Dr. Simmons Named a Top 5 Choice Mom-Friendly Therapist for Single Women Using Donor Sperm

Mikki Morrisette, founder of Choice Moms, has named me as one of the top 5 Choice-Mom friendly therapist in the United States.  Choice Moms is a wonderful organization that supports and connects single women who seek to build their families with donor sperm or through adoption.  I see a lot of single mothers by choice and support their dreams wholeheartedly.  I look forward to working with Mikki Morrisette and Choice Moms in the months ahead.

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I hope that 2014 will be a year of growth and change for you.  Toward that toward goal, I offer you a loving challenge:

If this was going to be the last year of your life, what would you do differently?

Growth and change can be a challenge for many.  Many of you may fear change, all the while wishing desperately that something (or someone) would change.  Here’s a secret:

You are the most powerful agent of change in your life.  Stop waiting for the other person to change.

Change is happening all the time in your mind and body. With every inhale and every exhale, you experience change, whether you are aware of it or not.  The different thoughts that float through your mind are a constant demonstration of change as well.

So how do we challenge ourselves to change?  Through action, that’s how.  We witnessed a terrific example in 2013. Through his actions, Pope Francis reawakened the possibility that people can be kind and helpful to one another, rather than shaming and judging others.  Big “Like”, Il Papa, from Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

By settling or holding back and not exploring every possibility in your life, you incur an opportunity cost.  An opportunity cost is what you give up when you decide not to take an action that might bring you to a desired outcome.  An opportunity cost is expressed in relative price, that is, the price of one choice relative to the price of another.

Here is an example.  If you are near or older than 40 and you have been receiving fertility treatment at your OB/GYN office—because it’s cheaper, because it’s covered by insurance, because you’re not quite ready to move to IVF or donor eggs, or because you are in denial about the ticking time bomb that is your biological clock—what are your opportunity costs? You are losing time and possibly your chance to have a genetic or biological child.  Explore every opportunity and run to a fertility clinic, even if it costs you money.  So many people in my office have cried tears of resentment and sorrow because they have waited too long to maximize their opportunity to conceive.

Here is another example.  Let’s say that your relationship is fair to middling. It’s not great but it’s not awful. Just there.  Perhaps you are too afraid to even think about what change might look like.  By complaining but not doing anything about it, what is your opportunity cost? By refusing couples therapy to improve your relationship or discernment counseling to end it in a way that is not destructive to either party.  Dreaming big dreams about change is great. Action is what gets you there.

And here’s another example. One party is desperate to raise a child and is ready to attempt pregnancy naturally or to go to a fertility clinic. The other is ambivalent and just puts off discussion.  The opportunity cost to the party who is waiting (and waiting and waiting) for discussion is time and helplessness.  Again, the biological clock really does have a shelf life. The ambivalent party, by not willing to engage in discussion, has made a decision for both of them. The opportunity is to engage me or another good therapist and quickly. The one who is willing to go to the therapist is the one who is willing to grow.

Okay, hang in there with me for one more example.  How willing are you to change your thoughts and habits about food?  Let me say that I am not a believer in diets.  We are talking about your life over the long term.  If you are considering bariatric (i.e., weight loss) surgery, how are you willing to change how you eat NOW?  If you are not willing to change your thinking and habits NOW, the bariatric surgery will be a waste of time.  I have written previously about eating for fertility.  How you eat–and I mean this for women and men–can make a big difference in your ability to conceive and stay pregnant.  Take a look at Celiac Disease, Gluten Sensitivity, and Your Fertility and I Can’t Get Pregnant! for more information on how to enhance your fertility and stay pregnant.

So consider the following questions in the weeks ahead and share them with others:

•    How will you grow in 2014?
•    How can you make your life different and better?
•    What changes need to be made?
•    How will you address your fears?
•    What are you settling for?
•    What are you waiting for?
•    How can you make your relationship more of a treasure?
•    When will you go to the adoption seminar?
•    When will you make an appointment at the fertility clinic?
•    How will you change the way you eat?
•    How will you find different or better work?

For some of you, the message might be a “Do Something New”.  For others of you, the message might be “Slow Down and Move with Intention.”  (You can read my earlier blog post, Moving With Intention, here.)   Either way, I challenge you, lovingly, to grow and change.

Take the bull by the horns.  If you’re nervous about getting too close to the bull, examine your internal bull**** instead.  You know what I’m talking about, friends.  It is the stories you tell yourself that keep you stuck.  Edit or write new stories.  Move it and move on!

Be curious.  We learn best when we are curious about something or when a situation is new.

Lose your fear of social media.  You can go where no man has gone boldly before.  Also go where people are already.  Connect and reconnect more with others in the year ahead.

In 2014, I send my every good wish for those of you who are building your family through fertility treatment, adoption, or the old-fashioned way.

I wish you a better relationship, with yourself and others.

Treasure your relationships.  You and your loved ones matter.

And most of all, I wish you courage, happiness, good health, and prosperity in 2014.  Happy New Year!


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It’s the Holidays…Again (and You’re Still Struggling with Infertility or Pregnancy Loss)

It’s that time of year again when everything is beautiful and everyone is happy.  It’s a time for pretty parties and get-togethers with family and friends.  It’s a time to be thankful for what you have.  Most noticeable is that the holidays are for children.  Lots of children.  They seem to be everywhere.

For those who are experiencing problems with infertility or pregnancy loss, it can be a confusing and difficult time of the year.  For many, the fact that another year has passed without a pregnancy or another child can be very disheartening.  Time and sensation seem altered, like walking around in a bad movie.  Even the simple act of shopping for gifts for others can be a trial.

There are a great many expectations about the holidays as well.  Many families have enjoyable traditions and rituals that can be traced back for generations.  It’s a time for good cheer and good will.  We exchange gifts with loved ones.  ‘Tis the season, put a smile on your face!  Boy, that’s a tall order for someone who is worrying about their fertility.

I get a lot of questions this time of year from my patients who are struggling with infertility or pregnancy loss about the rules of engagement with family and friends.  So often I hear that their presence is expected and even required at family gatherings.  Not only is physical presence mandatory but emotional presence is required as well. It is at holiday time that my patients come to me in tears, not wanting to ruin a good time for others but tired and resentful about having to pretend to be happy.  “We have been pretending to be okay for years,” they tell me, “and we are not.”

Sometimes acting like things are okay does work.  It offers the opportunity to be a part of a treasured group.  Since infertility can be very isolating, it can be helpful sometimes just to show up and be loved.  But often, others who know you well can tell the difference between sincerity and acting.  That can cause friction in some circumstances.  People who are grieving just don’t make very good partygoers.

I’d like to make a suggestion.  Just try this on and see how it feels to you.  Maybe the holidays are a good time to practice being an adult.  Let me explain.  We are required all day to act like adults, whether we feel like it or not.  At our jobs or our other roles, we make decisions, even difficult ones, and take responsibility for them.  We take risks and deal with the consequences of our actions.  We ask for help when we need to and we admit when we are too tired or too distressed to go any further.  Adults make their own decisions about that they would like to do, or not, as the case may be.  They choose who they would like to spend time with and under what conditions.

So why when it comes to setting good boundaries at holiday time do we forget all of our well-honed adult skills?  It’s as if we pack our adult selves away, in exchange for acknowledgment or approval.  We go along to get along.  We worry more about hurting others’ feelings than about our needs or our own distress.  Where does our ability to say “no” go?  “No” is one of the first words a toddler learns.  It helps to differentiate that child as a person who has wants and needs.  Why does “no” get replaced with “Yes (g-r-r-r-r-r)” at holiday time?

What if you are truly out of sorts and out of steam and cannot even consider attending one more social event?  What feelings does this raise for you?  Are you afraid that you will have to pay a price for your absence?  Unfortunately, in some circumstances, there will, in fact, be friction, guilt or some other manipulation that can make a person feel badly.  Is that enough to make you want to do something that you don’t want to do?  Could you suffer through it without feeling even worse?  Will your family or friends love you less because you need to do something different this year?  Answer truthfully.  It is more realistic that someone will be disappointed and miss you, if you or your partner do not attend.  Might you feel bitter or isolated, missing out on even more of your life?

Alternatively, might you get the warmth and caring that you need so badly just by showing up?  Would it feel good to be with loved ones, enjoying relationships that sustain you in good times and in bad?  Maybe it would be nice to put your worries aside, even if it’s only for a few moments.  It might be the right idea for you to be with others, sharing hope and dreams and healing some of the hurts inflicted by infertility.

What I am suggesting is that you have choices about how you would like to engage in the holiday season.  As with most things in life, it is important that you speak from your heart on these matters.  It is very important that you talk openly and honestly with your partner about what you can and cannot do.  Be prepared that you may each feel differently.  That is a very normal experience in the fertility treatment world.  You do not have to agree with one another but you must support your partner’s wishes.  It is what we count on in close relationships, that someone will have our back.  Maybe your spouse needs to explain to his family that you are just not up for things this year.  Maybe both of you need to make a pact with one another that a quiet time away developing your own ritual is in order.  The point is that you can decide what you need and when you need it.

Because this is what adults do.  We do our best to do what is right.  We try to live fair and just lives.  It’s okay to put yourself first sometimes.  Take a breather.  Let this season be a time of growth and peace for you.  You deserve it.

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