me or x has happened?’ Or ‘Great news. Eggs have fertilised. Phew. One hurdle out of the way’ Or ‘I’m not sure I can do this anymore.’ A befriending service as it were.

I wanted someone to help me with the practicalities and someone to soften my pain. But that person was not there. Although I’d initially found fertility groups and forums friendly, welcoming, informative and supportive (tinged with a little bit of competition and jealousy), they were transient as people’s situations changed. I always felt like I was the one waving goodbye as they ventured into the online gateway of the next forum group.

And that, really, is how Iris Fertility was born. By identifying something that I desperately needed and wanted but couldn’t find in one person.

So, when I’d come up for air long enough to take some breaths and talk to many other men and women, I discovered that I wasn’t alone and that’s what they wanted too: one to one practical and emotional support tailored specifically to their needs. Someone to take the load before, during and after treatment, whatever its outcome; an Infertility Sherpa.

Sherpa, advocate, mentor, supporter, coach, personal assistant, buddy, champion, cheerleader, voice, shoulder to cry on, listening ear, companion, guide, researcher, ally, confidant, PA, righthand person, mouthpiece, pathfinder…

Every person I work with calls me something different mainly because I can be whatever that person needs or wants me to be when they need me.

Here’s a snippet of some of the ways I offer practical and emotional support…

Practical Support

  • Helping you choose a clinic based on your specific circumstances
  • Liaising with clinics on your behalf – phone calls, emails, letters, in person
  • Identifying and arranging appointments with complementary health practitioners and other healthcare professionals
  • Signposting you to other organisations and professionals
  • Accompanying you to consultations and appointments
  • Research
  • Travelling for treatment abroad with you
  • Communicating with your employer
  • Raising complaints and concerns (I’ll leave the compliments to you!)
  • Facilitating animal-care, childcare and other logistical matters like hotel and travel bookings
  • Doing your shopping for you
  • Driving you to and from egg collection and other medical procedures or investigations
  • Shopping for cards and gifts to mark other people’s baby-related ‘occasions’
  • Talking to your friends and family on your behalf
  • Giving you access to resources such as books through the Iris Fertility Library.

Emotional Support

Daytime, evening and weekend in-person support when and where you actually need it – at home, in a café, at the clinic, walking the dog, in the car, at the beach, etc.

Online, telephone and text contact whenever you want and need it.

I used to think to myself if someone could just tell me what the outcome was going to be – children or no children – then it would all be OK. If I knew the end result was definitely children then I would keep on going but if it definitely wasn’t going to be then I would stop. I found the constant living in limbo and uncertainty while everyone else appeared to move on with their lives so hard. The inability to plan for the future, having to change things or cancel at the last minute was infuriating.

While I can’t tell you how long or bumpy your path to parenthood is going to be, I can be there with you. I will walk alongside you every step of the way carrying whatever it is you need to be carried to lighten your practical and emotional load.

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Fertility 360

Do This ONE Thing to Improve Your Fertility Immediately

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Do This ONE Thing to Improve Your Fertility Immediately

Why is Earth the only planet in our solar system that supports life forms?

Quite simply…water.  No other planet has it.

Drinking water is essential for optimal health.  And you probably think you get plenty of fluids every day.

Yet, up to 75 percent of Americans may be in a chronic state of dehydration, according to research.

Many people understand the importance of drinking enough water but they don’t overcome the perceived inconvenience to make it part of their routine.

The problem is that allowing yourself to become dehydrated causes more inconvenience because it can be a significant contributing factor to your fertility issues.  Something as simple as drinking enough water can be the turning point for you.

Staying hydrated is critical when trying to get pregnant.  You can survive weeks without food. But as little as a few hours without water.  For example, a child left in a hot car or an athlete exercising hard in hot weather can dehydrate, overheat and die in a period of a few hours.

50-70% of your body weight is water.  Your blood is 85% water, your muscles 80%, your brain 75% and even your bones are 25% water, which indicates how important water is for your health.

Water keeps all of your organs and cells functioning properly including the reproductive cells (egg, sperm) and reproductive organs (brain, ovaries, uterus, testes, thyroid).  It also naturally flushes out toxins in the body.

For men, semen production and semen volume can be reduced by not drinking enough water.   If semen is thicker due to dehydration, sperm may have trouble swimming.

For the fetus, staying hydrated is critical for fetal development.  Water helps carry nutrients to the placenta and is an important part of all aspects of development from the time of fertilization. Without water, a developing baby cannot survive, increasing the risk of miscarriage.

For women, dehydration can affect…

  • …which leads to dehydration interfering with or preventing ovulation
  • The cervical mucus, which is important in transporting the sperm to the fallopian tubes for egg fertilization.  Having little to no cervical mucus can be an indication that you’re dehydrated. You should see 2-3 days of egg white, stretchy cervical mucus around ovulation.  Without enough water, the cervical mucus that balances vaginal pH also becomes too acidic, harming the sperm.
  • Implantation –  Water is necessary for cell division and metabolism. The cells of the uterine wall must be healthy for the embryo to implant.

 

How much water to drink?

Because people are busy throughout the day, using thirst as a guide is unreliable.

A general rule of thumb is to drink half your weight in ounces of water.

But more accurately, use your urine as a guide.

The color should be pale yellow like lemonade.  If it is a deep, dark yellow then you are probably not drinking enough water.  If it is colorless, you are drinking too much water which can cause salts & other electrolytes in your body to become too diluted.

A healthy person urinates on average about 7-8 times a day.  If you haven’t urinated in many hours, that’s an indication that you’re not drinking enough.  Time your water intake so that needing to go to the bathroom doesn’t cause you to wake up at night.

Make sure you start your day with a large glass of water to rehydrate.  You breathe out a small amount of water every time you exhale as you’re sleeping.  If you sweat at night, you’re also losing water.

Water bottles

Storing your water in the appropriate water containers is important.  Glass and stainless steel water containers are best.

DO NOT USE plastic bottles!  Even if they’re BPA-free.

BPA (bisphenol-A) mimics estrogen, and therefore can have estrogenic effects in the body causing infertility including low sperm quality.  BPA increases aneuploidy, a defect consisting of abnormal loss or gain of chromosomes, which could lead to miscarriages or disorders such as Down Syndrome.

Plastics, including BPA-free materials, leach chemicals that act like estrogen in our bodies.  Conditions that are known to release these harmful chemicals are heat, putting them in a microwave or dishwasher, or leaving a plastic water bottle in a hot car.  Microwaving the containers or placing hot liquids or food into them releases BPA 55 times more rapidly! But even normal contact with food or water was enough for these chemicals to leach into the food and the water because they are unstable.  Some of the chemicals that are in the BPA-free plastics actually have been found to have greater estrogenic activity than BPA itself.

Water quality

Many people rely on drinking bottled water regularly.  The problem is that you don’t know how long they’ve been in the plastic bottle and what conditions they have been stored in.

Instead, purify your tap water using the best water filtration system you can afford, preferably one with reverse osmosis (RO).

Unfortunately, an effective water filtration system also removes beneficial minerals (magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese).  Because RO water doesn’t have enough minerals, when it is consumed, it also leaches minerals from the body and your food if you cook with RO water. It’s because water wants to bind to everything, and it will take the minerals where it can — like from your body or your food.  This means that the minerals in food and vitamins are being urinated away.

Less minerals consumed plus more minerals being excreted equals serious negative side effects and big health problems, including fertility issues.

A simple solution is to add trace minerals to filtered water.

Here are some easy tips to ensure you’re drinking enough water

  • Have a bottle with you constantly and make it a habit to take a sip whenever you have down time.
  • Use an app to track your water intake.>
  • Set recurring water break reminders on your phone.
  • Buy a bottle with pre-marked timed intervals. You can also make your own stickers to add to your favorite clear bottle.  All you have to do is come up with your own timed drinking goals and write the times on the bottle.

Optimal fertility starts with the basics – water being the most critical ingredient to life.  Make it a daily habit to drink enough for your reproductive needs.

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Lifestyle

Good, Good, Good, Good Vibrations

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Good, Good, Good, Good Vibrations

Hi future mama,

We are coming up on the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. and though many of you are tuning in from all over the world and may not be celebrating this holiday; it’s still a good time to take stock of the things we are thankful for.

Unfortunately it’s our innate human survival response to focus on what’s going wrong versus what’s going right. The fight-or-flight response in our brains want to make sure we stay alive and so it is on heightened alert when we worry about the magical, “what if?”

What if it’s too late?
What if there’s something wrong with me?
What if we don’t have enough money?
What if I can’t heal my …. ?
What if IVF doesn’t work?
What if I can’t “figure it out?”

If you’ve been on this journey for any length of time, I’m sure you’re not a stranger to some of these thoughts. It sucks because they’re involuntary. Obviously we don’t WANT to think them, but we do.

Oddly enough if we worry it feels like we are doing something active; but of course from a Law of Attraction perspective, worrying only brings a match to more worrying. It’s so easy to go down the rabbit hole of worry and project our deepest fears into a future that hasn’t happened yet.

We aren’t really taught to focus on things going right. It feels irresponsible to the fight-or-flight part of the brain because- what if something falls through the cracks and we miss our chance? Or we just plain forget that there are things in our lives that ARE going right, because we are so consumed with the fear of ‘what if’.

The problem is that we can be looped in a cycle of fear and it can be really hard to pull yourself out of it. The more we try to force our way out of the loop, the more forcing it brings- and we can’t get out of it.

What does this mean for our bodies from a physiological perspective?

Thanks to the Law of Psychophysical Response, every positive thought creates a positive physical/chemical reaction in the body, and every negative thought creates a negative physical/chemical response in the body. So every time we replay a fear or past trauma, the body can’t tell if the trauma is happening in real time or is just being replayed mentally so the body responds as if it’s happening now. This keeps our fight or flight switch on because the brain perceives danger, and if the switch is on, the uterus is off. Not only is it not good for your mental state to keep replaying these fears and traumas, but it’s literally affecting your body too. This is not for you to go crazy being fearful that every thought you think is messing up your chances, it’s to bring awareness to your thoughts- awareness that despite what it feels like there is choice in what you think and what you become a match to. So just as with every negative thought, there’s a negative reaction in the body; so too with every positive thought there’s a positive reaction in the body. So your power is in choosing thoughts that feel better and being compassionate with your brain as it is rewired to think this way. It’s going to take time for it to be consistent, and we can’t go from gloom and doom to euphoria because we aren’t an energetic match to that.

A good way to begin to turn the tide and become more of a vibrational match to the energy and outcome you want is to establish some sort of gratitude practice.

Now let me be clear– being grateful for what IS going right now, is by no means a resignation that this is your life forever, that you don’t get to have your dream and you’re just going to have to deal with the scraps you feel life has given you.

On the contrary!

We cannot be in gratitude and fear at the same time. The energetic vibrations are too far apart. So being in gratitude at least momentarily lets us spend some time away from fear and feeling more peaceful.

Many of us think, “I’ll be so grateful when I get pregnant.” It sounds like a positive thought on the surface, but remember the universe doesn’t care what you’re saying– it’s hearing the energy that you’re putting out. So how that statement actually reads energetically is, “I’m not okay and I can’t be grateful until I’m pregnant, and I’m not pregnant so I can’t be grateful.”

When we are truly in the energy of gratitude for what is going right, we become an energetic match to being more grateful for more things going right. And truly, more things will start to go right- hence more gratitude!

When we are so consumed with Mission Baby, it’s hard to feel like anything is going right, but SO much is! From the epic, to the mundane, we all have things in our every day lives to be grateful for like:

  • supportive spouse
  • still getting a cycle
  • have a place to live
  • ate today
  • supportive family
  • have a job
  • it was nice out today

It’s so important for us to direct energy and awareness to what is going right so that we literally become a match to receiving more of it. Focusing on what you DON’T have, brings more of a match to you not having it. Focus on what you DO have and watch things change.

So what kind of gratitude practice are we talking about here?

    1. A gratitude journal. Get a cool looking journal that speaks to you (mine is leather with a Celtic tree of life embossed on it). Have it somewhere where you’ll see it every day. Each day write three things you’re grateful for/ or that went right today. It’s okay to have the same things on the list for several days, but really dig deep to some of the little or forgotten reasons. We all have so many. Commit to doing it for at least a month (preferably three months). Daily attention to gratitude and acknowledging support from the universe makes you a match to receiving more of it.
    2. If your spouse/partner is open to it, have a peak & valley discussion every night over dinner of before you go to bed. The valley is where you let your brain vent the thing that upsets you, and then the peak is the high point of your day. What happened that made you feel good today. It’s okay to start with things like – it was nice outside today, someone gave me their seat on the subway, I found a parking spot right away, a stranger complimented me, I had a really good sandwich for lunch, etc. Sometimes we have to start here first. That’s okay. The important thing is that we remind our brains that there are things going right all around us. Sometimes it helps our accountability to do this with our partner. If they’re not open, find a friend who you can text your peak and valley to- and maybe they’ll join you.
    3. A mini gratitude meditation. This is much simpler than it sounds and there’s no wrong way to do it. For example, you may want to sit with your eyes closed burning some sage or listen to soothing music. Take a few deep breaths, put one hand on your heart and begin to visualise one thing you’re grateful for. Deep inhale as you think of the thing you’re grateful for, and exhale as you say in out loud. Say each thing three times. Then sit in the feeling of gratitude (versus thinking gratitude), thank whatever your higher power is, and you’re done. This is something that can be done every day and doesn’t take more than five minutes but can be instrumental in shifting your energy.

Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate it and even if it’s not that holiday where you are in the world, take some time to sit in gratitude for the abundance and blessings you do have. There are so many. It’s a necessary step to move forward. Lots of love!

A’ndrea is a Reiki Master and Holistic Fertility Specialist and more information can be found on her website fusionfertility.com

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Fertility 360

Rainbow Babies: Tips To Move Through The Joys, Fears And Tears Of Pregnancy After Loss

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Rainbow Babies

Congratulations! You’re pregnant! Everyone around you is excited except, perhaps, for you. Last time this happened and/or the time before that and/or the time before that, the pregnancy didn’t continue. You may have had a miscarriage, a stillbirth or a neonatal loss. You may have felt isolation, grief, anger.

In fact, you may have thought this pregnancy would resolve these feelings when, in fact, you’ve been noticing lately that they’re all still lurking in the background. To make matters worse, you may now be feeling petrified you’ll lose this baby too. Worry, fear and uncertainty are very commonly felt by pregnant people who’ve experienced a loss.

Here are some suggestions to help you move through the challenges and enjoy pregnancy again.

1) It was not your fault
Whatever happened last time, it was not your fault. Not all pregnancies are perfect. Not all births end up in live babies. You did your best. Shitty things happen. It was not your fault.

2) Choose the right health care provider
It’s normal to be emotionally vulnerable. It’s normal to feel anxiety. It’s normal to want a million extra appointments but then simultaneously feel like that high after your fourth ultrasound was too short-lived. It’s also normal to be happy.

Research suggests that pregnant people following a loss do better with care providers that respect their unique experiences. Most often, this can be found in a care provider that provides strong continuity. For some this is someone they’ve worked with in a previous pregnancy. Others prefer to start afresh. Good, consistent professional support that honours your individual experiences is not only important for your personal wellbeing but it also improves pregnancy outcomes.

3) Ask for what you need
After a loss, many people find the need for more personalised care to support them through their pregnancy and birth. If you think you need a more frequent schedule of visits for your own wellbeing, ask. If you want to know how to get reassurance in the middle of the night, ask. If you need them to start the appointment with a fetal heart rate check, ask. If you want an additional ultrasound for reassurance, ask. Take an active role in planning your pregnancy and birth. If you’re not finding your care providers responsive, ask to change to someone else. Research suggests that feeling a sense of control in your journey can help you enjoy your pregnancy again.

4) Build your community
After experiencing loss, it’s not uncommon to delay emotional involvement in a subsequent pregnancy and that’s okay. This is your pregnancy and your baby. You get to decide when you announce your pregnancy to the world. You get to decide how you feel about your baby. However, sometimes this valuable protective mechanism also deprives us of seeking necessary support. Many woman do not get adequate emotional and psychological support to deal with their feelings.

While you may be turning to your partner, he or she may also be processing the pregnancy differently, particularly at triggering times, for they are on their own journey of isolation, grief, anger. Bring those into your community who will be there for you when things are tough. Ask your care provider to connect you with someone who’s experienced loss. Consider seeing if there are any support groups in your area for folks who’ve had similar experiences to your own. Research suggests group support helps diminish feelings of isolation and allows for stronger relationships between partners moving forward.

5) Prepare for your rainbow baby
The vast majority of people who’ve experienced losses do go on to have healthy babies. We call them rainbow babies. For, they are the beautiful babies we welcome into the world after the storm that is loss. Just think: you’re pregnant with your rainbow baby! Find ways for you and your support people to celebrate milestones, even when you’re feeling fears to the contrary. Find ways to do the things that normalise, even if a bit of adaptation is necessary.

If you think you’d feel isolated attending a regular childbirth education class, sign up for a private one instead. Read positive books about pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. Do the silly things you always imagined you’d do. Be determined to maintain hope: your rainbow baby is on the horizon!

If you want to find more support you can contact Rishma via her website www.rishmawalji.com

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