The first time I tried in vitro fertilization, I was corresponding with a yoga instructor named Beverly, who was also trying to get pregnant through IVF. During that cycle, I used eggs donated by my sister. Beverly, who was only 40, used her own eggs. Beverly wound up pregnant. I did not. I couldn’t help but think it had something to do with the yoga.
People who do yoga have always carried a mystique to me, with their flat shoes and stretchy capris, their yoga mats slung over their shoulders like they are carrying flags in a color guard. They walk with a flat-footed assurance. I don’t know if yoga attracts confident people, or if the discipline gives them control over every muscle in their body, making them feel as though they can control every aspect of their lives. Either way, when I tried IVF the second time and became pregnant, I enrolled in a yoga class.
I signed up for a beginners class, which had a couple of old women, a fat girl, and a man. I can’t even say I’m the most fit person in there. There’s one woman who always wears black tights and a fitted black shirt, and her poses look like the silhouettes of yoga poses they have in the brochures. Sometimes I want to knock her over and say, “Why don’t you just get out of here.” But the teacher seems to have a relationship with her, so it wouldn’t bode well for my future in the class.
My teacher actually has quite a following. She has curly gray hair, a cherubic face, and a little belly, which seemed a bit of a contradiction, like seeing your doctor smoking cigarettes outside his office. But everyone seems to love her and her class so I guess yoga mastery and a bulbous little belly aren’t in conflict.
Part of my teacher’s appeal is her ability to make you feel like you’re getting individualized attention. She’s always walking over to me and adjusting my pose, and because I told her I was pregnant, she sometimes suggests modified versions of the poses for me. She doesn’t want me lying flat on my stomach, for instance. And when everyone else is supporting themselves on their arms and has their legs extended behind them, she has me remain on my knees, which puts less stress on my stomach. Sometimes, she has me put my hands up on the little styrofoam blocks, rather than on the floor, so the pose isn’t as deep.
“You do the best you can. That’s all you can do,” she says during class. “You don’t have to push yourself until it hurts. That’s not what it’s about.”
Despite the teacher’s revisions, sometimes when I lean forward, I feel like I’m squishing the baby like one of those rubber toys where you squeeze the bottom and the guts of the toy are pushed to the top, making the eyes bulge out. In a couple of poses, when our legs go one way and our upper bodies go the other, I wonder if I’m ripping the thin little strings that hold the baby inside me.
The other day, the teacher had a deck of cards spread out in front of her, and as each of us walked in, she had us pick a card and go sit down at our mats.
“Some of you might find special meaning in your card,” the teacher said.
I must have made a loud sound of acknowledgment after reading my card because the whole class looked at me and laughed.
“I release the need to blame anyone, including myself,” my card said. “We are all doing the best we can, with the understanding, knowledge and awareness we have. ” In a word, stop blaming myself.
When I got home from class, there was a voicemail from my doctor. She said she’d received the results of my follow-up blood test. They once again saw the evidence of an antibody but it was in such trace amounts, there was no need for concern. As far as she could tell, we had nothing to worry about –though she did want to keep an eye on it. For now, it’s a non-issue, she said.
This yoga stuff works, I thought.