It was a strange few weeks after I found out I was pregnant.
I was technically 4-weeks pregnant the day we took the test with thirty-six weeks to go until the estimated due date, based on a gestation period of forty weeks. I found it difficult to get my head around this initially because I’d always been led to believe that a pregnancy lasts 9 months, which it does in terms of when you find out you are pregnant (and have therefore missed a period) but officially it is counted from the date of your last period, or the date of whichever part of your IVF cycle mimics this.
We were due a scan between 6-7 weeks to confirm the pregnancy and to determine if I was still carrying the 2 embryos implanted - an embryo is defined as the developing pregnancy from time of fertilization until the end of the eighth week of gestation when it become known as the foetus. Other than the scan, we had now completed the IVF process and life was strangely quiet.
I know I’m not the only lady who has gone through IVF who has found this transition challenging. You go from following a rigid treatment session and receiving an awful lot of attention to all of that suddenly stopping. It felt a little like being in limbo land. I was pregnant, but didn’t feel any different to how I normally felt. In those early days of pregnancy post IVF, there was no indication to me or to anyone else that life was significantly changing.
In fact, life continued much as usual and the day after finding out I was pregnant, I was leading my bi-annual Yoga & Wellbeing Retreat on the Island of Herm, a 20-minute boat journey from Guernsey. Fortunately, my Mum had taken care of much of the organising for me, so it was less stressful than it may have been ordinarily. It felt like it was perfectly timed actually because retreats are incredibly uplifting, even if you’re the one facilitating.
There is something about the collective energy of bringing people together with the common purpose of practicing yoga and increasing their sense of wellbeing that always leaves me feeling high spirited. Furthermore, Herm is a fabulous place to retreat as you cannot help but feel more deeply connected to nature and the elements when you spend time there. It’s incredibly grounding and healing.
Also, I loved the fact that the embryos were already being bathed in this beautiful Herm yoga retreat energy at 4 weeks gestation. Not that I would ever know how this would affect their development or influence their growth or personality in the future, but I liked that yoga and Reiki had been in their lives since conception. It felt complimentary to their lightness, to immerse them in the lightness of the energies of these spiritual and healing practices.
It was a wonderful weekend and I was on a massive high just knowing I was pregnant. Perhaps because of this, I experienced one of those moments where everything just felt right. It was Saturday afternoon between classes, and I was practising yoga on my own in the main studio space in front of views of the sea and the East coast of Guernsey. Deva Premal’s beautiful voice filled the room and there was the faint smell of sandalwood in the air.
I sat on my mat with my hands on my tummy so that I could feel the energy of the embryos inside me. All of a sudden I was overcome with that incredible and momentary feeling of peace. It was a split second, it came and went so quickly. But in that moment I felt expansive and aware that absolutely everything was as it was meant to be. All was well. It’s the most magnificent feeling of utter joy and peace that happens so infrequently that the moments become memorable.
Poor E on the other hand, while jubilant that the IVF had worked, was still struggling with his back, to the extent that he was now using a stick to help him walk. The fact we didn’t know if I was carrying 1 or 2 embryos was weighing heavily on him. I was convinced I was pregnant with twins and while I was anxious about how this would play out during pregnancy and birth, I didn’t give it too much consideration beyond then. E, on the other hand, was constantly questioning how we would cope.
Those 2 weeks between the retreat and the scan seemed to drag on. E started seeing a new doctor who was adamant that he didn’t need surgery, so he was feeling a little more positive and empowered, the fear was losing its grip a little. Still we were both anxious about the scan and we tried to keep the energy light as we sat in the MSG waiting area for our appointment, I was then 6 weeks and 2 days pregnant.
I could still feel the energy inside me albeit denser now than it had been at the beginning so I was feeling confident. Our Specialist was delighted that I was pregnant and didn’t waste any time in getting me scanned. It was yet another transvaginal ultrasound as this is the safest and clearest way of seeing an embryo at this very early stage of pregnancy. At 6 week’s gestation, an embryo is generally between 5-9mm long, which is very tiny.
So there I was again, legs in stirrups as the Specialist inserted a probe up into my vagina. I was getting a little over all this by now. Still, I didn’t have too much time to reflect, because all of a sudden we were able to see a heart beating on the screen to my side. A heart beating! It was truly incredible. There on the screen, at 6 week’s gestation, was the tiniest little heart beating away very quickly, double the rate of an adult heart. I’ll never forget this.
E and I looked at each other, huge smiles on our faces, this was real, and there on the screen was the heart to prove it, a heart created by the love and union of our hearts. It’s amazing. Certainly I would never have chosen the path of IVF if we had been able to conceive naturally, yet here we were, because of the IVF able to witness new life like this, it was a privilege and a joy.
In the spiritual world we talk of all life being about love, and here to prove this – to me at least – was the image of our 6-week old embryo as a single beating heart! I was beginning to recognise the blessings in the challenge that is conception through IVF. As an energy worker I was continuously learning about the energetics of new life, of all life, of the purity of the energy of love – the heart beating on the screen proved this to me. We are all heart, there is only love.
However, we’d only seen one visible heart and while the specialist managed to find what looked like the sack of the other embryo there was no heart beating. Still there was hope as he advised that it may be just a little bit too early to detect a heartbeat, so we’d need to check again the following week. Either that or it hadn’t made it.
I knew as he said those words that there wasn’t going to be another one. But I wasn’t ready to accept it just then. I’d had my heart set on twins. I hadn’t considered that we may lose one of the embryos as everything else had gone to plan. It was a weird feeling. On the one had I was ecstatic about seeing the growing embryo, the heart beat within me, and delighted that I was pregnant with this new life, but also strangely upset at the potential loss of the other one.
We had to wait a further 2 weeks for the next scan and in many respects this was ideal. It gave me a little time to process things. I still had hope that I was carrying twins, but at the same time, I was also aware that this was unlikely to be a reality. It was another weird limbo time although by now I was experiencing morning sickness so the reality of the pregnancy was hitting home. We were due to go away on holiday the day after the scan, so by the time it came around, I was just keen to know.
It was a different Specialist this time so no stirrups. This was a blessing – it seems they all have their own way of doing things. I doubt there is any lady comfortable with legs in stirrups. It’s insane to me to think that women used to have to give birth in this position, but that’s another story. For now, it was all about the second embryo and sadly it seemed that it had indeed died. I was pregnant with what was now a healthy growing foetus and that was that.
I was upset. It sounds ridiculous I know. I was very lucky, I had a healthy foetus inside me, and I realise that some ladies don’t even get that opportunity. But for all intents and purposes, I had miscarried and this hurt. I questioned whether I had done something wrong, I had played competitive netball not long after conceiving and I wondered whether that may have created the loss. Or perhaps I should have practiced yoga differently. All these thoughts ran through my head.
Until that point, I’d never really understood how women could feel loss over an early pregnancy miscarriage. But now I understood. It doesn’t matter how that embryo was conceived, or the period of its gestation, you can still create an immediate emotional bond with it, as you excitedly imagine your future with a new baby in it. To have that then taken away from you, or at least to feel that this is then taken away from you, is heart breaking.
I’ve no idea how women cope when they repeatedly miscarry. It must be soul destroying. I felt a new level of respect for all the ladies I knew who had miscarried. It was humbling to gain this new level of awareness. The Universe works in mysterious ways at times. The IVF journey was not something I would have chosen as an opportunity for spiritual growth, but that was exactly what it was presenting to me.
Not only was I encouraged to be more open minded and do a whole 360 turn on my perception of the medical world and science, so that I had a new level of respect for both, but I was being encouraged to open my mind and be less judgemental. Through my experiences I was also learning a lot about the energetics of new life, initial pregnancy and loss so this may make me a more aware and compassionate yoga teacher, healer and indeed human being.
My life was taking on a new direction in more ways than one. I was now 8 weeks and 2 days pregnant now and I was certainly feeling the changes in my body. My breasts were heavy and achy, my nose was super sensitive to smell, I experienced an overwhelming sense of tiredness, and I felt nauseous and yucky. Urgh! It was both incredibly unsettling but also reassuring to know that the embryo was working its magic and my body was adjusting to the new growth.
I visited my GP to formally advise her that I was pregnant and to enter into another system, the pregnancy one this time. My doctor was delighted for us and sent me away with a pack of information to add to the pile of books I had waiting for me at home. It was clearly time to educate myself on pregnancy and birth. One thing I already knew however was that I really wanted a vaginal home delivery, that was my new mission…