The emotional rollercoaster of infertility

by Suzanne Hurley, FGHG counsellor

Anyone in the throes of trying to conceive knows the grueling fertility cycle of hope then worry realised into disappointment, the grief and numbness that takes hold right before a new found fortitude and grit. Each new hope that is a little less sure of itself with each cycle, that if allowed, will vanish and harden into a no expectation kind of expectation.

They will know how disorienting, chaotic, demanding and painful it is to be a part of a world that all too often disallows space for such a massive struggle. Workplaces that have little or no flexibility, friends you simply cannot tell for fear of bringing darkness into their baby making bubble, families that will not or do not understand the what, how and why of what is involved. Your right to privacy and confidentiality that cannot be upheld and the all encompassing feeling of failure and shame, albeit real or imagined that prevents you from stopping the spilling over of grief from your heart, carried as tears that first pool and then pour for all to see.

In times such as these we can benefit from slowing the pace and collecting ourselves long enough to create a simple structure to help keep our vulnerability safe. Establishing some emotional scaffolding can alleviate us of any unnecessary burden we may keep on trying to carry. It can help to ground us in knowing some core well-being skills, either not yet learnt along the way to our adult selves, or are no longer effective. How can we ever be prepared to face infertility when the norm is for our bodies to work when we ask it of them?

No one expects this level of adversity in thinking about starting a family. We may dread it or worry that it may be our story but mostly we expect things to go smoothly. When it does not it can rock us to our very foundations of who we are in the world. It is this crushed illusion of who we are that needs the scaffolding in the same way we provide a stick or trellis for a plant that may struggle to bear fruit if not supported.

Identifying with a fertility counsellor who you are, why you are the way you are and knowing where you are right now when faced with fertility challenges, can be the glue that holds you together. It will be the scaffold you need until you too bear fruit. A task made easier with someone who can hold you lightly as you rise and more tightly as you yield.

The extra bonus is whilst doing all of this you earn yourself a confidant and a witness to the best and worst of you. A person who will see you and get to know you and listen and keep learning what it is that you need. They can plan with you how to have that need met, respectfully and honourably, with compassion and awe.

 

SuzanneHURLEYCSuzanne Hurley is an exceptionally compassionate, understanding and experienced counsellor with a very specific skill set and deep understanding of the challenging nature of infertility and the path to becoming a parent. Learn more about Suzanne Hurley here.

Are you giving yourself a hard time?

By Suzanne Hurley, FGHG Counsellor

Have you noticed how simple it is to hold compassion for anyone beside yourself?  Simple, in the sense that it just seems to come naturally, unhindered by self doubt or negative self talk and mostly unconditional. When I ask my clients what they would say to a friend or family member if they were in a similar situation the response is a loving, compassionate and giving exchange grounded in love and respect for that person. When asked to hold these same feelings for themselves, I watch a torturous, conflicted and challenging struggle to unearth even a small semblance of compassion that in some instances cannot be felt at all.

So why is it so hard to hold this same compassion for our own experience?  At some point we stopped believing that our challenges deserve our consideration. We seem to only appreciate ourselves in our celebrations and have no foundation on which to value our challenges and how we manage to keep going. This lack of consideration is combined with no training or skill development in acknowledging our strengths when things are not going well.

Finding your way through adversity whether it is valued as a growth opportunity or disowned as not being a part of who we think we are, get through it we must. We will all do it in our own unique way no matter how bleak or dysfunctional it may be. If along the way we can stop and give thanks to our integrity, our stealth, our leave no stone un-turned determination, we broaden our horizon to balance ourselves with the good alongside the bad and move closer toward remaining whole rather than a shadow of our previous selves.

We all need someone by our side literally or metaphorically gently encouraging, supporting and appreciating how we are meeting adversity as the pain turned inwards becomes too intolerable to bear. If that person walking alongside is the part of us that holds hope, appreciation and awe at what we have achieved then in good company we keep.

I bear witness to the shadows of ourselves that enter the counseling room having left it way too long before reaching out. I also see them nearly always leave reshaped and more whole by bringing forth self compassion, insight and acceptance that what is being lived is not what anyone signed up for in spite of adversity being all around us. Somehow we think we are to blame, faulty and therefore unlovable and allow this to become who we are. The perspective of another in hearing our story brings forth the compassion we cannot retain for ourselves at these times. The act of sitting with what our life has become and gently unfolding the truth of what it means to be human. Softening the edges so that the darkness can have shades of light can mean an easier, more loving path forward for if we cannot love our flawed selves can we truly love another?

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Experiencing Infertility: Are You a Team?

There are couples who seem to naturally function as a team no matter what their circumstance. Others have very separate lives as valued independent and high functioning adults that happen also to be in a relationship. This difference does not particularly matter until perhaps there is an unexpected event such as infertility.

Do you have support?

One of the first things I ensure when a person experiencing infertility attends for counselling, is to look at the supports around them. Primarily whether they feel they are part of a team with their partner or are they fighting solo for their right to have a child.

The reason this is important is that with any unexpected crisis we often need to lean on others in a way that we may not have had to previously. Some people dread having to be dependent on another for support even if that other is their life partner. But lean we must, as it is just too big to do alone. If you are single and doing it alone it is even more important to figure out who you are going to wrap around you for when times get tough. Often this will be a team of health professionals such as those we have at Fertile Ground Health Group, as you will need your friends to stay friends and your family to remain family. Holding complete responsibility physically is one thing, but holding emotional responsibility is unnecessary and likely to contribute to poor mental health and wellbeing.

Are you in this together?

A firm acknowledgement from a partner that you are in this together is such a simple task and yet over and over I encounter couples who have distanced themselves from each others struggles whilst in the midst of getting on with it. This can often be about not wanting to burden the other with this business of sadness, grief,  loss, feelings of dread, increasing anxiety and or depression for this elusive future goal so desired.

Can you share?

Communication is just so important with direct validation of the other’s experience and sharing what it might be like for you. Sharing big emotions is so human and brings forth closeness and understanding. No one is a mind reader. We need to be told what is needed rather than guessing. One conversation can change everything for the better.

What better way to prepare for parenthood than to up-skill on your communication? Take a direct route to tell your partner what you want from them and find out what they need from you. It can be good to get some guidance from your counsellor about how to go about this, so that you can take into account your particular relationship challenges.  You don’t want an invitation to get closer to become a bone of contention.

Developmentally the relationship should be ready for some challenges, or else why would you be trying to have a baby together? What is more you will need these skills more than ever once your little one arrives!

 

SuzanneHURLEYCSuzanne Hurley, FGHG Perinatal and Fertility Counsellor

Suzanne offers counselling for individuals and short term couples work through the many stages of fertility and parenting including contemplating pregnancy, unintended pregnancy, during pregnancy, life with a baby and end of reproduction. She has an impressive level of expertise having worked with varying degrees of reproductive loss, including pregnancy options counsellinginfertility and IVF supportperinatal mental healthabortion counselling and in reproductive health issues. Suzanne is available for counselling in East Melbourne at Fertile Ground Health Group two days per week. More information about Suzanne is available here: Suzanne Hurley, Counsellor.

Online booking at Fertile Ground

Putting A Pause On Menopause

Menopause with Suzanne Hurley from Fertile Ground Health Group

What to do when the desire to have a baby collides with fertility’s end (menopause)?

Thinking about a good time to have a baby may be considered good family planning, but what happens when reproductive circumstances dictate how and when this time needs to be?  Never more so than when we enter into our midlife years and there is a realisation that it actually needs to be right NOW.

To get to this place the desire to have a baby can have been a source of great ambivalence, entirely missing or lay dormant in some people. At times this will be a reflection on other life circumstances such as health, mental health, past trauma, being unpartnered, partnered with uncertainty about the relationship enduring, partnered with another who does not wish to be a parent or to parent again, or without a clear point of readiness for life as it has been to change.

Your reproductive rights

Many people may have previously experienced a pregnancy they were unable to continue, even though they would have chosen to if the context in which they found themselves pregnant were different. Whether they are adequately supported to continue is often outside of their control. Some have experienced reproductive coercion, either in being coerced into pregnancy when they did not wish to be, or forced to terminate when they would have liked to continue.

A decision to continue any pregnancy comes with it an assessment as to whether a person has ‘enough’ support, be it financial, emotional, health, their partner’s health if they have one, age factors, being adequately housed and feeling safe – not only now but for the life of that future child. These are all common considerations for any child a parent will be responsible for. Parenthood, I believe, begins with these considerations, as does the willingness to make some hard choices for the life of another above one’s own life choices.

With so many factors to interrupt a choice into parenthood what happens when it has to be right NOW? One such example is the medical need for a hysterectomy, particularly potent in someone who has not only not yet had children, but also may not yet have considered whether they want to have children. Imagine the frantic scrambling of thoughts and feelings that need to be explored, all without adequate time to do so. Mix this with the all too often narrow lens of the medical profession that rarely takes on the bigger picture in a person’s life outside of the part they will play in performing their surgical prowess. Add to this gender imbalances of male dominated gynaecological surgical practices and any biases they might hold about age and fertility. What might you expect?

The right to options

If a person in their midlife (40’s) presents for a medically required hysterectomy, has not yet had children, may know they either want to have children or may have not yet have considered if they want children. What might you expect? I know that what I would expect would be to be given options with regard to the surgery, such as, any alternative surgery that may provide additional time for the person to consider, decide and reconcile with their choices and circumstances, a thorough breakdown of medical risks in relation to their medical condition and any delay or alternative surgery, a referral to a counsellor to begin to explore the decision before them, a referral to a fertility specialist to discuss their options (eg. egg freezing, surrogacy, pregnancy, IVF), patience with regard to any indecision, and above all compassionate consideration for their predicament without personal bias or unfounded harmful statements. Basic assumptions you and I might think, but quite the contrary to what I have come across in my practice recently.

Moving into menopause

Moving into menopause is no small transition physically, as we are mostly aware of, with the common symptom picture of hot flushes, irritability, fatigue, weight gain etc. Psychologically it can be even harder, particularly for those whose fertility journey has been fraught with challenges, missed opportunities, losses and broken dreams, but equally so for those whose opportunities have never taken them to the foot of the parenthood mountain to raise the challenge of do I or don’t I. Passing through menopause can be graceful and welcome when one’s reproductive expectations have been met and satisfied, for those fortunate enough to not hold regret for any children unborn.

When a medical event removes your uterus and/or your fertility in one fowl swoop, great care needs to be exerted by everyone surrounding that individual, always giving them control over their choices, supporting them in their decisions even if they seem counter intuitive or differ from your own.  Without this unconditional regard for their right to choose we overlook the wisdom within people to know their own bodies, to make their own choices and know their own minds. Without this basic human right you can expect a very poor mental state and outcome for people and their reproductive rights.

For anyone who has had a negative experience of hysterectomy you may like to contact;

InternationalHERS Foundation

After speaking with The New Daily, Health Issues Centre CEO Mr Vadasz said the body is interested in hearing the experiences of women who were encouraged to undergo hysterectomies.

To contact the Health Issues Centre, call (03) 8676 9050.

For more support, Suzanne Hurley, Perinatal Counsellor, is available for consultations at Fertile Ground Health Group or you can make an appointment for a phone or video session for your convenience. Learn more about Suzanne.

Reach out if you need support: Introducing phone/online counselling

We want to assure you more than ever of counselling availability at Fertile Ground during COVID-19 management and the important role it has to play.

Counselling will be delivered either by phone or via online options such as Skype or Zoom. These options are not new to counselling environments as they are already utilised in order to create greater access for those unable to attend in person for reasons such as childcare, residing in a remote area or wanting access to a practitioner with specialist knowledge not available in your local area.

Our FGHG counsellors, Suzanne Hurley and Rhea Dempsey have many years of experience in telephone counselling and are passionate about its effectiveness. COVID-19 is anxiety provoking and a source of great frustration if planning on or working towards a pregnancy, once pregnant or if needing essential medical care.

Talking with a counsellor about your concerns and accessing emotional management strategies can be very grounding and reassuring so that you are more in control of your thoughts and overwhelm. Please heed the warning signs such as eating or sleeping less, feelings of panic or worry that won’t go away, increase in anger and frustration, catastrophic thinking and overwhelm and do not delay in talking it through.

Protect yourself by getting the support you need rather than suffering alone. As well as remote counselling sessions we are also providing 30 minute naturopathic or Chinese medicine consultations specifically for immune support over the phone, skype or online. Book here for support.

We look forward to being there for you when you most need us.

Let’s talk about sex, baby!

By Charmaine Dennis, Naturopath and Co-director

 

It can be so easy to get caught up in the dos and don’ts of trying to conceive – don’t drink alcohol, go to your GP for testing, give up the cigarettes, exercise more … that we can forget to talk about the most important thing about getting pregnant – SEX!

When you first start consciously trying to conceive, sex with your partner may be the most potent love making you have experienced. To come together to make a baby is ultimately what it is all about – a culmination of your love together resulting in the formation of another human being whose every cell is made up of your union. Amazing times!

But it seems that it can quickly turn to stressful thinking, especially as we often assume that it will happen quickly and easily for us. We tried so hard for most of our reproductive lives to not get pregnant with intercourse, so it is easy to assume that it should happen on the first attempt without contraception. Right?

Continue reading Let’s talk about sex, baby!

Post natal care at Fertile Ground Health Group

At Fertile Ground Health Group (FGHG) we love caring for you throughout your fertility and pregnancy journey and when the baby comes the care does not end there! We offer a range of approaches to help support mums as they navigate the often challenging first months with a new babe.

If you have been a patient of FGHG throughout your pregnancy why not take advantage of Osteopathic baby check to make sure bub has bounced back from the stresses and pressures of being born.  And of course, we strongly believe babies need well rested, healthy mums and our “mother roasting treatment”, a regenerative massage treatment is ideal any time after you give birth – say any time in the next 12 years!

Below you will find information on how each of our modalities can help you and your family once your bundle of joy has arrived.  We are here to support you through any hiccups you might encounter or just to support wellness, enhance health and prevent future health issues for both mother and baby.  Prevention is key, but if either you or your baby are struggling in any way, one of our highly experienced practitioners will know how to guide you.

Naturopathic care can assist with energy and nutritional requirements needed for mothers post birth to ensure sufficient milk for breastfeeding.  It also offers a range of solutions for milk supply & mastitis, low mood, fatigue, baby colic or eczema, feeding, sleeping and developmental issues.  Advice on weaning, introducing solids, vaccination support and fever management is also available.  Naturopathic care also provides essential support and solutions for any mum or baby struggling with digestive or immune issues.

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine can treat many conditions including feeding problems (insufficient lactation, oversupply, mastitis, engorgement, pain, etc.), urinary incontinence, hormonal balancing, abdominal pain, back pain, post natal fatigue, mother and /or baby sleep issues, stress anxiety and depression. This ancient and traditional medicine deeply nourishes your energy like nothing else.  And the Melbourne Acupuncture Multi-bed Project makes appointments super accessible – in and out in 45 minutes!

Osteopathic care is highly beneficial for both mother and baby.  For mothers: helping the pelvis, spine and whole body return to the optimal position and function after the changes induced by pregnancy, labour and birth. For babies: gently releasing any tension in the head or body resulting from  labour and birth can relieve or avoid reflux, colic, unexplained pain responses, altered head and neck position/development or just generally support and relax unsettled babies.

Our Massage therapists offer mums “Mother roasting” for an enriching massage and moxibustion treatment using warming and nourishing essential oils and heat pack application.  This massage incorporates the use of specific acupressure points that have rejuvenating and regenerative properties for new mothers post birth. This makes it the perfect treatment to re balance new mums, increase body energy and relieve any muscular pain and tension.  Appropriate for all mums, no matter how you have given birth or how long ago!

Counselling. Pregnancy and birth involve significant change in a myriad of ways, with different and often unexpected feelings surfacing. Counselling during pregnancy and / or post birth can enrich your parenting experience and ensure challenges are unpacked and moved through for personal growth and a feeling of confidence and freedom. Preparing for labour & birth or debriefing your birth experience through our specialist counselling service is an essential part of this transformative life stage as you birth yourselves as parents.

Call or email reception to book in:

(03) 9419 9988
reception@fertileground.com.au

Gift vouchers are also available if you’ve got someone in mind that would benefit from some post natal care treatments at Fertile Ground.