Saturday's Reiki Level 2 attunement session

I had a fab day on Saturday attuning 5 lovely ladies to Reiki 2. This means that those 5 ladies are now Reiki practitioners who can practice professionally on the general public, spreading the light and love of Reiki.

I love Reiki attunement sessions and sharing my love of Reiki with others.  Reiki is amazing and has supported me so much in my life. Not only in terms of my personal development but also as an opportunity to heal myself and others. It's deeply healing and empowering and has also helped me to connect more fully with my intuition and learn to trust in this.  It's amazing!

There are 3 levels too Reiki.  Reiki Level 1 where you learn to channel Reiki and can use it to help to heal yourself, family, friends and pets, this level works more so on the physical level.  Then there's Reiki 2 where you learn 3 of the 4 symbols and this level enables you to obtain insurance to practice professionally.  Here you also learn about crystals and pendulum downing and this level works more so on the mental and emotional bodies.  You also learn distance healing.  Then there's Reiki Master level where you learn the 4th symbol.  This level works more so - from my experience - on the spiritual level.

I love introducing Reiki to students during the level 1 as it is all so new and they are often blown away by the sensations they feel in their hands once they are attuned. You can use Reiki from the moment you are attuned to it and your connection with it never goes away, although it is heightened the more you practice with it.

I love Reiki 2 too as here we get to learn about the symbols and play around with pendulum dowsing, which I love, and also look at crystals and how these can be used to enhance healing. Anyone who knows me knows I love crystals so it really is a delight to share these with others.

Reiki Level 1 and 2 attunement sessions follow a similar format.  We meet at our cottage and have a chatter over a cup of tea or coffee, getting to know one another a bit and sharing any experiences we may have had of Reiki - some have never received Reiki and this is perfectly fine, I'm also curious to find out what has brought students to the sessions.

Then we follow the manual and learn about Reiki relevant to the level we are studying.  We then stop and enjoy a biodynamic energy session and some gentle yoga to bring some movement into the day and to move energy and strengthen our energy channels.  I guide the students through a chakra balancing relaxation and help them to ground their energy before the attunement itself.

The attunement is a little like being tuned into a wave - the Reiki wave.  It's painless and simply means that while you are meditating - I try to guide you into a meditative state - I place symbols and mantras in your aura which tune you into the wave.  It sounds all esoteric and wacky on an intellectual level but its very real and you will start to feel the Reiki flowing from your hands when you then have the intent to heal. It's a special time and takes about 5 minutes per student.

After the attunement we enjoy a vegan soup or salad together depending on the season.  There is always some humus and cheese, and bread and rice cakes and various other seasonal delights. It's important to eat following the attunement, to ground our energy, but we also want to ensure its clean food.

After lunch we follow the manual again.  Reiki 1 we may learn how to channel Reiki to others and about healing crisis and where you may place your hands. In Reiki 2 we learn about pendulum dowsing and crystals and about the responsibilities of being a professional Reiki practitioner.

We then get the treatment couch out and have a go channelling to and receiving Reiki from each other. This is great.  I'm only sorry I don't get the opportunity to lie on the bed and have all those hands channelling Reiki onto me too! We share our experiences and just see what happens.

Then what better way to finish the day then with angel cards? I love my angel cards and they always have an appropriate message for the recipient, even if its not obvious initially.

You go through a 21 day cleansing period following the attunement so I send people on their way with a crystal to support this and also an encouragement to spend time in nature drink plenty of water and rest when you can.  Oh and to practice Reiki!

I'd just like to say a huge thank you to you lovely ladies on Saturday for sharing your beautiful energy with me, I was hyper by the evening and truly inspired by our learnings - much gratitude.

x

The IVF Journey Part 8 - Twins?

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…

The IVF Journey Part 7 - The Pregnancy Test Waiting Game

The limited boat schedule meant that we had to spend an additional 48 hours in the UK following embryo transfer. This was a blessing in many respects as it prevented me from rushing around as I have a tendency to do at home.  Resting has never come easily to me, embryo transfer or not. However, it wasn’t quite the uneventful and restful time we had anticipated.

The day following embryo transfer we pottered around the South Downs visiting Stansted House which is a Grade II Listed Edwardian country house set on a 1,750-acre estate within the South Downs National Trust.  It is well worth a visit if you happen to be in the area.  It has a fabulous arboretum, which was a delight for E, not least because he’s a tree surgeon with a passion for trees, but because it distracted him from the increasing pain in his back.

From there we drove to Petworth Park which is host to incredible gardens designed by Lancelot Capability Brown.  I studied Capability Brown at University so it was a big deal for me to see his work first hand. Capability Brown is reputed as the super-guru of parkland landscaping. He was hired at Petworth in 1751 and it is said that he left hardly a square foot of the gardens untouched.  It’s amazing!

We had a wonderful day together and I was expecting us to return to the hotel for dinner that evening before lazing around on the bed watching TV - a treat as I would soon be teaching yoga again most evenings. However, E had other ideas. The pain in his back was acute and he was now experiencing shooting pains down his left leg. He became increasingly anxious and felt he needed to see a doctor.

So it followed that my imagined restful TV night remained exactly that; imagined!  Instead I found myself driving E to Southampton on the M27 at speed, in the dark, and with rain pelting on the windscreen.  Not fun! And to be honest we were silly really because we were staying just up the road from Portsmouth but E thought it better to return to Southampton as he had already visited their A&E department at the beginning of the trip.  Big mistake!

It was Sunday early evening after all, and while we’ll never know if Portsmouth would have been any better, Southampton A&E department was jam-packed. I’ve never known anything like it, we’re certainly spoilt in Guernsey. Triage prioritised E to the bottom of the list, which was positive on the one hand but did mean a long wait for us on very uncomfortable plastic seats.  This was not quite the relaxing evening I had in mind.

By 8pm I was anxious for food.  The clinic encourages healthy eating for successful implantation and here I was stuck in an A&E department with only a snack machine at my disposal or a fast-food establishment in the main hospital itself (get that, fast food in a hospital!). This left me with little choice but to head out on my own in the car to try and find something to eat and then try and navigate my way back to the hospital successfully again.

I managed it though, finding a Coop and buying myself a pre-packaged salad, which I ate in the car. It wasn’t ideal and I felt a little sorry for myself. This was not what I had in mind for adequately feeding the little embryos hopefully growing inside me! Still one does what one needs to do and I had never seen E in quite so much pain. Fortunately, by the time I returned E had moved from the waiting room into the A&E treatment area.

It wasn’t until 10.30pm however that E was finally seen by a doctor. The doctor carried out the usual tests to determine that there was no apparent nerve damage, before sending E on his way with a prescription for drugs he already had. While it felt a little like a wasted journey, at least E was reassured that there was nothing massively serious going on and he could carry on life as normal, at least until we got home and he could see his own GP. 

Being a holistic therapist it was absolutely no surprise to me that E’s back had deteriorated whilst we had been undertaking the IVF.  As a potentially older first time dad, and one who had, until a few years earlier, been very non-committal about, well commitment really, it was inevitable that this potentially hugely life changing and committed event would unground him and test his roots.

Furthermore, E’s back is where he carries his stress and if ever there was a stressful time to be had, then IVF is up there. It’s easy to overlook the stress that partners go through during IVF. While it may be us women going through the injecting and the scans, the egg recovery and embryo transfer, the men are going through their own process too. They often feel at a loss to know how to help, especially if the need for IVF is due to male fertility issues. It’s a testing time for everyone.

Leaving the hospital late that evening, I was initially irritated with E for getting himself so worked up about the IVF and his back pain.  I felt like he was stealing my thunder, which is a terrible thing to say, but I was supposed to be resting and looking after myself in that critical 48 hour-period. Instead, here I was driving us both back to our hotel at 11pm in the pitch black and the continuous rain when I should have been tucked up in bed.

I came around to seeing the funny side and we still joke about it this day; how he couldn’t cope with it being all about me and made sure it was now all about him instead! It certainly was all about him those next few days because he continued to be in huge amounts of pain. It didn’t help that we had to endure a 7-hour ferry crossing back to Guernsey the next day. For me it was ideal however as I got to rest and channel lots of Reiki onto my tummy.

It felt a little strange arriving back in Guernsey that Monday afternoon. We had gone away the 2 of us yet here we were – in theory - returning 4 of us instead. Everything looked the same, yet we had changed. Our relationship had deepened, how could it not. But it was more than that. Without having to say anything to each other, we both knew that life would never be the same again, regardless of whether the IVF worked.

I was still feeling confident of success however, although the fact we still had to wait 10 days to take a pregnancy test was unnerving. Waiting does not come easily to me. I’ve always had a tendency to impatience and this has frequently been tested these past few years. I doubt that there has ever been a single lady going through IVF who has felt calm, collected and patient during this twelve to fourteen-day period (twelve days for blastocysts, fourteen days for embryos).

I tried to keep busy so that the time would pass quickly. I returned to working in the office and teaching yoga again. I offered Reiki treatments too. No one would have known what we had just been through, it was very much life as usual to the outside world. Inside however, I was doing what I could to hold it together, dropping deeply into my spiritual practice to try and keep my faith and spirit high during this decidedly edgy time. 

I was fortunate in that I could feel the new life growing inside me, which helped enormously. As someone who works with energy it was incredibly exciting to feel such vibrant and pure energy, the spark of new life. As the days went on, the energy changed and it began to feel like running your hands over a string of pearls. It’s like the energy becomes a little more contained, a little heavier, but with movement, a circular movement as they grow inside. 

It really was amazing to be able to feel energy like this, a real blessing. I really wish every lady who undertakes IVF could feel this, not least because its like nothing else, but because at least you know then that the embryo is still alive and growing inside you and this can give you so much comfort. It really is such a horrible time, especially if you’ve suffered a failed cycle previously.

For us, this was our first time and we had no reason to doubt the process.  We had done what was asked of us and deep down I had this unwavering faith that it was all going to be ok. It wasn’t until a few years later that I discovered what it feels like when you don’t have this faith - it makes for an extremely stressful and anxious wait, at a time when you should be keeping your stress and anxiety levels to a minimum.

That’s not to say that during this time there weren’t moments of doubt and fear.  The mind is tricky like that. Fear I find particularly fascinating as it feels so real and yet it’s not real at all. It translates as “False Evidence Appearing Real” and if you can remind yourself of this when you feel it taking hold then it helps enormously in recognising it for what it is and letting it go. It’s not easy though.

I’ve no doubt that my daily meditation practice helped enormously in keeping my mind strong and focused during this time. I would wholeheartedly encourage any lady going through IVF to carve out some time in your day to just sit with what’s coming up.  Even just 5 minutes can make a huge difference to centre and check in daily. It’s in this way that you come to recognise the illusion that is fear and the negative thinking that accompanies this.

I also made sure to allow time after my asana practice for a Yoga Nidra.  I’ve mentioned it previously but Yoga Nidra really is incredible and everyone, regardless of whether they are going through IVF or not, should try and practice one regularly.  It’s incredibly grounding and centring and helps to reinforce a positive state of being.  I worked with the Sankalpa, or intention for the practice of “I am pregnant” to help to make this more of a reality.

During this waiting period I also did a huge amount of praying and talking to the angels. I love the angels and make no apology for this. Since they’ve been in my life, they have provided much comfort and guidance. I certainly felt their presence during this time which helped to buoy my spirits. I regularly read my angel cards and during this period the “child” and “new beginnings” cards kept flying out, which certainly helped!

I also noticed white feathers in front of my path, which are a sign that the angels are surrounding you and that all is well - there is a Divine Plan to all life! I noticed robins during this period too. They are believed to be another sign that the angels are with you and that it is time to sing your own song for a new period in your life. They will also teach you how to incorporate new beginnings with faith and trust in the process, which seemed incredibly appropriate.

I was channelling Reiki into my tummy at every available opportunity – I also wish every lady going through IVF could be Reiki attuned to be able to do this. I enjoyed going for Reiki treatments too. I was keen to do all I could to ground and balance my energy. I walked and swam as often as I could, but avoided strenuous activity like netball, which I had been playing prior to IVF. I also kept a low profile socially and retreated as best I could.

E was very much forced to retreat during this time as his back had become so bad that he spent his days lying on the sofa or floor drugged up on very strong painkillers. He had been to see his GP and was awaiting a referral to see a surgeon in Exeter. It was tough for him; he wasn’t able to distract himself from the impending pregnancy test other than by watching an awful lot of Miami Vice!

I was fascinated by his chronic condition and the mind-body connection. I truly believe that much of his physical pain at that time was a result of the mental and emotional stress that the IVF was causing. He was adrift, completely outside of his comfort zone and with that, he had zero grounding.  I did what I could by way of Reiki and yoga therapy, but I knew that it would eventually improve once our future was clearer.

As D-day finally approached I was excited about what lay ahead. I could still feel the energy of new life within me and I had this knowingness that all was well. Still that didn’t stop me sleeping fitfully the night before I was due to take the test. I woke regularly to check the time and the energy of the embryos in my tummy; I was longing for morning to arrive. It’s always the same, the more you long for morning, the longer it takes to arrive.

By 5.30am E and I had had quite enough. We were both keen to just get it over with now. I felt the energy of the new life in my tummy before leaping out of bed and almost running to the bathroom. I had butterflies and was shaking a little. I re-read the information pack even though I had read it the day before and probably the day before that too, wanting to ensure that I didn’t make a mistake and waste the kit.

There was nothing more for it than to get on with it. I peed on the stick for the allocated time and replaced the cap before joining E back in the bedroom and passing it to him.  I didn’t want to have to check the result – I remember doing the same with my degree, I didn’t want to be the first one to find out. I wanted someone else to take the responsibility!

E timed the 2 minutes on his watch as we both sat anxiously not really knowing what to do with ourselves. I suspect I fussed around a little, tidying or something, I don’t really remember.  I do know that it felt like an awfully long time.

Finally, the 2 minutes was up and I hid my head in E’s chest as he looked at the test and told me what I already knew – I was pregnant!  I could have danced with joy. The IVF had worked and I was jubilant! E was absolutely relieved. I couldn’t stop smiling and just wanted to tell the world! Phew!

The IVF Journey Part 6 - Embryo Transfer

Embryo transfer – or in this case blastocyst transfer – was due to take place late morning on a wintry March 2nd 2013. In many respects it was perfect timing. I’m a Pagan at heart and and we were a month away from having celebrated Imbolc, which in the Celtic seasonal calendar marked the beginning of the lambing season and signalled the beginning of Spring and the stirrings of new life – the reawakening of the Earth.

The original word Imbolg means “in the belly”, which explains the underlying energy of this time. All is pregnant and expectant – and only just visible if at all – like the gentle curve of a “just-showing” pregnancy. It brings with it the promise of renewal, of hidden potential, of earth awakening and life-force stirring. There is hope, light at the end of the tunnel. It is a time to celebrate the returning light and witness Life’s insatiable appetite for rebirth.

This is a time to let go of the past and look to the future, clearing out the old, and making both outer and inner space for new beginnings. It’s a good time for spring cleaning and wish-making. It’s also a good time to prepare for what you wish to accomplish in the months ahead. At this time, you will want to clarify and refine what you began to work on at Yule.

Imbolc is also a time for celebrating the Celtic Goddess Brigid. Brigid is the Goddess of Poetry, Healing, Smithcraft and Midwifery. She is the Goddess of fire, of the sun and of the hearth. She brings fertility to the land and its people and is closely connected to midwives and new-born babies. She is the triple Goddess (maiden, mother and crone) but at Imbolc she is in her Maiden and virgin aspect.

It was appropriate therefore. I was a Maiden wanting to become a Mother. Ripe with new potential and the stirrings of new-life force. I had begun the journey some time ago, but made my intentions very clear at Yule. The dream of pregnancy was now becoming more of a reality, and it felt like nature was supporting this with her Spring energy. On some level, unconscious though I had been of it, it was indeed perfect timing for new beginnings!

We were the only patients in the clinic that morning, which made the clinic feel less clinical somehow, more relaxed and personal. It helped that the consultant and nurse were both known to us too. They were the ones we had initially met in Guernsey, and who had been with us at our initial appointment in the clinic in January, the consultant having delivered the good news that we could begin ICSI.

It’s funny really how life unfolds. Initially when E and I first talked about having a baby, I prayed for a very conscious conception.  And now here we were experiencing exactly that.  Admittedly it was absolutely not in the manner I had imagined – think beautiful environment with rose petals brightening the room, candles flickering and atmospheric music playing in the background – but a conscious moment nonetheless.

It’s a good reminder that we must be careful what we wish for, and to let go of any expectation of how our wish may manifest as it is rarely in the manner we anticipate. So here we found ourselves in a very clinical environment in Southampton, with monitors and scanners and a consultant and a nurse. It certainly wasn’t the stuff of dreams and I was aware that I was going to have to dig deep to find the spiritual in all this.

Still one does what one does and the clinic being less-clinic-like than it would be ordinarily (there being no other patients or members of staff rushing around) helped enormously. Our relationship with the consultant and nurse helped too. I feel very strongly that having a positive and friendly relationship with the staff supports the whole IVF process, and certainly makes embryo transfer the intimate experience it should be.

The appointment was running to schedule, which was a relief as my bladder was bothering me.  It has to be half full for the procedure but mine felt that it was fuller than this and it was too late to do anything about it! The nurse led us from the reception down the stairs to the theatre room. Here I was asked to remove my fluffy boots and leave them by the door, whilst E had to put what looked like blue plastic bags over his shoes.

We were then led into the theatre room where the consultant was busying herself. E was directed to the stool beside the bed and me to the bed itself as the embryologist joined us from the adjoining laboratory. She asked me to confirm my name to ensure that the blastocysts she was preparing for transfer were mine. This was certainly not a time for making mistakes and I was grateful for the security even if it did feel a little silly having to confirm who I was when it was obvious who I was!

The embryologist then showed us pictures of different quality blastocysts and explained that we had produced 3 very good quality grade blastocysts. Phew, this was a relief. It was certainly the outcome I had hoped and prayed for and I felt I had done all I could to help to achieve this, but of course you never really know, all you can do is be guided by your intuition. I felt pleased that my intuition had served me well and I felt quietly confident of a positive outcome now.

The embryologist advised that she had selected 2 of the blastocysts for transfer with the other remaining blastocyst being frozen for a future cycle (if we chose). It was strange.  As the embryologist explained this to us, I just had this all consuming feeling, a sense then, that that 1 remaining blastocyst would be very important to us one day. While I had certainly never intended to have 3 children, I also knew that there was no way I would be able to just let that blastocyst go to waste.

It was a situation I had discussed this with my IVF friend - the dilemma of what to do with any extra embryos that you may be lucky enough to create. It’s a wonderful position to find yourself in, when others have such difficulty in producing 1 quality embryo, let alone having a surplus like us. But it can create an issue because that’s potential new life in the embryos and it’s very difficult to just turn your back on that and let them go down the drain.

It was soon time for the transfer. While the embryologist returned to the laboratory to prepare the 2 chosen blastocysts, I was directed to a small changing cubicle at the side of the room to remove my tights and pants. From there I was directed onto the bed and had to shuffle down to its end so that my legs could be placed up into the dreaded stirrups again. E was still positioned beside me on his stool.

As we waited for the the embryologist to return, the lovely consultant took the opportunity to remind me what I should or shouldn’t be doing while we waited the twelve days until we could take a pregnancy test.  It was a little surreal hearing her talking about pregnancy tests, and especially that I may find myself pregnant in twelve day’s time.  It was really happening. Here we were, awaiting embryo transfer…which may well lead to pregnancy. Oh my gosh!

She reminded me to take the luteal support, which I had started taking a few days earlier in preparation for implantation and indeed pregnancy.  This is progesterone which is a hormone that helps to prepare the uterine lining to accept a fertilised egg and provide support for a developing embryo. It’s administered by way of a pessary, Cyclogest, which had to be inserted into the vagina morning and evening. Sore breasts and feeling emotional are the potential side effects.

The consultant mentioned a chance of some blood spotting and ‘period type’ pains following embryo transfer, and that one can feel a little bloated too. She explained that the embryos cannot become dislodged in the womb as they are held between the walls of the womb where surface tension forces are far greater than gravity. It was reassuring to hear this, because silly as it may sound it had crossed my mind and I didn’t want to do anything which may compromise a potential pregnancy.

She also advised that there is no current evidence to suggest that full and complete rest for the twelve days following transfer will improve the chances of a successful pregnancy. However, she did stress the fact that psychologically it’s important that a woman feels that she has done everything possible to promote potential implantation. Thus it’s a very personal choice about how you spend those twelve days.

There were things to avoid however, such as strenuous exercise, hot baths/saunas that raise your core body temperature, sexual intercourse, ibuprofen, smoky environments and drinking more than 3 caffeinated drinks a day. Other than that it was life as normal and I certainly intended to get back into the swing of things when I got home. I’ve never been one for sitting around and with twelve days to wait to take the test I knew that I would need to keep busy; that’s just my way!

The embryologist returned to the room and I re-confirmed my name to her, feeling particularly silly about doing so a second time! The consultant then set about inserting a small flexile catheter into my vagina, up through the cervical canal and into the womb.  We could see this all happening on the screen positioned at the end of the bed, the nurse sliding the ultra sound device over my tummy (and full bladder) to get the clearest view.

The sensation is similar to having a smear as I had been told to expect. It wasn’t painful as such, more so uncomfortable. I think it’s more the combination of the fact your legs are in stirrups, there’s pressure on your bladder and your cervix is making itself known to you. I gripped E’s hand and dropped my awareness to my breath, practicing the Ujaii breath, in and out, deepening the inhalation and lengthening the exhalation.

The consultant found what she believed to be the optimal position and before we knew it a star flashed on the screen as she released the blastocysts inside of me. It’s an amazing sight. My IVF friend had told me to look out for it and I’m pleased she did as it disappears quickly. I shall never forget that star though, the flash of life, all parts coming together, the essence of spirit, conception. It was truly magical.

Here’s another piece of advice for anyone going through IVF. Look for that star. It’s a blessing to be able to witness the vibrancy of life like this. Magical. It’s a fabulous reminder that we are all, essentially, stars. And to see this essence with your own eyes is a privilege. It was recorded on paper for us too so we will always have the reminder, although its forever etched in our memories and we still talk about it to this day.

The catheter was slowly removed and the embryologist was called back into the room to take it back to the lab to check that both blastocysts had indeed been released. It only took a short moment for her to confirm that yes, they’d both been released. With that my legs were released from the stirrups and I was helped off the bed and guided back to the changing area to put on my pants and tights. I was then able again to relieve my bladder, oh the relief!  

Then that was that.  It was certainly not the stuff of dreams! And it was absolutely not the environment I had in mind for the conscious conception either.  Nope, this was as clinical as you could get, quite literally in a clinic and with others watching on too.  Still here’s the thing, it was incredibly conscious because both E and I were incredibly, totally, utterly, absolutely aware, mindful, present and all those other words that mean you’re very conscious of that exact moment.

In truth if there’s one thing IVF brings you, it’s awareness of the process of conception.  How can you be anything but aware with all the appointments and scans, the drugs and examinations and everything having an exact timing to it? You certainly can’t pretend what’s happening.  You feel every single step of the journey from beginning to end.  Your nerves are tested time and time again.  There’s certainly no drunken “Wham, bam, thank you Mam” moments with IVF!

There’s also no certainty with IVF and both the nurse and the consultant wished us luck as we left the clinic. It was a roll of the dice. Back in the car we sat quietly for a moment, letting it all sink in. I couldn’t stop smiling. I was feeling very upbeat about everything. It had been a little like a whirlwind but here we were, procedure completed. With that I felt this overwhelming desire to give thanks.

So we drove straight to Salisbury, which has since become something of a place of pilgrimage for us both.  On the way I started channelling Reiki on my tummy, and I suddenly realised that I could feel the energy of the blastocysts inside me. It was truly incredible. It was an energy I had never felt previously and this both fascinated and overwhelmed me.

It’s difficult to put it into words but I have since come to recognise that it was the igniting energy of pure spirit. Its like the initial spark of a lighter or the initial flame of a candle.  It’s the momentary pause between an exhalation and an inhalation, the bit that causes the inhalation to arise again…it’s the energy of Imbolc, the Pagan festival of light, full of new beginnings and potential new life.

It’s the lightest and most expansive energy I have ever felt. So new and alive and vibrant. It’s difficult to liken it to anything else but I guess its a little like bottling up the energy at the very beginning of Spring. And here we were, at the very beginning of Spring too. There is magic in all life, the trouble is we are often too busy or too distracted to notice it.  Here I felt privileged and blessed to have the capacity to feel such magic within me. It’s pure unconditional love essentially.

In Salisbury we headed straight for the cathedral. I am repeatedly awestruck by the beauty of this magnificent building and place of worship.  It pulls me in.  There is something about its ancient energy that finds me gravitating to its walls, hands held against the cool stone. You can feel the love in the structure of the building and I wanted to infuse and bathe my body and my soul in this beautiful energy, so that the blastocysts would know they had come home.

I sat on my own at the very front of the cathedral, staring up at the stained glass windows ahead of me and losing myself in their magnificence. I’m not religious but spiritual certainly, and in that moment, my faith was stronger than it had ever been. Surprisingly, going through IVF had strengthened this. I felt like we had been supported and guided the whole way. Now I knew that I just had to maintain this faith and trust in the outcome whatever that may be.

For now, it was about doing what I felt to do to support the new life growing inside me. It was appropriate perhaps that the moon was waning and leading up to a new moon, which is a time for rest and energy restoration.  I intended to retreat with this waning energy. I prayed for Guidance and gave thanks. I now knew that I was about to be tested, not only in faith and trust but also in patience.

 

The IVF Journey Part 5 - Preparing for Embryo Transfer

Egg retrieval brings with it risks. It’s common to experience some bowel disturbance such as constipation or diarrhea following the operation. Sometimes there can be some vaginal bleeding and in rare cases ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (“OHSS”). OHSS is a serious condition, which can cause symptoms of abdominal swelling and pain with shortness of breath, feeling faint and reduced urine output.

OHSS usually occurs several days after egg collection when the ovarian cysts fill with fluid and the fluid collects in the abdomen.  In severe cases the fluid also collects around the lungs. OHSS sometimes requires admission to hospital to ensure adequate hydration and to treat the symptoms of pain so needs to be taken very seriously. It’s certainly one of those things to look out for.

Fortunately, I was lucky as I didn’t experience OHSS or vaginal bleeding. I also did what I could to support my digestive system by eating plenty of vegetables, brown rice and flax seeds, drinking plenty of water and taking probiotics. The ancient yogis say that dis-ease originates in the digestive system and I certainly feel out of sorts if my digestive system is challenged in any way so supporting it throughout IVF generally is essential.

I also took extra Vitamin C to help with the healing and of course arnica, which I’ve come to recognise as nothing short of a miracle plant. You can take arnica in tablet form but you can also apply the cream to your tummy too. I also took milk thistle to support my liver, which I felt was under pressure during IVF from all the drugs and in this case the sedative from egg retrieval.

For me those next few days were all about healing from egg retrieval and preparing my womb to receive an embryo.  I wanted my body to be as healthy and clean as possible, my chakras balanced and glowing and my energy channels to be clear – mind, body and soul perfectly aligned!  I also wanted my womb to be warm, cosy and inviting so that any new life would choose to grow in there.

I enjoy a mission, especially a healing one and tried to listen to my body and do what it needed and get me as prepared as possible for embryo transfer. This meant that that first afternoon and evening I rested in bed, placing a hot water bottle on my tummy to bring healing heat to my womb, and channelling Reiki into myself too. Reiki was key for me and the next morning I had arranged a Reiki session at at a Holistic Centre in a nearby town. 

The treatment was with a mother and daughter team, so that meant four hands on me and double the amount of Reiki than one would receive from just one practitioner. It was amazing! None of us had ever experienced such heat during a treatment. The ladies’ hands were burning and they had to remove their jumpers to cope with the heat they were feeling. After a while I dropped deeply into a state of relaxation. 

It was an incredible experience – I’ve channelled and received a lot of Reiki in my time but this session was powerful indeed. There was no doubt that my body absolutely wanted to heal, and it was absorbing as much Reiki energy as it could during the time available to it.  To this day I still marvel at the magic of Reiki and the manner in which is heals. I felt calm, ‘whole’ and grounded after the session; like I’d come back to Earth a little.

I shared with the ladies the reason that I was visiting them and it caught me a little, because the daughter was terribly sympathetic and asked me how many attempts we had had with the IVF. When I responded that this was our first, she was even more sympathetic and wished me good luck. It was a very different reaction to how I was feeling in my head as I had no doubt at that point that all would be well, and it caught me off hand a little. She was incredibly well meaning, but I didn’t want sympathy.

It reminded me of the need to retreat during this precious time and maintain my grounding and faith in the process.  However well meaning people intend to be, this is a period of intense vulnerability, and it is essential not to fall into the victim mentality. Pity has no place in IVF. Nor any comments which may be construed as negative. One must gently withdraw into one’s own place and listen to the inner guidance about how to support the process. Lesson learned!

That late afternoon I took myself off to a Bikram yoga class. Bikram is not really my thing but E’s best friend likes to attend so I always accompany him when we are staying in Surbiton.  It’s yoga in a heated room practiced in front of a mirror and follows the same sequence in each class. There are 26 poses which are chosen to “systematically move fresh, oxygenated blood to one hundred percent of your body, to each organ and fibre, restoring all systems to healthy working order, just as nature intended” (www.bikramyoga.com). 

I struggle a little with the heat, it’s pretty intense, like being in a sauna. And I don’t particularly enjoy practicing in front of a mirror. Plus, I find the sequencing challenging as it is static and you practice each pose twice. But despite all of this, it does make you feel very clean as you sweat so profusely throughout the class and it can be really energising too. I always leave on a high and feel incredibly stretched the next day.

In this instance, I had a feeling that Bikram may assist with my healing process and help to bring fresh blood to my uterus. I also felt that it would help to quieten my mind and promote a positive mental state – it would be a distraction and time filler if nothing else! It was the first time I had been to one of these classes on my own and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. It was fabulous to be anonymous and I was able to drop into my body without any one distracting me. It was certainly what I needed.

The next morning, I attended a yoga class at a lady’s house a 5-minute drive from where we were staying.  It’s not the first time I’ve come across this in the outer London area, where a female yoga teacher turns a room in her house into a yoga studio accommodating 6-8 students at a time. It creates a real community feel. The practice was great too, there’s much benefit from practicing in the company and indeed energy of other women.

After the class I visited a dear friend who lived nearby. She had gone through IVF a few years before me and was a wealth of knowledge and experience. It made a huge difference to me to be able to talk to someone who had already been through IVF. I would encourage anyone going through IVF to find a positive IVF friend to confide in. She was an incredible support to me during this time and I shall always be grateful.

My friend had conceived through her first IVF attempt, also with ICSI, and I was heartened by this. I was also humoured that we had both had the same number of eggs collected at egg retrieval and I hoped mine would fertilise as well as hers had done. She still had some embryos in storage which could be used at a future attempt and this was certainly my ideal outcome. It was lovely to chat things through and leave feeling incredibly positive about our chances of conceiving too.

Later that afternoon, E and I pottered around Richmond Park.  We both felt the need for fresh air and nature. I don’t think you can ever underestimate the positive effect that nature has on the soul. It helps to make you feel more connected to something greater than yourself, and there can be much comfort in this. It was refreshing to feel the soft earth beneath our feet and to marvel at the deer while breathing the fresh and cool winter air.

We were due back to Wessex the next day for embryo transfer. E’s back was feeling the stress of this as he struggled to find a comfortable position and was taking pain killers continously.  It was fascinating for me to witness the manner in which his mental stress manifested physically – his root chakra was feeling the strain. This was new territory for both of us and we were both feeling a little shaky.

I was certainly beginning to feel the strain.  While no news was certainly good news, I desperately wanted the clinic to call me and tell me that we had a sufficient number of quality embryos (day 3) for them to be able to progress a couple through to the blastocyst stage (day 6). This would give the embryologists more time to study the developing embryo and determine whether it was more likely to develop into a healthy pregnancy.

By the evening we had not received a call so we carried on life fairly much as usual, with another early night watching Downton Abbey and yet more channelling of Reiki into my tummy. It was a restless night of trying to sleep. I was now beginning to feel the stress a little more than I may have done previously.  It was all very real. I was desperate to hear from the clinic for some reassurance, but aware that they would only call when necessary. It was one big waiting game again.

The next morning, I was very much on edge. Wessex still hadn’t called so we left Surbiton about 9am to drive down to the clinic in time for our appointment. This didn’t feel right though and after driving for about 10 minutes, E parked the car and called the clinic to double check that the embryo transfer would definitely be taking place. The receptionist took a message and advised him that one of the embryologists would call us back, so we continued with our journey, me now feeling super on edge awaiting the call. 

Fortunately, the call arrived quickly and I spoke to the embryologist directly. He told me that they had cultured 8 embryos, 5 of which were developing particularly well so they were keen to progress 3 of these through to the blastocyct stage, and freeze the others.  This was amazingly good news. I could have jumped with joy. Phew, what a relief! It was exactly what I wanted to hear.  I had been visualising and praying for 2 healthy blastocysts and we were one step closer to realising this.

This also gave me an extra 2 full days to prepare my body for the transfer and I intended to make the most of this. I attended 2 more Bikram yoga classes and started to get really into it, which surprised me! I also listened to a number of Yoga Nidras.  I am a great believer that the innate intelligence of the mind-body takes from this practice what it needs and I needed a combination of deep rest and creative stimulus – I was creating new life after all.

I truly believe that absolutely everybody can receive some benefit from practicing Yoga Nidra – the yogic sleep – in their daily lives.  But I am an absolute firm believer that Yoga Nidra absolutely supports the IVF process. If there is one piece of advice I have for women preparing for, and going through IVF, it is this – prioritise a daily Yoga Nidra practice.  There is a free one available on my website, but you will also find some fantastic free ones on the Yoga Nidra network too.

A good diet felt essential and we ate a lot of brown rice, fruits and vegetables during this time. I continued to enjoy a glass of sparkling wine each evening while cooking dinner, (although I didn’t have one the evening prior to embryo transfer as it didn’t feel right for me). There are no rules about this though and I read about a consultant who positively encouraged women to enjoy a daily glass of wine during IVF, especially after embryo transfer to relax and reduce their stress levels.

I was also keen to nourish my soul and cleanse my aura with nature, and while I certainly missed being able to swim in the sea, or just being on a beach, we made the most of the nature available to us.  Thus we tried to spend as much time as we could outside those few days, treading the earth, breathing fresh air and hugging trees – never underestimate the power of this, it sounds wacky I know, but there is much energy, support and joy that comes from connecting with Mother Earth like this!

We were also fortunate to have access to Chinese medicine in Surbiton. We both had acupuncture and while it seemed to make little difference to E’s back pain, I certainly felt the benefit as it leaves me particularly energised. I also received some reflexology and the lovely Chinese doctor, on hearing I was preparing for embryo transfer, spent more time with me than she was meant to – my life was blessed with many healing angels during this time.

Admittedly all these extra treatments cost money, but by this point we were done with worrying about the financial aspect. It was our first attempt after all, and I was keen to do what I could holistically to support the treatment. I was mindful however of only working with people who felt aligned. I was aware – and continue to be aware – how fertility has become big business with people profiteering from women’s – often - desperation to conceive.

There are now a multitude of supplements and other products available that are marketed specifically at fertility. There are also a multitude of people offering their services to help you conceive, whether that be through holistic treatments or coaching.  While this all has a place it is essential not to give your power away to others during this time and believe that they know you better than you know yourself. They don’t. They can’t!

Like with anything in life, it is only you who can really make it happen and retaining self-belief, self-worth and a sense of hope are essential – anything which takes this away from you needs to be avoided. Thus you mustn’t just do something because someone else tells you too or because it worked for them. You do it because it feels right for you, aligned then and not from a place or attitude of desperation.

I tried to stay as empowered and true to me as possible. Thus by the time embryo transfer day arrived, I felt that I had done all I could do in the time available to me to prepare myself physically, mentally, emotionally and indeed spiritually to receive new life. I was a little anxious about the procedure as it was still an unknown to me, but I was delighted that we had finally gotten to this part of the process. I was feeling hopeful and excited and keen to get on with the next stage of our journey...