Waiting for Babies

Today’s guest post is from Steven Mavros, L.OM, the Founder of the Healing Arts Center of Philadelphia, and the producer of a new podcast called “Waiting for Babies.”

Maria and I met Steven when he came to check out our exhibit, SEA-ART-HEAL, in Seattle a couple of months ago. The three of us immediately connected over our shared desire to make infertility more visible by collecting and sharing oral histories. So, Maria and I were thrilled when he invited us to Philadelphia to partner on an art exhibit this fall. The exhibit will run November 3 – 28 at the Old City Jewish Arts Center.

We’re working hard to outline all the programming and the event dates and times, including a film screening and art and writing workshops. However, we’d love to start by introducing you to Steven. We’d also like to extend an invitation to you, to share your story of infertility through visual artwork and writing you have created. You can learn more by checking out our Philly event landing page.

Read Steven’s story of creating “Waiting for Babies” below. Then, give his podcast a listen. We’re particularly fond of his recent episode about Jessica (A).

Waiting for Babies
by Steven Mavros

15 years ago, when I first started practicing acupuncture, I never set out an intention to work with couples or individuals struggling to bring a child into their lives.  In my first month, a new patient brought me a study done in Germany detailing how using acupuncture before and after the embryo transfer of an IVF procedure raised its success rates.  She asked me to come to her fertility clinic and replicate what was in the study which I was happy to do.  When you’re first starting a practice you say yes to everything of course.  Thankfully, her physician was amenable and open minded enough to let us take up space in their office for something that was brand new in their world.

That study spread both among patients and the fertility doctors and suddenly I found patient after patient asking for this type of help as they’d heard I’d done it before.  Interestingly, there was also some evidence that acupuncture would be helpful for those who were just trying on their own or doing things that were less complicated than IVF like IUI or artificial insemination, so a lot of patients started coming in before they made it to IVF. Still, almost every week I would get a phone call (always the day before because they never got more than that amount of notice) and I would wake up earlier in the morning then I normally would and go to one of the fertility clinics and do some acupuncture.

Steven Mavros is an acupuncturist, founder of the Healing Arts Center of Philadelphia, and the creator of the new infertility podcast, “Waiting for Babies.”

Here’s how it would go: at the clinic I’d meet my patient and often their husband or partner.  The three of us would sit together in the waiting room until one of the nurses would come and tell us that they had space for us to do acupuncture and the woman and I would go back to do the treatment.  Afterward, I would sit in the waiting room for what could’ve been twenty minutes or could have been three hours for the procedure to be finished.  Then I would go back into the room to do a slightly different acupuncture again.  Needless to say I spent a lot of time waiting in clinics.  I often read both a book I brought and every magazine possible.  There was no handy internet in the pocket then.

This was such an intimate moment I was privy to. It was also extremely intense as the procedure they were about to have was in some ways the culmination of a lot of effort, time, money and emotion that they have been putting into trying to conceive.  At these treatments I would get a first-hand view as to what the couple’s relationship was like.  Some were what I’d consider healthier than others.  Sometimes they fought on the morning of and sometimes it was the most loving and caring thing I’ve ever seen. Sometimes there was no relationship because it was a single woman trying on her own or her partner didn’t show up or didn’t want to show up for reasons I didn’t always get to know.

To add pressure to everything the woman had to have a full bladder for this procedure. This always lead to a classic scenario.  I’d be sitting with my acupuncture case, the woman sitting next to me with her legs crossed three times around like eagle pose in yoga and the partner sitting next to her just twiddling their thumbs waiting for everything to be over. The nurse would come out and tell us that they were running a little bit behind and the woman would squeeze her legs together even tighter because she already had to pee and was both nervous and getting even more uncomfortable. Then, almost without fail, the partner would stand up and say “Ok, I’ll be back, I have to go to the bathroom.” To which the woman would always just roll her eyes and laugh and I would look incredulously at someone who clearly didn’t understand the concept of solidarity.

There are so many moments and so many little things that are both hilarious and heart wrenching sitting there with all of these patients and I realized that their stories are so intense and emotional and yet no one outside of that room knew what they were going through. So I thought the best idea would be to write a book and to try and tell their stories the best way I could.  I’d add along some anecdotes and things that had happened to me along the way.  But after hitting so many walls writing, I realized that I was trying to tell a story that wasn’t mine. I was trying to tell their story and that would never work because I didn’t have all the information. I don’t know what came before and what was to come afterwards. I didn’t always know how things turned out as sometimes I only got to see them in that one intimate moment and never even found out if the procedure worked.

So I decided the best place to hear that story was from the patients themselves. Waiting for Babies was born.

Pregnancy and miscarriage, IVF and artificial insemination are not actually new concepts to our American society, but given how little is talked about it you would think that it was. When it comes to medicine, we are so intensely private.  Did you know that in America there’s really no ritual or common healing practice for someone who’s had a miscarriage? Many other cultures have them to give you at least a playbook as to what to do when this happens but we miss that in America. And most of the time people bottle it up and keep it within the partnership which often doesn’t help either of them.  And it’s so much more common than you think as is this whole field. One in eight couples or individuals trying to get pregnant are having difficulties like this.  Most likely someone you know has either been through it or is going through it right now. I want to open that conversation and get all of this information out there to show just how human this whole process is and what some people are going through. I was to shed some light on how hard it is when something that for everyone else takes a very quick momentary interlude in life, but can take those struggling years and years.

It’s time someone shared their stories as there are so many more who are still waiting for their babies.

Naturopathic Medicine and Fertility

Today, we’re re-running a guest blog from Dr. Aumatma, who I had the pleasure of meeting at her practice in Oakland, CA last summer and learning from at the Xtraordinary Fertility retreat in Ben Lomonde, CA in October of last year.  Thanks, Dr. Aumatma, for sharing with us!

Elizabeth

What is Naturopathic Medicine and is it different from acupuncture when it comes to treatment for fertility?

Lots of people struggling with infertility know about acupuncture. There is lots of data. And, it’s pretty popular to be getting acupuncture while you’re optimizing your fertility so that you can start that family you dream of. What you may not know is that acupuncture is quite different from Naturopathic Medicine, though they have a similar philosophy of using nature to support the healing process. From this article, I hope to inspire you with something that you haven’t already tried or considered, and encourage you to reach out sooner if you are on this path—the sooner your reach out do a Naturopathic Fertility Specialist, the better… because this medicine really will help you fill the gap between your Western doctor and your acupuncturist. So, in a lot of ways, Naturopathic Doctors are truly integrative doctors, with an ability to understand both eastern and western thought.

Naturopathic Medicine has a few basic tenets that seem almost common sense. Use of natural substances (such as herbal medicine, nutrition, and homeopathy) to help rebalance the body and allow for the healing force to heal itself, is the ideal. Naturopathic Doctors are trained in 4-6 year medical programs that integrate eastern and western medicine. While Western Medicine is primarily focused on diagnosis, followed by “fixing” the problem, Naturopathic Medicine is focused on discovering the root cause. Many people consider Western Medicine to be a proficient band-aid. Western Medicine does have many advantages such as the advance of technology that allows doctors to help with things that even a hundred years ago may have appeared miraculous.

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, on the other hand, have gotten good results for helping women rebalance their bodies from stress, reverse the damage to ovaries and eggs, as well as tonify the body overall to be able to conceive. I know lots of women get great results with Acupuncture.

4513994959_13ecc500a7_o

Naturopathic Doctors fulfill a very different need, however. NDs consider it fundamentally important to understand the functions and pathways of the body and intimately understand hormones that can affect health and wellness. In addition to this foundation, however, Naturopathic Medicine also includes training in natural modalities for supporting the vital force of the body to heal. These therapies vary from Naturopathic doctor to doctor, as different practitioners may focus on different therapies. A majority of NDs do practice herbal medicine, functional medicine, nutrition, homeopathy, energy healing, and more.

Infertility is a complex diagnosis with many potential underlying causes. Naturopathic Doctors are particularly proficient in helping uncover a deep underlying cause that may not be obvious. Because Naturopathic Medicine views the body in a holistic way with a myriad of connections (that could be deemed otherwise unrelated), it is easy for NDs to recognize the deeper issues that may be contributing to a couple’s inability to conceive.

3960682558_a288e8cb9e_o

In my experience, Acupuncture is a great adjunct to Naturopathic Medicine & IVF/IUI. My recommendation is to go all out, with multiple approaches, because the complexity of infertility needs to be addressed on many levels. All of the different approaches fill very unique needs for the client, but there’s no one right answer. When we, as practitioners, collaborate fully, our clients get results faster. And, that’s what I am all about! When couples are ready to start a family and they are getting older and don’t have a lot of time, I think it’s ideal to use a multi-disciplinary approach. It breaks my heart when clients come to me after having tried acupuncture for 5 years… I wonder why they waited 5 years before trying something else or adding something else? Often, they come from referrals from their acupuncturist, but it’s only after they have fully exhausted their time with the acupuncturist. And, I have been able to help most of these couples– however, I just wonder if they wouldn’t have been saved anguish and disappointment if their work with me was started sooner, in collaboration with acupuncture.

So, overall, what I can offer clients is very different from acupuncture. Acupuncture can strengthen the body, help with stress, and re-balance the energetic body. I really like to work on the physical-mental-emotional from a different perspective. On the physical level, we want to detoxify and clear the channels of the body. Then, we are testing and rebalancing hormones (often undiagnosed abnormalities that Western Medicine missed). And lastly, we work on the mental – energetic layers. In short, using a mind-body approach to conceiving and birthing a healthy child is essential — and can happen easily when you have a team of practitioners caring for you and your partner’s health and well-being.

Remember they say, “it takes a village to raise a child?”…. these days, I say, it takes a village to conceive and birth a child. Who’s making up your healing village?

By Dr. Aumatma

prof_headshot blue

www.draumatma.com

My Spiritual Awakening: Thoughts from Renee Waggener of Xtraordinary Fertility

I’m constantly amazed by the opportunities for meeting those dealing with infertility, and helping them on their journey through art and story telling, that ART of IF is allowing me as the project grows. One upcoming opportunity is to present a prayer flag art workshop at the Revive Your Baby Making Mojo retreat in Ben Lomond, CA. Ben Lamond is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where the Redwoods meet the ocean. Sounds awesome, right?! It’s an incredible experience any time there’s an opportunity to get together with others living with infertility so I hope you’ll consider joining me in California to create some art around your infertility experience. There’s still room at the retreat and it’s an amazing value ($197 includes food, lodging, and all activities when you register by September 1st) with a great line up.  This event is being hosted by Renee Waggener of Xtraordinary Fertility October 2-4. Maria and I met Renee at RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association’s Advocacy Day this year and she is sharing as our guest blogger this week. Thanks, Renee, for inviting ART of IF to share through art making at your retreat and for sharing with us through your blog post this week!

Elizabeth

My Spiritual Awakening

I just got done listening to 13 speakers in the Meditation your way to Millions Master Class lead by one of my super hero’s Lisa Cherney.  It was awesome.  Each speaker gave away super cool tools and insight into what “spiritual Practice” has lead to their business success.  I found so many parallels in how you integrate your spiritual habits into building a business with how each of us builds a family.  This sooo doesn’t surprise me, because the same section or chakra of our bodies… the root chakra is all about “Creation”.  Whether it’s a creation of a business or we are creating a baby thru our bodies or adoption… we still need a spiritual “Practice” to help each of these succeed.

I’ve never really tooted my own spiritual horn because I really believe that we each need our freedom to choose for ourselves what works for each of us.  And one of the things that really hit me in the summit is that I need to start speaking more from my heart when it comes to spirit and the message that I’m spreading with Fertility.  I believe deeply that each of us is surrounded by a team of angels, guides, God, Universe, Mother Earth… and sometimes I call all of that “Spirit”. You call it what feels right for you.

My personal spiritual practice has gone in waves through the years.  Sometimes I do something and sometimes I don’t, which is when I’m hiding or scared to connect.

This past year, I’ve put into practice a journaling exercise that I’ve been consistent with and it has opened me up to more possibilities, new relationships and deeper growth on my own personal purpose path in helping all of you in the fertility community.

Now that I’ve listened to these awesome speakers and what they do; I’ve realized it’s time to step up my practice.  This is so much more than thinking positive, or prayer.  It’s building a life practice that will not only help me help you, but more than that it will deepen my connection to spirit, give me more confidence to “Let Go of the outcome” (harder to do) and Really Trust in the process so that I can reach more people and help them (YOU) have babies and ultimately live a Fertilicious Life well into parenthood.

With that I really want to give to you today’s tips:

Knowledge is Power. There are many treatment options available for your infertility, so the more you know about each procedure will help you to make an empowered decision for you and your partner.  There’s no one size fits all solution here. Don’t compare your decision based on what others do.  Also, when you do the research, you don’t have to make a decision right away. Let it sit and let your intuition guide you on your “next best” choice.

Tick-Tock. Determine how long you will try to conceive. Being on the same page as your partner is important and you should agree on this.  There is no right or wrong decision here.  Choose a reasonable length that is comfortable for you and your partner. Also, know that this can be subject to change at anytime.  Maybe even schedule in some breaks to where you are NOT thinking of your fertility.

Cha-Ching! Determine how much money you are willing to spend on treatment. As you may already know, fertility treatments can be costly.  It’s important for the health of your relationship to determine how much money you are willing to part with. Again, this number will be different for each couple. It has to work for you! Also, look at your relationship with money. Do you have some beliefs around money that inhibit you? (I.e. I’m broke all the time = I’m unworthy) Notice this, then call me because I can help with this at the Revive Your Baby Making Mojo Retreat October 2-4.

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Register Here

I look forward to seeing if this touched you at all.  Please post a comment on FB if it did.

Facebook

With Peace and Light,

Renee

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Naturopathic Medicine and Fertility

This week’s blog is from Dr. Aumatma, who I had the pleasure of meeting at her practice in Oakland, CA last month. She’s delightful, very passionate about what she does, and since I was interested in learning more about her work, I invited her to share a blog post with us. Dr. Aumatma will be at the Xtraordinary Fertility retreat in Ben Lomonde, CA October 2-4. I’ll also be there, leading a prayer flag art workshop. I’m looking forward to getting to know her better and hope some of you will take the opportunity to join us there. You can learn more here. Thanks, Dr. Aumatma, for sharing with us!

Elizabeth

What is Naturopathic Medicine and is it different from acupuncture when it comes to treatment for fertility?

Lots of people struggling with infertility know about acupuncture. There is lots of data. And, it’s pretty popular to be getting acupuncture while you’re optimizing your fertility so that you can start that family you dream of. What you may not know is that acupuncture is quite different from Naturopathic Medicine, though they have a similar philosophy of using nature to support the healing process. From this article, I hope to inspire you with something that you haven’t already tried or considered, and encourage you to reach out sooner if you are on this path—the sooner your reach out do a Naturopathic Fertility Specialist, the better… because this medicine really will help you fill the gap between your Western doctor and your acupuncturist. So, in a lot of ways, Naturopathic Doctors are truly integrative doctors, with an ability to understand both eastern and western thought.

Naturopathic Medicine has a few basic tenets that seem almost common sense. Use of natural substances (such as herbal medicine, nutrition, and homeopathy) to help rebalance the body and allow for the healing force to heal itself, is the ideal. Naturopathic Doctors are trained in 4-6 year medical programs that integrate eastern and western medicine. While Western Medicine is primarily focused on diagnosis, followed by “fixing” the problem, Naturopathic Medicine is focused on discovering the root cause. Many people consider Western Medicine to be a proficient band-aid. Western Medicine does have many advantages such as the advance of technology that allows doctors to help with things that even a hundred years ago may have appeared miraculous.

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, on the other hand, have gotten good results for helping women rebalance their bodies from stress, reverse the damage to ovaries and eggs, as well as tonify the body overall to be able to conceive. I know lots of women get great results with Acupuncture.

4513994959_13ecc500a7_o

Naturopathic Doctors fulfill a very different need, however. NDs consider it fundamentally important to understand the functions and pathways of the body and intimately understand hormones that can affect health and wellness. In addition to this foundation, however, Naturopathic Medicine also includes training in natural modalities for supporting the vital force of the body to heal. These therapies vary from Naturopathic doctor to doctor, as different practitioners may focus on different therapies. A majority of NDs do practice herbal medicine, functional medicine, nutrition, homeopathy, energy healing, and more.

Infertility is a complex diagnosis with many potential underlying causes. Naturopathic Doctors are particularly proficient in helping uncover a deep underlying cause that may not be obvious. Because Naturopathic Medicine views the body in a holistic way with a myriad of connections (that could be deemed otherwise unrelated), it is easy for NDs to recognize the deeper issues that may be contributing to a couple’s inability to conceive.

3960682558_a288e8cb9e_o

In my experience, Acupuncture is a great adjunct to Naturopathic Medicine & IVF/IUI. My recommendation is to go all out, with multiple approaches, because the complexity of infertility needs to be addressed on many levels. All of the different approaches fill very unique needs for the client, but there’s no one right answer. When we, as practitioners, collaborate fully, our clients get results faster. And, that’s what I am all about! When couples are ready to start a family and they are getting older and don’t have a lot of time, I think it’s ideal to use a multi-disciplinary approach. It breaks my heart when clients come to me after having tried acupuncture for 5 years… I wonder why they waited 5 years before trying something else or adding something else? Often, they come from referrals from their acupuncturist, but it’s only after they have fully exhausted their time with the acupuncturist. And, I have been able to help most of these couples– however, I just wonder if they wouldn’t have been saved anguish and disappointment if their work with me was started sooner, in collaboration with acupuncture.

So, overall, what I can offer clients is very different from acupuncture. Acupuncture can strengthen the body, help with stress, and re-balance the energetic body. I really like to work on the physical-mental-emotional from a different perspective. On the physical level, we want to detoxify and clear the channels of the body. Then, we are testing and rebalancing hormones (often undiagnosed abnormalities that Western Medicine missed). And lastly, we work on the mental – energetic layers. In short, using a mind-body approach to conceiving and birthing a healthy child is essential — and can happen easily when you have a team of practitioners caring for you and your partner’s health and well-being.

Remember they say, “it takes a village to raise a child?”…. these days, I say, it takes a village to conceive and birth a child. Who’s making up your healing village?

By Dr. Aumatma

prof_headshot blue

 

 

 

 

 

www.draumatma.com

 

Introducing the ART of IF Blog

One year ago, I was just two months out from learning my final embryo transfer was unsuccessful. The reality of that hadn’t yet sunk in. My husband, Scott, and I had been trying to conceive for five years and had endured five rounds of Clomid with timed intercourse, 4 inter-uterine inseminations with hybrid cycles of both pills and injectable medications, and one IVF cycle that resulted in internal bleeding, ovarian torsion and emergency surgery in the middle of the night. There were other surgeries along the way too. Surgery to look for Endometriosis, surgery to remove polyps, and one to remove the remnants of my only pregnancy; the twins I miscarried after our first embryo transfer. Our treatment journey was over. I was both relieved and panicked.

The first pieces of art work I made in response to my infertility, created while recovering from surgery #1.

The first pieces of art work I made in response to my infertility, while recovering from surgery #1.

At that same time, the ART of Infertility’s first exhibit was just a few weeks in to its run at the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson, MI. I didn’t set out to do more than one exhibit. I wanted a way to raise awareness in my community and figured that sharing the artwork I’d been creating as a way to cope with my infertility diagnosis, along with the artwork and stories of others, would be a way to do so. Working on that show was therapeutic for me and it was amazing to see how participating in the show was so helpful for others as well. It gave us a voice, helped our friends and family understand our disease, and expanded our community. I decided I couldn’t just stop at my hometown and took the show on the road.

The opening reception for our first exhibit, The ART of IF: Navigating the Journey of Infertility at the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson, MI,

The opening reception for our first exhibit, The ART of IF: Navigating the Journey of Infertility at the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson, MI. Photo by Sarah Gough

In May, I traveled to RESOLVE’s Advocacy Day to lobby on Capitol Hill for legislation to help improve the lives of those with infertility. While I was there, I met Maria Novotny, who is a fellow RESOLVE Peer-led Support Group host on the west side of the state in Grand Rapids. Maria was interested in the project and it wasn’t long before she was a part of the team. With Maria’s help and tremendous help from my parents, my husband, my acupuncturist extraordinaire, Krissy Clark Rock, and other amazing volunteers and supporters, I’ve collected over 50 interviews over the past year and had exhibits on display in three states. We’ve held art, writing and informational workshops and assisted people in building their families by connecting them to people and resources who can help them. We’ve also built an amazing network by putting men and women in touch with others with similar diagnoses and in similar situations so they don’t feel so alone in their journeys.

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Kevin Jordan, Maria Novotny, Sarah Powell, and me at RESOLVE’s Advocacy Day, May 2014.

As much as we’ve been able to do in the past year, there’s so much more to be done. There are so many people who want to share their stories and, in an effort to help give a platform to those we can’t meet in person quite yet, we’re starting this blog. We’ll be sharing stories and artwork from the project and invite guest bloggers to share their own perspectives. As always, we invite you to share your stories through your artwork and writing, your interviews, and now, our blog.

Sorting exhibit labels in our Sacramento hotel room before the Northern California Walk of Hope.

Sorting exhibit labels in our Sacramento hotel room before the Northern California Walk of Hope.

Working on this project has been incredible. Hearing the stories of others and sharing mine has helped me process the grief of my infertility. I’ve met amazing individuals and families along the way and am constantly amazed and honored by the ways are willing to share their lives with me, and in turn with you. This journey is just beginning. I’m so very excited to see what the future holds.

On a hike with project participant, Bee, in San Rafael, CA.

On a hike with project participant, Bee, in San Rafael, CA.

Elizabeth