One of the biggest challenges of navigating infertility is the accompanying feeling of isolation and powerlessness. Despite the fact that one in eight couples struggle to start a family, those walking through the experience often feel as though they are alone. Finding a community with whom you can share your experiences, learn from theirs, and feel supported can be incredibly empowering.
Fortunately, in recent years, opportunities to make such connections have expanded dramatically. Below you will find a round-up of fertility-related resources in the D.C. area. Read on to learn more about these community-building offerings - and please share with anyone you know who might benefit! If you know of other opportunities to add to the list, please let me know!
New Beginnings Yoga: Monthly Yoga and Fertility classes take place the first Monday of each month at 7:30pm at the Viva Center. These drop-in classes bring together women who are sharing the infertility journey - from those who are beginning to explore their options to those who have been struggling for years. Seasoned yogis and newbies alike will benefit from a therapeutic asana practice, time for reflection, and the opportunity to create community. Details and registration are available here.
Heal from Within: Licensed acupuncturist Lisa Eaves hosts an infertility support group the second Sunday of each month from 9:30am-noon in the Tenleytown neighborhood. More information and a full schedule of meeting dates for 2019 are available here.
Jessica Burdge: Local photographer and blogger Jessica Burdge is hosting her second annual one-day retreat for women struggling with infertility. The event will take place in Lancaster City, PA on August 3. To register or learn more, visit her website here.
Fertile Ground Building Families: D.C.-based mama and fertility warrior Soundia Duche has developed an eight-week program designed to educate those trying to expand their families about all available options. Additional details about the program are available here.
One question I hear often from my clients who are struggling with infertility is what they should - and shouldn't - be eating while trying to conceive. I am SO excited to share the following advice from Kendra Tolbert, a registered dietitian nutritionist and all around beautiful soul! Her intuitive, commonsense approach to how we nourish ourselves offers wisdom whether or not you are trying to conceive. Read on to learn what she thinks is the most important ingredient you should be adding to your mealtime routine...
One of my earliest and fondest memories is that of my Nana bringing me a bowl of chicken noodle soup when the flu left my body too tired and weak to go to school. You probably hold a similar memory near and dear. That bowl of soup warmed me and strengthened me. And not just by imparting heat through its steamy broth or protein and calories to fuel my recovery. But also through, or maybe more so through, the love it symbolized and the way it delighted my taste buds.
That memory often comes to mind when I’m chatting with a client about the ways nutrition can support her on her journey to motherhood. Food has always been and will always be one of the most powerful allies we have in this life. It offers micronutrients and comfort. Macronutrients and delight. Both tangible and intangible sustenance. All equally important to our reproductive and overall health.
Most of the nutrition advice for fertility you’ll find is skewed towards the more utilitarian aspects of food. We tend to focus on the specific biochemical components that make a food “good” for our fertility. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it’s woefully incomplete. Fertility enhancing foods are not just a tool to load up on vitamins and minerals (though they’re great for that too.) They’re also a tool to practice self-care, kindness, and compassion. It’s a way to support your body as it undergoes rapid changes during treatment. And a way to comfort yourself on trying days.
We’d be wise to pay attention to both the physical and emotional forms of nourishment food provides. In fact, we have research that suggests the pleasure a food gives contributes to our health as much as the food’s nutrient content. Plus, there’s research that suggests pleasure actually improves nutrient absorption. Those nutrients serve as the building blocks that our bodies use to create the hormones that govern our fertility, as well as build, repair, and nourish our reproductive organs. So anything we can do to help our bodies be more effective at taking them in benefits our fertility and wellness.
There are so many ways we can make our meals more pleasurable. Here’s a list of ten to get you started.
Couple enjoyment with nutrition science and you have a winning combo to nurture yourself along your journey to baby.
As Jessica shared in her beautiful post yesterday, infertility can be awkward to discuss, so we often choose not to. By making this decision, we not only forgo relationships that could provide a valuable source of support, we also miss out on opportunities to learn about tools that are helping others. In the coming weeks, two great events are taking place that are designed to help women forge connections and tap into services and resources available for the often lonely infertility journey:
On Wednesday, May 17, I am honored to again be part of the Pathways to Parenthood event at the DCJCC. This community-wide event will bring together experts in fertility, adoption, mental health, and more for a discussion of the different pathways to becoming a parent. It will also provide an opportunity to connect with others who are in similar circumstances. Online registration is available but not required.
On Monday, June 5, I am pleased to again partner with Tranquil Space to offer my Yoga and Infertility workshop series. This four week series brings together women who are sharing the infertility journey - from those who are beginning to explore their options to those who have been struggling for years. Seasoned yogis and newbies alike will come together to learn from one another and help facilitate the healing process. The combination of a therapeutic asana practice, time for meditation and reflection, and an opportunity to create community has helped dozens of women find healing and release from the burden of infertility. Registration for this small group event is available online.
If you live in the D.C. area, I would love to see you at either - or both - of these events. If you are live outside DC or are otherwise unable to attend, send me a note. I would be happy to help you identify resources in your area and/or tap into a virtual community to support you along the way.
We experienced an incredibly mild winter in our nation's capital this year. As each month passed with no significant snow or long stretches of freezing temperatures, we started to think we had somehow escaped winter altogether. And as someone who doesn't fare well in cold temperatures, I had zero regrets.
So when rumors of a snowpocalypse begin to swirl last month, I was surprised to find myself beginning to feel more than a little hopeful... Our pediatrician's office called to preemptively reschedule our appointment for the following day. My early morning client offered to postpone our session. A planned lunch date with a friend was moved to "tentative" status on the calendar.
The pull of a day spent in slippers, curled up with a mug of tea and my sweet girl was strong. We began to brainstorm about the activities we could enjoy together. "Mama, can we make snow angels? Can we have a snowball fight? And what is a snowball fight? Can we have hot chocolate? Can we make chocolate cake with frosting?"
Yes, yes, it's like playing catch but with snow, yes, and yes. I picked up ingredients for the cake and mapped out our snow day itinerary.
When I awoke I was disappointed to discover the snow hadn't materialized, and we moved on with our life as usual. This week, I ran across the chocolate cake ingredients and was reminded of our unfulfilled plans. In that moment it occurred to me, we don't need a significant weather event to enjoy special pleasures. While we do need snowfall to make snow angels, there is nothing stopping us from blocking off a sunny Spring day to spend together making special memories. Yes - there is school and work and a planner full of commitments, but there is an even more urgent need to sprinkle unexpected bursts of joy into our routines.
What would a perfect snow day look like to you? What is stopping you from enjoying those pleasures today?
Nearly three years ago, I enlisted the help of three kind, unsuspecting strangers to break my car window. Last week, an unknown number of less-than-kind strangers offered their unsolicited assistance in doing the same thing.
My car was broken into last week in a busy neighborhood in broad daylight in the middle of the day while I was meeting a friend for tea. When I discovered the car, I was pressed for time, and I had no choice but to jump in and drive sans windows through the 20 degree day to retrieve the babe from preschool. When we returned home, I set about making plans for a repair and conducting a mental inventory of the contents of the stolen bag. Despite my burst of productivity, I felt deeply frustrated.
As I shared details of the incident with friends and family, they all expressed sympathy. Each time, I responded with the same mantra: "No one was hurt, everything was replaceable, and it was just a window." I believed what I was saying. I knew it to be true. But I remained stuck in an unhelpful thought pattern. Every time I felt my frustration well up, I was simultaneously hit with judgment from within: Why are you so worked up? You have a family member recovering from major surgery. Your good friend was recently robbed at gunpoint. And you are whining about a broken window and a stolen yoga bag? Get over it already!
It wasn't until a few days later after the window had been repaired and most of the stolen belongings replaced that I was able to recognize the cycle. Had I simply allowed myself to sit with the frustration, I could have acknowledged it and moved on. Instead, by forcing myself to ignore my feelings and respond in what I thought was the "right" way, I prolonged my discomfort.
We are all human beings with human feelings. Bad things happen, and even minor inconveniences can trigger unwelcome emotions. Our work is not to dismiss them outright, but to allow ourselves to experience them fully. Only then can we move forward with grace.
Next time you are subject to a less-than-desirable emotion, allow yourself to sit with it and learn the lesson(s) it brings. Treat yourself with the compassion you would extend to a friend in the same circumstances and put yourself in a position to grow.
When my daughter started preschool last year I was anxious to know everything about the seemingly interminable three hours she was away. It was our first experience of sending her into the world and relying on her - and her alone - to share the events of the day. No nanny or babysitter to give us a detailed summary of activities - no one to introduce us to the other children with whom she would develop independent relationships. The classroom and its inhabitants were largely a mystery to us.
Initial questions - if answered at all - gave little information and left much to our (active) imaginations... So we began telling her about our days and waiting for her to reciprocate. This opened up a new mealtime ritual that has endured and grown richer with time. Wherever, whenever, and with whomever we dine, she initiates conversation around two questions: What was your favorite part of the day? And what was your least favorite part of the day?
At first it was charming. Then it began to be a bit tedious. After all - most days follow a similar pattern of events, and many of the highs and lows derive from the same sources. How many different ways can I say the same thing? But then I started listening - REALLY listening to her answers, and I experienced a tremendous shift in perspective. The four year old mind is endlessly creative. The highs and lows she recounts are as likely to feature imaginary friends as her classmates. And the smallest things - sitting next to someone at circle time or helping her teacher prepare a snack - are as likely to be named a highlight as a carefully crafted, meticulously organized, and energy intensive mama-driven event.
The exercise has inspired me to be more mindful as I move through my day. Cataloguing the kindness of the stranger who took time to hold the door open - or the fleeting moment of complete clarity in savasana. It has also given me the space to acknowledge, then let go of, the moments I don't need - or want - to carry forward.
Give it a try - at the end of the day today take stock of what you experienced. Celebrate the highlights (large and small) and acknowledge, then set free, the memories you don't need. How might it change the way you approach your days?
Perhaps the only upside of my husband's occasional business travel is the shift in my morning routine. Instead of an alarm clock informing me it is 5:00am (already?!?) and time to prepare for my first client of the day, I awake to the pitter patter of little footsteps, a giant smile on a tiny face, and the best hug of the day.
So when my husband headed to New York yesterday, I was looking forward to some extra morning time with my favorite girl. But instead of the leisurely awakening I anticipated, I instead heard an urgent call from her room, "Mama, I'm going to be sick." I rushed down the hall and waited with her for what (fortunately) turned out to be a false alarm. I returned to bed, only to have the scenario repeat itself 20 minutes later. The third time I heard the call, I sighed. "Sweetheart, you aren't sick. Let's both get some sleep, and in the morning you can..." But before I finished the thought, she did, indeed, become sick...
Not only was my vision of a perfect morning spoiled, I was hit by a wave of guilt. If only I had responded to what was really happening rather than what I wanted to see, I could have provided comfort. Instead I now have a sick kiddo AND a big mess.
It happens to all of us - parents and non-parents alike. We have in our minds a certain vision of how things will unfold, and when circumstances don't conform, we try to convince ourselves we were right - even when the evidence suggests otherwise. And when confronted by reality, we often suffer the loss of more than our best laid plans...
There is no harm in planning and looking forward with anticipation, but when we allow ourselves to become attached to that outcome, we set ourselves up for disappointment - or worse.
Next time life begins to unfold differently than you planned, can you pause and be present with what is happening? Can you let go of your attachment to expectation and instead respond to what lies before you?
No matter how hard you try to be mindful and fully present, the truth is life moves fast... In the midst of the chaos and constant opportunities for distraction and diversion - and despite our best intentions, even the sweetest moments can disappear from our minds and hearts without a trace.
Many turn to journaling or various social media outlets to archive special events and memories, but what about those blissful flashes that happen on the fly? As my pastor likes to say, the shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory, but the thought of sitting down to capture all the details can seem like more work (and time!) than we have at hand.
Enter the moment jar. I was introduced to this simple concept by the lovely Pleasance Chyna at Lil Omm. She says:
Once every few days, I just jot down something I'm grateful for, something I love about our life, my kids, my day and throw it in. At the end of the year, I look them over and reflect back. It's fun to do this with the kids OR just for your self to savor.
I love this idea for its simplicity and immediacy. How often do we experience something worth preserving and tell ourselves, "I'll write this down when I get home/to the office/have time," only to have it slip through our porous memories before we have the chance? What if we, instead, just scribbled it down on whatever surface was available? And instead of worrying about weaving it into our carefully curated journal/instagram/facebook album, we could simply throw it in a jar?
I am excited to incorporate this practice into my own life and looking forward to revisiting a collection of sweet moments at the end of the year (or whenever I need a little lift along the way). If you find yourself with a similar craving for a simple way to preserve special memories before they disappear, give it a try. Save - and savor - your precious moments.
A new year brings new opportunities. A chance to start fresh. After end-of-year reflection, we (hopefully) have recognized habits and patterns that are not serving us well, and have given thought to changes - big and small - that can help us live a more full and fulfilling life.
Before we can make changes, however, we often need to create space. Eliminate practices and routines that do not serve us well. Make room for the people and things that truly nourish us. Do less so we can experience more.
This idea really resonates with me in this season. As I shared in last month's newsletter, I am making a few changes in my own life and work. Among them is pressing the "pause" button on these bi-weekly blog posts. The blog won't disappear, and I hope to continue to offer little doses of encouragement, reflections on mindfulness, and stories from inspiring people from time to time, but the rhythm will shift to accomodate some new engagements in the new year. (If you want to ensure you don't miss anything, I encorage you to sign up for the monthly New Beginnings newsletter.)
Perhaps you have already taken steps toward living a more simple life in 2017, but if not, I encourage you to consider where and how you can scale back. What can you subtract that will ultimately add value to your life? What can you give a rest?
When my daughter was one year old, we purchased a teddy bear for her at a craft fair. We did not have the parenting wisdom to recognize that a one-of-a-kind, delicate, hand made creation was perhaps not the best choice for an infant's best friend. "Al" has been dragged around town and across the country - joining my daughter for every nap and bedtime, and has served as a proactive source of reassurance for many an anxious moment. As a result, poor Al has endured countless surgeries, wardrobe additions intended to disguise his increasing maladies, and the eventual loss of an arm. We have tried to substitute other friends over the years or persuade her to allow Al an early retirement, but to no avail. There is simply no replacement for her dear friend and the comfort he provides.
It is a common story line, and one we all likely have experienced at some point. Most of us have little things - material or otherwise - we cling to for comfort in moments of anxiety. As a new teacher, I recall writing out a full script for every yoga class I taught. Over time, the word-by-word verbal cueing guide gave way to a description of the sequence I planned to teach, then to a simple list of poses or a note about the theme. Even though I no longer refer to my notes while teaching, I still fall back on the process when I need a confidence boost.
Elite athletes confess to relying on a specific song they simpy "must" listen to prior to a competition - or have established a precisely plotted pre-game ritual that adds to their mental strength. They know in their minds their performance is unaffected by any talisman, but they return to it nonetheless.
Whether or not you care to admit it, chances are you also have a teddy bear - something that adds an extra measure of confidence at critical moments. Perhaps it is the photo of a loved one who has passed on that helps you remember the importance of using the time you have wisely - or a sunshine file that brings a smile when you are feeling down. Irrespective of the form it takes, these little encouragements can help us take challenging days in stride and summon the courage to press on.
As we enter the final countdown to the end of the year, anxiety is common. A new year can seem daunting: will we get things right this time? Are we finally ready to take that important step forward? If you find yourself apprehensive, go ahead - reach for your teddy bear. Draw comfort from its familiar security and move forward with confidence.