The last several months have provided me an opportunity like no other - a chance to try alternative medicine to heal my soul at a time when it felt more broken than humanly possible to bear, and man, has it been good!
I started with acupuncture in October, two months after we lost the twins and one week after what was supposed to have been our next injectible IUI attempt was canceled due to a cyst on my right ovary. I felt so much social anxiety and stress that I didn't know what else to do and was willing to give it a try. I'd heard it could be very relaxing. I'd also heard it could help or heal many physical issues, and I didn't really believe it, but had nothing to lose. After all, I was biding my time on birth control while we waited for the cyst to resolve. My acupuncturist is wonderful. She asked to see me twice weekly for the first month, and then weekly thereafter leading up to our injectible IUI cycle, which was supposed to have been in October, and then was delayed until December after that darned cyst doubled in size and then had to be manually aspirated, along with its little buddy.
I noticed a change in my stress levels and axiety almost immediately after starting. It wouldn't necessarily last long, but for at least a full day after each appointment I'd feel pretty ok, mellower. Then I started talking more about our treatments, my diagnosis of low ovarian reserve, and headaches/backaches, etc., and my practitioner started working on those things, too. I tell you what, I'm a believer! Acupuncture has been proven to aid in blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, and to help balance the hormones and lower stress, all very helpful for doing ART. (Some clinics require acupuncture before and after embryo transfer because of it.)
Even though I was starting to feel better, I still had nagging doubts in my mind about my mental status and whether I'd get in my own way of a successful ART treatment the next time we tried. My acupuncturist, hearing my doubt, referred me to a hypnotherapist. Talk about "woowoo", but again, what did I have to lose? I've had three monthly sessions with one more to go, and I do appreciate the meditations, affirmations and techniques I've learned to help me relax, along with an awareness that yes, those very old subconscious messages really can sabotage fertility success, often by monkeying with the endocrine system. (So, did I really cause my own low ovarian reserve, or was that just coincidental?)
My hypnotherapist has done a fine job, but she was somewhat alarmed by the depth of the anger I harbored as a result of my loss and the way I was treated by some people in my life. I had also been struggling for a month or so with short term memory problems and was getting really frustrated with myself. She gently pointed out that she thought memory loss was a possible symptom of post-partum depression, and referred me to a therapist who herself had experienced infertility, loss and PPD. She thought talking to a professional who understood and could validate my very deep, complicated and sometimes ugly, hateful feelings (toward others and myself) could be helpful.
Laaaaa!!! (That's the angels singing!) Not only was I giddy and buzzing with the sense that this holy trinity of self-care practitioners was sent to me for a divine reason, I was also just excited to have the "right" counselor practically dropped in my lap. Finally, someone I could *really* talk to about everything, someone who wouldn't judge, direct or give me the silent treatment, someone who truly understood my pain and anguish. The interesting thing was that I was open to it. Months before, shortly after the miscarriage, seeking counseling crossed my mind. I was very aware of PPD and sensitive to the fact - even before the loss - that I would be susceptible due to my history of major depression in my 20s. Everthing I read after our loss said that the onset of PPD normally occurs around 10 weeks post-partum. I checked in with myself frequently, but all signs pointed to grief, not depression. That is, until the vast chasm of my anger really kicked into gear in January. A switch flipped, I think, or else enough was just enough.
After three sessions with a most wonderful, helpful and loving counselor, I now understand there's no way I couldn't have had PPD, given the stress, anxiety, grief and trauma I'd experienced, not to mention my previous depression diagnosis. She tagged me "mild- to moderate-PPD" but it hasn't been the focus of our work together. I had two counseling sessions under my belt by the time our nephew, Finn, was born on March 8th.
This holy trinity of caring women has warmed my heart and helped my soul in ways I just can't express in words. I am so grateful, and acknowledge the divine timing. I would venture to guess that my babies themselves led me down this path, both literally and spiritually. I do believe they are looking out for their mommy. Lately I've added a man to the mix, a massage therapist who specializes in Neuro-emotional Technique (NET). I look forward to him helping me identify and clear the emotional blockages I have left in my body so that this human vessel will be perfectly ready to conceive and carry a baby or babies to term.
The most profound healing took place on March 9th, the day after our nephew's birth. I hit bottom, in a way, but also then found the light. We were in Finn's presence and with the new little family some time for each of his first four days, and have been back twice a week since for hours at a time, sometimes. It's amazing, this love and protectiveness we feel for him. My own self-doubts about whether I'd be able or willing to care for a newborn are gone. I have all kinds of confidence and ease now, all driven by big, big love. And I've watched my husband blossom into not only an uncle, but the daddy I know he will be...he started off a little afraid to hold Finn, then would hold him if asked, then started to ask himself, and now walks right up and takes him. I have a bunch of pictures of my husband holding Finn in his hands or arms, always looking down at him. It's amazing, and I can't wait to see him doing that with our own kiddos.
I'm now in such a different place emotionally. I still have some anger and resentments. Some will change me forever, and that's normal. Others are fading, and perhaps my continuing counseling. acupuncture and NET massage sessions will help in that effort. I still miss my babies, but the sharpness of those first 6 months is gone. Remember that photo I misplaced? I found it today, and will work on the frame tonight so I can put it in our bedroom, where we can see our babies any time we want to.
Where I'm at now, though, is largely a place of hope and belief. I'm on day 3 of estrogen, and if all goes as planned (and provided I'm not currently pregnant, since I also now believe more in miracles), we'll start our planned IUI-to-IVF cycle the first week of April. Paul and I both are excited and looking forward to the possibilities this cycle may bring. What a blessing, to finally be at a place I didn't think was possible for me! Don't get me wrong, I still cry, sometimes for reasons I can't identify. The grieving is not over, and actually, will probably intensify again when we do conceive. Time really does help the healing, though...