On this New Year’s Day 2015, I raise my glass to you and to new beginnings.  My new year started at heated vinyasa yoga with a reading from one of my favorite books, Journey to the Heart by Melody Beattie.  (You can find it in the book section of my website).  It speaks to all that is in front of us–hurts from the past,  reassessment, and possibilities going forward.  It is about honoring the beginning.  I had to share it with you.

Let this year be the year that you resolve your infertility.  Let this year be the year that you have a healthy, happy baby in your arms.  Let this year be the year that you find love.  Let this year be the year that you find safety from an abusive relationship.  Honoring the beginning…

Honor the Beginning

 by Melody Beattie

Beginnings can be delicate or explosive. They can start almost invisibly or arrive with a big bang. Beginnings hold the promise of new lessons to be learned, new territory to be explored, and old lessons to be recalled, practiced, and appreciated. Beginnings hold ambiguity, promise, fear, and hope.

Don’t let the lessons, the experiences of the past, dampen your enthusiasm for beginnings. Just because it’s been hard doesn’t mean that it will always be that difficult. Don’t let the heartbreaks of the past cause you to become cynical, close you off to life’s magic and promise. Open yourself wide to all that the universe has to say.

Let yourself begin anew. Pack your bags. Choose carefully what you bring, because packing is an important ritual. Take along some humility and the lessons of the past. Toss in some curiosity and excitement about what you haven’t yet learned. Say your good-byes to those you are leaving behind. Don’t worry who you will meet or where you will go. The way has been prepared. The people you are to meet will be expecting you. A new journey has begun. Let it be magical. Let it unfold.

All parts of the journey are sacred and holy.

Take time now to honor the beginning.

Let me know how your beginnings go…

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You have started fertility testing or treatment with a doctor who you know and trust. Or, so it seems. Perhaps, you are starting to realize that your doctor or clinic is not a good fit for you and you feel uncomfortable every time you walk through the door. Or maybe you have an intuition that your doctor does not have the level of expertise you originally thought was being offered.  Did you know you have the right to go to another clinic and that a good doctor will not be offended if you decide to make a change?  Here are some reasons why you might be better off changing providers:

•    Your OB/GYN Does Not Seem To Specialize In Infertility (Even If Their Business Card Claims That They Do)

OB/GYN’s are terrific at caring for pregnant women and delivering babies. They are not always so great at treating infertility.  I hear many complaints from clients because their doctor has offered ineffective, low-level treatment for so long that it has wasted time and money, prevented more effective treatment from occurring and possibly even put their health at risk. If you are 35 or older, it makes sense to start infertility treatment with a medical professional, such as a reproductive endocrinologist, who has received training in reproductive medicine and infertility. If you do not conceive after three to four months of oral medication use, or three to five intra-uterine inseminations with your OB/GYN, get a second opinion with a reproductive endocrinologist at a fertility clinic. You do not have to ask your current doctor for permission or for a referral to do so.

•    You Feel Like A Number At Your Clinic

This is a very common complaint at fertility clinics. You might need more one-on-one time with your doctor than is being offered to you, or you may not feel that your care is being individualized enough to suit your specific needs. The American Fertility Association’s Professional Network, online patient groups and the SART are all sources of referral and recommendation for doctors and clinics with whom you may feel better suited. You may or may not decide to pursue treatment with another clinic or doctor, but you certainly have the right to do so. Self-advocacy can help your treatment efforts feel much more comfortable.

•    Another Clinic Offers More Options

Some clinics offer a larger variety of fertility treatment options than others, such as PGD or frozen donor egg cycles. Another example is that some clinics are offering time-lapse embryo incubators that offer better predictors for success in pregnancy. You might simply prefer to work with a female or male doctor. Work with the clinic that best fits your needs, not just the clinic that is closest to your house. Do your research, then trust your intuition about which clinic or doctor is the right one for you.

•    Traveling May Yield A Better Option

It is becoming more common for people to travel to the clinic that best suits their needs.  For example, if you have had recurrent pregnancy losses, traveling to a fertility clinic that has been doing research in that area may cost some money and time but give you your best option to have a full-term pregnancy.  However, traveling just for the sake of traveling may not be your best option. Consider the costs in time and money and what you will be “buying” for the extra effort.  Traveling to a less expensive clinic may not be better, nor is cost necessarily a reason to make a change.

•    You Have Been Traumatized By Something Or Someone At Your Clinic

Going through infertility treatment takes a lot out of you on even the best of days. On the worst of days, there has been no heartbeat on the ultrasound, or someone has not been empathetic enough to help you with your already bruised feelings.  It is not uncommon for people to have symptoms of anxiety, depression, and even PTSD during infertility treatment. If that is you or anything at all has made you feel uncomfortable, you do not have to go back there, period.  Starting over with another clinic may help you to reset the treatment experience and increase your level of hope.

•    You Just Don’t Like Your Clinic And Don’t Want To Continue There

We all get different signals when we interact with health care professionals and organizations. The culture of your clinic can make a difference in the experience. If you feel welcomed warmly when you step up to the reception desk and truly heard by your empathetic doctor, this may be a factor in your continuing treatment at that clinic. On the other hand, if that one nurse bugs you every time you have an interaction with her or your doctor seems rushed and doesn’t take the time to answer your questions, you have the right to seek treatment elsewhere.  Before you choose to make a change, remember that your emotions may be too raw to make a good decision. It is always helpful for both partners to attend appointments if you are in a couple, to get the best possible information about the doctors’ or nurses’ attitudes as well as the data being offered. Ultimately, what you want is a knowledgeable doctor and clinic that can help you to have a child. Sometimes it is okay to put up with someone’s attitude or presentation to get the best possible medical care.

If you opt to change doctors, keep in mind that your medical records, including sonogram films and reports, are your property. Requesting these may be stressful for you and if so, you can ask the next physician you decide to work with to get your records for you. You also may need to make arrangements to have eggs, embryos or other types of samples moved along with you. Your new physician and their staff will be able to help you with that change as well.

Changing doctors is not personal.  It is about advocating for yourself and your needs.  The bottom line is that you have the right to work with any clinic or any doctor that is the best one for you. Take your time and make your decisions wisely.  I trust your intuition.  I hope that you will, too.

Dr. Deborah Simmons is a marriage and family therapist at Partners in Healing of Minneapolis, specializing in infertility.

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Today, November 17th, is World Prematurity Day.  According to the March of Dimes, 15 million babies are born prematurely around the world each year.  More babies die from prematurity than from AIDS, malaria or diarrhea.  Each year in the United States, 1 in 9 babies–about 450,000–are born prematurely.  Prematurity is defined as birth that occurs prior to 37 weeks gestation.

World Prematurity Day is personal for me–I have two preemies.  My daughter was born at 26 weeks.  We thought that we would lose her on her second day of life.  She almost died again 26 years ago today from sepsis but she rallied.  There were surgeries, terrible fears, PTSD, and finally, unbelievably, a day when she came home to be our baby after 100 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Preemies aren’t just small babies and they don’t look like little dolls.  As you can see, my daughter looked like a science project.  I learned a lifetime’s worth of medical terminology.  Bringing my girly into my life changed it in ways I am still learning about. For my infertility clients who want twins, I promise you that you don’t want two desperately sick preemies.

To those who are preemie parents, or those of you who know someone who is, thank goodness for the Internet! For parents of preemies up to age 4, check out Preemie-L, a wonderful listserve of helpful preemie parents.  For parents of preemies over the age of 4, check out Preemie Child.

Now I’ll share with you the gift that I was given when my daughter was impossibly small and fragile.  Someone showed me a picture of their healthy preemie.  The message was “Babies grow.  Have hope.”  So I share this today with preemies, their parents, their friends, and their loved one.  Babies Grow.  Have Hope. 




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At the 30th Resolve annual Family Building Conference in Minneapolis on November 8th, I got a lot of questions about how to avoid others’ questions about babies at family get-togethers, especially at the holidays.  “I just can’t explain our fertility treatment another time”, said one attendee.  “One more question about when we’re having a baby and I think I’ll scream!  Stop asking me about babies!” said another.  The whole room was ALIVE with outrage on this topic.

When my husband and I returned from our honeymoon, my father’s first question on the phone was, “Did you make me a grandbaby?”  I remember looking at the phone and banging it several times on my desk.  When I finally responded, I said, “What?  We must have had a bad connection.”

Why, you ask, is it so difficult for many to field this question?  There are many answers including:

•    It may be painful to explain your infertility status or why you are “not over” a pregnancy loss.  The question may bring flashbacks of an ultrasound with a baby who has died.  Tears often follow.  This can be embarrassing or traumatizing.
•    The question is often asked with a wink and a yuckety-yuk.  The subtext is, “Hey, how’s it goin’ in the bedroom, yo?” If your butt is sore from intramuscular injections from your fertility treatment, you are probably not feeling so sexy.  Yuck.
•     It’s personal, folks!  How often do you talk with others about what goes on below the waist?  (Example, “Well, first I put my right foot in the stirrups, and then the left foot, etc.)

So what to do?  Bottom line is that you have choices.  Yes.  YOU have choices.

•    You can set up the situation in a way you can live with.  Ask someone else (your partner, your sister) to let others know that this is a question-free event.  Sometimes people will go along and keep it zipped.
•    You can answer the question with a vague truth, like “We’re working with our doctor” and leave it at that.  If you want to offer more with the right person, okay.
•    You can feign distress and spend a little time in the bathroom.  Why?  No one follows you in there and you can quiet any distress you feel.  More questions?  Repeat.
•    You can change the subject, as with my phone-banging example.  Be obvious.  Hopefully others will get the hint.
•    I always give my clients at least one crazy response when we are figuring out a problem.  As our squirrel friend would say,

“Dance it Out.”

That ought to finish that.

And finally, in truth, you do not need to attend every family get-together.  My attendees at the Resolve conference decided to fly as a group to Hawaii for Christmas.  There were some smiles about that fantasy.  But really, you can!  Spend the holidays a different way if that is the best way for you.  Take care of yourselves, my friends.  You are awesome.

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Struggling with infertility?  Considering adoption or surrogacy?  Not sure how to pick a doctor for infertility testing?  Come here me speak on November 8, 2014 at


Exploring Paths of Hope: 30th Annual Resolve Infertility and Adoption

Family Building Conference

Calvary Lutheran Church

7520 Golden Valley Road

Golden Valley, MN  55427

I’m speaking on:

  • Infertility 101
  • Depression, Anxiety, & Infertility:  How Do I Get Through This?
  • Surrogacy and Gestational Carriers
  • Letting Go of the Biological Dream:  Moving on to New Dreams

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