Supporting women who are struggling to conceive is not easy.
As an acupuncturist specializing in Reproductive Health, I see and hear it all.
Primary infertility, secondary infertility, recurrent miscarriage, failed IVF’s, premature ovarian failure, tubal defects, “unexplained” infertility…it takes a toll on a woman’s mental health.
Whether she’s married to a man, a woman, partnering with her gay friend, using a surrogate, a live egg donor, or is a Single Mom By Choice, she most likely feels alone, isolated, and struggles with the shame of not being able to set her mind to getting pregnant and make it happen when she’s ready.
It seems as though every single other woman she knows got pregnant on her honeymoon, or as soon as the first kid was out of diapers, or the first cycle back post-pregnancy. The baby shower invites, Facebook ultrasound pictures and blossoming bumps conspire to make her feel like a total failure. Her sex life has become utilitarian. She’s tired of hearing the questions from her Mom at Thanksgiving (“when are you gonna make me a Grandma?!”), not to mention her 4-year-old (if she’s trying to conceive #2): “Mama, I want a SISTER!”
I hear stories of shame, sadness, anxiety, fear, and hopelessness every single day. Stories that would break your heart. I am not a therapist, but I do a lot of listening and giving empathy.
Daily meditation keeps me grounded, positive, and allows me to stay present for each story and each person I work with.
I want my patients to know they are not alone. If only they knew how many other women are going through a similar journey! But I can’t open to the door to each treatment room and say “hey, talk to the woman in room 2, she’s in the same boat!”
Thankfully for my patients, I am bound by federal privacy laws to keep my mouth shut, and not introduce Sally A. to Jane Z.
Quite often, I ache to normalize their experience, to let them know they’re not alone.
Today I had lunch with Robin Starkey Harpster, LMFT, my co-host and co-founder of the Northeast L.A. Fertility Support Group, which starts in a week at my acupuncture clinic, FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts. (Sign up here!)
Robin is awesome. A fellow mom of two and small business owner, she and I were introduced by our birth doula, Elena Vogel, about six years ago. We’ve been referring patients to each other, running into each other at birth community events and sharing the occasional brainstorming lunch for several years, but last summer we started collaborating on this idea…
What if all these women we treat, who are struggling to feel sane in the process of trying to get and stay pregnant, had a place to go and share their stories? What if we could create a safe space for them to vent, learn mindfulness techniques, and be moderated by a psychotherapist and an acupuncturist, both of whom are moms on the other side of the TTC journey?
Individual therapy is awesome, and often an integral part of the journey to parenthood. Chinese Medicine is amazing for addressing the mental and physiologic aspects of infertility. But sometimes a woman needs group support surrounded by other women who are going through the same struggle. Sometimes she just needs to talk, be heard, and SEE that she is not alone.
For years, I’ve tried to refer my fertility patients to a support group on this side of town. There isn’t one.
So Robin and I are starting one. A Mind-Body-Spirit approach to support for infertility and miscarriage…bring it on!
If you or someone you know/love/support is struggling to get and stay pregnant, please let them know about our group. It’s free (suggested donation $20), and we will have tea and yummy snacks.
We will explore grief and loss, shame and guilt, sadness, anger and fear. You will learn creative, holistic techniques and resources for becoming more mindful and less overwhelmed by this journey, and share your story. Topics will include: Expectations, Sex, Radical Acceptance, Trauma, Dealing With Family, and anything else the group wants to bring up.
I can’t wait!
(Copyright 2014 Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., Photo by Dave Clark, all rights reserved.)