It seems timely, somehow, that I update and reprint an article that I wrote in the aftermath of 9/11, not so much because it was recently the 15th anniversary of the tragedy, but because this kind of display of heartlessness seems to be with us like an undertow. Seaside Park, New Jersey and Chelsea, New [...]
By Helen Adrienne, LCSW, BCD Infertility. The experience is a bad dream that couples may not wake up from for many months or even years. When it becomes clear that pregnancy is elusive, life as it has been known becomes unrecognizable. As solutions are sought, the world gets dark. Friends who are popping out [...]
Life on Planet Earth is not easy. Throughout history, there have been seers and soothsayers, clerics and philosophers who have guided their flock. I am trained in one of the 21st century’s versions of that role. Some problems respond well to coping styles that can effect a change relatively easily by cognitively rearranging circumstances to [...]
When I was a little girl, I remember putting rolled up socks in my undershirt to create the “breasts” that a mommy has. This made playing house that much more authentic. Although it was hard to recruit the little boys in the neighborhood to join in, it was not impossible. Yet their resistance was not [...]
(Excerpt from On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility best-selling book by Helen Adrienne) If you want to get pregnant, you can't stay in the comfort of your bedroom. Your sex life and your menstrual cycle used to be nobody's business but yours. Why do your private parts need to be under the glare of fluorescent lights? [...]
I looked up the word fertile in the thesaurus. Synonyms such as lush, bountiful or copious have to do with productivity or multiplication. The verb form of fertile suggests causation as in conceive, spawn or teem. Other descriptive adjectives - life-giving or prolific for instance - describe abundance. Creativity is at the root of this [...]
Infertility is an all-consuming bio-psycho-socio-spiritual crisis. But unlike an acute crisis, which resolves in a few weeks, the quest for a family can go on for years. It is hard to concentrate in a crisis state. Therefore, I’m offering thirteen sayings which offer ways to feel normal even as you feel crazed an and questions [...]
Because caveman was vigilant and presumed that the twig that snapped was a saber tooth tiger even if it was a raccoon, we are here. Negative thinking is encoded in our DNA and is normal. But negative thinking becomes particularly vexing when the propensity to think negatively is compounded by the infertility experience (or any [...]
The days of denying that the mind and body are a unit has been replaced with scientific evidence to the contrary. Some still either deny this phenomenon or have trouble wrapping their brain around it. While there is no requirement that you subscribe to this belief, if you are suffering with mental, physical or existential [...]
Opinions vary as to whether stress causes infertility. Certainly, dealing with infertility causes stress. But can it be implicated as an ongoing “cause” of infertility? This leaves room for feeling blamed. And what if feeling stressed is an issue prior to trying to conceive? Does stress cause infertility? Here, too, there is a short leap [...]
The word brainwashed has a negative connotation, conjuring up images of involuntary indoctrination into a mind-set that is robotic and serves a purpose not of our choosing and malignant in some way. I had a colleague years ago whose daughter was mentally “captured” (brainwashed) by a cult. This young woman was treated with great kindness [...]
While I teach as many coping mechanisms known to Man as I can cram into four mind/body stress reduction sessions, I’m jazzed by what participants bring that can be incredibly valuable to the other class participants. Recently, a woman in my class busted out with “What I love about infertility is that it taught me [...]
The range of feelings that get evoked on the Parenting Holidays is wide and deep, indeed. Whether you're a woman or a man, Mother's Day, Father's Day or both can be fraught with emotion. Aside from the fact that this is a holiday manufactured by Hallmark, in a perfect world, parents deserved to be honored. [...]
Without question, the number one strategy for dealing with the emotional pain of infertility has a statistically significant correlation with rates of pregnancy!* Do I have your attention? It is the approach to coping that takes us under the turbulence created by stress. When we are stressed, our bodies walk the planet, but our minds [...]
Here’s an idea for having a truly rewarding experience as a gift to each other on Valentine’s Day. Forget all the trappings: wine (which may be off limits now anyway), reservations at the hottest restaurant in town (says who?), followed by even hotter sex (when sex has become irrelevant), a dozen overpriced roses, and all [...]
Are you recognizing the need to make some changes in the process of adapting to the unwanted reality of the fertility challenge? And are you sick of all of the articles which predict failure to maintain your promise to yourself? Even more exasperating for you might be the articles that promise “all you have to [...]
One of the horrors of the fertility challenge is the build-up of tension in the very place where serenity is palliative, namely between the couple. Most couples pull together really well and in the end discover their qualifications to deal with adversity. Yet, the fact that the journey can take a long time to resolve, [...]
If Depression and Anxiety are normal, though unwanted companions on the journey to parenthood for eleven months of the year, as they are for most in the fertility quest, the likelihood of the “Big D” and the “Big A” looming larger in the month of December is legendary. How could these emotional states not follow [...]
The New York Times Magazine carried a cover story on October 26th that was fantastic entitled The Fountain of Youth. The research has vast implications, including for those in the fertility challenge, because the article is really about the unity of mind and body. Here’s the link: http://ow.ly/DZ9o9 The article, by Bruce Grierson, is largely [...]
Medical treatment for infertility has created many miracles. Physicians are trained to manipulate hormones and join and implant patients’ seeds. Less understood is the power the patient has to fertilize his or her soil. Hypnotic treatment for infertility can be a powerful part of the miracle because it occurs in the place where mind and [...]
Anyone who has ever frolicked in the ocean is wise to learn how to avoid getting knocked over by the waves. When a breaker threatens to inundate you with its powerful churning energy, diving under it keeps you safe. Conversely, to passively stand in the path of this impending blow can lead to feeling [...]
What Do Infertility Patients Want Psychotherapists to Know? Developing the Expertise that Infertility Patients Deserve “The therapist that I fired claimed to be an expert but she was not. I could tell that she had looked up a few things on the internet and was pretending that she knew what I needed her to know.” [...]
Couples Under Duress when Under the Stress of Infertility So there you are, a couple in love with being in love. Unicorns and rainbows abound as you plan on making love and making a baby. Bang … the universe has a different idea. Unless you can count on controlling your emotions so you can be [...]
In the decades that I’ve been supporting infertility patients, the phrase “I can’t stop crying” has been uttered much more often than not. Many times it comes with apologies, as if tears are wrong. This makes no sense. A diagnosis of infertility is agonizing. The treatment of infertility is agonizing largely because hopes can be [...]
Any decision to use a third party to create your family demands serious soul-searching. Not only have I been supporting couples in this quest for 35 years, but ironically, my own daughter was faced with the decision to use ovum donation due to the chemotherapy and radiation that she needed as a 17 year-old to [...]
PCOS does not preclude pregnancy. It does demands more patience for the extra time it may take to conceive. Therein resides a great deal of the problem, and at the same time, hints at the solution. How could this be? Patience is a component of resilience. And resilience, the ability to bounce back after an [...]
To be born is to enter an evolutionary process of growth and change. We all grow in physical size and emotional capacity. We are all called upon to navigate the stages of life. Change is inevitable and non-negotiable. If life were utopian, we would enjoy the present moment, let go of what is over, and [...]
I never thought that I would be grateful for being an infertile woman. For the ten years it took for me to finally have resolution, more than struggling with conception, I struggled to survive with my heart, marriage, and life intact. Being infertile has taught me the power of women and community. If you are [...]
Did anyone see the Op Ed piece in the NY Times, Selling the Fantasy of Fertility? While infertility is making its way into public consciousness, this article represented a skewed opinion of the good work that fertility research and clinics are providing. You might be interested in reading the article. Then check out my response: [...]
At the time of this writing, The Museum of Modern Art in NYC is running an exhibition called Soundings: A Contemporary Score. Artists deconstructed sound and made it visable in a variety of ways. What interested me most were the artistic contributions that made silence audible. In one case, what a dog can hear was [...]
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from trauma and is integral to mental health. Some would call it the definition of mental health. But resilience is not a fixed commodity. It can be lost as physical and mental challenges rise beyond a person’s accrued coping skills, and regained as people seek guidance to build [...]
In October of 2006, the esteemed journal for reproductive endocrinologists, Fertility & Sterility, published the results of a study in which a group of women going through IVF were hypnotized at the time of embryo transfer. The transfer of embryos for the control group was done without hypnosis and without tranquilizers. The pregnancy rates of [...]
On December 18, 2012 the NY Times reported a story plugging the value of art. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/arts/design/arts-as-antidote-for-academic-ills.html?_r=0) It told of the artist, Chuck Close, who had spoken to a group of elementary school children about how art “saved his life.” As a child he was limited by neurological disabilities which made it difficult if not impossible to [...]
I’m known professionally as someone who specializes in the emotional component of infertility. At this holiday season, I’d like to suggest that the need to have access to spiffy coping mechanisms pertains to almost all of us. Any adversity requires extra coping skills when stress elevates as it tends to at the holidays. And stress [...]
Mind/body techniques take into consideration that the body is the historian. The body holds information that perhaps the mind wants to forget. In its determination to keep us honest, the body nags at us in the form of anxiety or gastrointestinal problems, head aches or muscle tension until we pay attention. Talk therapy provides mental [...]
Infertility involuntarily changes your life. You’re not in the driver’s seat and the roller coaster climbs slowly and plummets quickly. With all this mental and physical motion and commotion, every day can seem like a year when your quest for a baby is thwarted. If you relate to this description, take note: You may not [...]
Let’s get one thing straight right away: It is normal to feel intimidated in any doctor’s office and it is normal for your IQ to drop to zero when creating the next generation becomes an ordeal. That being said, how do you maximize the opportunity to minimize your stress with good self-advocacy? How can you [...]
Making your way through an infertility struggle is an ordeal. The emotional component of the infertility journey can be even more of an ordeal. Women are generally freer to feel and express their emotions than men. Father’s Day is a reminder that you are not a parent yet either. Culturally, in a man’s world, emotions [...]
Reframing is about deciding to look at our thoughts from a different perspective. When it comes to infertility, the act of reframing is a skill worth cultivating. Keep reading to find out why. As a rule, thinking negatively is part of the human condition. Because caveman presumed that the twig that snapped was a saber [...]
According to Buddhist philosophy, the cause of all suffering is craving. They say if you desire things that you do not have, suffering will follow. If you realize this, peace will be yours. Suffering will disappear and contentment will reign. Tell this to 100 couples in a fertility struggle and it would be likely that [...]
If you are struggling with infertility you are well aware that anxiety goes with the territory. On Sunday, March 4, 2012, The New York Times, Sunday Review section, featured an editorial piece on anxiety by Patricia Pearson that got me thinking. Certain of us are prone to wariness or fearfulness. About this underlying rumble, the [...]
Would an orchid keep its bloom in a closet without water, fertilizer, or exposure to the light of day? Would a palm tree last very long in Siberia? Could a herd of elephants sustain itself in a concrete jungle? Doesn’t Mother Nature demand that each form of life live according to a certain set of [...]
Purchase Helen's book, On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility. The following excerpt from my book speaks directly to those in an infertility struggle, but keep in mind that the tenets apply no matter what adversity you might be dealing with. On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility by Helen Adrienne, LCSW, BCD Chapter 10 Gain from the Pain: [...]
Today’s post is shared with you from the book: Ten Commandments for Couples for Every Aspect of Your Relationship Journey. Seventy experts in relationships provided their 10 commandments for dealing successfully with everything from maintaining connection to dealing with financial and sexual issues. Here is my excerpt: 1. Infertility is demanding. Keep your love for [...]
Perhaps you have decided to remain child-free. But if you are struggling with infertility you are in that category by default. Either way, it’s common for people to make assumptions which can be hurtful. Check out the advice in the article “Ten Things Not To Say to Your Child-Free Friends.” http://wap.yahoo.com/w/ygo-frontpage/lp/story/us/739492/coke.bp?ref_w=frontdoors&.ysid=dekjcUq9_jiTaT73vLkMGg80&.intl=US&.lang=en. You will appreciate the [...]
We are dual process thinkers. We have two interrelated systems running in our heads. One is slow, deliberate and arduous (our conscious reasoning). The other is fast, associative, automatic and supple (our unconscious pattern recognition). … Most of our thinking is below awareness.”
When I first went into practice in 1979 as a psychotherapist serving infertility patients, the scuttlebutt was that any inability to conceive for which there wasn’t an explanation meant that research hadn’t yet clarified the person’s specific problem. Today, much has been clarified and medical experts believe that if a correct diagnosis could be guaranteed, the number of those labeled “undiagnosed” would be very small indeed, rather than the 10% to 30% or more (depending upon whose statistics you look at) who fall in this category now.
It may be many weeks away, but with advertising being what it is these days, turkeys and Santa will soon be in your face. For infertility patients this can be a devastating, heavy-hearted time. We live in stressful times and the demands of the season up the ante. Simple things like going to the mailbox [...]
When I first began to run mind/body support groups for women struggling with infertility, I included a segment on humor. A few colleagues thought I was nuts, reminding me that there is nothing funny about infertility as if I didn't know. Humor as an important coping mechanism has remained part of my program since the beginning. We need to laugh, perhaps never more than when we're dealing with adversity.
The advice to set rules makes sense. But as a therapist, when I work with people I like to frame things so that you can feel successful. It you think it is easy to set rules and then you and your partner get tangled up in issues that are attached here, you’ll only wind up feeling worse. It makes more sense to see the “whom-do-we-tell” issue as being attached to many things that you might need some professional help unraveling.
With Hurricane Irene front and center, either because you lived through it, or you were innundated by news about it, I was reminded of the infertility article I wrote way back in 2003. Suddenly, the rain and wind subside for a while until the "back end" of the storm brings its fury to your doorstep once again. For ideas about how to create an eye in the infertility storm and reclaim your sense of yourself, click on the link below this article:
Evidence-based research is both useful and not helpful when it comes to infertility. It is inspirational when you realize that if, as the research has shown, you can rid yourself of migraines with biofeedback by using your mind to control your temperature, it is only a short distance from there to realizing that you may not be helpless when it comes to influencing your fertility. (Of course this would only have merit if there weren’t structural abnormalities.) Feeling helpless will certainly contribute to stress.
Miscarriage is a loss which has no official ceremonial protocol attached to it. Ken had it right because he and his wife created their own ritual when they planted a bulb in their yard, and took the time to honor and metabolize their feelings of loss. The symbolism is obvious and perfect.
This entry is very simple. It is just meant to call your attention to what might be a more panoramic view of stress than you might currently be aware of. Consider my “3 A’s” approach to coping with stress: If you ACCEPT the reality, if you become more self-AWARE, and if you learn ways to ADAPT to the infertility experience, you can shift from feeling vanquished to feeling victorious.
The results of a recently released study of 50 infertile couples claims that couples hold back from sharing their infertility because they feel stigmatized. While couples might feel stigmatized, in my 32 years of practice I have observed that it makes sense to hold back from sharing their infertility because it’s nobody’s business but theirs.
Women who are hovering around the age of 40 find the statistics that report the diminished chances of pregnancy at that age to be a real sore spot. Medical specialists feel a certain obligation to put forth the glum statistics and offer the option of donor eggs without considering the readiness of the patient. This position is not illogical from the medical point of view. The trouble is, it is unhelpful to women who want to give themselves a chance – not only to achieve a pregnancy, but to do it with their own eggs. Women resent being told that they’re too old when they feel in the prime of their lives. And this medical position also raises levels of anxiety and depression which intensifies mind/body tension which can work at cross-purposes when you want to maintain physical and emotional receptivity to a pregnancy.
Below is an inspirational quote from Charles R. Swindoll. It is a real challenge to maintain a positive attitude when in an infertility struggle. You certainly have a right to feel like dog poo, but you have a choice not to. Mind/Body coping skills are a sure-fire approach to learning how to respond to the stress of infertility rather than be reactive to it.
Impatience is virtually universal when our deepest longings are thwarted. And longing for a baby generates a particular agony because of the extended period of time that it can take until the baby quest is resolved. The following is a lovely story, synopsized from the book Stories for the Third Ear by Lee Wallace. This little metaphor may serve to settle the pressure that you may be putting on yourself in an attempt to barge through to parenthood.
Even though you are tossed unexpectedly into an unwelcomed set of circumstances, the wisdom of these words provides a valuable perspective to adopt when infertility renders your life unrecognizable.
The frenzy of infertility drains energy. But many apply mental muscle to fight the good fight, which under the circumstances can feel like a car in overdrive with the emergency brake yanked up. While applying mental muscle as a coping mechanism to push through the challenge can be effective, diving under the turbulence renews energy and builds resilience.
Infertility is demanding and stressful. The holidays are demanding and stressful. Put them together and one plus one equals much more than two. At the same time, the holidays provide two opportunities to turn the marital relationship into a refuge, despite the sound of jingle bells. In the best of families, tensions abound at holiday [...]
As you well know, infertility is a life crisis of major proportions that leaves no area of life untouched. Furthermore, studies have revealed that infertility escalates levels of stress to be on a par with the diagnosis of cancer or HIV/AIDS. Stress is disruptive. Worse, it is disruptive at a point in time when meeting [...]
The need to cope with adversity is unavoidable. Sometimes we have the presence of mind to step back from a problem and find a solution that relieves our stress. Other times the problem may swamp us because it is bigger than the coping mechanisms which are in our repertoire. We all get tossed around in [...]
Simon and Garfunkel sang of the “words of the prophets being written on subway walls and tenement halls” and prophetic words being “whispered in the sounds of silence.” As prophets themselves, they sang of “people talking without speaking, people hearing without listening.” This article is an invitation for you to ponder what “vision might have [...]
The planet would be totally devoid of life, plant and animal, if there were not an imperative to reproduce. Some forms of life reproduce by simply splitting in half. Others rely on the wind. And some forms of reproduction are infinitely more complicated. No matter how, all forms of life reproduce on auto-pilot. Nature has [...]
Certainly the shock of the unexpected edict of infertility lands like a bomb and ushers you into a world where worry about achieving parenthood causes an upward spiral of stress with each passing month. There is ongoing controversy as to whether stress log jams the quest for conception in the first place. The answer is, [...]
Do you know what happens inside a cocoon? Thanks to medical sonography capable of looking into bodies, it is now known that the process of becoming a butterfly involves a complete meltdown. Internal structures rearrange themselves and ultimately, a beautiful creature emerges, the product of metamorphosis. Certainly, infertility can be said to evoke feelings of [...]
Becoming adults and having children is part of the natural order of things. Although there are those who know early on that they have no interest in raising a family, the vast majority expect to create the next generation. Whether the fear that you will be blocked along this path sneaks up on you gradually [...]
Most people are aware that there are tears of sadness and tears of joy. Some have thought about other categories of tears that come from terror or pain, anger, frustration, helplessness, jealousy or relief. And with a bit of effort, we could compile a list, perhaps even a long list, of other kinds of tears. [...]
I don’t want to buy any presents. I don’t want to go to your family. I don’t want to go to my family. I don’t want to shove myself full of fattening food when I feel like a kielbasa from these hormones. I don’t want to see my nieces and nephews. I don’t feel like [...]
If you are reading this article, you do not need to be told how devastating the diagnosis of infertility is. I have met a few people who had feared that they would have a difficult time conceiving, but for the most part, even if you are approaching 40, the possibility of waning or compromised fertility [...]
In Vitro Fertilization is normal these days, but it is not natural. The numbers are way up since 1985 when, according to the Center for Disease Control, 41 IVF clinics first reported how many cycles were started for the year. The average cycles started per clinic was 95.6. In 1990, with 175 clinic reporting, the [...]
by Helen Adrienne, LCSW, BCD Have you ever been in the eye of a storm? I was, when I was seven or eight. There was a ferocious hurricane one minute, and the next, the sun shone brightly and the wind was a memory. I jumped up and down the way children do, wanting to go [...]
Conceive magazine article by Helen Adrienne Earthquakes such as the recent one in California stand as ominous reminders of nature's power. People's responses to destruction are varied. From selfish looting on one extreme to altruistic involvement, on the other. Recovery involves stepping back from the rubble to see the full picture, asking the larger questions [...]