Fertility Treatment Thoughts from the Heart
There are all kinds of ways to express the feelings that we have that are sometimes overwhelming. I write. I draw. I paint. I practice yoga. I read. I pray and meditate. I cry. I laugh.
One of our own, a patient here at RMACT, shared a beautiful piece of writing with me. With her permission, I am printing it here, unedited and signed with her initials only. Thoughts on fertility treatment. ~Lisa
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By choice, I haven’t had alcohol in over six months. I thought it would help my fertility. Despite my unfortunate excitement to drink away my sorrow, I lost the taste for my once-cherished Chianti.
Even in the luxurious Waterford crystal glass, allowing the wine to breathe, my taste buds revolted with each smothering sip. I persevered, and finished the glass, never receiving the numbness of intoxication that could have compensated for my newly unearthed distaste of red wine.
I wanted to sleep, but the sugar of the wine and my screaming cat, caused a seven a.m. rise and shine. So I headed to fertility-unfriendly, hot yoga to sweat out the toxins.
The class was so crowded, I had to squeeze myself into the front corner - between the person behind me, the left wall, the front window display and the yoga instructor.
Each of the thirty-or-so times I inverted into downward facing dog, my necklace dangled, and its circle charm inscribed “believe” and the baby’s feet inside it kicked my face.
In the exact moment that I noticed the smell of rotting flowers, the instructor said “I’m so sorry that you’re almost doing your yoga into dead flowers. They lasted over a week. I guess it’s time to throw them out.”
Two frozen embryos were transferred. In a little over a week, the good news of my doubling beta subsided, only to learn the progression of my pregnancy had ceased.
In my meditative state, I pondered how Sheryl Crow might write this verse into her hit song “Isn’t it Ironic.” According to my body, I guess it’s time to throw them out.
A Chance to Speak Out About Infertility
It's time. Back in the dark ages, no one talked about infertility and fertility treatment. Well, almost no one. Here and now, guess what? Many of us still don't talk about infertility and fertility treatment. Two major side effects of infertility; isolation and shame.
There are many reasons not to talk about infertility. If you're reading this, you may recognize your reason on this list; shame, privacy, insurance coverage, fear of pity, avoiding unhelpful help, easier, sparing the other person(s) pain, thinking that you will be pregnant soon enough so it's not necessary, jealousy and envy, not wanting to be the topic of conversation. And more. It's a partial list, your reasons may not appear there.
Celebrities Talk Too, Including Mrs. New York
I had all those reasons. But I had something else too. A big mouth. Which, it turned out, was a good thing. It got me out of myself and into volunteering. These days infertility is all over the news. Even the celebrities talk about it, embarassing as it could be for them, even damaging to their public personas. Still, they talk about it. Check out Mrs. New York in our photo.
I started talking a long time ago. I started volunteering. I started writing. I did interviews. I did television shows. This was over twenty years ago. I haven't stopped since. My biggest reward is to see infertility conversation out of the closet. To see it discussed on all major media and social media platforms. It just isn't enough though. It's time. We need you. I need you.
Please Join the Conversation at Fertile Yoga on March 11, 2013
I was asked to be interviewed by a very sympathetic television reporter. She would like to video a Fertile Yoga class, on March 11, at 11:30 am. Most likely the class will be taught at Blackbird Yoga, in Georgetown CT, about 20 minutes north of Norwalk and 20 minutes south of Danbury.
I need you. I need you to come and take class that day. If you can find a way to be comfortable, we would arrange for you to be interviewed as well. This is an opportunity to come out of the closet. To be with a group of people, acknowledging this very prevalent (one out of six people will face the challenge of infertility) health problem.
Come be part of the solution. Bring infertility just a little bit more out of the closet. Find your own voice and let it be heard. My email address, if you are interested, is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put in the subject line ~ Fertile Yoga - It's time. For those of you who participate, there will be a little concrete sign of our gratitude.
8 Common Excuses for Not Wanting to Practice Fertile Yoga
I hear a lot of excuses. I make a LOT of excuses. Excuses about why I don't do something. Excuses about why I do some things. Here are a couple of really special excuses about not practicing Fertile Yoga:
- I'd rather swim in a tank full of sharks than do yoga
- I'm not flexible
- Yoga's too weird
- I'm too tired
- I'm too anxious
- My husband/wife/partner/best friend/mother/sister doesn't think it's a good idea
- I don't have the right clothes
- I can't afford it (Fertile Yoga is free of charge in two locations)
Recognize yourself? I know with a simple twist, those are excuses that I have used myself, many times, about many things I've wanted to avoid doing. Except for the tank full of sharks thing, that one, so far, I've not used. I'm looking closely at excuse number 7 today. I don't have the right clothes.
In Fertile Yoga, I've seen students come to class with the perfect, most stylish yoga clothes. I've seen t-shirts and sweats that are more than a decade old. Some students come straight from work and practice in class in dress pants and sweaters. Some come from home, in jeans. I've had students show up in dresses, skirts, leggings, and almost every other combination you can imagine. With the exception of elegant evening wear, I thought I had seen it all.
Practicing Yoga With Mrs. New York
Then I had the privilage and honor of teaching a fertile yoga class at the conference on January 26, "Dreams, Angels and Miracles- The Building Blocks of Life". (Thanks Fran Meadows!) Enter Mrs. New York. Is she not gorgeous? And dressed as she was, did she not have the perfect excuse to excuse herself from class? She didn't. Hysha Robinson Nesmith, Mrs. New York, 2013, struggling with infertility and fertility treatment herself, sat herself down in her beautiful, pleated dress, with her tiara sitting gently on her head and with a sash wrapped around her and practiced with us.
She didn't offer any excuses. She just sat right down and participated. With a tiara, a sash and a smile. Like many of us, she was willing to try Fertile Yoga, with the idea of it enhancing her chances of becoming pregnant. Knowing that it would help decrease her stress levels. Hearing that it could lower her pulse rate and soften her anxiety. Understanding that at the very least, practicing Fertile Yoga could offer her an hour or so of focusing on all the beautiful, healthy ways that her body, mind and heart worked. To bring focus to her breath and her heartbeat. To be reminded that she is a beautiful, strong, vibrant women.
And she reminded me. It doesn't matter how you show up to Fertile Yoga. Wear your most fashionable yoga clothes or your most comfortable pajama bottoms. Wear your heart on your sleeve or bring your most stoic face. Just come. However you are. With or without a tiara. You are most welcome. Fertile Yoga, I hope to see you there.
Extraordinary Questions, Ordinary Moments
Extraordinary questions appear, often with no warning. And then they are there. Sometimes there's time to think and sometimes there is only time to answer. Straight from the heart.
I met a woman yesterday before teaching a fertile yoga class. A student. It turns out, a teacher as well.
She's been coming to class regularly now for several months, so it was not our first meeting. Often she comes with a friend who is so close that I mistook them for sisters. I find out that they are sisters, of the heart, although not by blood.
There are meetings and then there are meetings.
I had formally met her. Knew her name. Knew that she was trying out yoga. That she was enjoying it. Knew that her downward facing dog was getting longer and brigher. I knew what she looked like, from the outside. I had met her.
And then there are meetings.
She approached me before class yesterday. It was one of the few times that I was early to teach that class. I had some time that I didn't quite know what to do with, that I hadn't filled up. Unusual for me. Normally I would have taken a walk or a shower perhaps. Or gotten on the treadmill or read or written. I had felt unsettled and so I had come into the studio early to come to my own center before teaching.
Things happen for a reason. It turns out, over and over again, that this is true.
She wanted to know if she could ask me a question. I looked at her and saw the whole world open up, through the windows of her eyes. I knew in that instant that this perfectly ordinary woman was going to ask me the extraordinary.
And she did.
I wondered occasionally whether my students understood how deeply I meant what I expressed in class; how my beliefs came out in my words to them, meant to support and encourage and even help them find new places within themselves.
She was brave enough to ask. And the question that she chose was extraordinary.
"Do you really believe what you say about our physical selves being only our containers, holding our truest selves?"
Yes. I really believe that.
She went on. Of course she did.
"What do you believe happens to us after we pass?"
Extraordinary human being.
She had a daughter. A beautiful daughter, I saw a picture. Her daughter has died.
Her quiet presence in my classes had started to be a root for me to build the practice.
We get asked extraordinary questions, in the most ordinary of moments.
And it matters what we say then. It matters that we respond in a way that offers support and love and compassion with our entire being.
Asking Questions About Infertility: Also Straight to the Heart
Here are a few more. If you have dealt with infertility in any way, you know these answers must also come straight from the heart.
- When is enough, enough? How many cycles of IVF or IUI is the right amount of effort for you?
- What words do you use to share information about donor egg or donor sperm with your child? At what age?
- Can you turn your sights to adoption if fertility treatment doesn't work?
We recognize extraordinary questions when we hear them. Do we realize that we are extraordinary enough to answer them?
Riding Out Fertility Treatment Challenges
You're in fertility treatment. And you're actually feeling okay, even pretty good. The medications are going pretty well, the injections not all that big a deal. The fertility treatment cycle is going pretty smoothly, one step at a time.
Your best friend calls you. She got married 5 minutes ago and is pregnant.
Okay, yes, an exaggeration, but you know what I mean.
Needless to say, you feel differently now than you did a little while ago.
Infertility Can Take You for a Ride
Infertility can do that to you. You can get down pretty darn fast. Go to the mall, see all the babies and it hurts. Get that phone call about your best friend or yet another invitation in the mail for a baby shower. These things hurt. Sometimes they take your breath away. Sometimes they take your hope away.
We all know that what goes up, must come down.
The inverse is also true.
What goes down, must go up.
Did you know that part?
Fertile Yoga Reminders
My beautiful, courageous, delicious Fertile Yoga students remind me of that. I often see the tensions, sadness and anxiety on their faces in the beginning of class. The tightness around their eyes and mouths. Holding it all in. Then we get to talk a bit and we share the stories. The friends that announced their pregnancies this week or the cycle not going as planned. Or the mother/mother-in-law/sister/friend/work colleague that asked the question with an arrow aimed right at the heart.
And their faces start to soften.
Then we do Fertile Yoga.
It turns out what goes down, does go up.
Their faces get lighter and brighter. Relaxation flows into their shoulders and they soften away from their ears. Breathing becomes smoother and less controlled.
If only for an hour or so, the roller coaster is on the top of the track and the view is glorious.
Yes, what goes down also goes up.
Hope is what propels us all. Breathe into it.
Fertility Yoga Poses and Fear
While I'm terrified of going upside down, I'm simultaneously attracted by headstands, handstands and other fertility yoga poses that make me see the world from another direction. I was a physically active child, but well-rooted to the earth; going upside down mainly was in the moment, as in the dizzying practice of cartwheels. Fear of falling or failing, but mainly fear of being unsafe kept headstands and handstands very far away from my practice or even my consciousness for decades.
Understanding Yoga Poses for Fertility
It's taken me eleven-plus years to learn how to physically create a headstand that is safe, and, through that time, I've come to a better understanding of yoga poses for fertility. A good question to ask when practicing headstand is "is it safe enough?" A even better question could be, "why discuss headstand at all when it comes to fertility treatment, infertility, and Fertile Yoga?"
Inversions offer the physical body a relief, an antidote let's say, to the pressure of gravity. According to the article by Yoko Yokishawa, "All Systems Check," published in Yoga Journal, "There are four major systems in the body that the practice of inversions is said to positively influence: cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous, and endocrine."
Reminders About Yoga to Increase Fertility
In focusing on yoga to increase fertility, I can offer some ideas to keep in mind going forward as you understand the connections between yoga and fertility:
1. Inversions can be mild, like legs up the wall;
2. The endocrine system orders the reproductive endocrine system;
3. The clear-headedness that one receives after headstand is possible after other inversions; and
4. The three minutes that it takes to recalibrate and allow for greater health is well worth the time.
I was on my way to the gym last night to work out. It was my first time venturing out in almost three days and I felt brave driving on the dramatically wet roads,
surrounded on either side with snow piled so high as to make the familiar landscape unrecognizable.
My phone lit up, indicating an email had come in. I’m sure the gentleman driving behind me thought I had lost my mind or perhaps just wished I’d put my hands back on the steering wheel to drive more safely as I whooped and hollered and waved my arms around.
There was going to be one yoga class that took place last night in three days. I turned around and there I went. To meet a group of wise, beautiful women and practice together in the cold, icy night. We created warmth and community and light and joy. Not every class is like that, but last night’s was. Celebrating authenticity. Diving deep inside and finding the truth and essence. Perhaps patience. Perhaps moderation. Perhaps comfort. Community, absoloutely.
Thank you Colette, Dina, Natasha, Heather and two lovely others:
If you want to become whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight,
let yourself be crooked.
If you want to become full,
let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn,
let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything,
give everything up.
- Tao Te Ching
Focus. Obsession. The first is what many of us strive for, the second, what we try to avoid. How wide is the dividing line between the two?
Lately, in my own yoga practice, distinct and different than my teaching, I have been exploring focus. If I had a nickel for every time I heard the word used in class, I would be a very wealthy woman. It’s not only part of the language of yoga; it’s a term that I hear more and more frequently in many different places.
My personal take on focus has been inward and outward at the same time. Focus can be where you lay your eyes or your heart or your mind. Or your breath. Or your anxiety. And so on.
In yoga, where we lay our eyes, our visual focus, is called Drishti. A definition of Drishti is below:
Drishti literally means “perception”. Drishti is the specific point at which to look or focus the gaze when practicing yoga. Looking at the Drishti focuses the mind and brings the concentration inwards.
I’ve heard Drishti discussed, by David Swenson, an Ashtanga guru, as looking out into the infinite as a way to see into the most inner part of ourselves. That the gaze (or Drishti) looks infinitely out and infinitely in. This is me, paraphrasing what I have heard from David. These are not his words; they are my understanding of what he has said. Below is part of a poem by Kahlil Gibran that is on David’s website. I feel that it gives me permission to give my understanding of what David said, regardless of the words that he actually spoke.
Coming back to focus, to Drishti, to infinitely out and in, to obsession. My Drishti has moved to the front of my practice lately. My breath feels reliable and available and while I continue to have it be the moving force behind my practice, I feel ready to let in other layers of my practice.
My Drishti becomes my entire universe. Whether it is a small blending of light and shadow on a leaf on a tree, or a smudge on the wall, or the smallest piece of the carpeting, I see it and feel it as my entire universe. Letting everything else fall aside, bringing the focus into the tiniest piece of something that speaks to my heart and brings my balance into place.
In those moments, my focus could be considered an obsession. Fierce determination with a soft heart. Letting all other pieces fall away, letting only what I am gazing at matter in any significant way.
Our focus can become our obsession. And there are times that it is appropriate and necessary for that to happen. I know that I need to be very precise about that depth of focus. I know that, for me, that level of focus is highly elevated; it’s something that I am just starting to experience. Gazing at a tiny spot, feeling my breath, heart and mind know that it is the entire universe. Where everything else becomes, not blurry, but non-existent. The entire universe.
And I am starting to awaken to what is not the entire universe. When focus is softer and not even close to that which could be considered obsession.
I’ll talk on Monday about how this relates to infertility. Join me before that with any comments that you might have. When have you been over the edge? Wanting information, perhaps? Results? Answers? When have you seen, absolutely known, that your focus has become an obsession? Please, join the conversation. I need more minds than mine to examine this.
A weekend thought for you:
Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”
Say not, “I have found the path to the soul.”
Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line; neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.
Sometimes I write my blogs late at night. Very late at night. So late, that really it’s early morning. When the house is quiet and still. The sounds outside are muted and sleepy except for the nocturnal creatures.
Sometimes that’s when I find the peace of mind to write my blog. It is very late right now, quiet.
This morning (yesterday morning), I taught a private yoga class to a good friend of mine. Someone I know for a long time, very well, although not always intimately. I know her intimately enough to know about her family, her health, her personality. I have gotten to know her yoga practice most of all, through about two years of practicing together.
She is beautiful and graceful but doesn’t believe it or necessarily know it.
We experiment and learn together even though I am the teacher. She allows that vulnerability and I feel comfortable sharing it with her.
Sometimes I learn that I have been teaching something incorrectly. I believe that I have not caused her pain, although, perhaps occasionally, I have. She knows that I read, research, take classes, take workshops to learn to teach and grow more as a teacher.
I truly believe in the piece of the Hippocratic Oath that reads, (not exactly) first, do no harm.
In a class that I took the other day, a teacher I love almost to the point of idolization, pushed my legs, feet, arms and back into positions that I never would have been able to take by myself. Intense sensation is one way to describe it. Someone with a lower pain threshold might have called it by another name.
That is not who I am as a teacher. My teaching is suggestive, directive; I invite the student into the process. I call upon the students’ innate body wisdom and intuition. I assume that the student knows more about themselves, body, mind, heart and breath than even they realize.
I teach to bring that knowledge floating up to the surface for them to grasp. In their own time and space.
First, do no harm.
Perhaps the perfect phrase for us to sink into as we journey on this path to fertility. First, do no harm. No harm to oneself, first, no harm to others either.
Let the point of this blog be non-harming. And let that non-harming start with yourself. Let the idea of it extend to any negative sound bytes or recordings that you have running through your head. Flood your brain, mind, heart and breath with beautiful, joyous, uplifting messages today. Let them wash away all the thoughts of what you can’t do, what you don’t do, what you didn’t do. Let the breath carry you to realize how extraordinary you are. Just as you are. Absolutely perfect.
To all my students who allow me to learn with you, experience the wonder of the breath and heart, thank you. Special thanks to this one particular student and friend who has encouraged my teaching to blossom with the strength of her trust.
I teach yoga and have come to really love the language of yoga. The many reminders of staying in the present that are inherent in the language particularly appeal to me when it comes to thinking about our individual fertility journeys. This feels pertinent at this time of year when the urge to look back and forward is so compelling.
Warrior 2, Virabhadrasana II, in particular, speaks about this. The pose (asana) is powerful, as befits a warrior. Front leg is bent, knee going no further than ankle, thigh perhaps as much as parallel to the ground, but perhaps much less bent. Back leg active, grounded, supporting the effort in the front leg, taking pressure off of the front knee. Back foot, outer edge, firmly pressed into the ground, allowing length in the leg, groin,and pelvic area. Wide angle stance, hips open to the side. Pelvis, continuing up the torso, grounding straight down, neither leaning forward into the future,not reaching back into the past.
We add the arms, brave and true, extended at shoulder height, through to the finger tips, same arm extended with each leg. Drop the shoulders into the back so that those larger muscles can support the arms and fatigue from holding arms doesn’t occur nearly as quickly.
Dristi or gaze, out over the front finger tips. Hands are palms down, as though resting gently, finger tips lengthening purposely. Dristi is with soft eyes, letting the power be in the body, heart, spirit and especially breath.
Then we check. Is this where you are leaning forward, pushing into the future? Are you rearing back, full of desire to stay in the past? Again, we allow pelvic area, to drop straight down and find that this stabilizes the asana and allows the crown of the head to rise straight up. Length between tailbone and crown, solid base through the legs, arms positioned to show purpose.
Warrior two is a pose of strength, purpose and determination. We take this pose in a compassionate way, mindful of our hearts and breath. We ground into the present, resisting our urges of the moment to either stay behind or race forward.
Determination in Warrior poses is what you make it. You personally. All the directions are above to move physically into the pose. What occurs there evolves from your heart and spirit. Warrior 2 allows strength to build, summons up inner courage and allows you the opportunity to find your inner character.
Summon up your inner warrior. Strength and compassion. Being in the present. Treat the past respectfully and thoughtfully as you do the future and then remind yourself of the present. The present is a gift you can give yourself that may feel especially poignant during this week of ushering out the old year and welcoming in the New Year.