Finding Joy When Baby-Making Gets Hard
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September Burton: Hi Natasha, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. How are you today?
[00:00:04]Natascha Hebell-Fernando: I’m doing great. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
[00:00:09] September Burton: I’ve been poking around on your website and I love the name of it, number one, the Golden Sanctuary, that just sounds so healing and peaceful. And like, you just got this ambiance of come here and I will nurture you. And I will help you get past some of this emotional pain. Where did you come up with the name The Golden
[00:00:27] Natascha Hebell-Fernando: Sanctuary?
[00:00:29] Well, that’s exactly it. I wanted it to create a space for women, where they could feel safe, and nurtured, and understood, because it really, it came out from my own journey with infertility and not being able to really process it for, for decades and not talking about it and getting to a point where I thought, you know what? I can no longer be quiet and I wanted to create that golden sanctuary. It just kind of came to me. I wanted to have a sanctuary and then somehow the golden came with it because I think, you know, the golden light, that’s what we have in our hearts. That’s our soul. And so I really wanted, I have, to safe space for women that have experienced a heartache of infertility or, you know, just childlessness, not by choice and transforming that heartache into a new path. Into something that makes their soul sing.
[00:01:30] September Burton: So you just said “I could no longer be quiet”. Why do you think it’s so healing to speak? What do you think it is about getting it out?
[00:01:39] Natascha Hebell-Fernando: Well, I think it’s a, you know, we’re all on our journey. I think as humans, we are just really spiritual beings having a human experience. And I believe due to this journey, we will have our challenges and it’s up to us what we do with these challenges. Of course, we want to overcome them. And I think the next step is basically to tell others about it. So they will have an easier time with their challenges. And so then they can overcome those challenges and again, share how they overcame that, and what was their kind of like strategy and, you know, specifically what happened with me is that, my infertility journey led me towards, I mean not having children, basically. I had the kind of freedom, if you want to call it that to go back to school, become an acupuncturist, and really expanded to the field of holistic and integrative medicine. And so when I was, in my acupuncture clinic and with my patients and online clients, I worked with pretty much any kind of condition. A lot of it was based on burnout and stress and adrenal fatigue. And then what happened to me is that I had a few acupuncture patients that came to me because of infertility. So you have to know that I never treated pregnant women or infertility, I just could not handle it. It was just emotionally, it was still very painful to me, even though I didn’t admit that to myself, but I never chose to work in the fertility field. However, a few of my patients opted for in vitro fertilization and acupuncture is very successful in helping the egg to be implanted and stay there. And so acupuncture is very often recommended as a therapy just before, the implantation and even after. And so I had seen quite a few patients, but really all of my patients got pregnant, because they came in in the morning, they had their IVF transfer during the day, and then they came back in the evening. And so it so happened that in the same month I had several of my patients that it was their very last chance at getting pregnant with that IVF and these women were so anxious, they were crying. They were desperate. They were feeling guilty for, maybe having done things, or the what if’s were going on in their head. They said, I feel guilty if this doesn’t work out, I’m not being able to give a child to my husband or a grandchild to my parents. And I was really affected by that because these women just had gone through so much from a physical perspective, all the shots they had done, all the treatments they had done, all the time they had spent, all the money they and their partner had spent on the IVF. And I was thinking, how can that be that they feel so desperate? It’s like, there’s such a desperation by being faced with being child less, or having to not even be able to talk to someone about what they were going through. In fact, one of them said I have to go to therapy because my anxiety is just off the charts. And that’s when I realized, you know, what, I need to be more open about how I was able to overcome my own struggles with not having children because it is really a traumatic experience. If you think about it’s something so natural for us to have children. I mean, that’s what humans do, right? We procreate. Otherwise, we don’t, we’re like into extinction. So it’s something so natural that our bodies will get pregnant and not experiencing that is, it’s like a traumatic event. And it’s like a grief. If you don’t have that child, you were hoping to have. So first of all, you don’t have a legacy. It’s like, you don’t have that natural feeling of oh, okay, my legacy, blah, blah, blah. So that’s, first of all, you have all these things that you thought you would give to your children. That doesn’t exist anymore. Plus there is a real taboo also talking about it because, let’s face it, most people haven’t had a problem getting pregnant or avoided to get pregnant and don’t even understand what this grief is even about. And so not having that kind of understanding and compassion sometimes even with your own partner, because they’re like, just kind of get over it. And it’s just not that easy. And so that’s when I really decided I have to talk about how it worked for me, because there is a certain step process that I use with my clients, for, any kind of thing they’re going to be at the burnout, be it the C level executive, that is like totally an adrenal fatigue, but there are these patterns that we have in terms of certain belief systems and hormone imbalances that we even might get, just because of the infertility treatments. And that’s what I decided to do. You know, what I need to talk about it and help women to overcome that and look at it as, a new perspective and how their life can be so important to this world.
[00:06:54]September Burton: So will you share a little bit about how you personally were able to process the trauma and, and how you work with people to help them be able to process the trauma?
[00:07:05] Natascha Hebell-Fernando: Yeah, sure. my story I got married in 1995 and so it’s actually 25 years this year. And thank you. Yeah. We were like so excited to get married. We were just so looking forward to having children. And then what happened is nothing happened. And at the time really there wasn’t like an internet or Facebook to find inner groups finding out what it is. So you kind of went to these channels, like, okay, we have to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist. So you go to that and you do, all I had to do is several tests to find out if physical there was anything wrong with me. No, there wasn’t. My husband was doing well also. So it’s like, well, we don’t really know what’s going on so let’s just try IUI, well, that didn’t work, maybe next step is IVF. And so what happened to us is we decided not to move forward with IVF just because I was, even though I was using some fertility treatments, my body just did not react well to it. And, we decided to just see what happens because overall, there wasn’t really a reason why we couldn’t get pregnant. And, and, and so we just kind of continued, but looking back now, I feel like that was like a problem because we didn’t really do anything about it. So it just, I just came, became really numb to this whole process because every month it was just another disappointment. And every month I would see my friends, my cousins get pregnant and people asked me do you know what’s wrong with you guys? Or just like, have fun, just relax. Why don’t you adopt? And I mean, like all of these things that now I know are real triggers, but at the time I was like, well, what’s wrong with me that I just start crying every time I see just one more pregnant woman next to me, or walking through a target and seeing, a cute baby clothes or whatever, it just, it just brings you to tears. And I was like, what’s, what’s wrong with me because even my husband wouldn’t really understand it. So what I did is basically for a decade, I didn’t really deal with it. You know, I was like, okay, um, We’ll just see what happens. And then I, I really got into exercising, running, now looking back is maybe I was running away from really facing the reality. Right? And then I decided, well, it was this other thought, well, what am I actually getting up for in the morning? You know, what am I working for? And so I had a little bit of a midlife crisis. And that’s when I went back to school, even though I have a scientific background, I decided to not go into Western medicine, but I decided to go into acupuncture, integrative holistic medicine. And that really gave me a purpose because I think I always wanted to look forward to nurture, to be a nurturing presence in somebody’s life. And so that’s what I did with my acupuncture practice. But then what happened is that I actually got really burned out and I think looking back and I had to process this. I always felt like I wasn’t good enough. I was a failure maybe because literally every month there was this microtrauma of, wow, this is just another month where it didn’t happen. And with all the, what you see and hear in society, it’s like, as a mother, you’re like, there are just comments, like as a mother you can feel these things, or, only once you have experienced the love of a child, you know, what love is and things like that. And this really kind of messes with your head. And so I realized then, after I went like through this burnout I really had to kind of throttle down all my numbers of patients I was seeing and I went really deep. I was really like looking, what is it? What, what is going on here? And that’s when I realized, I don’t think I ever actually really processed this childlessness, not by choice being unintended, not having children. And so I had to really work on my own old beliefs of not feeling good enough, being a failure or having these roles as, okay, you’re married you want to, you want to be a mother it’s kind of like this natural progression or for me, in my case, I’m a single child and I know my father really, really wanted to have grandchildren, you know? So, that’s how I worked through it and so I had already worked on this step by step process. So basically to look at your life in the context of a bigger meaning to get an understanding what are the different facets of my life? Is it, my physical health, my mental health, is it my financial health, my relationships, and look at life in this kind of greater context. And then getting to this level of acceptance, like, okay, this is, this is where we’re at. Okay. So, so no matter what, whether that has to do with infertility, whether having had a hysterectomy, whether, looking at well, I just don’t have the children or a had miscarriages. And look at this acceptance and look at it for an opportunity to look at creation in a different way. And then the next step is really to focus on ourselves. Self love and self care, because that’s really where everything starts. And so once we get to these kind of basic concepts, we can look at the alignment and really own our story. Being able to tell our story without the interpretation of how it should sound to somebody else, because maybe the pain I feel, I shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it, but that’s where trauma comes in because a traumatic experience is deeply personal cause for one person, it might not be traumatic, but for another person it is. And so finding this alignment, finding your voice and being able to own that story is the next step to lead us then into really feeling empowered about our next step, being our own best advocate and just expand into what I call our fearless future to really look into what are the fears? What haven’t I tried yet, what do I really want to do and expand into that. So these are the steps that I walk my clients through. And obviously everybody is stuck at certain points, where we need more and more. And I’ve seen that, especially with women that, really have this dagger in their heart. It can be when they’re 20 years old or 40 or 70 years old, not having that child, not having had this opportunity to, to share of ourselves in this human being that came out from our womb. These different steps are super helpful and really, you can just see incredible stories of people, of what people start doing so .
[00:14:18] September Burton: That’s beautiful. Your background is as an acupuncturist. Your training is as an acupuncturist. So how do you work with couples today? Do you still practice acupuncture or are you more of a coach?
[00:14:31]Natascha Hebell-Fernando: I do both. So it’s kind of like evenly distributed between being a coach online and working as an acupuncturist. So what I have found is that women that have gone through fertility treatments do not want to see needles anymore. They’re just so done. They’re just really done. It’s like, I don’t even care how relaxing acupuncture is. I’m just so done. And so that’s why actually it evolved really into more of an online presence for me, because I have a private Facebook group where we do weekly trainings, we have the support, it’s really a safe and sacred space where we can share what’s going on and where we talk about different triggers and how to handle it. For example today, I did a little visualization on how to deal with feelings of hopelessness and not feeling good enough. So really give women those kind of self care tools. To, to help themselves. And then the next step is to work with me, one-on-one or to do like a hybrid program where I have some do it yourself materials on how to do certain journaling exercises, affirmations, and how to eat better, how to take care of yourself, combined with three week online where we just stay in touch with each other and do like 15 minutes here and there to get you out of that valley or any challenges that they have.
[00:15:57]September Burton: You keep talking about self care and self love, and those words are they’re kind of buzzwords at this point, almost becoming cliche. So for anybody who’s kind of like, okay, I’ve heard that before. Can you clarify that a little bit and give tips as well?
[00:16:13] Natascha Hebell-Fernando: Yes. And I agree, it’s so cliche and it’s just like, it’s kind of like the inner eyeroll. You want to do that when you hear that? But really what it’s all about is because when I mentioned my next step is alignment to know what’s in alignment with yourself. You have to know what that means because you have to be able to understand what feels right in your gut, what feels right in your heart. And if we are not able to take care of our, if we haven’t taken care of ourself and loved ourselves, we don’t really know what that inner voice is. So for me, self care and self love is all about being able to listen to that inner voice without the filter of what other people tell us is okay. So for example, self care, you always hear like yoga. I personally, I’m not a yoga person. I do not like yoga. At least not the way it’s being practiced. And so if there is like your self care and self love is really based on what resonates with you. Like for me, I get a lot more out of doing a 15 minute run, with my favorite songs. And I don’t even run the whole time. I just, one minute run, one minute walk because my knees are hurting, but that’s okay. But I get this like, feeling like that vibrational feeling that makes me really happy and that’s what works for me. And so you have to find what works for you to find that inner alignment. And so when I talk about self love, it’s really more about deep reflection on who you are as a human being, as a human soul and finding again, those things that make your heart sing. And whether that’s doing yoga, or working in the garden, or coloring, or just sit there and look at a tree and how, how the light is reflected on the leaves, if that’s what your body needs at this moment then that’s totally okay and just keep on doing that. That’s your self love. And so with self care for me, that is because I’m an acupuncturist I teach people how to do acupressure, how to do emotional freedom techniques, and how to find their own way that vibes with them because we can follow certain protocols, but if it feels heavy, if it just doesn’t feel good to me, but I know I have to do it then stop doing it because we should all take out “should” out of our vocabulary. Because if you only have to find just what resonates with you, because then you’ll get into that inner alignment and you know what to do. You don’t have to follow this person or that person or read this book or that self help book, because you are so in alignment with what’s right for you, you don’t really need, even when it comes to eating, as long as you stick to something that makes sense that’s a whole food diet and just have your occasional donut or whatever it is. I think it really comes down to the balance and just to kind of knowing what’s, what’s good for you. And also having the courage to speak up if something is too much to say, no, like, like this is just not the right thing For example, in the weekend, maybe there’s a lot of different, social events to go to or things to do, but does that really feel good to you? If it doesn’t, be able to say no, you know what? I’m rather home and sit on the couch and pet my dog and that’s okay.
[00:19:48] September Burton: Thank you for that. I really love what you, how you just explained this self care, self love aspect. I think that’s the most authentic feeling explanation of it I’ve ever heard that it’s just about being in alignment with who you are. It’s not about anymore “should’s” I should do yoga. I should meditate. So that was really beautiful. Thank you for that. So do you work with men at all or do you just work with women?
[00:20:14] Natascha Hebell-Fernando: I do work with men, but I haven’t worked on the infertility aspects at all with men. So when I work with men, I work to the process, but it’s, it’s just a totally different dynamic. So I would say that 90% of my work is fully focused on women. As far as the acupuncture is concerned is probably about a 60 to 40, 60% women and 40% men. And so we work a little bit on the emotional level, but not by far, not as deep as what I work with women. So and, I do not typically work with couples because, as far as the infertility and unintended childlessness is concerned because it’s really to women that have hard time that are struggling actually, even also to communicate with their husband. They really want to have a safe space where they just talk about what’s going on with themselves. They have to find because they have been on such, tumultuous and heartbreaking journey that they just need the space for themselves. And that’s what, that’s what they get. So there’s no husband or significant other involved. It’s just focused on them.
[00:21:22] September Burton: What is the name of your Facebook group?
[00:21:24]Natascha Hebell-Fernando: The name of my Facebook group is Beyond Infertility and Unintended Childlessness.
[00:21:29] September Burton: And is that something that anybody can join?
[00:21:32]Natascha Hebell-Fernando: No, we have a, I have a process where, you know, it is typically some questions and I check out every single person that wants to be part of the group. So the, requirements, so to speak, I hate calling it requirements, but it’s really for a woman that feels that they’re missing, something in their lives because not having a child, they could have already children, but maybe they just feel like something, they had some kind of traumatic experience related to maybe previous miscarriages or maybe secondary infertility where they already have a child, but are not having another child. It’s open to anybody who, who just experiences, that heartache. I have women that, like I said, are mothers and maybe want to just support whoever else is in the group, because they went through these infertility struggles. I have women, young women that have had to have hysterectomies or that have suffered from cancer and cannot have children anymore. And I have women that, just like me that are actually already, maybe older in their fifties, sixties or seventies even, and still feel that dagger in their heart when let’s say one of your friends has, their children are now having children or are graduates or whatnot. So it’s really open to every woman that, that kind of resonates with what I have been talking about. And I check every person out. So it’s, it’s still a small group, we’re about 80 plus members right now. And it’s very important to me that it’s a sacred and safe space.
[00:23:17] September Burton: So it’s about being a safe space of women supporting women, essentially.
[00:23:21] Natascha Hebell-Fernando: Yes. Yes it is.
[00:23:23] September Burton: I love that. Thank you for being on today. Before we wrap this up, do you have any final words of wisdom, words of encouragement for maybe somebody who’s listening to this and trying to step into that acceptance of living the life of unintended childlessness, or in that stage?
[00:23:39]Natascha Hebell-Fernando: Yes. I just want to, if you are listening right now, I know how difficult it is and I want you to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And so I have this quote, that’s actually, it’s not mine, but it’s from Oprah. And she said, “your wounds are your wisdom”. And to truly trust that the trials and the challenges you have been through are you know what they are blessings in disguise because sense you have a certain emotional depth that nobody else has out there, and I know that there is a specific, awesome purpose for your life, even if it doesn’t feel like that right now. And to just trust the process. And once you accept, you can actually move forward. It’s one of, unfortunately, that’s one of the steps to be in, into acceptance and to being okay. That it is okay to feel all the feelings you’re having right now. It’s totally okay. And that’s important to find support somebody that you can talk to.
[00:24:42] September Burton: Thank you for that. That was beautiful. I really appreciate that. Well, thank you again, Natascha, for coming on today. We really appreciate your wisdom and all of the, love that you have to offer. So thank you.
[00:24:53] Natascha Hebell-Fernando: Thank you for the opportunity. And I hope that someone out there can really move forward and find that joy in their heart again.