Categories > Miscarriage

Connie’s Fertility Journey

June is a month that gives me a mixture of feelings.  First, it’s a month when I finally feel that summer is here and ready to spend some good time with my family.  However, it’s also a month when my emotions get triggered more because of my past miscarriage history.  

I remember after a few years of trying to conceive, my husband and I began traveling down the frustrating road of doctor visits and infertility treatments.  Whenever doctors told us we would never get pregnant naturally, I felt like everything I had ever dreamed of was being taken away. 

I felt like I was being punished by not being able to conceive and felt like I was a failure for not being able to be a mom.  After three years of infertility treatments, heart-wrenching disappointments, and faith-filled prayers, I finally got pregnant and delivered a healthy sweet boy.  

However, since I successfully conceived the first child, I expected it would be easier to have a second child.   After my son turned two years old, I was able to get pregnant again without any fertility treatments.  Both my husband and I were very excited about the news. 

However, within just a couple of months the excitement turned to sorrow.  After three ultrasounds, the doctor told us that the baby’s heartbeat could no longer be detected, confirming it was no longer viable. It was a missed miscarriage.  He also informed us that the chances of getting pregnant again were slim.  

This miscarriage journey was dark, lonely and frustrating.  I remember questioning why I had to go through a miscarriage after I had already suffered a lot from infertility.  It felt like I had fallen into a very dark pit and could not climb out on my own. I felt hopeless and exhausted about the whole experience, and I kept all of the feelings inside. In the beginning, I did not seek any help.  

During this difficult time, I received comfort and support from my husband, friends, and my faith community.  They also encouraged me to seek professional help though.  I’m grateful that I was able to find a counselling therapist who helped guide me to share, express, and process my feelings. 

These counselling sessions gave me a safe space to reflect deeply within myself, allowing me to to be with difficult emotions and to work toward accepting and integrating them. 

I was able to recognize my fears and wounds and process feelings of guilt and shame that arose from infertility and pregnancy loss.

Counselling helped me to become aware of my limitations as well as my strengths. With counselling support, my infertility and miscarriage journey has become a huge transformational life experience.

I’m thankful that I was able to find light within the darkness of that time. I can see that in the face of that difficult situation, I had the love and support of my family and friends and I am also grateful to now have a deeper understanding of the suffering and pain associated with miscarriage and infertility. This understanding fuels my compassion to help others going through similar experiences.

Many of us may have had experiences that carry strong emotions or psychological impacts that can resurface when triggered by certain events, people or even calendar dates. Please reach out to people who love you and care about you so that you don’t have to carry the burden of the struggle on your own. It can be so therapeutic to simply share your thoughts and feelings with others who can offer you comfort and support.

Because it can often be challenging for loved ones who are also directly involved and intimate with your reproductive challenges – it can also be so beneficial to seek extra support from a professional therapist or counsellor who can help hold safe space and provide you with some tools for dealing with the challenges of infertility and pregnancy loss. It certainly helped me on my own journey!

Contact us for a free 20-minute phone consultation with Connie about her fertility counselling sessions.

Image IG @nushu

Book Event: Catalogue Baby

Dr. Alda Ngo is honoured to be invited to moderate a Virtual Book Event on Thursday, May 20th at 6pm MT.

Audreys Bookstore is hosting a book event with author, Myriam Steinberg, who has just published her deeply moving tragicomic graphic memoir, Catalogue Baby: A Memoir of (In)fertility, about a single woman’s efforts to conceive in her forties. 

Myriam is a dear friend of Dr. Alda, who had the privilege of supporting Myriam along her journey toward motherhood. Myriam will be talking not only about her experience trying to birth her “rainbow” babies, but also about the process of writing such an emotionally charged memoir while still going through her fertility journey(!).

ABOUT THE BOOK


A few months after Myriam Steinberg turned forty, she decided she couldn’t wait any longer to become a mother. With her family and friends to support her, Myriam began her journey as a Single Mom by Choice that was far from straightforward.  

Whether it was choosing donors or opting for one medical procedure or another, she grappled with a wide variety of difficult decisions. She experienced not only the soaring highs and devastating lows of becoming pregnant and then losing her babies, but also the silences, loneliness, and taboos that often surround the loss of a pregnancy.

Although the lack of understanding and language around fetal loss and grief often made it very hard to navigate everyday life, Myriam nonetheless found solace in the community around her who rallied to sustain her. 

Beautifully illustrated by Christache, and told with humour, honesty, and courage, Catalogue Baby is one woman’s story of tragedy and beating the odds, and is a resource for all women and couples who are trying to conceive. This book is a compassionate portrait of fertility and infertility that hasn’t been seen before. 

EVENT INFO & REGISTRATION

Date: May 20, 2021
Time: 6 p.m. (MST)

Register for the event here:https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/myriam-steinberg-virtual-launch-for-catalogue-baby-tickets-153383398875

For additional info, please visit www.cataloguebabynovel.com and Instagram at @catalogue_baby

GET THE BOOK


If you would like to purchase and read the book ahead of the event, you can get your copy at Audreys Bookstore.*

The store is closed to browsing, but they are offering delivery or curbside pick-up at 10702 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton, AB


Order on-line: www.audreys.ca

Order by phone: 780-423-2487

Order by email: audrey@audreys.ca

REVIEWS

This book should be required reading for anyone working in the fertility field, as they are unlikely to find a more potent psychological study of a persistent individual experiencing infertility and loss….I found Christache’s visuals sublime, Steinberg’s story gripping
– Women Write About Comics

Catalogue Baby: A Memoir of (In)Fertility[is] an extraordinary feat of visual storytelling 
– Foreword Review

Steinberg’s solo-mother-by-choice perspective and accessible, well-paced graphic storytelling brings a fresh angle to the pregnancy memoir canon.
– Publisher’s Weekly

Warning: you’re going to need to set aside some uninterrupted time to savour Myriam Steinberg’s new graphic novel, Catalogue Baby: A Memoir of (In)fertility because it is hard to put down.
– Ormsby Review

Graphic novels are well known for tackling a wide-range of topics and presenting them in ways that convey the subject’s emotional experience in image and script. Catalogue Baby certainly succeeds…. Christache’s capturing of the experiences… is perfect.
-Vancouver Sun

“A bracingly candid, fearless, and funny look at the misconceptions of conception and the emotional rollercoaster of fertility. Myriam Steinberg has turned her journey of heartbreak and healing into something wonderfully alive.” 
—Elan Mastai, writer/producer of THIS IS US and author of ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS.

WFH on Real Talk with Ryan Jespersen!

Dr. Alda Ngo had the pleasure of joining a roundtable on Real Talk With Ryan Jespersen, one of Canada’s most popular live talk show/ podcasts.

Dr. Alda was joined by 3 other people intimate with the infertility journey, Ryan Jespersen himself sharing about his own experience.

A wonderful and meaningful conversation on infertility from the inside, the thoughts, emotions, the logistics, finances and a little bit of science.

Here’s the write-up:

It’s Canadian Infertility Awareness Week, so we check in with Dr. Alda Ngo, Kristina Melia, and Linda Hoang. What new options exist for Canadians hoping to start a family, what are some of the most significant barriers they’ll face, and what proactive steps can people take to improve their chances?

Join us for our free virtual CIAW event: Infertility During A Pandemic. Sunday, April 25th 2-330pm MT as we team up with Dr. Caitlin Dunne from PCRM and 3 courageous fertility patients who share their stories. Contact us for more info and to register.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can support you on your fertility journey, book a Free 15-minute Phone Consultation with one of our fertility specialists.

Alda’s story

As I witness so many brave people share their stories, in honour of CIAW & helping to normalize the conversation around infertility, I will take the opportunity to share my own story. I am #1in6

I’ve been working in fertility health since 2007 & for a good 7 plus years of this time, I found myself in my own struggle. Being immersed in it, it was both a blessing & a curse to be working in the industry, as I struggled to find a single moment when the thoughts & emotions associated with infertility didn’t dominate.

It was a rollercoaster of hope & disappointment & I was fortunate to know very well that I wasn’t alone but still held it close & couldn’t speak of it openly because it felt sensitive & private & I never quite knew when I would well up & cry. It was always just right under the surface & I felt the need to hold it together, so I held it mostly inside.

I did all the things & at times I did none of the things. It wasn’t a linear path, but I did my best to meet every moment with as much awareness & kindness as was available to me. Finally after much hope & heartache, surgery, acupuncture, herbs, healthy eating, terrible eating, yoga, exercise, languishing, loving my partner, wanting to strangle my partner, miscarriages, IUI’s, supplements, & the like… we managed to conceive our son.

Funny enough, there I sat in a 10-day silent meditation retreat, in the surrealness that the home pregnancy test I took in the retreat centre bathroom was positive. There I sat with the disbelief, the excitement, the happiness, the fear & the dread of another loss & couldn’t speak of any of it. Being with it in silence and watching the storm of thoughts & emotions for another 7 days. The culmination of 7 years into 7 days of silence with nothing to do but watch & accept & breathe with it all.

May you find the inner space and calm to recognize and take good care of what you do have control over, while cultivating openness and deep acceptance of whatever outcome you don’t have control over. Be kind to yourselves.

We have upcoming Online Mindfulness For Fertility programs by donation. For more information, go to www.mindfulnessforfertility.com

Mindful Breath Awareness

OLIVE GUEST BLOG

I have the honour of guest blogging for Olive Fertility Centre this month.

Here’s this week’s blog:

Are you feeling anxious or stressed?

According to Mental Health Research Canada, anxiety & depression levels have increased significantly since the pandemic. On top of the usual fertility stress, finding effective tools to support yourself is more needed than ever.

Try Mindful Breathing

The breath is like an anchor, often our mind & body are in 2 different places. We’re often doing one thing while thinking about something else. Bringing our attention to our breath unites the body & mind, actually re-wiring the brain. It’s like a brain workout: enlarging the frontal lobes to increase emotional regulation, while shrinking the amygdala, decreasing stress hormones.

Mindfulness helps you increase your capacity to concentrate & manage strong emotions, so that you can respond to stressful situations with more flexibility when you’re overwhelmed. It helps you to recover more effectively & sustainably from stress.

Here’s how:

  1. Find a comfortable upright posture, where you’re alert & at ease.
  2. Gently close your eyes.
  3. Try to adopt an attitude of open, gentle & kind curiosity.
  4. Now bring your attention to your breathing, wherever it’s easiest to feel. Usually at the belly, chest or nostrils.
  5. Focus your full attention on the sensations of breathing, with each inhalation & exhalation. There is no need to change your breathing, just notice it coming & going as it is.
  6. When you notice your mind has been pulled into thought, don’t’ worry – this is normal! As best as you can, notice that your attention has moved & simply notice the thought as a thought. Then kindly escort your attention back to your breathing.
  7. Continue focusing on breathing sensations & gently guiding your attention back to the breath whenever you notice it has been pulled elsewhere.

It’s all about noticing when your mind gets distracted & starting over & over again. Each time you do this, it’s like a bicep curl for the brain – strengthening healthy neural pathways!

For more information on Mindfulness & upcoming Mindfulness for Fertility and Mindfulness for Pregnancy after Infertility & Loss programs go to www.mindfulnessforfertility.com

Image: IG @worldwide.art.sharing

How To Navigate Pregnancy After Infertility & Pregnancy Loss

OLIVE GUEST BLOG

I have the honour of guest blogging for Olive Fertility Centre this month.

Here’s this week’s blog:

Pregnancy Is Not A Cure For Infertility or Miscarriage Stress

I had expected to feel nothing but joy and exhilaration when I finally got that positive pregnancy test after a difficult 7+ year fertility journey.

But what I found was that the effects from the grief, loss and shock of infertility and pregnancy loss were not simply cured by the positive pregnancy test. After all the worst-case scenarios that I had experienced, I was wired to expect and wait for the other shoe to drop.

PTSD In Pregnancy

In fact, some researchers argue that infertility and pregnancy loss can be a form of complex trauma that replays even once pregnancy has been achieved. (1,2) For some women, the anxiety and worry they experienced during their fertility journey persists throughout the pregnancy. In addition, once they “graduate” from their fertility clinic they may feel cut adrift from sources of support they had relied on.

If you are continuing to experience anxiety during your pregnancy, it is important to seek out support like counselling or a support group.

Mindfulness Reduces Stress and Increases Resilience

Another resource is a Mindfulness-Based program. Mindfulness has been shown to help decrease stress and anxiety, while increasing resilience and well being. Research shows that when practised throughout pregnancy, not only can Mindfulness help to promote mental health, it can also make childbirth easier, improve partner relationships and enhance parenting sensitivity as well as child well-being. (3)

When I finally became pregnant with my son, a home pregnancy test revealed that I was pregnant during a 10-day silent meditation retreat. I was trapped there, with all of the thoughts and feelings, excited, elated and terrified. Yet I was forced to sit and be with it all, without uttering a word about it to anyone. I anchored myself in the steadiness of my breath, as I practiced watching the storm of thoughts and emotions bubble through my mind, trying not to judge them, or let them take over me.

Mindfulness allowed me to make peace with the unknown of the future, by helping me to accept and find ease in the present moment.

My mindfulness practice gave me the inner space and calm to recognize and take good care of what I did have control over, while cultivating openness and deep acceptance of whatever outcome I did not have control over. It allowed me to make peace with the unknown of the future, by helping me to accept and find ease in the present moment.

Mindfulness for Pregnancy After Infertility & Pregnancy Loss Program

To learn more Mindfulness tools, join us for a Mindfulness program dedicated to those who are currently Pregnant after Infertility and/or Pregnancy loss.

This program follows the famous 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and associates at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It is the most well-established mindfulness program to date and has become a standard in scientific research.

It will give you the tools you need to support you through your pregnancy, so that you may feel more at ease and enjoy this very special time.

Program details:

Online Mindfulness For Pregnancy After Infertility & Pregnancy Loss
Apr 26 – Jun 21, 2021
By donation at the end of the program

For more program information and to register, go to www.mindfulnessforfertility.com

References:

  1. Farren J, Jalmbrant M, Falconieri N, et al. Posttraumatic stress, anxiety and depression following miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy: a multicenter, prospective, cohort study. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2020;222:367.e1-22
    DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2019.10.102
  2. Kami L. Schwerdtfeger & Karina M. Shreffler (2009) Trauma of Pregnancy Loss and Infertility Among Mothers and Involuntarily Childless Women in the United States, Journal of Loss and Trauma, 14:3, 211-227
    DOI: 10.1080/15325020802537468
  3. Duncan LG, Shaddix C. Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP): Innovation in Birth Preparation to Support Healthy, Happy Families. International Journal of Birth and Parent Education. 2015 Jan;2(2):30-33.
    PMID: 29051821

I am 1 in 4

October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month

1 in 4 experience pregnancy loss. Thousands of empty-armed parents grieve the loss of their child in pregnancy, at birth or in infancy per year in Canada.

They often grieve on their own, isolated in silence. Because the cultural & social infrastructure to support them is lost in the stigma of the death of their children. The stigma is rooted in our silence.

It wasn’t until I miscarried … twice … each time after trying to conceive for at least a few years.. words can’t describe the happiness & hope I felt with those + pregnancy tests! My love for baby grew each day & week & month along with my breasts, nausea & fatigue. It wasn’t until I lost both pregnancies in a row, that I learned that everyone I knew had either had a miscarriage or was close to someone who had had a miscarriage.

It wasn’t until I helped my dear friend birth her daughter still, and saw her daughter’s lovingly bathed and dressed still little body.. only for my friend to return home to an empty nursery with empty aching arms but heart full of love and nowhere physical to pour it into. Breasts full of milk & no body to nourish…

It wasn’t until I met my other dear friend on one of her first outings, months after she still-birthed her full term son. We went to her local coffee shop, only to be greeted by the young teenaged barista who had watched her belly grow to term, excitedly asking my friend where her baby was…

It wasn’t until these moments that I touched the immeasurability of this kind of grief. And my heart grows with understanding and love for all who ride these waves of grief & sadness & anger & love.. & more..

Is there a particular moment you remember that could help others to understand the depth of your experience? Maybe if we all feel it together – at least for a moment – we can help you to bear the weight of your heart’s sadness… so you don’t have to carry it all by yourself…

Please contact us if you or someone you know needs support with moving through the loss of still birth, infant loss, recurrent pregnancy loss or infertility.

Moving Forward From Pregnancy Loss: 4 Things That Help

October is Pregnancy and Infancy Loss Awareness Month, and in honor of heartbroken parents, blessed little lost ones, and all dear folk touched by this grief, we recognize this all too commonly shared experience.

We all process this kind of loss in our own way, and in our own time. One of life’s humbling mysteries – sometimes there is an explanation, and other times there is not. Either way, we are left to grapple with that which we don’t have control over, and to practice with somehow making peace with it, while sorting out how to move forward.

Often losses can be isolating, held close and private, locked in the silent hope of the first trimester. Hopefully to be spoken of later, perhaps when a little less emotionally raw.

While later term losses or stillbirths may be collectively grieved; empty-armed parents, navigating how to move forward at the mercy of often unpredictable waves of emotion. Moving through a life unchanged and yet forever changed – buoyed or sunken by the community’s varying depth of understanding and expectation.

It is said that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage by age 35, and once we start talking about it, we realize that everyone knows at least one person who has suffered a loss- if they haven’t experienced one themselves.

What does life after loss look like? There is no right or wrong way to grieve, we all do it in our own way and in our own time. Some of us are de-railed for a short time, and others of us never quite ‘get over it.’ Some of us need potato chips, while some of us need long walks, or both. Whatever it may be, allow the time and space to be with it in whatever way works best.

Here are some things that will help in the wake of pregnancy loss:

1. Breathe. Studies show that Mindful breathing exercises shift us out of fight or flight and activate our pre-frontal cortex- which is responsible for higher executive functioning. This supports our recovery from traumatic events and helps us to be present with and to integrate these experiences in a healthy way.

Mindfulness allows us to have the perspective we need to see our way through difficult times, without avoiding or being completely high-jacked by the negative impacts of the associated stress. Accessing resources like a Mindfulness class or a Mindfulness App like Headspace have far-reaching benefits.

2. Nourish and renew. Pregnancy loss and stillbirth can be draining both physically and emotionally. Eat replenishing foods, that are nutrient-rich and tonifying. Try to stay away from refined and processed foods, while gravitating toward a whole foods diet.

Stick to warm and cooked meals, especially in the colder seasons. These are more easily digested, and your body doesn’t have to work as hard to metabolize them. Bone broths, which are rich in amino acids, vitamins and minerals are easily absorbed, rehydrating, and fortifying.

3. Follow up. Follow up with your doctor. Especially if bleeding or pain persists or if your energy levels are slow to recover. Your doctor can run standard blood-work to check on hormone and iron levels after a loss. He or she can also determine if there is any indication for ultrasound imaging to ensure that no pregnancy products remain and/or that healing from any procedure is going smoothly.

If you have had more than one loss, your doctor will likely want to run a Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Panel, to rule out any potential contributing physiological factors.

4. Acupuncture. Acupuncture promotes blood flow, regulates inflammation, supports hormone balance, and decreases stress. It helps with recovery from both spontaneous miscarriage, procedures and stillbirths, as well as supports regulation of your cycle after loss.

Treatment plans are individualized, based on factors relevant to your particular case, and can include regular acupuncture, customized Chinese herbs, and a review of recommended supplements, diet and exercise.

If a Western diagnosis has been identified, and/or Western Medical treatment is necessary, we make modifications to support this process. The primary aim is to help your body re-set. Should you plan to create and carry another healthy pregnancy, then we also help to prepare for this, while supporting the mental-emotional process and doing what we can to prevent another loss.

Pregnancy and infancy loss is not uncommon, and the more we speak to it, the better
we are able to understand and support one another. Bless the hearts of those who know
this kind of loss first-hand and bless the hearts of those who love and support them.

 

Dr. Alda Ngo

For more information on how we can support recovery and prevention of pregnancy
loss, please feel free to contact us for a free 15-minute phone consultation.

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