Empty Arms Bereavement

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.

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