It's a great and terrible irony -- stress can keep you from getting pregnant, but infertility treatment is incredibly stressful. You are encouraged every which way to relax and live in the present and let things roll off your back so that your body can accept a new life. However, I would like to see the average person relax when they have to get up earlier than the usual early time to prepare injections and then actually stick that needle in their own stomach, endure icky transvaginal ultrasounds on a regular basis, get stuck for blood draws to the point where you look like a smack hound and you're told next time just might be in your hand if your veins don't start cooperating, experience incredible fluctuations in hormones that make you absolutely bonkers (as in unpleasant, unlivable, with the frustration tolerance of a flea)... the list goes on and on. It can be incredibly frustrating to be told over and over again by medical professionals, yoga instructors, books and magazines, internet sites, well-meaning people you know, etc. that you really ought to find a way to relax during this process.
BUT, unfortunately, there is weight to that argument. Despite the hectic lifestyle of a person with a consuming full-time job going through infertility treatments, I have had to just make way and carve out a space for relaxation. And the way that I have found most helpful is through meditation. Not just meditation where I sit in a room carpeted in river stones and filled with potted bamboo plants (although that would be super cool, and I once knew a family who were practicing Zen Buddhists and had that setup in the living room of their apartment). Because "quieting your mind" on your own is incredibly difficult when your mind is racing with all the what ifs and guilty feelings and medicated insanity that I've mentioned in previous blogs. I'm talking guided meditation and visualization aids. I discovered it with my first injectible cycles and it is phenomenal. It forces you to relax. Eventually, even if your mind is racing at the beginning, you can focus on the images and breathing exercises being given to you through your headphones and surrender to the deep relaxation that is offered.
Here are two of my favorite meditation sets and why:
Healthy Journeys with Belleruth Naparstek: Help with Infertility
I bought this as a set of MP3s (since I was just going to download it to my iPod anyway) for maybe $13. It is awesome! There are four exercises: Conception, Affirmation, Relaxation, and Meditation. The Conception one is my favorite because it helps you to visualize what you hope is happening inside (or in my case at this point, outside) your body--the meeting of egg and sperm, the multiplying, the implanting. It is very soothing and visualizes you with the child you were meant to be with, and guardian beings (ancestors, spirits, angels, whatever you choose to envision) surrounding you and rooting for you. It is incredibly powerful and made me cry the first few times I listened to it. Affirmation is also great--it is a series of statements that you repeat to yourself in your head that validate the many feelings that go with infertility and help you realize your strength and courage and the faith you must have in your body. Relaxation actually has no fertility-related words in it at all and is great to fall asleep to. I have used some of the visualizations in this meditation for the final relaxation pose in yoga and it has been very helpful for quieting that busy mind of mine. Meditation is meant for after a failed cycle or disappointing news, or if you are taking a break or are ending treatment. It is very calming and reassuring but I can't bring myself to listen to it after a disappointment because it makes me cry. So I focus on the positive ones!
Circle + Bloom Mind/Body Program with Joanne Verkuilen
I just recently bought the IUI/IVF specific program for Circle + Bloom, and I LOVE it. A friend recommended it, and as I will try anything at this point, I bought the set of CDs (not cheap, retail $69.95 but thanks to a holiday 50% off sale I got it for way less!). This set of mind-body visualizations is specific to your cycle, with a different exercise to listen to every two days. There are even exercises specific to trigger, egg retrieval, and transfer. There are also precycle meditations to prepare you during the wait period before your follicular phase begins and you really feel like you are rolling towards your big day. I previously experienced horrible insomnia with Lupron, but since I've been listening to Circle + Bloom before bed I am not experiencing that at all. These put me into a very deep relaxation state. They calm you and quiet you, and then help you to visualize what your body ought to be doing at that moment in your cycle. Then they give you visualizations to help you feel more in control. Which is important. So far, I am a huge fan of this set of guided visualizations.
It is hard to find the time to do these, but I do it because they are so helpful to me. I can only hope that the increased sense of control by being able to use my mind to help my body, the deep relaxation, and the improved sense of well-being that these meditations give me will help us to achieve the goal we are working so hard towards!