The IVF Journey Part 4 - Egg Retrieval

I was awake early on egg recovery day; a combination of excitement and anxiety about the unknown ahead.  Plus, our appointment was booked for 10.30am, and I wasn’t allowed to drink anything beyond 8.30am so I was up in good time to fit in my essential morning cup of tea!  That was all I was allowed though, well that and water, but nil food by mouth from midnight so no breakfast for me.

We were also told not to wear perfume, aftershave, hairspray and/or strong deodorant when attending for egg recovery. Apparently embryos held within the adjacent laboratory are very sensitive to the chemicals contained in the products so it’s important to avoid using them. I’m all up for the natural approach in any event, but it does make you consider how much these products may affect sensitive hormonal balance and your health generally.

I spent the journey from Surbiton to the clinic (Wessex) in Southampton channelling Reiki onto my tummy, hoping to infuse the growing eggs with as much loving, healing and energising Reiki energy as possible. I was just really hoping that the eggs were going to be good enough to grow into healthy embryos.  It was exciting certainly, but I was still silently praying that it would all go well - it really is a test of one’s ability to stay positive and have faith.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect that morning, I’d read the notes in the booklet provided by the clinic, but I was still nervous about what the procedure actually entailed. Fortunately, we only had to wait a few minutes in the waiting area of the clinic before we were led downstairs and into a small consultation room. Here I was asked to change out of my clothes and into a gown provided by the clinic before covering myself with my own dressing gown, which I had been asked to bring.

A small cannula was then inserted into my arm. This was probably the most uncomfortable part of the whole procedure as the nurse had to make a few attempts. Finally, the cannula was in place and before I knew it, I was kissing E goodbye and being led by the nurse across the corridor to the small theatre for the procedure.  It was probably a good thing it happened so quickly as it didn’t give me too much time to dwell on what lay ahead.

I was welcomed into the theatre by the consultant and her assisting nurse, both of whom I knew from our previous appointments.  I appreciated the continuity of care, although I’m not sure you get that so much these days with IVF now so popular. At that time however, it made a huge difference in putting me at ease and we were able to chatter and joke with some familiarity. The theatre itself wasn’t threatening either, as far as I can remember it just contained a bed with a stool beside it and a large scanning system at the foot of it.

There was a sense of purpose in the room and after our friendly exchange I was asked to remove my pants and sit at the base of the treatment bed. It was then that all dignity went well and truly out of the window as I lay back and my legs were padded and strapped up into stirrups. I wasn’t expecting this and it’s certainly not an experience I’m in any hurry to repeat.  Still it wasn’t long after this that I was administered a sedative, which sent me straight to sleep.

I was oblivious to the procedure itself, I’m told that the it’s not particularly lengthy, perhaps 10-20 minutes, it depends really on how many eggs are being retrieved. The recovery of the eggs from the follicles is generally done using a vaginal ultrasound probe, which guides a needle to aspirate each follicle. It’s incredible when you think about it and amazing that science facilitates this.

Once the egg is retrieved it’s studied under a microscope and given a grading, with each clinic having its own grading system. The emphasis is on quality rather than quantity, especially as not all the eggs retrieved will be fertilised so the number doesn’t necessarily give an indication of how many embryos may result. However, to a greater extent, the more eggs the clinic have to work with, the greater the chance of them fertilising so it’s all relevant.

Once the eggs are retrieved, they are put together with the sperm in the laboratory (in-vitro) about 4 hours after egg retrieval, or, as in our case, the sperm are injected individually into the eggs (ICSI). The eggs are then checked the next morning for evidence of fertilisation. At Wessex, statistics indicate that there’s a 5% chance that none of the eggs will achieve fertilisation. This does mean however that 95% should be ok!

I remember waking up in the recovery room and being surprised to find that it was all over, it felt like it had been seconds since I had laid down on the bed in the theatre. I was also amazed by the number of other ladies in the room with me as I had been unaware of them upon arrival at the clinic.  There was a lady in the bed next to me and I could hear a couple of other ladies chatting beyond the thin curtain that separated us – the nurse confirmed that it was indeed a busy morning. 

I was very excited about this as there was full moon due later that evening. Not only do I literally worship the Goddess of the Moon but she is also the Goddess of fertility and the full moon is a time when women are (in theory) most fertile. I found it fascinating that despite us all taking fertility drugs, our “cycles” were somehow still connected to the moon. Furthermore, I was jubilant at the auspicious nature of the timing with my eggs being fertilised within the energy of a fertile full moon!

I was keen to share my excitement about the full moon IVF gathering with whomever would listen. The poor lady in the bed beside me couldn’t avoid my ramblings and I was delighted to educate her about the connection between the full moon and fertility, and the auspicious timing of us both having our eggs retrieved on this day. She told me that this was her third attempt at IVF, the first two cycles failing. I can’t imagine what that must have felt like and I hoped that the moon was working some magic for her. Unfortunately, I shall never know whether she conceived but I like to think so.

The nurses were less interested in my moon tales, I don’t think they really understood the significance, it was just another day for them. There was a time when I too didn’t really know much about the moon, and I certainly didn’t understand or recognise the correlation between the moon cycle and my own cycle. Nor did I appreciate the power of the menstrual cycle as it moves us from girl to woman, through to wise woman and on to Crone, it was just something that happened every month.

Further, I had no idea of the way in which we can use our menstrual cycle to connect with our innate feminine wisdom – the wisdom of our grandmothers and great grandmothers and all the wise women that have lived before us – and the fact that this is available to us all the time.  It’s something that every woman should be taught when they first begin menstruating, because it offers us so much insight into how we’re living our lives and can be deeply empowering – imperative for any lady with menstrual issues.

Since I discovered the wonders of the Goddess of Moon, I have been honouring her, praying to her and dancing with her whenever I can.  Quite literally too. There is nothing quite as uplifting and indeed wiring as dancing naked in the light of a full moon.  I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to deepen their connection to her, and feel her energy, especially anyone with fertility issues. If that’s not your bag, then just stand under her light with your arms held high and be moon touched instead.

But be prepared, she likes to shake things up a little in her quest to bring out the light in you (so that you may shine as brightly as she does when full). She’ll ask you to dance with her and shake yourself loose, surrendering to the moment and all that holds for you. She’s a blessing and brings blessings with her too. I was excited about her appearing on egg retrieval day – it was answered prayers and this strengthened my faith in the magic of the Universe.

After an hour sitting in one of the armchairs in the recovery room, drinking tea and literally recovering from the procedure, I was allowed to leave. It really was that simple, although the clinic insist that someone collects you as you’re still recovering from the sedative. I changed back into my clothes and E came down to collect me. It was then that our kind nurse met us and told us that they’d retrieved 11 eggs during the procedure and these were now with the embryologists for grading.

She told us to return in 3 day’s time for embryo transfer and that was that. It was exciting but I was very aware that the eggs may not fertilise or indeed be of a fertilised quality that would allow for embryo transfer.  IVF really is a waiting game, from one procedure to the next.  It can get so exhausting just waiting to hear the results of the various tests and procedures, and never being quite certain if you’ll be able to move on to the next stage or not.  

Still I was feeling positive – the moon was full and I was quite sure her energy would work some magic and help to fertilise the eggs.  Plus, I was rather hyper off the combination of the sedative and the relief of surviving egg retrieval. This meant I talked non-stop to E all the way back to Surbiton, it was like being giddy off a glass of champagne – I’d like to bottle that feeling!  Poor E was also relieved that the procedure was over and was looking forward to a few days lying on the sofa and resting his back, which was still very painful.

The clinic advice you to do very little, certainly no driving, no alcohol and no signing of legal documentation in the 24 hours following egg retrieval. They mention that you may experience some discomfort following the procedure with a swollen and sore abdomen and some cramping that may require strong pain killers.  They also advise you to abstain from sexual intercourse until you have received the result of the pregnancy test as the ovaries may remain enlarged and intercourse can potentially damage them.  Furthermore, some eggs may remain uncollected and these could potentially give rise to significant multiple pregnancy.

For me, between now and embryo transfer, it was absolutely all about healing from egg retrieval and preparing my uterus to receive the fertilised embryo(s). I saw it as a bit of a mission and set to work as soon as I got in the car, taking some high dosage arnica and channelling Reiki into my tummy. Back at the house in Surbiton, I continued with the Reiki while nestled up in bed with a hot water bottle on my abdomen. I like a good mission and I like healing work so I was looking forward to seeing how I could heal myself within this short time period.

 

 

 

 

 

Ditch the New Year's resolutions and get yourself some intentions instead

If I’ve one piece of seasonal advice for you it’s this, don’t bother making any New Year’s resolutions! They’re a waste of time and energy as they just make you feel worse about yourself than you did to begin with. Furthermore, they put negative energy out into the Universe and that’s not a good way to begin the New Year.

The trouble is most New Year’s resolutions centre around giving something up, or making some drastic change in a bid to become happier, skinnier or more at peace with yourself. Further they are often unrealistic and work with willpower alone, thereby setting you up for a big fail when your willpower wavers, as it tends to do.

They also work from the basis that you are not ok just as you are, or that you are lacking in some way and merely serve to highlight your own dissatisfaction with yourself and your life. They simply provide you with yet another stick to beat yourself up with and that’s not really going to help you begin the New Year on a positive note.

Ideally we should all be waking up (in more ways than one) on New Year’s day with the intention of being kinder to ourselves, of loving ourselves that little bit more.  It’s time that we all started to recognise and realise our own magnificence (yes you are magnificent!) and the fact that we are each – yes each one of us, you too – a gift to the world.

Our beating ourselves up and highlighting our inadequacies does nothing to promote a happier and more peaceful state of being, nor does it help to raise the collective consciousness and help make the world a happier and more peaceful place to live. The more we give ourselves a hard time, the more the world appears a darker place to live.

However, if we approach life with a more loving attitude towards ourselves, counting our blessings rather than our inadequacies, then we’ll start to notice how the world loves back at us.  It really is so simple. Loving thyself first and foremost and the rest will take care of itself!

So here’s an idea.  How about undertaking a burning bowl ceremony to let go of all that stuff that prevents you from being your lovely magnificent self. Write it all down – that’s all your negative tendencies and behaviour patterns, all those draining and judgmental people in your life, your depressing and dead end job, all activities which exhaust and disempower you and anything which no longer brings out the best in you.

Whatever it may be, write it all down on a piece of paper under the words, “I (fill in name), let go of the following from my life”. Really tap into how it would feel to let go of all this stuff from your life and commit to it too. Then burn the paper and let it all disappear into the ether, leaving you feeling lighter and brighter as a result.

Once you’ve done the letting go you’re ready to invite in the new. Now this is where it gets really exciting because you get to choose what to bring in.  So dream big and in alignment with your truth!  Get yourself a piece of paper and write something like this, “I xxx (fill in name), have the following intentions for 2017”. Then write down your intentions in the present tense as if they had already happened; for example, “I practice yoga on my mat at least once every week”.

 

Please don’t underestimate the power of intention, its powerful stuff! I’ve worked with intentions the last few years and am always amazed at the way in which they help to transform life in a more positive direction and with grounding too. It’s the same with counting your blessings, this practice can really help you to feel joyful about life.

The thing is, the more you do to transform yourself into a more joyful and positive person the more joy and positivity you’ll put out into the world. And don’t forget we’re all connected and we all have a role to play (and responsibility) in making this world a more joyful and positive place to live. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “be the change you’d like to see in the world”. It begins with YOU.

It’s for this reason that I encourage you to begin your list of intentions by making “I love and accept myself JUST AS I Am” number one and “I live my life in touch with my true and unique self” second on that list. And then add on a whole heap of other joyful and happy stuff too, things that make you feel good, whether that’s spending more time in nature or seeing more of your friends, perhaps attracting a new job that’s more aligned with your soul, helping with a charity and/or buying your own home. Whatever it is make sure it is heartfelt and not from the ego.

Once you’ve finished with your list, you might write, “with thanks” or something to show your appreciation for the gift of intention, before folding it up and popping it in an envelope.  Then put it away in a drawer, get on with living your life and be open to the new opportunities that the Universe may now provide. But don’t try to control this, just let things unfold in their own way and in their own timing. It’s exciting!

Of course I can’t write about the New Year and New Year’s intentions without suggesting that you put “yoga” on your list too. If you’re reading this then take it as a sign, it may very well be the answer to all your prayers.  Want to lose weight? Practice yoga. Want to get fitter? Practice yoga. Want to be a kinder person? Practice yoga. Want to live life more in touch with your truth? Practice Yoga.  It’s easy (yes I know I’m biased!)

But remember that talking about it isn’t the same as actually practicing. All too often people tell me they practice yoga, and then on closer examination it turns out that they haven’t actually taken their mat out of its bag for the last 6 months, if not a year.  In their heads they think they practice yoga but I’m afraid you have to actually do the practice to get gain the benefit. It’s like Pattabhi Jois said, “Practice and all is coming”. Just get on your mat!

So you see beginning the New Year with a list of heart-felt intentions is far more exciting and uplifting then setting yourself some depressing New Year’s resolutions.  Hopefully now you’ll wake up on New Year’s day feeling joyful and positive and loving yourself.  It’s in this way that we will each play our part in making the world a happier and more peaceful place to live.   

On that note, I shall leave you with an extract from the inspirational Anita Moorjani:

Always remember not to give away your power – instead, get in touch with your own magnificence. When it comes to finding the right path, there’s a different answer for each person…when we’re true to ourselves, we become instruments of truth for the planet. Because we’re all connected, we touch the lives of everyone around us, who then affect others. Our only true obligation is to be the love we are and allow our answers to come from within in the way that’s most appropriate for us.

 

The IVF Journey Part 3- Scans and Injections!

I don’t think you can ever get used to having transvaginal ultrasound scans as such, but by the time I began the IVF Antagonist cycle I had already had two of them, and I tried not to think too much about it. I just had to consider that these scans are all part of the process to achieve a certain outcome - pregnancy.  It was all about the outcome after all, and staying focused on this helped enormously. Not to say they weren’t still intrusive, they are, they’re incredibly intrusive but I just couldn’t allow myself to think too much into it.

E was great and attended every specialist appointment with me scan or no scan.  I just felt that I needed the moral support and he felt that it was important to be part of the process too.  We were trying to conceive after all and that involved bits from both of us so we gave it our all, body, mind and soul.  Thus after my next period started I had to go to the Medical Specialist Group here in Guernsey for a transvaginal ultrasound scan of my ovaries to check for cysts before I could begin the IVF cycle.

I wasn’t expecting the specialist to find any and he didn’t, but it’s still a necessary part of the programme before you can be given the go ahead to start the medication.  It’s perhaps worth sharing here that there was a time when I did have cysts on my ovaries.  I share this only because I know that others experience this, and the cysts can make it tricky to conceive naturally and can complicate the IVF process (or so I believe).  I managed to heal my cysts naturally and it was a lesson for me, not only in terms of how we can hold unprocessed emotions in our bodies, but how we may perhaps heal these holistically.

As I have mentioned previously, I developed an eating disorder when I was 17 years old. It began with me starving myself so that my periods stopped.  Then when I went to University later that same year I fell into the nasty trap of starving myself and then binging, so that I actually put on weight and every day my life was consumed with what I was eating.  It went on for too many long years.  The trouble is that once an eating disorder has taken root, its very difficult to let it go.

By the time I was approaching my mid-twenties I knew that something had to change. I was still caught in a cycle of obsessing about what I ate and starving and binging myself in equal measure while exercising excessively. Essentially I didn’t really like myself very much and both my relationship with food, the PMS and the bouts of depression I experienced were all consuming at times and utterly exhausting.

Fortunately, after running the London marathon, I found yoga.  My body was in a mess and someone mentioned to me that yoga may help.  I had already read that yoga can help with PMS and depression, so it seemed to make sense to give it a try.  I had nothing to lose.  So that’s what I did and the rest is history really. Yoga made me feel better.  For the first time in a long time I was encouraged out of my head and into my body.

Without doubt yoga saved my life. It was through yoga that I came to discover Reiki, which was truly life changing for me, and also presented a world of healing, crystals, angels and good nutrition. I started seeing a local nutritionist who was just brilliant. She was very no nonsense and prescribed a hormonal balancing diet and a selection of supplements, which made an incredible difference to how I felt, I couldn’t believe it!

Until that point, I ate what I ate depending on what I felt it would do to my weight, opposed to what I felt it would do for my health. It was incredible really, to finally understand that much of my PMS symptoms were due to my diet, and I came to realise that we truly are what we eat, and with that there was a huge shift in my relationship with food and with myself, but sadly eating disorders do not disappear over-night and there are always trigger events.

A trigger event for me was immersing myself in the Byron Bay yoga scene, which was full of skinny yogis who ate very limited diets under the guise of being healthy.  I tried many of them, from a vegetarian diet to a raw food vegan diet from juicing to a fruit-only diet. After a stay of 5 months one time I returned home to Guernsey the skinniest I had ever been and with that my periods had stopped again and my mind was utterly consumed with my weight. 

I knew without doubt that something had to change.  My Reiki Master happens to be a professionally qualified hormone expert so I undertook some saliva testing, a service she offers, to investigate the lack of periods.  The results confirmed her suspicions - they indicated I had polycystic ovaries and with that I took myself off to the doctor.  However, the doctor took a good look at me and disagreed with the diagnosis as I wasn’t overweight (quite the opposite), I didn’t have spots, and there was no excess hair on my face. 

Still, she sent me for a scan and sure enough this showed that I had a whole heap of tiny cysts covering both my ovaries.  The doctor was surprised and I was slightly alarmed as I knew that on some level I was responsible for this. There was no allopathic treatment for the cysts as such, the doctor just mentioned that having cysts may make it trickier for me to conceive but we’d have to wait and see and address the issue then if necessary.

I decided I wasn’t going to wait until I wanted to conceive and with that decision I set out to heal myself naturally.  My Reiki Master, the hormone expert, prescribed a treatment plan, which involved taking a whole heap of supplements and using natural progesterone cream so I started with this.  However, I recognised that there was an emotional element to the cysts - and the underlying eating disorder which I didn’t mention to anyone and no one raised with me – and I knew I needed to address this too if I hoped to heal.

I had recently read a popular self-help book by Brandon Bays called “The Journey: A Practical Guide to Healing Your Life and Setting Yourself Free”, which I had found inspiring. Brandon was diagnosed with a basketball-sized tumour in her uterus and refused drugs and surgery. Instead she discovered what she described as “a powerful direct path to the potent healing power of the soul”. Six and a half weeks later, she was tumour free and this book shares her story and her pioneering vision of an entirely new paradigm of healing.

 “The Journey” has apparently been used by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide to awaken their own infinite potential and set themselves free. It sells itself as “a powerful, step-by-step means to find direct access to the soul, the infinite intelligence that is within us all”, and through that medium to heal. I liked what I read. A lot.  And now, for some reason, I just couldn’t get “The Journey” out of my head and when I investigated the location of practitioners, I was delighted to find that one lived on Jersey, a neighbouring Island.

So I took myself off to Jersey on the boat for a day-trip to see this lady.  It was funny really because I was living with my parents at the time and while I told them I was going to Jersey for the day to see a lady for a healing treatment, I asked them not to ask me anything about it, because I knew they wouldn’t understand and would think me crazy.  Not that that would have put me off, sometimes you just absolutely know that you have to do something and even though no one else may understand why you’re doing it, or they judge you for doing it, you know you have to do it anyway.

When you have a knowing like this, when you have absolutely no doubt about the decision you’ve made, it can feel like you are being guided by some higher power. When this happens, whatever it is you have to do tends to happens very easily and effortlessly - it’s like all the doors opening for you along a corridor or all the traffic lights being on green along a main road. I’d had that experience when I first went off on my yoga travels. To this day I don’t know what drew me to Byron Bay but something did and despite the fact I had to extricate myself from my life in Guernsey first, it happened very easily and I felt supported every step of the way – little did I realise it would be quite so life changing.

“The Journey” was life changing too. Sitting in a comfortable chair in her private treatment room, the friendly practitioner guided me into a meditative state and took me on a journey to my ovaries.  There, with her guidance, I was surprised to see that eating away at my ovaries - quite literally - was a resentment I had been holding on to for some time, since I was 17 actually, and an incident which I believe may have triggered my eating disorder in the first place.

Initially I was surprised that this particular episode of my life and my reaction to it had ruled my life for so many years. I mean it kind of made sense to me, but nonetheless I was alarmed at the impact it had been having on my health and wellbeing. I was only relived that I now had the opportunity to recognise this so that I could get to work forgiving, making peace and setting myself free from it, before it impacted any further on my life.

In many respects it was a blessing as it taught me a huge lesson about how our thoughts and unexpressed emotions can be literally held within the tissue of the body, negatively impacting on our health and wellbeing, and potentially leading to - and indeed creating - dis-ease. It was also a huge lesson in how we can heal ourselves if we are ready to do the work, to face our demons, to dig deep and get down to the nitty gritty of it, finally addressing whatever it is we were unable to address and process at the time the experience/incident took place.

I complemented “The Journey” with Ayurveda. Meaning “the science of life” Ayurveda is exactly that, viewing health in four dimensions including the physical, sensory, mental and spiritual. It is centred on preventative medicine and bringing a person back to balance.  It shows how an imbalance in one part of a person’s being will affect them in another, i.e. if a person isn’t being true to their life path (dharma) then physical and mental illnesses can arise which cannot be effectively treated with modern medicines but can be helped by Ayurveda.

Ayurveda uses elemental medicine which means that they balance out earth, fire, water, air and ether in the body.  These are divided into three doshas or types - Vata, Pitta and Kapha - which are the basis of a person’s constitution and also the factors that can create imbalances.  Ayurveda places great emphasis on diet, lifestyle, yoga, meditation, massage and herbal medicines to bring a person back to health and keep them there.

The Ayurvedic doctor, a truly lovely Sri Lankan lady based near Gatwick, prescribed a nourishing diet that would suit my natural constitution. This alone was very healing as it meant I started to view food differently, not on a calorific/weight basis but on an energetic and balancing basis. She also prescribed me a selection of ground herbs that I had to mix with warm water and drink first thing in the morning, before and after meal times and before bed. I also attended the clinic for a half day nourishing and healing Ayurvedic massage.

The Ayurvedic approach is very much aimed at healing the root cause of any imbalance, which for me – the imbalance that is - was presenting itself as the cysts and PMS.  While the herbs were smelly and tasted disgusting, they encouraged me to eat regularly, which was not something I did ordinarily and was healing by its very nature. All together, the diet, herbs and massage certainly shifted how I felt and amazingly my periods soon started again and eventually synched with the moon. I was also aware that I was ovulating once more too, or at least producing the secretions which indicated this!

I have fairly much followed the Ayurvedic diet for my constitution ever since then.  It fascinates me because whenever I move away from this, I notice that my fire element gets out of balance and with that all sorts of changes occur. My mind gets very busy, nothing is ever right, I anger easily and I get very blinkered in my way of thinking. When this happens I know its time to get back on track again.

There is no doubt that Ayurveda has been as life changing for me as yoga and Reiki. As a yoga practitioner and someone fascinated by energy and healing, it resonates on every level. I really like the Ayurvedic doctor I see, she has counselled me spiritually and has certainly towed me into line when it has been necessary over the years. She is also a fertility expert and I would certainly encourage any lady experiencing fertility issues to speak to her.

The combination of all this healing work helped me to heal my ovaries from the cysts naturally and this was one of the reasons I was surprised we were not able to conceive initially. Still, we were where we were and it was with some relief that the specialist confirmed that as far as he was concerned we were all good to begin the IVF treatment the next day. Wow! I was excited, it was really happening, we were about to embark on IVF with the intention of conceiving new life. We were one step closer to realising our dream!

The next morning marked the beginning of my first IVF cycle and I began injecting. Only that I didn’t actually do the injecting myself, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, it didn’t really feel right somehow, so E kindly did it for me.  He was happy to do it too, not to cause me pain (obviously) but to be involved in the process and I found it easier leaving him to sort out this side of the treatment. This meant that each morning he would measure out the quantity of daily drugs that needed to be injected. He would then inject these into my tummy, trying his best to ensure minimal pain and bruising – it became like an art and there were good days and bad days!

The first medication was called Gonadotrophin, which is a stimulation medication containing two hormones, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which are normally produced by the pituitary gland. These hormones stimulate the ovaries to produce a follicle, which contain an egg. It’s rare to experience side effects from this ovarian stimulation medication but occasionally a mild skin reaction can occur around the injection site, and more commonly abdominal discomfort will be felt as the ovaries are stretched by the developing follicles (bearing in mind that you usually only produce one in a cycle, not multiple).

At the same time, I started taking a high dosage of arnica prescribed to me by a homeopath. I am sure this remedy helped to ease the bruising from the injections. Mentally, I was very much working on the basis that there was no real reason that I should experience any untoward side effects from the medication. I deemed myself healthy and believed that the drugs would do what needed to be done – I was keen to flow with the process to achieve the intended outcome and let go of any resistance to this.

I continued working in the office as usual during this time, although I was fortunate to be working on a part-time and flexible basis where I could come and go as I pleased depending on my workload.  I also continued with my usual yoga teaching schedule, which helped to distract me from the IVF – not only have I always found teaching yoga energising for me but it brings me completely into the present and I think of nothing else but what is happening in the class in that moment.

I continued to provide Reiki treatments for this reason too. As a channel for the Reiki energy, not only do you receive it while giving it, but being in a quiet and peaceful environment for an hour or so can be restful and rejuvenating. I did however make every effort to protect myself from negative energies and to ground and cleanse myself after each session. Generally, though, I was keen to protect myself in life generally and I tried to avoid situations and people with negative and draining energy. I felt that this helped me to keep my own energy levels and vibration as light and stable as possible.

To enhance this, I took to my mat daily, not only to practice asana (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises) but to do a Yoga Nidra using the Sankalpa, “my eggs are growing and ripening”, “I am pregnant with a healthy baby” before sitting and meditating for 20 minutes. I tried to take lots of walks and spend time in nature too. I continued swimming in the sea too – I find this so cleansing and grounding, and believe it enhances one’s sense of wellbeing.

I already drank lots of water and ate a healthy diet but I increased my protein intake. I was also already supplementing with oil of evening primrose, which is known to encourage the development of cell membranes. I still drank the occasional glass of sparkling wine, but was aware that the medication was already taxing my liver so I supplemented with milk thistle tincture to support this.  

I made an effort to rest as much as I could. I was growing eggs after all and I needed to do all I could to enhance this process. So I invested in the Downton Abbey box set and watched a couple of episodes every evening with a hot water bottle on my tummy (in Chinese medicine, warmth is considered necessary for the development of a baby). I took relaxing baths with aromatherapy oils and tried to take early nights, a novelty for me as I had a tendency back then to stay up very late working on my laptop!

I also received regular Acupuncture, reflexology, holistic massage and Reiki, most of which I was able to barter for yoga – the joy of having friends who are holistic practitioners!  All of the energy work helped to further relax me, keep my energy as light and clear as possible and help me – I hoped - to grow healthy eggs. In short, I was visualising healthy eggs, dreaming about healthy eggs, and living and breathing healthy eggs.  It was absolutely all about the eggs!!

On day seven I had to start taking Cetrotide, which is an antagonist injection. This is used to prevent premature ovulation (early release of eggs from the ovary). This drug rarely causes side effects other than a potential skin irritation around the injection site. Fortunately, I didn’t experience this although I suspect the arnica helped to reduce my susceptibility to any irritation. It was around this time however, that I started to feel a little irritated with all the injecting.

I’d been trying to stay positive but self-pity was creeping in and with that the “why me?” mentality and the “I don’t want to be putting these drugs into my body” way of thinking. There was fear there too, and I caught myself buying into it a little as I questioned whether the drugs were working and caught myself analysing the subtle changes I was feeling such as increased tiredness. I also started fretting a little about the fact I didn’t feel quite myself, which felt a bit strange having spent so many years of my life trying to feel normal and hormonally balanced.

Fortunately, I had the motto “do not give in to self-pity” clearly ingrained in my mind. This was soon joined by another one, “suck it up”, which my IVF friend had said me when I started to complain a little to her.  Both these mottos worked a treat, especially the “suck it up” one, because it’s true, if you’ve made the decision to do IVF then you need to suck it up and get on with it. It’s never going to be easy or plain sailing, but its all about the outcome and my friend was right, self pity and feeling sorry for myself was not going to help, I literally had to suck it up and get on with it. 

On day ten I attended the Medical Specialist Group for blood tests and yet another transvaginal ultrasound scan to see how I had responded to the stimulatory injections.  The specialist measured the number and size of the follicles, which he recorded and faxed immediately to Wessex. This scan essentially provided an indication of the number of eggs being produced and gave an idea as to the potential timing of the trigger injection and egg recovery. I also had to have blood test to check the levels of oestrogen in my blood.

At this stage of the treatment there is a risk that you produce very few or no follicles, so that the cycle has to be abandoned.  There is also the risk that you produce over 20 follicles (over stimulation), and again the cycle may have to be abandoned because to continue could prove a risk to health. This is one of the many reasons that IVF can be stressful because at every stage of the process there is the risk that it’s not going to plan and that you may not achieve the outcome through no fault of your own – its not an exact science after all - and the build up to an appointment can make you feel anxious.

Still we were lucky in that everything appeared to be going to plan and Wessex told us that I would now need to attend a scan with them at the clinic in Southampton on day 12, two days away.  We had hoped that this would be the case, so we were prepared to a point - I had already booked the time off from work and now we could book the ferry. We decided we would take the car with us this time as we knew we would need to be in the UK for a few days awaiting egg retrieval and then a further few days until embryo transfer (on the basis the sperm fertilised the eggs).

We had arranged to stay with one of E’s best friends who was living on his own in a lovely house in Surbiton, Surrey at that time.  It was only an hour and half drive away from the clinic, which was fine, and meant that we could experience a home-away-from-home environment and keep our costs down, because ICSI is certainly not cheap.  At that point, February 2013, the treatment, including the initial consultations, screening, testing and now ICSI had cost us £5,885, excluding any travel costs and expenses.  Of course the expense merely adds to the stress of it all!  So we were very indebted and grateful to our friend for putting us up free of charge for the remainder of this treatment cycle.

We left Guernsey on the Thursday teatime and took the overnight boat to Portsmouth. I remember feeling rather excited that it was well and truly happening and that I should be having my final injections the next morning. The injections do begin to get a bit waring to be honest and that’s after only a short time - some IVF treatment plans can be rather lengthy in comparison. Still, I was just hoping that the scan at the clinic would confirm the end of the injecting and we could now get on with the whole egg retrieval process.

Injections aside, we had a whole other focus going on in our lives that evening. E had put his back out. Talk about timing!  Mind you perhaps it’s no surprise really.  IVF is stressful for everyone involved, including partners. Admittedly E does have a weakness in his back having broken it twice, but that aside, I am fairly convinced that it was emotional – the lower back has some connection to us feeling supported and stable, grounded then.  I’m not sure that IVF lends itself to a supported, stable or grounded state of being! Emotional or not, the pain was manifesting physically and E was in quite some pain, not ideal on a 12-hour boat crossing!

We arrived into Portsmouth at 6am the following morning, which was some relief for E – it had been a long night trying to sleep comfortably.  We drove around for a bit before parking in a relatively empty underground carpark, which is where E administered what I hoped would be the final morning injection. It all felt a bit suspicious and seedy being injected in such an environment but needs must. We then had a few hours of waiting ahead of us until my appointment at Wessex where I was due yet another transvaginal ultrasound scan so the consultant could determine if my eggs were ready for retrieval.

E was now experiencing acute pain and getting himself a little anxious about it.  I was sympathetic but also found it rather fascinating that the closer we got to potential completion of the IVF process, the worse his back was getting! There was inevitably some fear there about the life changing nature of this whole procedure and I began to question whether on some level this is the reason that some women have unsuccessful cycles – the fear of the life changing nature of becoming pregnant and the inner resistance this creates. It’s a complicated one.

E was of course adamant that his back pain was merely physical and with that he was concerned that movement was making it worse.  He was getting shooting pain down his left leg and was worried about potential nerve damage.  We discussed our options and E decided that he wanted to go to Southampton General A&E to see a doctor and get peace of mind – and some painkillers – if nothing else.

I can’t say this was an ideal way to spend the time we had before the Wessex appointment but I guess it saved us driving around aimlessly killing time.  Instead we sat around aimlessly killing time!  It may have been early in the morning but the A&E department was already busy and triage certainly didn’t consider E a high priority.  On the one hand this was good as it merely served to confirm my belief that much of the pain was emotional, but it also meant that I had to go to Wessex on my own, and have my first scan without E being there with me.

It was clearly the day for challenges.  The female consultant who undertook the scan decided that my eggs were not quite ready for collection, they needed a few more days to mature further.  My heart sank and I had to really hold back the tears. I didn’t want to think that the eggs weren’t developing properly. I also really didn’t want any more drugs injected into my body. I was done with them. Still, I had little control over this and the consultant prescribed another dose of the medication costing me £84. One starts to get a little flippant about the cost, merely handing over one’s debit card and hoping for the best!

E was waiting for me by the time I made it back to the hospital. The doctor had undertaken some tests and concluded that his back wasn’t bad enough to warrant any additional treatment. He was sent on his way with a prescription for some strong painkillers instead. E seemed calmer now he’d seen a doctor and I guess I was also calmer now I’d seen the consultant. While taking additional drugs was not ideal, it was just one of those things and a reminder that IVF is not an exact science and everyone responds to the drugs differently. Funny that we should both now be on drugs!

From Southampton we drove straight up to Surbiton, an hour and a half away, and settled ourselves into our friend’s welcoming home. Aside from the familiarity, I also enjoyed the fact there was no Wi-Fi in the house at that time.  While this does take some getting used to if you are used to frequently going online, it is actually incredibly refreshing. I felt like I could properly retreat from the world and focus on me! This may sound self-indulgent, but I believe there is necessity to this when undertaking IVF. I joked, however, that E was determined it wasn’t all about me, because his back was making it a little all about him too!

All this self-indulgence meant I spent my evenings enjoying a relaxing bath and watching Downton Abbey in bed on my laptop while channelling Reiki onto my tummy.  I practiced a lot of Reiki on myself during this period, I was keen to energise the growing eggs with as much energy as possible to ensure that they were as healthy as possible.  Not only that but Reiki is healing and relaxing by its very nature so I was able to use it to help to heal the bruising from the injections and ease myself to sleep.

The next morning, Saturday, E administered the last Cetrotide antagonist injection, hoorah! I celebrated that afternoon with a yoga class with Aram Raffy at TriYoga in Chelsea.  I had discovered Aram a few months previously and loved his active vinyasa style of teaching. I find this style really helps me to get out of my head and into my body. Aram is a popular teacher and I enjoyed being in a busy class with all that group energy. It was just what I needed at the time and I was buzzing for a good while afterwards – the joy of yoga!

Back at the house in Surbiton and later that evening, 10.30pm to be exact, E injected me with the final injection of this IVF cycle, called Ovitrelle. This synthetic hormone helps to trigger the release of the eggs by the ovaries (ovulation) and stimulates the final maturation of eggs during the IVF cycle.  Hoorah! This meant I was done with the injections and that much closer to the outcome.  I cannot tell you the sense of relief I felt and the joy that followed. No more injections!

I was fortunate though in that I didn’t experience too many side effects, or at least, I didn’t allow myself to succumb to them. As I’ve previously mentioned fertility drugs stimulate the production of follicles in the ovaries and the production of the hormone oestrogen. High levels of oestrogen can cause side effects including breast tenderness, headaches, tiredness and vaginal discharge.

Also, when the ovaries are distended with follicles, abdominal discomfort may result from the stretching of the wall of the ovary. I don’t know whether it was the acupuncture, or the Reiki, or the yoga, or the Arnica, but I didn’t feel any pain. Yes, I knew something was going on, but I didn’t experience any discomfort as such, just irritation at having to have injections each day! But here I was now, injections over and almost there, only another day to go, without any medication (hoorah!) and then we were due at Wessex for egg retrieval.

On the day off from medication – the Sunday – I chanced upon a workshop at TriYoga in Chelsea with Steward Gilchrist.  I knew nothing about Stewart when I booked the session, but I quickly discovered that he is indeed a rare gem and is a Scottish version of my initial yoga teacher, Lance, an inspiring Australian. The session was all on balance, which was definitely a happy coincidence as I needed all the balancing I could get ahead of egg retrieval the next day.

The class was super busy and super active and absolutely perfect for my needs in that moment. I thought of nothing else but how I was placing my body on the mat and how I was breathing. I would highly recommend this approach to preparing for egg retrieval. I felt cleansed of the residue from the drugs.   I also felt that I had done what I could to energise my eggs with as much prana and light vibrational energy as possible.  I was hoping that now those eggs would be shining brightly and would go on to form beautiful embryos full of life. I certainly felt like I’d given it my best shot, and now it was just a matter of getting on with the next stage of the IVF cycle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The IVF Journey Part 2 - The Clinic and Testing

Our appointment to attend Wessex clinic in Southampton for the procedure that would, one way or another, determine our future, was booked for mid-January. It was exciting and I couldn’t wait to just get on with it now.  I was still feeling positive and had begun the New Year completely focused and intent on a successful process so 2013 was – as far as I was concerned – all about faith, trust, fertility and getting pregnant.

Living on Guernsey, where fog is always an issue, we flew out to Southampton the evening before the appointment to ensure that we wouldn’t miss our booking. At the time E was a member of the Best Western, so we booked ourselves into the Chilworth Manor House in Southampton, which turned out to be a bit of a gem and I would highly recommend to others who have to go to Wessex. 

We didn’t get there until late in the evening, and while the hotel itself is a little quirky in lay-out, it wasn’t until the morning that we got to see that the gardens are something else. It may sound silly but the opportunity to calm ourselves in nature was well received, because despite our best efforts, we were both feeling a little anxious.  So after E had eaten breakfast and I’d taken that time to practice yoga on my mat instead, we ventured out into the grounds of the hotel and did exactly what we needed, grounded ourselves a little.

The hotel is located within 12 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds and right next door to a conservation area. It’s truly stunning. I will always remember our wanderings that morning. It was one of those bright, crisp and very cold winter days.  The ground was frozen hard, there was a layer of thin ice on the pond and our breath smoked in the air. It was ever so quiet and peaceful, just us and the odd dog walker, and the sound of our feet crunching across the hard and icy earth.

We came upon a collection of tall Cypresses trees, which had been planted in a circle and created what looked like a sacred site within.  We later discovered that this was a deer circle used to herd the deer, but to me it seemed more appropriate as a ceremonial area and clearly others felt the same as there was evidence of a fire in the middle.  I was rather uplifted by our find and took myself right to the centre to feel its beautiful central energy for some ritual yoga and prayer; I could almost feel the eyes of the wood sprites upon us as we walked away!

Back towards the Manor House itself we came across a very old Cedar tree with an absolutely enormous trunk.  It’s understood that the tree is approximately 420 years old, which is some age, apparently the oldest tree in the UK.  Well this was a bonus for us, there’s nothing quite as grounding as hugging a tree and especially not one that is that many years old – wow.  Can you imagine the changes that tree has seen, and all the time its just stood there doing its thing – incredible!  You can learn a lot by spending time with the trees and it made me consider that we too just have to do our thing wherever it leads.

We took a taxi to the clinic and were surprised to find it a little incongruous, set in a residential area and back from the road a little, with no evidence from the outside that it is a fertility clinic as such.  It made me realise that there still is – or was at that point in time – such stigma about fertility and fertility clinics and yet to me, it just seemed to be something you did if you couldn’t conceive naturally, no big deal.

Still, I have a dear friend who had gone through IVF to conceive her first born and was very keen that no one knew that she and her partner had had to have IVF and so they tried to keep it a secret for fear of what others may think. I’d never really understood this myself, because I’d never really seen it as an issue. However, seeing the clinic building made me consider that maybe I was the one who had got it wrong, perhaps there was a need to be secretive about this way of bringing new life into the world and perhaps I would encounter negativity if I mentioned it to others. 

There again, it crossed my mind that maybe I needed to be the one who didn’t worry about what other people would think, and could help others going through a similar thing and also assist a little in removing some of the stigma that still exists. I don’t feel that it needs to be secretive, there is certainly nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about, the outcome is the same regardless of the process so what does it matter? It was certainly too late for us anyhow, we’d told most of our close friends that we were having trouble conceiving naturally and they knew we were meeting with the clinic for further investigations.

Entering the clinic, I noticed that the walls of the entrance hall and either side of the stairs leading up to the reception area are covered in photos of babies who have presumably been conceived through IVF at the clinic. I guess it helps to reinforce the reason we were there and I hoped that one day a picture of our own biological baby may also make it on to the walls, as proof that it really does work, IVF that is, and that it is possible for dreams to come true!

The staff at the clinic were very friendly and welcoming and we took our seats to wait for the appointment. It is only a small clinic, or at least it was back then (not that I have a comparison) and the small waiting area was filled with a few other anxious looking faces. It was strange to think that we were all there for one common goal, to conceive, and yet presumably all of us having some different complication that was preventing this from happening naturally. It gave me a sense that fertility issues are more common than I may have previously realised, and that we were certainly not alone in our quest for conception.

There was a part of me that couldn’t believe that we were here.  It was all so new to us at that point, a whole other world that we needed to learn about. I’ll never forget working with a Reiki client a few years earlier who was having trouble conceiving and was undertaking IVF.  That was my first real exposure to anyone having IVF and I remember it as if it was yesterday as something about it made me take note, not least because it was even more secretive back in the day, but because I really felt that the Reiki would help her conceive, but also because it seemed so stressful for her and now here I was going through the same process myself – its funny how the Universe leaves signs along the way.

IVF itself stands for in vitro fertilisation: in vitro means “in glass”. Essentially it involves an egg being fertilised in a Petri dish in a laboratory under very carefully controlled conditions. It’s quite amazing that science allows scientists to do this - and that’s said by someone who has never really been interested in science per se. I know not everyone agrees with this process, and perhaps that’s the reason some people are secretive about going through IVF, but it’s a miracle of science really.

I remember reading a book about gentle mothering, in fact it could very well have been entitled that, and in it the ‘spiritual’ author suggested that if you found out that you could not conceive naturally, then perhaps that was the Universe’s way of saying that you are not meant to conceive in the first place and instead you should try and reach some level of acceptance and either look at adopting or finding a child-free path instead.  She was very anti-IVF and made it sound like it was the work of the Devil, simply because it wasn’t a natural approach to conception and thus had no spiritual element to it.

The author’s comments touched a nerve because I suspect in the earlier stages of my spiritual journey, I too had probably felt that science lacked the spirit.  However, my perspective has shifted enormously since those earlier days – the Universe has continuously provided me with situations that have encouraged me to become a little more open minded to science and the value it brings to life, and indeed the fact that the spirit resides in all life, in scientists and in non-scientists too! Now here I was being given the opportunity to learn that IVF can be a spiritual journey – it is all about perspective!

In a woman’s normal and natural cycle, usually only one egg ripens within a growing follicle - an ovarian follicle is a fluid-filled sac that contains an immature egg, during ovulation a mature egg is released from a follicle. The egg is released and, if fertilised in one of the fallopian tubes (penetrated by sperm therefore), it travels to the uterus (womb) where – in theory - it implants and grows into an embryo, which eventually becomes a foetus at week 11 of gestation (9 weeks after fertilisation).

With IVF the aim is to cultivate multiple follicles to harvest many eggs, which are surgically extracted and fertilised with the sperm outside the body. If all goes well, the embryos are transferred into the uterus three days later. Depending on the age of the women, and because it is difficult to predict on day three which embryo is more likely to produce a pregnancy, it is not uncommon to have two embryos transferred in the hope that at least one will result in a live birth.  The downside (depending on your perspective) is the risk of multiple birth, which brings with it its own risks in terms of complications during pregnancy and the emotional and financial demands this can place on couples.

For some couples there is also the option of blastocyst transfer. A blastocyst is a highly developed embryo that has divided many times to a point where it is nearly ready to implant on the walls of the uterus. A blastocyst has come a long way from its beginning as a single cell. During maturation, an embryo rests inside a protective shell called a zona pellucid. You can think of this protective shell as being like a chicken egg, only that, unlike chicken eggs, the human embryo does not remain within a shell.  Instead, the embryo hatches (breaks out of the shell) on the fifth or sixth day so that it can attach to the uterine wall (implantation). Just prior to hatching, an embryo becomes a blastocyst.

It is known that embryos developing to the critical blastocyst stage have a much greater chance of implanting successfully and resulting in an ongoing pregnancy. This is because these embryos have passed an important test.  During the first few days, the embryo relies on the mother’s egg for all its nutrients. However, in order to survive beyond day three or four, the embryo must activate its own genes.  Not all embryos are successful. Those that are successful are understood to be more highly-developed, healthier and stronger and have a higher implantation rate when compared to day three embryos.

It perhaps goes without saying that the ability to develop embryos to blastocyst stage allows clinicians to have greater certainty about which embryos are more likely to implant. Still, blastocyst grading standards are still under development and it is difficult to accurately predict which blastocysts are destined for success. That said, if clinicians have the opportunity to allow embryos to develop into blastocysts before being transferred back into the uterus, then this is the preferred option.

Regardless of the science to it all, I was also well aware from my holistic research that you can have perfectly healthy blastocysts, but your uterus may not provide the ideal environment for them to grow - it could be too acidic for example, or the uterine lining not as thick as it is meant to be thus preventing implantation.  In short there is absolutely no guarantee with IVF that the process will result in an ongoing pregnancy – it is absolutely not an exact science!

Furthermore, IVF is a highly technical procedure and I was only too well aware of the huge demands that the IVF drugs places on the body. I don’t like to take pharmaceutical drugs at the best of times, and now here I was hoping to be given the go ahead to start IVF and be prescribed huge dosages of them to supress my natural cycle, so that my body could be manipulated to stimulate ovulation and grow as many follicles as possible. A delicate hormonal balance would then be maintained artificially to allow the eggs to ripen but prevent ovulation from occurring before the clinic has a chance to retrieve the eggs. All of this controlled by high-dosage pharmaceutical drugs with serious side-effects.

The thing is, side-effects or not, when that is your only option to conceive, well you overlook all the stuff that would ordinarily have you saying, “no, no, no”.  It’s not ideal but I was very aware that there wasn’t a holistic path available to us, no amount of Ayurvedic herbs or Chinese medicine, let alone Bach Floral or Homeopathic remedies were going to help us to conceive. That’s not to say that they wouldn’t compliment the IVF process, but they alone were not going to create a baby. If they could however, well I would have chosen that option first, I don’t feel that anyone should put their body, mind and soul through IVF until they have exhausted all other more natural options!

Still at that point we weren’t entirely sure that we could conceive through IVF either and this was the reason we were here at Wessex in the first place. Our earlier test results in Guernsey had implied that we didn’t have between us what was needed to conceive our own biological baby. However, our consultant was fairly confident that with some further testing – invasive testing at that - they could find what was needed, so here we were for that invasive testing.

The testing was focused on E at this particular appointment, and I shall never forget the moment that our friendly consultant joined me later on that morning in the then-empty waiting room.  She excitedly told me that the good news, that the results of the testing were positive and that while a medical condition would prevent us from conceiving naturally, there was every chance that we could conceive a biological child through IVF. I could have jumped with joy, what a relief; instead I went outside and telephoned my parents and duly burst into tears conveying the good news!

I think often people forget that there are two people involved in conception, at least in terms of requiring both healthy sperm and healthy eggs and when IVF is mentioned, people tend to presume it’s because the woman has fertility issues.  Studies indicate that in the UK, infertility affects at least 20-25% of couples who are of reproductive age. This means that 1 in 5 couples you know will be affected by some degree of infertility. Of the couples having IVF treatment, 50% will be due to male infertility and 50% due to female infertility.

These are interesting statistics and I have become aware that male infertility is often another reason that couples keep their IVF journey a secret. I guess its more of an issue to men from an ego perspective than it is to women to have to admit that they are unable to impregnate their partner naturally. Furthermore, the infertile man may often feels a lot of guilt that their healthy partner has to pump herself full of strong pharmaceutical drugs and go through the stress of IVF to fulfil her dream of becoming a mother when there is actually nothing wrong with her fertility wise.

E and I have certainly gone through our own angst with this and while from an IVF perspective we present as an infertile couple, we are fortunate that the sperm provided by E were good quality. From my side while tests suggested that I was ovulating, we wouldn’t know until we began the IVF treatment whether my eggs would be of a sufficient quality to create a baby. Only time would tell.

Sitting in the waiting room awaiting E, I reflected on the irony of our plight.  I had spent years and an awful lot of time and indeed money trying to balance my hormones naturally.  At the age of 17 I had developed an eating disorder which had caused my periods to stop for a few months and ever since then I had struggled a little with PMS, which became much more intense during my twenties and led to bouts of all consuming depression.  It was PMS and the depression (and running the London marathon and the detrimental effect this had on my body) that led me to yoga and Reiki in the first place back in 2003.

I have worked with both yoga, Reiki intensely and extensively over the years, so too Ayurveda, homeopathy and other complimentary therapies, to help to heal the root cause of the hormonal imbalance naturally. I haven’t suffered with PMS or the bouts of all consuming depression for a good few years as a result of this healing work.  And now here I was about to pump my body full of very strong and very high dosages of pharmaceutical drugs, to control and manipulate my hormonal balance so that I could conceive new life in a test tube in a very clinical environment.  It certainly wasn’t the stuff of dreams.

However, despite the nature of IVF, I was still feeling very positive and extremely excited about the fact we now had the opportunity to try it.  I believe when you’ve had to consider that this may not happen, it’s just a relief to know that there is a way, a possibility, some solidity or grounding then, to the hope that you’ve been feeling.  I recognise that I am lucky and I need to make that point, because I know other couples, friends, family and students who have not been so lucky, who cannot, even with the help of IVF, conceive naturally (at least not their own biological child) and I appreciate that that can be a heart-breaking reality.

While I am a believer that everything happens for a reason, I do struggle a bit with understanding why some people are able to procreate and others do not have that opportunity physiologically.  Accepting that you cannot have your own biological children must be tough. I don’t know what we would have done if we had found ourselves faced with that reality – just it even being a possibility was enough to challenge me. I have seen those who cannot conceive go on to adopt or take donor eggs/sperm, and others decide to take a different path in life and immerse themselves in their pets or nieces/nephews instead.  

I have seen others become angry and bitter so that they cannot bring themselves to communicate with those who have children or who have managed successful IVF cycles. I guess we each have our own way of dealing with what life throws at us; some manage to find some peace and others struggle to find the level of acceptance required to experience this. I have a huge amount of respect for people who have to go through this and cannot imagine the strain it places on relationships, let alone on one’s faith.

For me, my faith was strengthened as the consultant told me that we were good to start the treatment when we were ready and that this would involve using ICSI (Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection). In conventional IVF at least 100,000 sperm must be placed with each egg to have a realistic chance of achieving fertilisation. ICSI treatment involves the injection of a single sperm directly into each egg, which is really rather incredible when you think about it.  The treatment leading up to and after ICSI is identical to the conventional IVF cycle.

I was keen to get going with the treatment as soon as possible and the clinic were happy for me to start on my next cycle in February.  This felt right somehow, not least because it was the earliest we could begin and I am impatient, but more so because it was the beginning of Spring and from my perspective this was important energetically. Spring is all about new beginnings as nature begins to awaken again from her winter sleep and new life arrives daily so that you can feel the lighter vibrancy of this ‘new life’ energy in the air.

Even Zita West in her fabulous book, “Fertility & Conception” writes, “In my experience, IVF seems to work better in spring and summer, the time for growth and renewal within the natural cycle. In autumn and winter nature is dormant and the body needs rest and sleep rather than action. If time is on your side and you have the choice, opt to begin treatment in spring rather than winter”. So I guess there must be something in it; intuitively it just felt right for us regardless.

I knew it was essential to prepare for IVF to give the process the best possible chance of success and I had been doing this already but now it was time to up the stakes so to speak. I was also aware that it was vitally important to maintain the positivity and to believe in the IVF process. It may not be ideal, it was certainly not the way I had imagined or indeed dreamt of conceiving but it was a way and I was very aware that I needed to seek out any resistance I had to this and let it go if I was going to stand a chance of getting pregnant. 

Sadly, I have witnessed this resistance resulting in repeated failed IVF cycles for some couples.  It comes back to one of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given in terms of IVF and it was given to me by a good friend who has successfully conceived through IVF.  She told me that under no circumstances was I to ever give into self-pity during the IVF process. I have found this to be incredibly true, because the moment the self-pity sneaks in, the more you give your power away and lose your focus on the outcome.

This is not to say that self-pity did not sneak in, or at least the opportunity to recognise it appeared. Despite all my positivity and excitement, a week after returning to Guernsey from our Wessex appointment, I had a bit of a down moment. I had to go to MSG here in Guernsey to meet with a local nurse to pick up my prescription for the drugs, run through the treatment schedule and be shown how to inject myself.  It was while she was demonstrating the two different ways in which you inject yourself with the medication that I had been prescribed that I burst into tears. 

I had done so well up until then and had managed to remain fairly level headed, but all of a sudden the reality dawned on me that I was really going to do this, I was going to consciously inject myself with incredibly strong pharmaceutical drugs. I know it sounds silly, because I knew this was the only way I would achieve the outcome I desired, and I thought I was ok with it, but all of a sudden I wasn’t ok with it after all. I was only too well aware that some of the prescribed medication has side effects as serious as recognised links to uterine, breast and ovarian cancer – not ideal that you are consciously injecting that risk into your own body!

As a result, I found myself questioning what I was doing. However, I knew that I had little choice if I wanted to conceive and with that, I was a little saddened at the seeming injustice of it all and the self-pity crept in.  How come it was so easy for so many of my friends and family members to conceive naturally, and why was it so difficult for E and I?  What was the Universe playing at?  It all just seemed so unfair.  I was going to have to do the very thing I had spent years standing against (here was the lesson, right?!), not least the pumping of my body with drugs but also accepting allopathic care and allowing my body to be viewed as just that, without much of a heart or soul, just another statistic, another woman who needs intervention to conceive.  I was heart broken really.

The nurse was very kind and softened the blow as best she could.  The trouble is there is a degree of pity involved in this whole sorry process because IVF is absolutely not an exact science and as a nurse said to me years later, it’s a little bit like taking a roll of the dice. You can do all you are told to do by the clinic but this still may not result in a successful pregnancy and as such you are often pitied. However, I suppose it was this bit, this little flaw in the science of it all (in that it wasn’t an exact science) that gave me a reason to bring my heart and soul into the process, and helped to strengthen my faith.

Here was my chance to truly tap into my spiritual approach to life, and also to the complimentary world, which is called that for good reason as it compliments allopathic care and healing. So in many respects I began to see IVF as another mission, a little like healing from depression, or the eating disorder, and all the other physical, mental and emotional challenges life has presented to me. And believe you me, IVF demands of you not just physically but most definitely emotionally and mentally. And for many, whether they realise it or not, it has a potentially huge spiritual element to it too.

I guess it was in that moment, in tears with the nurse at MSG, that I came to recognise what my friend meant when she had told me not to buy into self-pity.  And it was in that moment that I resolved to let go of any resistance I had to the IVF process, to the drugs and the allopathic care and all the stuff I don’t usually invite into my life, and just surrender to it.  While IVF was not on my list of ways one connects more deeply to spirit, I was coming to recognise that in doing IVF, one has the opportunity to connect more deeply to spirit in the lessons it provides – and the ability to surrender (and therefore let go of the way you believe things should be) is a huge lesson in this.

I decided that while I would read about the drugs on the patient information sheets provided by the clinic on the risks associated with the drug treatment, I would not research them in depth on the internet.  Nor would I be consumed by the side effects, other than just recognising what I needed to look out for in case I had an adverse reaction to them.  I would simply trust that the Universe had my back so to speak and do what needed to be done from a place of love rather than fear. This in itself, I was realising, is a huge lesson too.

I also felt it important to have some understanding of what they were meant to be doing to me, in terms of being able to feel and recognise this in my body - for example were they shutting my system down or stimulating it.  I am well aware that the mind plays a pivotal roll in the workings of our body so the more I could do mentally to support the process the better.  I felt that if I was resistant to the drugs mentally, then there was a chance that the drugs would not work as effectively as if I just embraced them and allowed them to do what they needed to do to achieve the intended outcome.

After seeing the nurse, I only had a week or so to wait until I was due to begin the treatment in earnest so I tried to settle into my zone. I was already practicing yoga and meditating daily, and doing Yoga Nidra where I could, just that now I tried to incorporate an 18-minute version of this healing and relaxation technique into my daily schedule and I started working with a new Sankalpa (resolution).

For me now, it wasn’t so much about getting pregnant (although of course this was still my intended outcome) but more so about producing quality healthy eggs. I was determined to live, breathe and visualise healthy eggs! Without healthy eggs then there was little chance of me getting pregnant, so this seemed an important stage in the process and to me it was all about stages and dealing with each in turn. Thus my Sankalpa now was, “I produce good quality and healthy eggs”.

A woman is born with all of the eggs she will ever possess and egg health is understood to be the corner stone to fertility and thus they need to be nourished to be able to mature, ovulate, fertilise, implant and result in a baby. Evidently the amount and quality of the eggs are genetically determined and reduce over the years, although the environment that the eggs are growing in can be affected by lifestyle factors just like any other cell in the body.

The egg cell is the largest significant human cell in the body and is just visible to the naked eye. It is also the roundest cell, and therefore has the largest volume in relation to its surface. Sperm cells are the smallest of significant human cells and are the straightest cells. Egg cell and sperm are each other’s opposite, large versus small, round versus straight, cytoplasm versus nucleus.

The differences between sperm cells and egg cells are great, yet at the same time opposites attract and they belong together if we perceive the ovum as a sphere and the straight sperm as the corresponding radius.  It’s the coming together of the universal male, positive, yang energy and the universal female, yin energy. The male energy from the heavens and the female energy from the earth, or at least symbolically!

An egg lives for up to 24 hours, which is a short time frame, and it needs to be as healthy as it can be during this time. Furthermore, the right hormones are required in the right amount at the right time during the menstrual cycle to grow, mature and ovulate an egg. During IVF the hormonal levels are manipulated with synthetic drugs to increase the chances of a woman growing, maturing and ovulating at least one good quality egg. There is much we can do to assist this process and increase the chances of good egg health including:

·      Reducing sugar consumption;

·      Eating a diet rich in antioxidants to neutralise free radicals (which damage cells);

·      Ensuring adequate levels of B vitamins, zinc, Omega 3 and Essential Fatty Acids;

·      Eating a healthy diet and avoiding foods contained within cans or packaged in plastic (which contain toxins and affect egg health);

·      Maintaining a healthy weight;

·      Drinking plenty of water;

·      Ensuring adequate sleep and rest;

·      Taking adequate exercise especially yoga and walking;

·      Reducing stress levels;

·      Eliminating activities and people who exhaust and take from you; and

·      Making positive lifestyle choices.

Also, a number of studies have been conducted that have found a positive link between acupuncture and successful IVF cycles for some people. It is possible that this is due to the fact that acupuncture can help to increase blood flow to the pelvic area and the ovaries, and if the blood flow is good, then more nutrients are able to get through and increase the health of eggs. In addition, acupuncture may promote a sense of relaxation and positive thinking which can improve a person’s overall sense of wellbeing and increase the chances of pregnancy.

I had already been receiving regular acupuncture and certainly felt a benefit in my general sense of wellbeing and energy levels, so I increased these sessions to weekly and made them the main focus of my complimentary work. I had also been receiving regular Reiki, reflexology and massage in the lead up to the IVF and increased the frequency of these to help balance, ground and relax me, and increase my general sense of wellbeing and mental stability. I was fortunate, I should add, in being able to swap many of the holistic sessions (which were given by friends) in exchange for yoga classes with me.

Also, I was well aware that it was vitally important for me to maintain positive thinking and with that mental balance and clarity. Positive thinking is essentially a mental attitude in which you expect good and favourable results – it is a process of only allowing thoughts that create and transform energy into a positive reality.  This works on the understanding that we manifest situations, events and conditions in our lives based on the thoughts we are thinking; thus the more positive the thought, the more positive the situation created in one’s life.

Therefore, I tried to pay attention to my thinking and notice when I was slipping into either negative thinking or self-pity and with that I would try (try, try) to let the negative thoughts go and focus on being more positive instead. It is not necessarily an easy process but it can be very interesting as you start to recognise habitual thinking patterns and negative tendencies. It becomes easier with practice and with this new found awareness one realises that we are the creators of our own destiny depending upon the nature of our thinking.

It is my experience that positive thinking can be further helped by visualisation and in particular vision boards. Basically a vision board involves you putting together a sheet of photos or images of whatever it is you would like to attract into your life.  For example, if you would like to become pregnant and have a healthy baby, then you may stick images on your vision board of you with a pregnant tummy and you holding a healthy baby – you may need to do some cut and pasting! 

It is important that there is an image of you somewhere on the vision board so that there is a link between the images and you. It is also important that you feel what it would be like to manifest your intentions (images) in your life – or at least how you imagine you would feel! Vision boards have always been very powerful for me in terms of being clear visually about what I would like to attract into my life and the positive feelings attached to the images (and the ability to manifest accordingly).

Once you’ve finished your vision board, you should put it somewhere you may see it regularly so that you can remind yourself what it is you are trying to manifest in your life. The process of putting a vision board together may also help you to recognise any unconscious resistance you may be harbouring and which may unintentionally block the IVF/conception process. Such resistance may include you feeling that you don’t deserve to get pregnant and fulfil a dream, or that you are unworthy of bringing new life into the world.

Through my healing work I’ve also noticed that some ladies have unconscious resistance as a result of their upbringing. For some they may have had a difficult relationship with their mother so that they worry whether they can be good mother themselves, or they are so busy mothering other family members that they don’t have the energy necessary to focus on being a mother and creating a family of their own.

Others are bitter about something that has happened to them in their childhood and carry the victim and blame mentality into adulthood. Unconsciously they create some internal resistance to happiness - if having a baby would make them happy, then on some level they resist this, so they can continue to play out the victim role and blame others for their continued unhappiness rather than taking personal responsibility. Healing work is often required to address these deep seated issues so that the individual can forgive and move on.

Another thing that really helped me with the visualisation was placing a statue of a family – man with arm around woman, holding a baby in her arms – on my altar and practising yoga, meditating and praying in front of it. I found this really helpful in being absolutely clear about what it was I was trying to bring into my life and seeing it daily.  It was the same with the fertility bracelet that I bought a good 6 months before we began the IVF process and wore daily. This contained rose quartz, pearls and rhodonite - all crystals which help to promote fertility and which I hoped would put out a clear message to the Universe!

There were lots of other things I did to prepare myself for the IVF and you can read about these on the self-help page on my website under “fertility issues”. This meant that by the time it came around to beginning the treatment, I felt that I had done all that I could to prepare myself and now it was a matter of getting on with it. For the first time in a good 18 months my period could not have come soon enough, I positively welcomed it as it brought with it a new stage on the journey to conceive and with that the beginning of the IVF Antagonist cycle.

 

 

Jill's recipe for Thai Butternut Squash Soup

Thai butternut squash soup.jpg

Ingredients

1 butternut squash weighing about 1 kg unpeeled

1 tin coconut milk

Fresh ginger – about one inch

1 red chilli (omit if you don’t like it too hot)

A teaspoon Thai red curry paste (be cautious, you can always add a little more later)

About 1 pint vegetable stock (from powder or cube is fine) or chicken stock (if you’re not vegetarian!)

Salt & Pepper

Olive or vegetable oil

Fresh coriander


How to make

1.     Peel and deseed squash and cut into smallish chunks (it cooks quicker)

2.     Peel and chop ginger finely.

3.     If using, cut stalk off chill and chop finely (if you want to limit heat remove seeds)

4.     Put tablespoon of oil in pan and on medium heat add ginger, chilli and paste.  Stir for a few minutes then add coconut milk and stock.

5.     Add squash, bring to boil and then reduce heat and simmer until squash is soft – or begins to break up.

6.     Remove from heat and either liquidise with ‘wand’ or allow to cool and then liquidise in a goblet.

7.     Reheat when needed and check seasoning before serving.

8.     Chop coriander and sprinkle on top of each portion.


Health benefits of butternut squash

Squashes (and indeed pumpkins) are amongst the most nutritious autumn foods.  Low in fat they provide an ample dose of dietary fibre, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice. It provides significant amounts of potassium, important for bone health, and vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems.

Squash's orange/yellow hues reflect an abundance of powerhouse nutrients known as carotenoids, compounds which get turned into vitamin A in the body.   They also contain lutein, a carotenoid that is shown to protect against heart disease. What's more, with only a 1-cup serving, you get nearly half the recommended daily dose of antioxidant-rich vitamin C. 

As if this weren't enough, butternut squash may have anti-inflammatory effects because of its high antioxidant content and a low glycaemic index score, which means they are absorbed slowly and help to keep blood sugar levels steady.


How to buy

Choose an unblemished fruit that feels heavy for its size with a matte, rather than glossy, skin. A shiny exterior indicates that the fruit was picked too early, and it won't be as sweet as a fully grown squash. Store whole butternut squash in a cool, dry place (not the fridge) with plenty of ventilation; it should keep for up to three months. Cut squash will stay fresh for up to a week, wrapped, in the fridge.