The limited boat schedule meant that we had to spend an additional 48 hours in the UK following embryo transfer. This was a blessing in many respects as it prevented me from rushing around as I have a tendency to do at home. Resting has never come easily to me, embryo transfer or not. However, it wasn’t quite the uneventful and restful time we had anticipated.
The day following embryo transfer we pottered around the South Downs visiting Stansted House which is a Grade II Listed Edwardian country house set on a 1,750-acre estate within the South Downs National Trust. It is well worth a visit if you happen to be in the area. It has a fabulous arboretum, which was a delight for E, not least because he’s a tree surgeon with a passion for trees, but because it distracted him from the increasing pain in his back.
From there we drove to Petworth Park which is host to incredible gardens designed by Lancelot Capability Brown. I studied Capability Brown at University so it was a big deal for me to see his work first hand. Capability Brown is reputed as the super-guru of parkland landscaping. He was hired at Petworth in 1751 and it is said that he left hardly a square foot of the gardens untouched. It’s amazing!
We had a wonderful day together and I was expecting us to return to the hotel for dinner that evening before lazing around on the bed watching TV - a treat as I would soon be teaching yoga again most evenings. However, E had other ideas. The pain in his back was acute and he was now experiencing shooting pains down his left leg. He became increasingly anxious and felt he needed to see a doctor.
So it followed that my imagined restful TV night remained exactly that; imagined! Instead I found myself driving E to Southampton on the M27 at speed, in the dark, and with rain pelting on the windscreen. Not fun! And to be honest we were silly really because we were staying just up the road from Portsmouth but E thought it better to return to Southampton as he had already visited their A&E department at the beginning of the trip. Big mistake!
It was Sunday early evening after all, and while we’ll never know if Portsmouth would have been any better, Southampton A&E department was jam-packed. I’ve never known anything like it, we’re certainly spoilt in Guernsey. Triage prioritised E to the bottom of the list, which was positive on the one hand but did mean a long wait for us on very uncomfortable plastic seats. This was not quite the relaxing evening I had in mind.
By 8pm I was anxious for food. The clinic encourages healthy eating for successful implantation and here I was stuck in an A&E department with only a snack machine at my disposal or a fast-food establishment in the main hospital itself (get that, fast food in a hospital!). This left me with little choice but to head out on my own in the car to try and find something to eat and then try and navigate my way back to the hospital successfully again.
I managed it though, finding a Coop and buying myself a pre-packaged salad, which I ate in the car. It wasn’t ideal and I felt a little sorry for myself. This was not what I had in mind for adequately feeding the little embryos hopefully growing inside me! Still one does what one needs to do and I had never seen E in quite so much pain. Fortunately, by the time I returned E had moved from the waiting room into the A&E treatment area.
It wasn’t until 10.30pm however that E was finally seen by a doctor. The doctor carried out the usual tests to determine that there was no apparent nerve damage, before sending E on his way with a prescription for drugs he already had. While it felt a little like a wasted journey, at least E was reassured that there was nothing massively serious going on and he could carry on life as normal, at least until we got home and he could see his own GP.
Being a holistic therapist it was absolutely no surprise to me that E’s back had deteriorated whilst we had been undertaking the IVF. As a potentially older first time dad, and one who had, until a few years earlier, been very non-committal about, well commitment really, it was inevitable that this potentially hugely life changing and committed event would unground him and test his roots.
Furthermore, E’s back is where he carries his stress and if ever there was a stressful time to be had, then IVF is up there. It’s easy to overlook the stress that partners go through during IVF. While it may be us women going through the injecting and the scans, the egg recovery and embryo transfer, the men are going through their own process too. They often feel at a loss to know how to help, especially if the need for IVF is due to male fertility issues. It’s a testing time for everyone.
Leaving the hospital late that evening, I was initially irritated with E for getting himself so worked up about the IVF and his back pain. I felt like he was stealing my thunder, which is a terrible thing to say, but I was supposed to be resting and looking after myself in that critical 48 hour-period. Instead, here I was driving us both back to our hotel at 11pm in the pitch black and the continuous rain when I should have been tucked up in bed.
I came around to seeing the funny side and we still joke about it this day; how he couldn’t cope with it being all about me and made sure it was now all about him instead! It certainly was all about him those next few days because he continued to be in huge amounts of pain. It didn’t help that we had to endure a 7-hour ferry crossing back to Guernsey the next day. For me it was ideal however as I got to rest and channel lots of Reiki onto my tummy.
It felt a little strange arriving back in Guernsey that Monday afternoon. We had gone away the 2 of us yet here we were – in theory - returning 4 of us instead. Everything looked the same, yet we had changed. Our relationship had deepened, how could it not. But it was more than that. Without having to say anything to each other, we both knew that life would never be the same again, regardless of whether the IVF worked.
I was still feeling confident of success however, although the fact we still had to wait 10 days to take a pregnancy test was unnerving. Waiting does not come easily to me. I’ve always had a tendency to impatience and this has frequently been tested these past few years. I doubt that there has ever been a single lady going through IVF who has felt calm, collected and patient during this twelve to fourteen-day period (twelve days for blastocysts, fourteen days for embryos).
I tried to keep busy so that the time would pass quickly. I returned to working in the office and teaching yoga again. I offered Reiki treatments too. No one would have known what we had just been through, it was very much life as usual to the outside world. Inside however, I was doing what I could to hold it together, dropping deeply into my spiritual practice to try and keep my faith and spirit high during this decidedly edgy time.
I was fortunate in that I could feel the new life growing inside me, which helped enormously. As someone who works with energy it was incredibly exciting to feel such vibrant and pure energy, the spark of new life. As the days went on, the energy changed and it began to feel like running your hands over a string of pearls. It’s like the energy becomes a little more contained, a little heavier, but with movement, a circular movement as they grow inside.
It really was amazing to be able to feel energy like this, a real blessing. I really wish every lady who undertakes IVF could feel this, not least because its like nothing else, but because at least you know then that the embryo is still alive and growing inside you and this can give you so much comfort. It really is such a horrible time, especially if you’ve suffered a failed cycle previously.
For us, this was our first time and we had no reason to doubt the process. We had done what was asked of us and deep down I had this unwavering faith that it was all going to be ok. It wasn’t until a few years later that I discovered what it feels like when you don’t have this faith - it makes for an extremely stressful and anxious wait, at a time when you should be keeping your stress and anxiety levels to a minimum.
That’s not to say that during this time there weren’t moments of doubt and fear. The mind is tricky like that. Fear I find particularly fascinating as it feels so real and yet it’s not real at all. It translates as “False Evidence Appearing Real” and if you can remind yourself of this when you feel it taking hold then it helps enormously in recognising it for what it is and letting it go. It’s not easy though.
I’ve no doubt that my daily meditation practice helped enormously in keeping my mind strong and focused during this time. I would wholeheartedly encourage any lady going through IVF to carve out some time in your day to just sit with what’s coming up. Even just 5 minutes can make a huge difference to centre and check in daily. It’s in this way that you come to recognise the illusion that is fear and the negative thinking that accompanies this.
I also made sure to allow time after my asana practice for a Yoga Nidra. I’ve mentioned it previously but Yoga Nidra really is incredible and everyone, regardless of whether they are going through IVF or not, should try and practice one regularly. It’s incredibly grounding and centring and helps to reinforce a positive state of being. I worked with the Sankalpa, or intention for the practice of “I am pregnant” to help to make this more of a reality.
During this waiting period I also did a huge amount of praying and talking to the angels. I love the angels and make no apology for this. Since they’ve been in my life, they have provided much comfort and guidance. I certainly felt their presence during this time which helped to buoy my spirits. I regularly read my angel cards and during this period the “child” and “new beginnings” cards kept flying out, which certainly helped!
I also noticed white feathers in front of my path, which are a sign that the angels are surrounding you and that all is well - there is a Divine Plan to all life! I noticed robins during this period too. They are believed to be another sign that the angels are with you and that it is time to sing your own song for a new period in your life. They will also teach you how to incorporate new beginnings with faith and trust in the process, which seemed incredibly appropriate.
I was channelling Reiki into my tummy at every available opportunity – I also wish every lady going through IVF could be Reiki attuned to be able to do this. I enjoyed going for Reiki treatments too. I was keen to do all I could to ground and balance my energy. I walked and swam as often as I could, but avoided strenuous activity like netball, which I had been playing prior to IVF. I also kept a low profile socially and retreated as best I could.
E was very much forced to retreat during this time as his back had become so bad that he spent his days lying on the sofa or floor drugged up on very strong painkillers. He had been to see his GP and was awaiting a referral to see a surgeon in Exeter. It was tough for him; he wasn’t able to distract himself from the impending pregnancy test other than by watching an awful lot of Miami Vice!
I was fascinated by his chronic condition and the mind-body connection. I truly believe that much of his physical pain at that time was a result of the mental and emotional stress that the IVF was causing. He was adrift, completely outside of his comfort zone and with that, he had zero grounding. I did what I could by way of Reiki and yoga therapy, but I knew that it would eventually improve once our future was clearer.
As D-day finally approached I was excited about what lay ahead. I could still feel the energy of new life within me and I had this knowingness that all was well. Still that didn’t stop me sleeping fitfully the night before I was due to take the test. I woke regularly to check the time and the energy of the embryos in my tummy; I was longing for morning to arrive. It’s always the same, the more you long for morning, the longer it takes to arrive.
By 5.30am E and I had had quite enough. We were both keen to just get it over with now. I felt the energy of the new life in my tummy before leaping out of bed and almost running to the bathroom. I had butterflies and was shaking a little. I re-read the information pack even though I had read it the day before and probably the day before that too, wanting to ensure that I didn’t make a mistake and waste the kit.
There was nothing more for it than to get on with it. I peed on the stick for the allocated time and replaced the cap before joining E back in the bedroom and passing it to him. I didn’t want to have to check the result – I remember doing the same with my degree, I didn’t want to be the first one to find out. I wanted someone else to take the responsibility!
E timed the 2 minutes on his watch as we both sat anxiously not really knowing what to do with ourselves. I suspect I fussed around a little, tidying or something, I don’t really remember. I do know that it felt like an awfully long time.
Finally, the 2 minutes was up and I hid my head in E’s chest as he looked at the test and told me what I already knew – I was pregnant! I could have danced with joy. The IVF had worked and I was jubilant! E was absolutely relieved. I couldn’t stop smiling and just wanted to tell the world! Phew!