CIARA BYRNE, Ph.D & LAURA McKEE, Ph.D
We are both clinical psychologists, passionate about helping you on your journey to create a family. We know first-hand the trials of infertility. Inspired by our personal experiences, we have drawn from our clinical and research expertise in reproductive health and mind-body medicine to create a workshop with ingredients that are scientifically-proven to increase fertility.
Like so many of you, I took the long and arduous road to making a family, and the path involved countless rounds of clomid, injectables, and IVF. Our first successful pregnancy very sadly ended in a late term loss. From this place of despair we had to summon the energy to return to fertility treatment. Five rounds of IVF later, my husband and I feel very lucky to say we are the parents of 3 children.
When I ask myself would I trade that journey now for the easy path, the answer is probably not. Along that dark, lonely and often, despairing journey, I was forced to learn many things.
The two most important were:
- To both receive and give support – out of a place of isolation, I had to learn to make the leap of trust to connect with the community of women also on this journey.
- To develop a set of wellness practices that enabled me to to continue breathing through yet another failed cycle, and get back on the fertility train.
These practices for living in the world, have now served me profoundly, and allowed me to meet the other great challenges that life has brought me, with a little more grace.
I attended countless workshops, skills groups, support groups, education groups, nutrition, yoga, acupuncture, read every book, and research article. Some were helpful, others a complete waste of time. It was out of this I decided I wanted to combine everything I had learned, along with my expertise as a clinical psychologist to create programs that incorporate all of the ingredients that are actually scientifically proven to improve conception and well being.
I completed my graduate studies at Columbia University & University of Vermont, and my undergraduate at University College Dublin. I have trained extensively in using Mindfulness based therapies, including at the Mind/Body program for women experiencing infertility at the Domar Center, Boston IVF, and I am currently enrolled in the 2 yr Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training program through the Awareness Training Institute. I have also conducted research and published on the impact of mindfulness practices on reducing anxiety, depression, and increasing overall wellbeing.
My passion for clinical psychology meant that I spent many of my “child bearing” years in school, and I didn’t meet my husband until we shared a basement office on our postdocs (cue love song and wedding bells), which meant that I was older by the time I married. But there I was, confident we had all the time in the world to create our family. I was physically fit, healthy, and happy – what could go wrong? Lots, apparently…
After trying to conceive without success, we met with our first Reproductive Endocrinologist and began the very long road that included tests galore, Clomid, IUI, and 3 rounds of IVF, all unsuccessful….before transferring to a new clinic and a new Reproductive Endocrinologist, at which point we did 3 more egg retrievals and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, again with no success. In the end, after almost 5 years, 2 miscarriages, 7 rounds of IVF, 3 different fertility clinics, and the decision to use donor eggs, we finally had a successful pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
Learning to Cope
Along this journey, I tried everything from acupuncture to shamanism and leaned heavily on my community of practitioners, family and friends. There was lots of cursing and crying, giving up hope and then finding it again. And although I couldn’t appreciate it at the time, with the benefit of hindsight I realize how much I learned about myself and my partner as we faced each challenge. For one, I began to live the practice of taking in this moment and then the next moment, each one as it unfolded. When I tried to project into the future (e.g., If this cycle doesn’t work, what will we do? Can I adopt? Can I bear to wait another month?), I was anxious and lost. But when I actively dedicated myself to each breath, I found that I knew just what to do and how to respond in the moment I needed to. Finding the balance between a laser-focus determination to create a family and a gentle acceptance of our limitations, between striving and letting go, and between hopefulness and realism was also a part of the journey.
Finally, I have learned so much about gratitude and compassion. I was grateful for every small kindness that doctors, nurses, friends and family offered us, and I am thankful for our son in a way that I couldn’t have imagined.
My wish for you, of course, is that you have the family you’ve been dreaming of, and that we can be a part of creating a supportive and skillful space as you make your way there.
We hope you will allow us the honor of helping you along your journey.
With Warmth and Hope,
Laura & Ciara