“All my testing was normal. All the signals were happening at the right time and still, nothing happened.”
Ann Salerno was 33 years old, had been newly married and was ready to start a family, but after trying for six months to conceive she started to despair. She went to a fertility specialist who told her everything was normal and there was no reason she couldn’t conceive a baby. As a specialist doctor who cares for children with kidney disease she was working with children every day, and with every month that passed and she wasn’t pregnant, her pain grew.
The doctors that I had been to had not really attended to how this infertility treatment and journey had been affecting me emotionally. I didn’t realize it was happening but I started feeling more and more depressed.
“You know, part of the difficulty of infertility, I believe very strongly, is the isolation because there's a shame associated with it for some reason in our society, that most women keep it extremely private. Many of them don't tell anybody except their spouse. And I think that isolation, which is also very unnatural for women I believe, is part of what feeds the depression.”
About a year into her journey Ann realized her mind was playing a role in her infertility when her pet chickens stopped laying eggs after a coyote killed one of them. Before that, they had laid an egg every day. Gradually, each chicken took a different amount of time to start laying eggs again. “It was really just a wake-up call that this simple animal model of a chicken and how them feeling that there was danger and feeling stressed or saddened by the loss of their friend had affected their fertility and their ability to ovulate.”
Ann sought out Dr. Alice Domar’s
mind body program for women with infertility. It involved learning mind body techniques such as eliciting the relaxation response, meditation, and yoga, as well as understanding how we to restructure thoughts to be more positive thoughts. Part of the program also involved meeting in a weekly group with other infertile women.
“Just looking around the room and saying 'I'm not alone, I’m not a freak, I’m just, you know, another woman that has a struggle like the rest of them’, and that was just extremely powerful in terms of just turning my mood around and helping me to feel more optimistic about my life regardless of whether I got pregnant or not.”
After trying various fertility drugs, Ann decided she felt comfortable only doing one round of IVF, and fertilizing only one egg. But she continued doing her mind body work. She ended up conceiving. “I just felt a contentment that I had never felt before in my life, you know. I had accomplished a lot of great things that I’m very proud of and I worked really hard for, but this was something different. It was a feeling like, if I never accomplished anything or never did anything special for the rest of my life, that it was ok because he just sort of completed my journey.”
Two and a half years later, Ann fell pregnant again naturally. She believes that she has let go of a lot of inner stress and that helped her body prepare for another pregnancy.