yoga

I’m trying to distract myself from 2ww symptom over-interpretation for a little longer and write about something different… but I’m sure I’ll be back with those symptoms soon. Thanks for all your good wishes!

I began yoga after 1.5 years of trying unassistedly and unsuccessfully. Desperate, frustrated, but not ready to move on to treatments – which I guess was part denial, part finances, part not-readiness of facing the endeavor that ART seems from the outside. I was willing to try anything “natural” and bought Fully Fertile, a book with a holistic approach to fertility that can be taken alone or together with treatments (deep down I assumed we’d probably need these treatments eventually, and was and continue to be annoyed whenever someone suggests they could have fixed this all with their non-invasive method of choice).

At the same time, I was fairly skeptical, and phrases like “disappointment stored in the hips” made me frown. I flat out didn’t believe that yoga would help me release emotions – I was hardly getting any exercise and was simply looking for the physical benefit for my body. In particular, I doubted I’d be in tears at the end of my first practice, which was described as a common experience. How very wrong I was. I cried and cried. Not just about the obvious aspect, our failure to conceive, but I also discovered many unresolved feelings around my mom’s death that I hadn’t even been aware of.

I practiced about twice a week, and although it didn’t get me pregnant, I felt more at peace with the overall situation. And figured out the major reason for some terrible pain I’d been experiencing. After moving halfway across the world, I bought a proper yoga mat (which to me makes a surprising difference), picked up a yoga magazine at the grocery store and started incorporating other, not necessarily fertility-focused poses and sequences. We were also on a much-needed break from trying, so that wasn’t the main focus. Annoyed that I sometimes didn’t manage to squeeze in my twice-weekly practice, I decided that if I tried to practice every day, thinking that even if I missed one here and there I’d still get “enough”. I have been practicing daily ever since.

Once we actually started our IVF cycle I went back to mostly fertility-supporting sequences. And then I got pregnant! Joy! Even before I had searched the web for poses to do and to avoid, and it wasn’t long before I bought some prenatal yoga instructions. When following standard sequences I’d used before, I left out any poses that seemed too challenging and almost all twists, but overall was determined to remain fit. Squats are supposed to be especially good, to open the hips… looking back I worry a bit that these may have contributed to what happened, although it’s impossible to know and perhaps not even that likely. Nevertheless, in any future pregnancy I am lucky enough to experience, I will keep squats and any other poses that put pressure on the pelvis for the second half of the 3rd trimester.

I went back to the mat the day after we came back from the hospital. Probably not what anyone would recommend, but it felt right. I had asked my husband to move the sofa so that I could practice in the space where we had been planning to set up the cribs… I did some gentle stretches and restorative poses and cried and cried. So hard that H heard it while in the shower, and came to comfort me. Poor guy. He should have heard his daughters cry, or even better, giggle, not his wife cry over their loss. I had thought of my babies every time I practiced while pregnant, and I continue to think of them in every practice I do now. There were (are) many more yoga sessions when I paused to cry. In a way it gives me a safe space to reflect my feelings. There’s just me, if I need a break I can take it. Not to say that I don’t cry during other times of the day, or during every practice, but it does help me to know that I have this time and space to release any emotions that may come up.

A few days ago, on one of their due dates, I cried all the way through my warm-up. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but later realized that this reflects how I have been dealing with things lately – I may get sad, but I move forward, through and with the grief.

And during the last days, I have been practicing with that familiar nausea, and even more fears and hopes than before. But that will be the topic of another post.

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small setbacks, but moving forward overall

So this getting-back-to-blogging thing isn’t as easy as I thought. I still don’t quite know where I fit in. I’ve changed the theme a few times and am still not happy with it. Nor, as you may have noticed, have I written much at all.

One of the regular pre-cycle checks included varicella antibodies, and it turns out I have none. All the itching (years and years ago) for naught…. I’ve gotten the first shot, and will get the second in a few weeks. After that I’ll still have to wait for a month before the first possible ET. Which, given how long we’ve waited to make this happen, isn’t really much. Also, my husband wants to travel home for Christmas and would like to schedule our IVF such that a transatlantic flight is in the cards for that time. (I’ve tried to explain that this isn’t quite as schedule-able as other things, but was largely unsuccessful.) So we’re aiming for a June transfer. And my overall feeling is — excitement. And hope. Of course I know this won’t necessarily work, that IVF and ICSI are not cure-alls. But it might. Our doctors give us a 50% chance, which is way higher than anything we’ve had in the past. Lately I’ve spent an unreasonable amount of time reading about yoga during pregnancy. You see, I clearly believe this might actually work.

still here

Thanks for your comments regarding the charting app, and sorry for vanishing. I tried a few of the free apps, decided that many of them are fancy-but-not-actually-useful, and eventually picked (and bought the full version of) FemCal. Which essentially looks like a direct implementation of what’s described in TCOYF, no bells and whistles, but quite customizable, which I like. Not sure if the prediction of peak days and expected periods works well, but given how erratic my cycles can be, that might be a lot to ask.

Somehow over the last weeks I came to the realization that it is not terrible if I don’t get pregnant this year. Which may be a way of self-protection — chances are low, as are the possibilities of doing treatments (as previously described). Plus, I started to think seriously about my career, not so much in the what-would-happen-if-we-finally-had-a-baby way, either independent of that, or with the fear that neither might work out… (it’s not as bad as it sounds here though. I think.) So with that, I’m not sure what to do with this space — after all, following natural cycles is not too exciting. I have a few things I wanted to write about, but that would need time and thought, and I’ve been really busy with the rest of life. I keep doing my fertility yoga exercises, because I think they’re good for me (in general, the fertility effects remain to be seen), though I’ve pretty much stopped doing any exercise during my period, and my pain has been much better. Not quite gone yet, but much, much better. And yesterday I got another pregnancy announcement, and I was okay. Not excited, but not terribly sad either. So perhaps at least yoga helps me calm down.

And then today, CD7, I was a good girl and did my breast self-exam. And decided to make an appointment, because there might be something that I don’t like… it’s not always noticeable and so I’m not sure if it’s anything at all (and of course I hope it’s nothing), but I’m a bit scared. No bad news, please.

Inversions

Regular readers will be familiar with my burning buttocks pain. Pain shooting through my spine and burning in my buttocks, during menstruation but lately stretching throughout the entire follicular phase. Which I assumed to be caused by endometriosis, given my history, though an MRI could not find anything. Pain that had me seriously wonder how I was going to lead a normal life with, how I would be able to work, especially standing up.

I’m still slightly afraid of saying anything, for fear of jinxing my luck, but it seems I have found a solution. And I’m not talking about prescription-strength painkillers. This could become a long post, but bear with me.

Over the holidays I re-discovered a book about yoga, which I had bought years ago, with the intention of starting, but then I met H and everything changed ;-) and when we moved here I left it back as I wasn’t actually doing any yoga. But a few months ago I bought “Fully Fertile” and began yoga practice they suggest, and so I looked up some poses. Now, whereas Fully Fertile just recommends not to do inversions during menstruation, this other book, in true spirit of my fellow countrymen, provides a more detailed discussion of the issue, finishing with the statement that endometriosis was a clear counter-indication for practicing inversions during menstruation.

Point taken, I thought. Probably because of retrograde menstruation, a theory of how menstrual flow back into the peritoneal cavity could cause endo. I had heard about it when I was first diagnosed, and basically dismissed it because it could not explain all cases of endo. (For example, the first documented case of a woman with endo happened to occur in a patient without an uterus. No retrograde flow here, clearly.) Anyway, I had stuck with the Fully Fertile instructions, so I thought this was not an issue.

Half an hour later, it hit me. While I had avoided inversions, I had been practicing Ai.ki.do, and all those rolling movements could well have the same effect. If you’re wondering why I practiced despite all this pain — exercise actually helped relieve the pain. My first bout of endo, which was finally diagnosed one day before I had major surgery to remove it, started about 9 months after I began practicing Ai.ki.do. Then I rarely practiced for a long time (for other reasons), was on a progesterone-only pill, and pain-free. But last spring I took it up again — somewhat reluctantly, because, you know, I could get pregnant the following month and then I’d have to stop (I wish). And, over the summer, my lovely burning buttocks pain surfaced.

I had dreaded getting my period during the holidays, in anticipation of yet more pain. But, due to travels and sickness, I had not done any Ai.ki.do. And I was in so much less pain, it was unbelievable. This time around (today is CD3), it is even better. Not quite pain-free yet, but if you had promised me this a few months ago, I would not have believed it. And all that because of less exercise? Even if this does not get me pregnant, I’ll take it, any day.

Maybe I got it all wrong. It could be the EPO finally working, or pure coincidence. But this connection is too strong for me to ignore. Oddly enough, I could not find much on the topic online. I’ve read this article about yoga, which supports that you should not practice inversions during menstruation, but claims that retrograde menstruation, and therefore endometriosis, are not an issue. Frankly, I don’t buy it. My body tells me otherwise. And I think this is the key point here. I have to learn to listen to my body. As a scientist, I would love to have well-designed, controlled, double-blind studies for whatever medical or reproductive problem I worry about. Apart from the fact that these simply often do not exist, they can only tell us what works in the majority of patients (ok, actually in a small set that hopefully is representative…). But, identical twins aside, we are all slightly different. We suffer from different side effects, don’t respond in the same way to drugs, hell, some are drunk after one cocktail and others still standing after 3. With badly understood problems it seems to be even worse, whether that be endo or “bad eggs” or what else doctors may have thrown at you, shrugging, not really knowing what to do either.

(It seems like there should be conclusions here, but that feels premature. We’ll see over the coming months if my pain stays away. I’m hopeful. And that is a wonderful feeling.)