Mindfulness and Sitting With the Reality of What Is

Hope in the Rough: Surviving Miscarriage & Challenges Conceiving
By Charlotte Capogna-Amias

For the past three weeks I have been participating in an online Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course. A group of colleagues at the university where I work have also been taking the course and we’ve been meeting each week to try out the meditation or yoga practice of the week and have a short discussion. It’s been so helpful and enriching to my life. One outcome of participating, that came as a pleasant surprise, has been how helpful it’s been to my personal journey of trying to get pregnant.  

In some ways my fertility path has felt like an arduous one what with being queer and all that comes with trying to conceive when you need a third party to be part of the baby-making equation (though our third party is a gracious, kind friend and for that we are thankful). If you’ve been reading my posts, you also know that I suffered a pregnancy loss at nearly twelve weeks this past February. This summer I also underwent my first IVF cycle which ended in it being cancelled, because I got very sick with ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome due to the medications.

It’s now been two months since that IVF ordeal and I’m about to embark on it again. The mindfulness class has given me a gift I couldn’t have foreseen- sitting with the present moment and just taking it in exactly as it is. I have practiced meditation and studied mindfulness on and off for many years, but this lesson always merits repeating.

After my traumatic IVF experience, I went through weeks of worrying and thinking ahead about how the next attempt might go (“What if that happens again? What if they have to cancel the cycle once more? What if it doesn't work after all this?”). Now, when I feel anxiety rising up in my body, I make a conscious effort to tell myself, “You are o.k. today, right now in this moment.” It calms me.

Admittedly, I have some trauma around ultrasounds, because of finding out that my baby was not alive anymore via my first ultrasound. They have been a source of anxiety nearly every time I have had one since then and the IVF process is full of them. And yet, since starting the mindfulness class, I've been a bit more at peace with them, trying to be open to whatever is going on in my body that can be detected with this technology and trying not to leap into worry before the ultrasound even begins. Yesterday I had one and I actually felt fine.  It was mildly liberating. 

Mindfulness has also helped me in reflecting on my miscarriage. I spent so many months getting stuck on what could have been and what existed before that dreadful day when they couldn’t find my baby’s heartbeat. The past had this psychic lull for me. Yet I did experience pregnancy loss- that reality is part of my story now. I can have compassion for myself that this is a part of how grief manifests and it’s understandable to want to think about life before loss and what would have been had that loss never happened.  And yet, for me, I also am starting to get to a place where I realize that that’s also treading a soft path of suffering for me.  

I don't know what's going to happen going forward in terms of my ability to bring a baby into the world; no one does. It gives me a small amount of peace though to work on not trying to think ahead to what may or may not be and instead focus my energy on each day as it unfolds.  I can handle that.

Letting It Rip: Infertility Bites the Big One

Hope in the Rough: Surviving Miscarriage & Challenges Conceiving
By Charlotte Capogna-Amias

To my sisters and partners of my sisters,

Hello, my name is Charlotte. I write for this blog because I experienced a miscarriage earlier this year. My miscarriage is inextricably tied to my process of trying to conceive. If I were to guess, there are some other women in this network who have also struggled with trying to get pregnant; something they desperately want, but have zero control over. Having a miscarriage when getting pregnant did not necessarily come easily is a serious insult to injury, to put it mildly.

Let’s just say it and get it over with right out of the gates: infertility sucks. I even hate that self-blaming, women-hating term, “infertility.” I can’t imagine a woman came up with it. All the associations with that word hover around adjectives no woman wants to associate with, they are not kind bedfellows: barren, dried up, unable, sterile. I defiantly refuse to use that word. And though my feminist self knows that I am none of these things- knows with a fierceness that I am vibrant, productive, and rich in the way soil deep in the earth is dark and wonderful- still, today, I feel utterly sad about the whole sham.

Recently I have been walking- long walks in which I feel I could walk into the forever, one foot pounding the ground after the other. At times, I have found that my sadness is so profound on these walks that it reaches up and makes a high mouse-like sound in my mouth as I try to stifle it down, realizing I am in public and I don’t want that mouse to come out right now. I wouldn’t say I am depressed, but I would say I am feeling deeply a loss some part of me fears I may have to live with... a loss I deeply hope I won’t have to live with.

And yet another part of me knows that this experience partly is... what’s the word?  Frivolous. There are so many other things in life beyond having biological children. I know this. There is so much I want to do in my short time on this planet beyond being a parent. There is also much I am grateful for, truly everyday, despite this sadness. I have a radiant daughter my spouse gave birth to five years ago and she is joy in a human body.  I love her more than I ever would have imagined possible. I honestly wish I could shake my desire to get pregnant. Yet there are things I want: I want to know what it feels like to have a tiny body move within me or to experience the life-changing process of birth firsthand or to have a child who looks partly like me and partly like my daughter (who partly looks like my spouse; the closest we can come to creating a child together). For God’s sake, I have been reading Ina May Gaskin books since my early-twenties when I knew I wasn’t ready to have a child, but was just fascinated with pregnancy and birth.

I recently underwent my first IVF cycle and it was regrettably traumatic. The experience became another blip in my experience of the Trying To Conceive Project (TTC as you internet chat room gals will know). The doctors used too aggressive of a protocol for me and I got very sick and my cycle had to be cancelled. At first I was just so preoccupied with wanting to stabilize physically that I didn’t fully feel the loss of not being able to try IVF this first round. Perhaps that is why I am feeling this loss more intensely now that my body has mostly gone back to normal. I can’t believe they weren’t even able to try. I can’t believe I have to wait even longer.

I am able to experience humor during this process too, Thank God. I can laugh at myself when I get far too happy when two separate students in one week stop me on the campus at which I work to tell me they love my outfit (they are 20-somethings and I am nearly 40, what can I say, it’s oddly flattering). I think I laugh even more because I can’t believe I’m able to pull it together enough to be noticed when internally I’m feeling less than grand these days (is that considered resiliency?). Or, how I laugh while I scold my wife for over-watering my houseplants and holler, “Be careful with those, they’re my miscarriage plants!” (The oddly cheerful greens were a sweet gift from a friend when I had to have my D & C after the miscarriage.)  If we can’t have our humor...

So, I hold it all as best I know how and I guess I’m encouraging you, my sisters, to do the same.  “Be like a river,” my friend Joan recently told me. So I do that while each, sometimes contradictory, emotion rushes into each other, and I hope for the best while the waves wash over me. I think about how, if I am one day able to get pregnant, I will follow in Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla’s footsteps (I never would have thought) and share my struggles alongside the joyful news of my pregnancy. I can’t imagine leaving out these backstories, to do so would feel disingenuous for me. I would want you to know, my sisters (particularly those who have miscarried and not yet conceived another child or are grappling with trying to get pregnant), that you are not alone... that I am not just my joyful announcement, that I will forever be holding your hand in this journey, even as I move forward.