I am not a patient person. I hear very often that others experience me as calm, or that I am calming to them. I am glad that I am grounding to others, but I wish I was equally good at grounding myself. My inner world is a constant spin that drives me to try to control situations and timing, either through over-performing or through magical thinking. In the case of my IVF process, magical thinking was my go-to.
The common definition of “magical thinking” is the belief that one’s thoughts can control reality. This often shows up in yoga and wellness communities (well, and at this point, just on the Internet in general) as “manifestation.” I don’t think that magical thinking is the only way to frame up manifestation, but I think that definition has become the most common belief for how manifestation happens. I did not know how committed I was to manifestation, how integrated it had become into my worldview, until the experiences of the last year undid it.
During my first cycle of IVF stimulation, I went deep into “mama vibes.” I was doing intention setting, intentional journaling, fertility meditations, all sorts of visualization, and sending positive energy into my ovaries. I was doing all the things that are recommended for successful manifestation, and I had strong faith that it was working. For all of December I had this glow of confident motherhood. I felt my ovaries filling up and responding extravagantly to the stimulation drugs, and the medical professionals affirmed that what was happening in my body was very unusual for anyone, much less someone who is 41. When they retrieved 33 eggs it really seemed to confirm that my manifestation efforts were working.
When I learned that all my efforts and my crazy number of eggs had resulted in only one viable embryo, it was crushing. It was crushing because I had been so confident that my stimulation cycle would result in enough embryos for more than one child, plus a couple to spare. Now I would have to go through stimulation and egg retrieval again, which is physically, emotionally, and financially draining. It was also crushing because it triggered a crisis of faith.
The crisis of faith is far reaching and ongoing, but the outcome specific to my IVF experience was feeling that there were three explanations for only getting one embryo: 1. God really doesn’t want me to be a mother, 2. my efforts at manifestation weren’t good enough (ie. I’m not good enough), or 3. my new age-y manifestation beliefs might just be bullshit. In any case, my doctors assured me that the results of the egg retrieval had nothing to do with anything I did or didn’t do. It is pretty straight forward that the cause is only my age and that the quality of everyone’s eggs declines as they get older.
As often happens during a crisis of faith, this one event didn’t just cause me to question manifestation “gospel”, but also caused a temporary collapse of faith in anything that I couldn’t see or experience for myself. Almost all the woo-woo new age stuff that I had leaned so hard on for so long went out the window (along with more traditional prayer) and I functioned through January on a barebones yoga framework of getting out of my head and into my body through daily asana. Literal embodiment. My second cycle of stimulation was very different as a result. I didn’t assign any spiritual significance to the process. The shots were just shots. The follicles in my ovaries were just follicles. The eggs were just eggs. The embryos were just embryos. When I learned last week that only two of the twelve embryos from round two were viable, it was not crushing. In fact, I feel grateful. I feel grateful that there are now three little seeds of potential for me to become a mother.
It turns out that the real key to getting grounded is to surrender the illusion of any kind of control, get present in your body (which is itself the ground, the home for your life), and let things unfold in their own time from that place. I knew that conceptually from yoga philosophy, but this experience has really made me feel it. It’s going to take continued practice, because I don’t love waiting, but I hope that the roots have finally taken.