I had my final embryo transfer on April Fools Day 2015. It was the last frozen embryo in storage - and my last chance at motherhood. I felt too crushed by 8 years of trying to conceive to even consider trying again when this failed (I was convinced it would) and there was a kind of peace in that decision. It had taken too much, and defined almost a decade. A positive result on my birthday 9 days later was cautiously welcomed, but when I bled a week later I felt truly bereft. What kind of awful, cosmic April Fool was being played out?!
The bleed so early meant I couldn't know for sure if I had miscarried so I had to wait for two weeks for a scan. Then another week as that scan wasn't entirely conclusive. Then another scan a looooong 3 weeks later. Every cramp, every toilet visit, was a breath held. By this time, even though the the news was good I really didn't believe it. In fact I carried a level of that anxiety well into the pregnancy.
At the 20 week scan we have this picture, our baby giving us the universal 'it's ok' and with this 'sign' I exhaled a little. This was the point at which I started to believe this pregnancy might not be an April Fool after all but a reality. But you know, until we hit 28 weeks I still carried the fear of something happening; I counted off the weeks until a healthy, viable delivery - even if early - was possible.
I wanted to share this story because over the last decade I have worked with hundreds of women and couples who are trying to conceive and for some women the anxiety at the point of a positive test really starts to ramp up to what can feel like an unmanageable or overwhelming level. They may have previously suffered miscarriage or baby loss. They may have had close friends who went through these losses and so they are on their radar, adding to their prone-to-anxiety thoughts. They are basically waiting for the shoe to drop, for their worst fear to become reality. They are waiting for the prankster to jump out of the bushes and shout 'April Fool'.
According to Tommys, 1 in 10 women suffer anxiety and panic attacks in pregnancy.
Managing fear and anxiety around pregnancy takes a lot of energy.
So how do you do it?
Acupuncture can be a great way to help (of course I would say that but honestly it's true). CBT, meditation or mindfulness practices daily, prayer, exercise, walking, eating well, these are all things that can help.
Talking to someone you trust. Therapy even, especially after baby loss.
Minimise other stresses or areas of stress in your life if you are able to, because if that bucket is being filled up with a lot of other stuff too then you are really going to struggle to maintain your equilibrium.
Step away from the internet and stop googling every bad thought. You inevitably end down a rabbit hole of awful outcomes because people who go through terrible things are compelled to share that experience as a way of processing it.
Book an early viability scan (no earlier than 7 weeks) if you can afford to and if it will help.
Above all, don't give yourself a hard time about the fact you are anxious and not enjoying a longed for pregnancy. You are not alone in this feeling; there are so many women walking around with babies who held their breath for 9 months.
Finally, trust your intuition. If you really feel that something is wrong, go to the Early Pregnancy Unit or speak to your midwife. Our intuition puts us in touch with the unconscious part of ourself that we should never ignore. Trust your instincts.
“Women observe subconsciously a thousand little details, without knowing that they are doing so. Their subconscious mind adds these little things together – and they call the result intuition.”- Agatha Christie
I have just finished an Instagram series of posts on the theme of #twelveangrywomen, inspired by the outpouring of anger women all over the UK were expressing following the tragic murder of Sarah Everard. Her death tore the plaster off the wound all women wear, which is the threat of violence women live with every day. This happened in the same week that Meghan and Harry Windsor's interview with Oprah Winfrey aired and the anger directed at this couple, but in particular, at this woman was frankly staggering.
Sadly, society teaches women in a myriad of ways that anger is an ugly emotion for them to express. Judged, ridiculed, dismissed as hormonal or mentally ill, this has been historically reinforced through organised religion, the media, portrayals in fiction on the page and on the screen, and normalised by women themselves. When we buy magazines that peddle scandal and shame, or we watch reality tv shows that applaud the taking down of strong women we collude in our own oppression.
So my dander was well and truly up.
It is time to understand anger as a useful emotion if we can master it.
It is time to celebrate assertiveness as a life skill that is as important to our health and happiness as the ability to express love.
It is time to applaud women when they are forceful, or passionate, or righteously indignant about their rights and their lives instead of colluding in their judgement (Camilla Long's vitriolic review of the Meghan & Harry's interview in the Sunday Times was as masterclass in mean girl behaviour and a prime example of how culpable we women are in upholding the status quo).
The image at the top this blog is a Chinese pictogram of nu, or anger. On the left we have a representation of the figure of a woman. On the right we have a representation of the figure of a man, or of authority leading her. These together denote the word 'slave' (which can of course be male or female). The addition of the symbol underneath turns this word from slave to anger, but tells us much about the quality of this anger.
This is the anger we experience when we feel that something or someone is impeding our ability to live our life, or to progress in life in the way we feel we should be able to. What rises up in us is a dynamic emotion, that rush of blood to the head, which desires us to be assertive in order to remain in alignment with our goals or feelings.
In Chinese Medicine anger is associated with the Wood Element and if someone's Causative Factor (ie the Element in them that goes 'off kilter') is Wood, what we are likely to see is inappropriate levels of anger and frustration. But in health and balance - and we all have all the Elements within us - this Element gives us the ability to stand up for ourselves with the right amount of aggression, or assertiveness.
Through the series of posts I talk about why anger needs to be physically expressed in order for it not to become pathological and cause us illness or dis-ease, I look at repressed anger, passive-aggressiveness, the righteous anger that creates change (civil rights movements, Marcus Rashford's school meals activism, Gina Miller holding the government to account over Brexit etc), so do go back and take a look at them if this blog creates an itch you'd like to scratch.
And if you have an issue with anger - too much or not enough healthy aggression - then a course of Five Element acupuncture would be a useful starting point to help you master this important, useful emotion for life.
Passionate about the pins.
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