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Part 25 - Trying to turn a breech baby

I had seven weeks to turn my breech baby before the specialist would start talking about Caesarean Section delivery.  It sounded like plenty of time.

I began reading extensively on breech birth and discovered that about 3% of babies present as breech, which was just typical really and summed up my pregnancies.  There was always something that had to be different about them!

Still, most babies who are in the breech position between 32 to 34 weeks turn themselves into a headfirst position by birth. If the baby remains breech at 37 weeks it may be possible for an obstetrician to turn the baby using a technique called external cephalic version. It’s said that just over half of babies are turned this way, albeit not the most comfortable of procedures to go through for the mother.

There were other ways and I was directed to www.spinningbabies.com which has lots of information about breech babies and tips on how to turn them. I was determined that I wasn’t having another Caesarean section so I was keen to try everything I could to attempt to turn my breech baby.

Initially I tried the breech tilt which meant that I lay upside down on an ironing board which had one end resting up against the bed.  I’d come across this concept a few years earlier when I’d read a fictional book about a Canadian midwife employing such tactics to help a baby turn. It had stuck in my mind as an ingenious way to help prevent breech delivery and now here I was doing the same.

If I’m truthful, it wasn’t the most comfortable position to find myself in. Furthermore, I didn’t know how I was going to find the time to lie like that for 20 minutes three times a day, which is the recommended period if you want to stand a chance of it working. And what exactly was I going to do while lying there, it’s certainly not the ideal position for meditating or yoga nidra.

I decided I’d be better off practicing more headstands and shoulder stands in my yoga practice instead. It was the same with the recommended handstand in the swimming pool, I decided I’d just practice more handstands against the wall at home. It was ironic really as I couldn’t be sure that it wasn’t the handstand that had gotten me into this mess in the first place, although I had this feeling it would have happened regardless.

Then there was the moxibustion, which uses tightly rolled sticks of mugwort herb much like a stick of incense.  You light one end of the moxibustion stick and the coal that this creates is held over an acupuncture point on the foot to heat the point and help the baby turn. E thought it was nonsense but I felt that it was worth a try.

So while I lay on the sofa reading a book, E tried to hold the heated stick at the right place on my foot. I have to say that despite being very receptive to this sort of thing, I just wasn’t feeling it.  I mean literally, there wasn’t any shift in the positioning of the baby, and furthermore, I couldn’t be sure that E was positioning the stick properly.

I also tried reflexology, Cranial-sacral work and Bowen therapy. I’m a huge fan of homeopathy so I tapped into this too and took the homeopathic remedy, Pulsatilla. I’d read that if taking this remedy for three days doesn’t turn the baby then it is unlikely the baby will turn. Unfortunately, after three days the baby hadn’t turned.

It was then that I came across this marvellous blog posting written by a lady about her journey to try to turn her breech baby. This lady wrote about how she’d tried all the same techniques that I had tried and that nothing had worked. Then, at the last minute, she’d had a massive emotional melt down and totally let go…and lo and behold right at the last minute the baby turned. 

I really didn’t want to have any medical intervention so this blog posting gave me some hope.  I was getting desperate by this stage and was determined that something had to work, the baby had to turn.  It was probably in recognising my desperation, and being so frustrated that nothing was working that I too had a big emotional meltdown, the tears flooding my yoga mat one morning. 

Still the baby didn’t turn but still there was hope. I was told stories of pregnant ladies being prepped to go to theatre for a Caesarean Section only for the Midwife to double check the baby’s position and find that at the last moment the baby had flipped head down and could be birthed vaginally.

The trouble was, I had this niggling feeling that this baby just wasn’t going to turn.  It seemed very comfortable in its breech position and no amount of manipulation on my part seemed to make any difference.  Furthermore, no amount of shoulder stands, headstands or handstands had any effect either. And with the other techniques, well a little like the homebirth, I was just going through the motions really as E looked on bemused!

I continued my research and discovered that there are a number of physical reasons that one may have a breech baby including the following:

·      Smaller than average baby;

·      In multiple pregnancies one baby may be lying in the breech position;

·      There may not be enough, or too much, amniotic fluid;

·      The placenta may be covering the womb’s entrance (like I had with Elijah).

·      Tightness in the womb or pelvic misalignment, perhaps from carrying a toddler on one’s hip.

I could relate to some of this.  I had started to see a biodynamic cranial sacral therapist as I was having issues with my sacrum and felt that my pelvis was misaligned, due to constantly carrying Elijah on my left hip. However, I also had a feeling that there was more to it than all this and I researched the non-physical reasons for a breech presentation too. These included the following:

·      The mother-to-be harbouring a lot of fear about becoming a mother;

·      The mother-to-be and her mother having unresolved conflict;

·      The mother-to-be not wanting to ‘give up’ carrying her baby.

·      The mother needing to ‘hold’ the baby close to her heart due to fears of birth, parenthood, and/or fear about the world the baby will be born into;

In a similar vein, others believe that the baby can sense when their mothers are stressed or in emotional pain and may move into a breech position so that they can be closer to her heart in order to comfort her – a breech baby may have strong instincts already.

There’s also a belief that breech babies are on a mission in this life time and arrive feet first so that they can firmly plant their feet on the Earth and get going. Others believe they arrive this way so that they can look their Mother in the eye and move through life together, and yet with a strong conviction of their own. Folklore suggests that a breech baby will have healing powers.

I found this all very fascinating as I could relate to some of it. My life was busy and there were times where I was stressed.  I was working very hard on a few projects that I was keen to complete before the baby arrived.  In my mind, I had given myself the deadline of my October Herm Yoga & Wellbeing Retreat when I would be 33 weeks pregnant, to complete everything  After that I intended to slow things down up until the anticipated birth at 40 weeks.

However, sitting with it, I began to consider that perhaps this wasn’t about me, that perhaps it was part of the bigger picture. This is not to say that I didn’t still feel a pressure to turn the baby, but more so that I had a feeling the baby was not going to turn regardless of what I did. Thus I started to read up on breech delivery and was fascinated by what I read.

Beginning in the 1960s, obstetricians gradually shifted the way they delivered breech babies because they preferred the predictability and the presumed greater safety of a Caesarean birth. But not every doctor jumped on the Caesarean Section band wagon immediately; with many continuing to favour vaginal breech births.

That is, until the Hannah Term Breech Trial (“TBT”) published in 2000 brought them to a screeching halt. The TBT followed 2,083 breech babies in 26 countries, randomly assigned to either vaginal or planned Caesarean section delivery. Early data suggested fewer newborn deaths and injuries occurred in the Caesarean section group. The impact of the study was incredible – within months’ breech Caesarean Sections increased from 50% to 80% and by 2006, it was at 90%. Then it was discovered that the study was flawed.

In fact, critics began poking holes in the TBT immediately after its publication. For example, some poor outcomes attributed to vaginal delivery occurred in birth centres that used substandard techniques or unskilled birth attendants. Some babies had genetic defects or were premature.

In short, most weren’t injured because they were delivered vaginally, but because of other factors. Further study indicated that most of the babies recovered fully from their birth injuries regardless of delivery method, and researchers also hadn’t factored in the increased health risks resulting from Caesarean sections.

It was felt that the results should have supported informed decision-making, but instead, hospitals reacted by taking the choice away from women. Another unfortunate result was that medical schools stopped teaching vaginal breech delivery skills to an entire generation of new doctors and midwives. This sadly is the current reality we face – that the medical profession lack both the knowledge and skill to deliver a breech baby naturally.

I watched a number of videos on the internet of breech babies being born vaginally and there was something rather special and beautiful about these.  Still when I mentioned to people that I would like to have a go at a vaginal breech delivery, I was surprised by their reaction – there was so much fear!  

I was told that the birth would be extremely painful and that I would be putting my baby’s health at risk.  I was made to feel that I was silly for even suggesting the idea. It made me laugh because the alternative of a Caesarean Section is not exactly a walk in the park either – it’s just easier for the medical profession to control. 

I spoke to the Head of Midwifery about the possibility of a vaginal breech delivery and she said that even if a specialist agreed to go ahead with the notion, it wouldn't be a birth I would want for my baby (or for me) due to the medicalised nature of it. It would involve constant monitoring and doubtlessly intervention whether it was needed or not.

It made me feel sad that there is so much fear about breech delivery. My cousin was a breech baby and born vaginally, my Aunt living to tell the tale. And clearly breech babies are still being born vaginally, certainly in the home environment by those midwives skilled in this form of delivery.  I was heartened to read that there are some murmurs of trying to normalise breech delivery again.

This gave me a little hope and I certainly wasn’t prepared to give up on the idea.  I played around with the possibility of employing the skills of an independent midwife, but something held me back from taking this forward.  I was very much of the mind-set that I would just wait and see what happened nearer the time, I just had a feeling that it would all become clearer. Ha, little could I have imagined!

 

 

 

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Part 24 - High Risk Pregnancy?

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The sickness arrived earlier, at five weeks this time and I felt awful. It was all consuming and particularly challenging with a toddler in tow. There just wasn’t the opportunity to rest as there had been during my first pregnancy and I struggled with this.

At seven weeks’ gestation I bled. I felt pretty certain that I was meant to have this baby, but this experience certainly tested my faith. I could still feel the energy of the baby within me and my pendulum was also suggesting that all was well, but the blood made me think otherwise.

It was a nervous hour as we waited to see the doctor, who confirmed that while my cervix was closed, there was still a high chance of miscarriage. She referred me on to the specialist who managed to see me the next day.

We were due a seven-week early pregnancy scan anyway, and it was a relief to see the heart beating on the screen; our growing embryo was alive and well and my faith was strengthened. It was also a reminder that we are all heart. It’s a profound moment when you get to see this in play; that heart and love is all there is really.

However, I did have a clot in my womb that was significantly larger than the growing embryo so I was placed on bed rest for a week.  This was a blessing of sorts as it provided me with an opportunity to rest, and helped ease me through this stage of the sickness as I was able to sleep and chill out.   

After the week on bed rest, life returned to normal, well as much as it can when you feel dreadfully sick, and over time the clot was re-absorbed by my body.  This whole episode did remind me of the need to take it slowly, and this certainly impacted on my yoga practice.

When I was pregnant with Elijah I continued with my active Vinyasa practice, making little allowance for the pregnancy. Yet now I felt very differently about the style of yoga and relished taking the practice gently. I adopted a much more feminine approach to my practice and was inspired greatly by the teachings of Uma Dinsmore-Tuli. I also made sure to incorporate Yoga Nidra and resting when I could to support the pregnancy.

The energy of this baby felt different than it had done with Elijah, which I found fascinating. S/he was less active, which concerned me at times, and encouraged me to dig deep and trust that all would be well. S/he felt much more grounded though and I had a sense that this was my healing baby.

I considered that perhaps this time I would be able to home birth and even though E was a little uncertain, I engaged the services of my doula, Anita, again. I wanted to have the spiritual birth experience that I hadn’t been able to have with Elijah and I wanted to do all I could to avoid having another Caesarean Section.

I was challenged therefore when I was scored by my midwife as being ‘high risk’.

“High risk, what on earth for?” I demanded to know.

“Well you’re over 40 years old, you’ve had a previous Caesarean Section and you’ve had IVF”, my midwife explained.

“But that’s ridiculous”, I tried to explain, “I’m fit and healthy and keen to homebirth”.

“Oh you won’t be able to do that”, she told me, “you’ll be under specialist care now”.

And with that the frustration began to set in again.

It didn’t help that when I saw the specialist for my initial consultation he was surprised I didn’t want a repeat Caesarean Section.

“Absolutely not”, I tried to tell him, “I had a bad experience last time and I certainly don’t want to repeat that again”.

With that he told me that my risk factors meant that there was absolutely no way that I could have a home birth. I was also not going to be allowed to go beyond 40 weeks without intervention and a Caesarean Section would likely become another reality.

I was incensed.  The specialist was new to the Island and seemed super cautious and I didn’t feel that he was listening to me.  E had come with me to the appointment and while he was pleased to hear that a homebirth was not going to be an option, he too felt that me being deemed ‘high risk’ was ridiculous.

There was another aspect to the appointment that also challenged me.  I knew with certainty the date of conception, as the clinic had confirmed this to me, but the 12-week dating scan had given me an estimated due date three days earlier than the ‘real’ one.  I have always been a little dubious of the due date thing, simply because babies arrive when they are ready, not the date that a machine has given to them based on the 12-week scan.

I was aware that the due date could play a significant role in one’s experience of late pregnancy and birth.  And now with the specialist talking about not letting me go beyond 40 weeks, those three days of discrepancy in due date became increasingly important to me.  I didn’t want the computer generated earlier due date, I wanted the due date given to me by the clinic, which was 2 December, just after E’s 50th birthday.

At the second appointment I got angry.  The specialist was again talking about the possibility of a Caesarean Section being the safest option for delivery and I was trying to say to him that I absolutely didn’t want a Caesarean Section, nor did I want intervention at 40 weeks which may inevitably lead to a Caesarean Section, and I absolutely didn’t want continuous monitoring of the baby either.

He was trying to stress the fact to me that the health of the baby was the most important thing to consider in terms of delivery.  I didn’t disagree with him but I did mention that my emotional and mental needs were important too, as I tried to explain how awful I had felt following Elijah’s birth and how I didn’t want to feel like that again.

He then asked me how I felt he should prioritise the health of the baby with my mental and emotional needs, which incensed me further.  Of course he needed to consider the health of the baby, that went without saying, but asking me to prioritise this was ridiculous, in my eyes it didn’t have to be so black and white.

E was also tested by this. He appreciated my need for a vaginal delivery and didn’t understand why that was going to be so difficult to achieve. I was fit and healthy, so in his eyes my age as a risk factor seemed crazy. He challenged the specialist on this but the specialist wasn’t listening. 

I was high risk and that was that. This meant growth scans throughout my pregnancy and a clinical birth. By the end of the appointment I felt disempowered, angry and frustrated. I didn’t want a Caesarean Section and I didn’t want the baby arriving earlier than it chose to arrive. Frankly I didn’t want any of this. I just wanted an empowering, joyful and spiritually enlightening homebirth.

It was a huge insight for me into how easily manipulated women are during pregnancy and how easily you can drop into a place of fear. I’d read extensively about birthing without fear and yet here I was, now full of fear. The specialist had tapped into my vulnerability and made me feel that my body was incapable of growing or birthing the baby without medical assistance.

I also felt that to choose an alternative birthing route would make me an incredibly irresponsible mother putting my baby and my life at risk. It didn’t help that E had also been affected by the fear pervading our specialist appointments and so I had the pressure of that too. While I desperately wanted to tap into and trust my body wisdom, the pressure to get it ‘right’ was now huge, trying for the birth of my choice seemed a massive undertaking.

I decided I couldn’t see the specialist again. His approach to my pregnancy was detrimentally affecting my experience of the pregnancy and making me feel sad and vulnerable. I cancelled my next couple of appointments with him and yet felt wayward even doing this, what if I did end up needing specialist care after all? I just wanted it all to go away and considered that my best option was birthing in a field on my own and seeing what happened!

My doula was aware how disempowered I felt from my specialist appointments and encouraged me to seek a resolution to it. As such I ended up contacting the Consultant Midwife here in Guernsey, and explained to her my concerns about the specialist led care and also the fact I was keen to birth at home if I could. 

She was wonderful, a true angel. She listened to me, which is something the specialist wasn’t doing, and this in itself was hugely empowering.  She also took action and arranged for me to see a specialist who would be more compassionate to my needs. She also confirmed that the midwife team would support me in my quest for a home birth.

I could have cried with the relief.  All of a sudden I felt liberated and supported and with that I felt that I could enjoy my pregnancy again.

After the morning sickness eased at 16 weeks, I really enjoyed this second pregnancy.  I’ve written about it before but morning sickness is so debilitating and it was a relief when it ended. Of course it was tiring, especially as Elijah was still waking at least once a night and wanted to be carried all the time, but it was a highlight in my life; I felt truly blessed.

I continued reading extensively on vaginal birth after Caesarean Section and homebirth.  I felt comfortable with my decision to try for a homebirth and decided that I would delay that conversation with my specialist for as long as possible. In many respects I should have opted not to see the specialist, but when you’re in the system it is very difficult to get yourself out of it without being made to feel irresponsible.

I finally saw the new specialist, who was female, and much more appreciative of my need to try for a vaginal birth, but was adamant that I shouldn’t be considering a home birth. She stressed the risk factors in doing both, which was frustrating because I felt the fear rearing its ugly head and had to be mindful of allowing the medical perspective to disempower me again.

It’s really incredible how we have managed to populate the world as we have when birth is considered so dangerous.  I appreciate there are risks.  The initial specialist had been keen to highlight this to me, when he quoted birthing vaginally in Afghanistan as being a very different experience from birthing vaginally in Guernsey. Women and babies regularly die from childbirth in Afghanistan, yet they don’t here, and we have the medical world to thank for that. And I guess we do really.  But all the same…

Still, there was still a high chance that despite all my efforts for a homebirth, this wasn’t going to happen because rather annoyingly here at 29 weeks, my baby was lying breech. I had already noticed this. I’d stupidly demonstrated a handstand in class the week earlier and whether that had been the reason I’ll never know, but it certainly hadn’t helped.

I was annoyed at myself for jeopardising the position of the baby. Elijah had been breech but due to the placenta previa it hadn’t really mattered so I had continued inverting during my yoga practice. But this time, I had been practicing yoga incredibly gently to ensure that this baby didn’t end up breech too.

Needless to say that the specialist was keen to point out to me (as it was her job to do) that if the baby remained breech at 36 weeks then we would need to discuss options for delivery. Sadly, breech babies are no longer allowed to be birthed vaginally and so a Caesarean Section would be the only option. Where was my luck?! I now had another hurdle to overcome and with that I took myself off to read all I could on breech babies and turning them around.

 

 

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Part 23 - Another Frozen Embryo Cycle

I can’t tell you what a difference a few months made in aligning me fully to the IVF process. It was a huge lesson for me. There is a timing for everything and you cannot rush these things. You absolutely cannot afford to have any resistance to the treatment either.

I was absolutely not ready in October. I was not aligned in any way and there was a good deal of underlying resistance. I was doing what I thought I should do, rather than what I felt I should do. I was fearful of time rushing away and unfulfilled dreams. And because of this, it lacked grounding, there was no connection to the Universe, I was misreading signs and full of fear rather than excitement.

Life was very different now. It was February 2016 and I felt truly committed to fulfilling my New Year’s intention of bringing new life into the world. I was ready. I was excited. The timing felt right, the energy of the New Year for me is all about new beginnings and with the Spring energy of new life approaching, I was keen to tap into it. Everything has a resonance to it, and for me this time of year and IVF had a meaning to it.

This time we decided that we wouldn’t tell anyone, not even our parents, so that it could be our own special journey, E and I. This made a huge difference as it gave the experience more intimacy. I also made it known that I was retreating a little from the world, to focus on a creative writing project, but of course there were two creative projects going on and the significance of this – at least energetically, emotionally and spiritually - was crucial for me. It was a time to create.

The frozen embryo cycle was identical to that we had followed in October. The only difference was the fact we paid an additional amount for embryo glue, which is meant to help the embryo implant in the uterus.

In terms of drugs, here we were again; day nineteen of my cycle on 8 February 2016 and I started a seven-day course of the oral Provera so that my cycle could be controlled once more. Two days later the injecting began. Twelve days after that I had a blood test to determine that my body was responding to the drugs positively. Six days after that and we started the GEEP cycle, which involved the Progynova tablets.

I recognised the need to retreat from the world and immerse myself in the healing power of nature during the beginning of treatment, and to give it the attention it deserved. Thus the three of us retreated to the Island of Herm together for four days in the depths of winter and turned off the WIFI.  We spent our days walking around the Island immersed in the beauty of nature in the winter time, often not seeing another person.

We swam in the freezing cold sea, which I’ve always found to be both physically invigorating and so good for the soul. I also practised yoga on my own, enjoying the views of the sea from my yoga space in the cosy cottage we had rented, and resting with my legs up the wall, channelling Reiki onto my womb space.

It was a special time and ensured that we were truly in the intimate IVF zone for the rest of the treatment. It was now just a matter of continuing with this and as I did so, my connection to the Divine deepened and my faith was restored – Amen.

So by the time we got to embryo transfer I was getting really excited. It was due to happen a few days after my March Yoga and Wellbeing retreat on Herm and that whole weekend just felt perfect in terms of preparing me. Not least the energy of Herm and immersing oneself in that beautiful yogic energy with other like minded souls but more swimming in the sea and the connection to nature that the weekend provided.

It seemed that every time we left our room there was a robin in the tree outside the hotel. Robins are angels in disguise and also serve as validation that life is about to change. It was most certainly a sign and I took great comfort in this. So too on the way to the airport a few days later, when an owl flew right in front of the car at dusk. It was such a random occurrence that even E was blown away by the coincidence.

There is always the risk that the embryo – or in this case the six day old blastocyst which had been frozen for three years now – may not survive the thawing process and that the seven weeks of medication have been in vain. But fortunately for us this was not the case, the blastocyst survived and I felt that it had been waiting the whole time patiently for us.

We had left Elijah with my parents in Guernsey, and this was the first time we had ever been away without him. It felt strange but appropriate too, a little more intimate, ideal given that we were intending to ‘conceive’ new life.  We stayed in the same hotel we had stayed in for the initial treatment three years earlier, which felt appropriate, ending the journey (or so we hoped) where it had begun.

The next morning, I was able to practice some yoga to help centre myself before walking around the beautiful grounds of the hotel together.  Strangely it was another clear wintery morning, as it had been the previous time we had stayed, and I practiced some more yoga in the deer circle before hugging the very old cedar tree and saying my prayers to the ethereal beings. 

At the clinic it was far less clinical than it had been in October.  The nurse was known to us and the consultant was friendly and personable and this time we got to see the star of the blastocyst going into my womb, hoorah. When we left, we said goodbye to the consultant and the nurse and I was fairly confident we wouldn’t need to return to the clinic again.

I felt the energy of the blastocyst in my tummy immediately; it was strong and vibrant, expansive too, full of the potential of new life. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to connect to the energy of life from conception like this and it gave me immense comfort during my pregnancy, but especially in those earlier days.

However even though I could feel this energy and had faith in a positive outcome, I was still challenged by the 12-day waiting period to take the test. I would sit at the beginning of my yoga practice and notice where I was feeing sensation in my body and inevitably it was in my stomach and as I dropped my awareness deeper into it, I recognised it as fear.

Fear really had no reason to be there, it was my mind playing tricks, my heart had a sense that all was well, and I could actually feel the blastocyst taking root inside me! So I sat with the awareness deep in my tummy, being curious to see what happened and inevitably there would be a shift and the anxiety would ease.

It was ridiculous really, because while there was the fear and anxiety there was also this knowing that all would be well and the Universe was certainly leaving me plenty of signs to validate this.   Three days before the test someone at work made an offhand comment about me being the next lady in the office to get pregnant; ha ha, if only they knew.

The next day, on a training course this time, we were given a pink USB stick that one of the guys mentioned looked like a pregnancy testing stick. He accidentally dropped it on the floor and it landed just by me so he reached down to pick it up and said to me, “oh it says you’re pregnant Emma”.  I chuckled to myself because little did he know that in two day’s time I would be taking a test that would hopefully tell me this!

There were other signs too – the child related cards flew out of my pack of angel cards and robins and feathers were everywhere I looked so I knew I was surrounded by the angels. This is not to say that there’s anything special about me, just that I had aligned myself on that level and was feeling the support of the Universe, which really helped to keep my spirit high.

It was 5am on testing day when I took the test, which fortunately validated what I already knew.  I was pregnant! The Goddess of the moon had bestowed me with child and I was ecstatic. I couldn’t stop smiling. E was relieved and my parents were joyful. My dream was coming true.  Maybe now I’d get the spiritual awakening that can accompany birth – a homebirth, or so I hoped.

 

 

 

 

 

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Part 22 - Recovering from a failed IVF cycle

Failing an IVF cycle sucks. It’s not so much the wasted time and money, nor the fact you’ve pumped medication into your body unnecessarily but it’s the loss of the life you began to allow yourself to imagine. Broken dreams. And the fact that on some level you feel that you’re not good enough to be blessed with the gift of new life, almost as if the Universe has it in for you.

I know that I needed to understand how a failed IVF cycle felt to be a more empathetic, conscious and compassionate healer, and be able to help others, but it still hurt.  Having already had Elijah undoubtedly softened the blow and I can only imagine how much tougher it must be for those couples who have not already been blessed with a baby. Furthermore, I cannot imagine having to go through failed cycles repeatedly.

Deep down I had known the IVF wasn’t going to work and I’d self sabotaged really, but this didn’t stop me from feeling shocked. It was my wake up call and it was E’s wake up call too. He’d been going through the motions with me but not feeling it either, concerned as he was whether we would cope with another baby with both of us still so sleep deprived by the first.

We processed the failing in our own way and both concluded that actually, yes, we really did want another baby. We’d been told the greatest gift we could give Elijah was a sibling, and we both felt this. We were older parents with siblings of our own living, for the most part, the other side of the world and we didn’t want Elijah being left on his own.

We were also very well aware that we only had one frozen blastocyst still remaining, stored as it was in the clinic in Southampton. We knew this was our last chance because we didn’t want to have to go through the whole process from the beginning again, it was this blastocyst or it was none.

I still recall the moment in the clinic during embryo transfer the first time, when two of the three blastocysts had been inserted into my uterus, and we were told that the remaining blastocyst would be frozen. I had this overwhelming sense that the blastocyst would become a baby one day.  It had concerned me slightly as I had always dreamt of having two children and we had the potential for twins with that first cycle.

However, they say that the Universe only gives you as much as you can handle and clearly we weren’t going to be able to manage twins as only one of the blastocysts took. And now here we were, hoping to try for a second baby and only having that one frozen blastocyst left. 

It’s a strange concept; a life conceived with the energy of a February full moon in 2013 and yet frozen in time for use in another year.

I knew now, with absolute certainty, that I wanted this frozen blastocyct to become a baby.  I also knew that to achieve this, I needed to make changes. My body felt acidic and exhausted, my mind was cluttered and agitated, my spirit had been flagging and my life too busy and noisy.  I recognised that it was time to retreat, heal, deepen my faith and get my feet firmly back down on the ground again.

It was October at the time and I had a follow-up telephone call with the clinic, confirming that I wanted to try again using our final blastocyst.  The clinic was happy for me to begin whenever I felt ready and I had a feeling that this would be in the following February.  I was keen to align the frozen embryo cycle as closely as possible with the original cycle, and give myself plenty of time to heal.

The seasons each have their own energy, encouraging a different way of being, you can see this clearly in nature. Spring is full of the incredibly vibrancy of new life and new beginnings, ignited by Imbolc on 1 February and I wanted to tap into this.  I felt that to thaw the blastocyst in the same seasonal energy that it was frozen would spark some recognition and there would be a resonance that would be lacking at other times of the year.

Furthermore, nature encourages one to retreat, rejuvenate and replenish during the darker months of the year and I was keen to flow with this.  The timing felt ‘right’ as if it was always meant to be.

And I suspect it was always meant to be, for it felt as if my decision-making caused a rush of support to come in. I asked the angels for help and help was given.

I got this overwhelming feeling that I needed to go and see my Ayurvedic doctor and on her recommendation, and with complete ease, I booked myself on a three-day Pancha karma at her clinic near Gatwick during the beginning of December.    

This was a deeply healing experience, not least the opportunity to spend two nights on my own and much of it in silence, but the effect of the treatments too. I was massaged within an inch of my life, my body nourished and my mind cooled and quietened with glorious oils and herbs, and my soul nurtured and brought back to life. My feet were also brought back down to earth again.

There was another benefit to the trip in that Elijah self-weaned.  He was two by then and I had been praying for a peaceful weaning experience, and lo and behold here it came. My Ayurvedic doctor had been keen for me to wean him and had proposed the use of herbs which would make my milk taste bitter.

It had taken me a while to come to terms with this, and reach the point where I felt ready to do so, and so I agreed to the herbs being massaged around my nipples during the treatment.  Whether Elijah could sense the change in my smell, or had decided himself that he was ready to wean, I’ll never know, but strangely he didn’t even try to feed. I admit I grieved for a few days, but I was welcoming of the shift this created for the family.

I’ll also admit that Elijah started sleeping better, now he woke every three hours. The trouble was I couldn’t now pacify him with my breast, but a cuddle seemed to do the job, so I spent much of the night cuddling him now.  This didn’t seem so bad, plus I started to feel like I had a little more energy, and I enjoyed the additional freedom – E could now try settling him to sleep (this is the bit that now took the time and energy!).

I also went for some Ki massage sessions with an intuitive healer, who helped me to recognise and come to terms with the anger and rage I had been holding in my uterus towards the placenta previa and the Caesarean Section. The sessions were insightful and taught me a lot about how we hold our emotions in the physical body and how this affects how we feel on every other level and how our lives unfold in the material world as a result of this.

I also finally managed to find an ornament for my altar of a family of four, so I had a clear visual of what I was trying to create. I updated my vision board too, with images of babies and me pregnant. I know that the jury is out on vision boards as you need to also feel whatever it is you’re trying to create but for me the visual has always helped in manifesting the dream.

New Year arrived and with that I did a burning bowl ceremony where I let go of the old, and set my intentions for the year ahead – it was easy, 2016 was about creation and bringing another soul into the world.

Once an intention has been set and is felt deep within one’s heart and soul, then a spark ignites in the ether and the Universe conspires to provide the support that is needed to assist you on your journey.  All you’ve got to do is get out of the way and try not to control the process.

It was poignant therefore that two weeks later I cracked some ribs while skiing my last run of the holiday. I quickly realised why it had happened because it hurt to move, which meant I couldn’t really do anything. I had needed to slow down and the Universe had intervened and made sure of that!

As I mentioned, the Universe will always support what you are trying to create if it is heart felt, but it will never unfold in a way you could imagine. It will leave signs and prompts to direct you along the path, but if you continue ignoring them and not listening to the advice that is given then it will take drastic action to get your attention.

The Universe had my attention and I almost laughed at the state I now found myself in.  I had little choice but to rest. I couldn’t exercise and I couldn’t practice yoga, at least not in the active manner I had been practicing previously. It was a blessing really, as it encouraged me into a whole new way of being, especially on my yoga mat.

It gave me the opportunity to practice restorative yoga, which I had not practiced for years.  It was perfect, as it helped me to acknowledge the depths of my exhaustion and to (finally) do something about this.  I was amazed how quickly I felt the benefits of resting in poses for prolonged periods of time, and am thankful to Judith Lasater’s book called “Rest and Renew” for guidance with this

I also dropped into my Yoga Nidra space again and now felt aligned with the Sankalpa, “I am pregnant with a healthy baby”. I was meditating again too and I prayed for a successful IVF cycle and asked for the support and guidance of the angels.  I invested in Rose Quartz and Moonstone, both reputed to assist with fertility and pregnancy and dowsed for Bach Floral remedies to support me.

By the February I was feeling more myself again.  I was stronger physically and mentally than I had been for some time and my faith and connection to Source felt restored. I also felt empowered, as I had listened to my intuition and the guidance of the Universe and tried my best to flow with both and now here I was feeling whole and centred again; healed then.

I knew I was now ready for another round of IVF and I had a strong feeling that this time it would result in a positive outcome. I was back in my IVF zone and focused on doing all I could to support and trust in the process.

 

 

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Part 21 - A Frozen Embryo Cycle

Once my fortieth birthday was celebrated I felt a pressure – admittedly my own - to try another round of IVF and use one of the three frozen embryos stored at the clinic in Southampton.  It was July and Elijah was due to turn two in the November and I was aware that time was ticking and we weren’t getting any younger.

The miracle of science means that embryos can be frozen in time and thawed for use in future cycles, depending on their quality. This is called a frozen cycle and means that you have to take medication to prevent ovulation and to prepare the womb for embryo transfer. Once the endometrium (lining of the womb) is of the right thickness, further medication is introduced and the thawing process takes place.

The embryos are thawed in the laboratory and assessed as to whether they have fully survived the thawing process. Sometimes embryos don’t survive the thawing process, or aren’t of a good enough quality to be used, and if this happens then there is little that can be done, aside from meet with one of the consultants to discuss further options.

I have always appreciated that there are no guarantees with IVF, but I was feeling desperately uncomfortable with the thought that you could take a whole heap of medication to get your body ready to receive an embryo, only for the embryo to die during the thawing process, or not be of a good enough quality to be used in that particular IVF cycle.

It was for this reason that I decided I would continue breastfeeding despite the fact that breastfeeding is a big ‘no, no’ in the IVF world. I had spent months deliberating about this and had even had counselling to help me make a decision.

However, I now knew with complete certainty that I wanted to breastfeed Elijah until he was two years old regardless of the IVF; I was keen to do all I could to promote and support his immune system, plus I definitely wasn’t (and I didn’t think he was either) ready to give up this beautifully intimate experience.

I read extensively on the subject and took much comfort in the fact that I was not alone. Many women go through the breastfeeding/IVF quandary and with good reason. For many, this may be their only chance to breastfeed as there are no guarantees that the IVF will work for them again.

Furthermore, while the clinics insist that you stop due to the potential harmful effect on the breastfed toddler or child, there is little research or evidence to quantify this.  It is more due to concern about the effect that breastfeeding has on a woman’s hormonal status and the manner in which this may impact on the effectiveness of the IVF drugs.

Like most women in my position, I was effectively hedging my bets. It’s not an easy decision to make and I was easily judged for it. But at the end of the day, right, or wrong, it was the decision that I felt most comfortable with for all concerned, and E supported me with it.

We had a telephone set-up appointment with a nurse at Wessex, to run through the process.  There were lots of forms for both E and I to complete and I had to have another HIV test as my previous one had expired.  This was slightly annoying as it was yet another IVF expense, although the frozen embryo cycle was going to cost us significantly less than the first cycle at approximately £3,000 (including our travel and blood tests etc.).

I had to attend MSG in Guernsey to be reminded how to inject myself and to pick up my prescription for the drugs.  My heart felt heavy and I couldn’t get excited like I had done on the first attempt.  I didn’t really want to be injecting myself with all the drugs, and I felt the self-pity seeping in before I’d even begun.

I was very well aware that IVF is hard work. It demands metal, emotional and physical strength and I was tired. The constant sleepless nights had taken their toll, plus our lifestyle hadn’t slowed down at all.  It was the summer and the summer is active in nature and I was active with it.  I didn’t know how to stop, or to get to bed early, or to do any of those things that might encourage a more restful state of being.

I also hadn’t really prepared myself beyond reducing my wine consumption and eating as healthily as I could.  I was still practicing yoga, but not in a manner that might support the IVF. I didn’t seem to have the time to meditate or to practice Yoga Nidra as I had done previously and anyway the Sankalpa, “I am pregnant with a healthy baby” felt forced and didn’t resonate.

Furthermore, while I went for a few acupuncture sessions, I did this because I felt that I had to, and even then it was tricky finding the time, and I would rush in and rush out to get on with whatever else I had scheduled into my busy days. I certainly didn’t manage to find the time to go for reflexology and Reiki sessions; having a toddler in my life and a busy job certainly challenged this.

Day 19 of that cycle finally arrived and with that I started a seven-day course of Provera. This is a synthetic form of progesterone which the clinic uses to suppress the natural cycle so that they can then control it through drugs. It’s a tablet, which felt strong on my liver and I wasn’t best pleased about having my cycle suppressed like this.

I am fascinated by women’s cycles and the manner in which these can be so insightful about how we are living our lives and our mental, emotional and spiritual state of being. We have a womb wisdom and I wasn’t sure I liked my womb being artificially manipulated like this.  I had a level of resistance to the process, and angst about what was happening to my body.

On day 21, I had to start injecting the drug, Buserelin. Buserelin is a synthetic form of a hormone which occurs naturally in the body. It works by acting on the pituitary gland in the brain to stop the production of natural hormones that control the release of eggs from the ovaries. E administered the injections for me and I tried my best to just suck it up again and accept my reality, but I quickly grew weary of the drug regime.

Ten days later my period started and four days after that I had to attend MSG for a blood test.  It was such a relief that this testing could be done on Guernsey so that I didn’t need to travel to Southampton. The test checks the levels of the hormone oestrogen in your blood to see whether suppression has occurred.

Fortunately, I was suitably supressed and with that we were now able to move to the GEEP cycle. It really felt like a long and drawn out treatment schedule as I had been taking drugs for 15 days at that point, and was now about to begin a new cycle of the treatment plan.

This cycle involved a reduction in the dosage of the Buserelin, although this still needed to be injected daily.  Also, I now had to start Progynova, oestrogen tablets which are administered in order to prepare the endometrium for implantation. I had to take 2mg dosage for five days, before the dosage was increased to 4mg for four days and then up to 6mg for the remainder of the treatment.

Day 15 of the GEEP cycle and I began taking the Cyclogest pessaries twice a day too. Cyclogest contains the active ingredient progesterone, which acts on the womb lining and causes it to thicken in preparation for a fertilised egg to implant. On the basis that pregnancy occurs, this medication is continued until the the placenta develops fully and begins to produce progesterone to continue to support the pregnancy.

This meant that each morning I was now injecting Buserelin and taking 2mg of Progynova and 400mg of Cyclogest.  At lunchtime I had to take an additional 2mg of Progynova and then in the evening I took the last 2mg of the Progynova and also an additional 400mg of the Cyclogest.  While inserting a pessary into the vagina twice a day is not ideal, at least it bypassed the liver, so that was one less thing to process.

On day 17 of the GEEP cycle I had to attend Southampton for a blood test, with the possibility of embryo transfer a few days later. It wasn’t ideal timing as this coincided with a pre-booked yoga course with Cyndi Lee in London that I was due to attend with a friend.

This meant having to tell my friend what was happening, which was unfortunate as we had hoped to keep the IVF a secret, not only to make it more intimate but to reduce the pressure when it came to the testing. Furthermore, while I tried to convince myself that a yoga course was the ideal environment for an embryo to take root, rushing up to London with family now in tow was likely going to challenge that.

We also now had two days between the blood test and embryo transfer to fill and I felt this overwhelming and all encompassing need to go to Glastonbury. We’d visited briefly when Elijah was three months old, and something about the energy of the place had gotten under my skin. I knew I needed to return.

They say that Glastonbury is the heart chakra of the world and home of the Mother Goddess. It is located where the St Michael and St Mary ley lines meet and has an incredibly healing and nurturing energy. It attracts spiritual seekers and those connecting to the other worlds. For me, it feels a little like coming home.

It wasn’t until we were in Glastonbury however that I realised how much I needed its energy and its healing. This was validated to me on the eve of embryo transfer when I went for an Angel Reiki session with a practitioner in the centre of town.  The lady commented that I wasn’t in the here and now, floating in the ether instead. She was right, I was aware that I had been ungrounded and disconnected since the trauma of the placenta previa, two years before.

The lady knew that I was undertaking IVF and I knew that she knew that there wasn’t a soul waiting to come in.  How could it as I had no grounding or anchoring to draw it in. It was a desperately uncomfortable feeling, and I didn’t like that she could see my truth so clearly through the layers of denial I’d created.

It felt strange being in the centre of town that afternoon as I felt as if I was floating through it and I saw others floating through it too.  I was deeply aware that what we put out is reflected back to us and I was uncomfortable seeing so many lost souls wandering around. I couldn’t keep pretending that all was well and there was a painful recognition that I too was fragmented and disconnected to my soul.

Walking up Glastonbury Tor later that afternoon, I wondered whether I had been drawn to Glastonbury to ground ahead of embryo transfer, as if I might wing it at the last minute. It’s a ridiculous thought really as you don’t just ‘wing’ IVF. There was no chance of that regardless as I continued to self sabotage into the evening drinking some wine with a particularly spicy meal, which I’m very well aware imbalances my energy.

A part of me was hugely resisting the IVF process, because deep down, in my heart of hearts, I knew that I wasn’t ready. How could I be? I wasn’t sure who I was and what I wanted anymore.

It was a fascinating experience as it gave me a real insight into the energy of manifestation and how we absolutely need to be whole and aligned, and how we need to feel deep within with every ounce of our being whatever it is we’re trying to create and bring in.

I certainly wasn’t feeling it.  I felt like a fraud praying for a healthy pregnancy because this wasn’t my truth, so I prayed for other things instead, things that seemed more pressing and which had nothing to do with the IVF process.

The next day we returned to Southampton for embryo transfer. We had arranged for my Dad to fly over from Guernsey for the day to look after Elijah while we attended the clinic. It wasn’t that the clinic had said we couldn’t take him with us, more so that they had not been encouraging of it, and we felt it should be an intimate affair without having to manage him.

However, it was far from intimate. We didn’t know the consultant or the nurse and we felt a lack of connection to either. The embryologist explained that they had thawed the two remaining embryos (3-day) leaving the blastocyst (6-day embryo) frozen. One of the embryos had not survived the thawing process and the other one they had managed to culture to blastocyst stage.

This threw me a little as I had expected to use the blastocyst frozen at the time Elijah was conceived, but the clinic felt that we should use the recently cultured one instead.

The embryologist showed us an example image of the blastocyst we would be using to demonstrate the quality of it, and explained that it was of slightly less quality than the one we had in storage but that the difference was miniscule.

However, that miniscule difference meant a lot to me and I knew then and there that it wasn’t going to take. It didn’t help that we had trouble identifying the star of the embryo as it was released into my uterus. It just all felt like such a clinical procedure that was over within minutes.

Joining my Dad and Elijah for lunch in the park, I could certainly feel the expansive energy of the new life within me, and I shall always be grateful for this opportunity. However, over the weekend, on the yoga course in London, I struggled to feel it, and knew it wasn’t going to make it.

I’d known for a while that I needed to experience a failed IVF cycle, to know how it felt.  A number of women have come to me for Reiki who had experienced failed cycles.  I could feel in their energy that there was some resistance to the process and that there was a lack of grounding and faith or trust in the process or their ability to create.

Furthermore, I had a sense that the IVF was part of their journey towards greater healing and connection to self.  It had arisen in their life as an opportunity to go deeper, to do the inner work required to truly ‘know thyself’, and to connect perhaps for the first time, or more deeply even, with the spiritual element of all life.

I had come to recognise this during our first attempt at IVF, how the process had increased my faith in, and connection to Source, and encouraged me to drop into the space that supported this. My practise had deepened and awakened me to the potential to heal myself and know my own truth. It had been an empowering experience in manifestation too.

Here now, I knew there was more healing work to be done.  I was quite literally sitting on an awful lot of anger and frustration in my pelvis.  My faith had been challenged with the placenta previa and the taxing introduction to motherhood, and I knew that I needed to make peace with this before truly inviting another soul in.

Still, this awareness didn’t make the 12-day waiting period to take the pregnancy test any the less challenging.  It was awful. I slept fitfully, waking with this frantic need to feel the energy of the embryo within my tummy.  And even though deep down I knew that the IVF wasn’t working, there was still a level of denial that had me trying to convince myself that I could feel the energy.

The days passed slowly and I spent a lot of time with my hands on my tummy, feeling anxious and daunted. Fear had taken root and I couldn’t seem to shift it.

I’m not sure I really slept the night before taking the test. By 5am I’d had enough and took myself off to the bathroom shaking with the apprehension. This time I didn’t bother to take the test through to E, I just left it sitting on the edge of the bath while I went downstairs to put the kettle on.  By the time I returned the test was complete and there it was, what I knew already, “Not pregnant”. And with that, I burst into tears.

 

 

 

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