Treasures within the Shadows

Treasures within the Shadows

[A positive pregnancy test] On March 15, 2020, we conceived our first child.
On March 15, 2020, we conceived our first child.

Lessons from a pregnancy and miscarriage during the COVID-19 crisis

I have always known that IVF wasn’t my going to be my path to parenthood. I believed that if we didn’t conceive naturally, then it wasn’t meant to be. I have never felt this overwhelming need to be a mother that some women experience. Truthfully, I think I have always been afraid to have someone’s life depend solely on me. I’m afraid of losing my sense of freedom. Afraid of losing my ability to be a little irresponsible when I feel like it. But I’m mostly afraid of damaging another life with my yet unidentified and unresolved wounds.

This fear was still very much alive in me when I felt my first real urge to become a mother six months ago. A strong enough urge that led to my husband and I deciding to finally start “really” trying to conceive. We had simply been not using protection before — “trying not trying” I called it — but now we began tracking my ovulation and I started doing acupuncture for fertility a month later.

I found a Korean acupuncturist known for his fertility record and began going twice a week. I found his well-meaning “Asian dad” bluntness to be endearing as he told me in the intake appointment that acupuncture could help with my energy levels, my hormone balance, even make me look prettier. (Score!) But because I was 43 and my eggs are old AF (my own translation), he wouldn’t be able to do anything about that. “That’s fair,” I thought. I’m in. He told me if I was able to conceive successfully, I would be the oldest patient of his to do so. I silently hoped that I would be able to give him a new fertility high score.

A life-altering 10 days.

Fast-forward a few months, after finishing a round of Chinese herbal teas ––which I forced down twice daily through a straw while holding my breath –– I embarked on my first ever 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat. This was an incredibly challenging, life-changing experience for me. For ten days, I lived a monastic life with all distractions removed — no socializing, eye contact, phones, books, writing journals, intense exercise, alcohol. I meditated 10–11 hours a day and when I wasn’t eating or sleeping, I was walking a lonely desert trail to the sound of birds, the wind, and my own inner thoughts and emotions. At the end of the ten days, I was clearer and more focused than I had ever been before in my life. I felt deeply connected to my body, spirit and mind in a new way. I finally understood what it felt like to stand in my truth and authenticity, unwavering and unapologetic. I had a renewed sense of purpose. I felt laser-focused and excited to get to work on a new project that had been brewing in my head.

I was also missing my husband more than ever and couldn’t wait to rush from Twentynine Palms back home to Downtown Los Angeles to see him, squeeze him, and share with him all this new wisdom and insight I had received.

This was Sunday, March 15, 2020 — the end of a week during which the COVID-19 crisis in the US escalated to a quarantine mandate, with the cancellation of SXSW, all sporting events and concerts, theme parks, any large gathering of people. I had left one quarantine of sorts at the Southern California Vipassana Center and entered another one that had just begun to reshape our lives. I quickly learned what the term “social distancing” meant when a friend I ran into that Sunday didn’t reach out to return my hug.

Two weeks later, I learned that on this very Sunday, my husband and I had conceived our first child.

Coronavirus or pregnant?

The week before, I had been experiencing fatigue, a low-grade fever and fluctuating body temperatures, all things that seemed like signs of the coronavirus. I was extra paranoid having just come from a secluded meditation retreat where no one knew what was going on in the outside world. Someone there could have easily had the virus. I started going through a mental rolodex of all the people I joyfully hugged when our noble silence was broken on the last day. As I meditated daily at home, I also silently prayed that I was COVID-19-free.

On that Saturday morning, I decided to get a FaceTime tarot reading from Caris Reid, a highly intuitive woman I had been going to since my first reading in 2017. The first card she turned over was the Empress. She began telling me that I was very much in my feminine energy at the moment after the retreat. That I am in a space of balance, taking good care of my needs while also supporting and giving to others. The inner work I had been doing has been paying off. Energetically, everything was flowing beautifully in my life. Then she said, “Have we talked about motherhood? I think there might be a likely chance that you’re pregnant.”

As soon as I heard the words, I felt a deep knowing within myself. I don’t know how else to describe it except that her words rang a truth that I already felt in my gut. The symptoms I had been feeling had been early pregnancy symptoms, not COVID-19 symptoms. Even so, I still tried to keep my objectivity and not get too freaked out or excited — I wasn’t quite sure exactly which it was I was feeling––until I was able to get a hold of some pregnancy tests. Amazon was feeling the strain of the crisis by then, so the tests didn’t arrive until a week later. And sure enough, it was positive.

It’s funny how even an inner knowing of truth can’t save you from the shock your body feels when you see the evidence of that truth in front of your eyes. I felt numb, mostly with slight panicked fear at how this new development was going to impact our lives. My head swirled with all the thoughts that come with news like this. I need to find a new OBGYN. We need better health insurance. Where would we put the crib in this open loft with no rooms? Where would my mom stay if she came here to take care of me the first month? What does this mean for Daughters. (my one-year-old self-care business) and all our plans this year? What state will our world be in when this kid makes its grand entrance in December?

I picked up the pregnancy test stick and brought it out to the kitchen to my husband. “Well, looks like it’s happening,” I said with an expressionless face. He looked at the stick, then at me, tears welling in his eyes as he grabbed me into a tight hug. At that moment, I wished I felt the same overwhelming joy that he was experiencing. I believe I was, deep in my soul. But it still hadn’t caught up with my body yet, which was just feeling the numbness of fear. I needed time to process.

A new reality in a new reality.

I spent the next three weeks sitting and getting comfortable with this new reality, while also sitting and getting comfortable with the new reality of the quarantine. So much change was happening so fast. I had just spent ten full days at the Vipassana retreat scanning my body and repeating the words, “Everything is always changing. Nothing is permanent. Everything is always changing, changing changing…” And yet here I was, emotionally paralyzed by this fear of change.

Slowly and cautiously, I started sharing our news with friends. Just a few girlfriends and my business partner, Sam. I know it’s frowned upon to mention anything before the end of the first trimester in case of a miscarriage. But for me, it was something I felt like I needed to share out loud with my inner circle in order to process it. It was like I needed to try on this new identity to see how it felt on. And the only way to do it was to hear myself saying these words –– “I’m pregnant” –– out loud to people who knew me.

As I shared the news with more friends, I started noticing my fear fading, replaced by a growing sense of excitement and joy. When I shared the news with my trainer and friend Lara, her tears of joy brought out my own first tears of joy. It was becoming real for me. I began sending reiki energy to my womb, which I hadn’t felt compelled to practice for the last six months. I began talking to the baby spirit, telling it that I was so happy it chose us to be its parents. I started paying more attention to my rest, allowing myself to sleep in and letting my body’s needs dictate my schedule. My husband brought up baby names he was thinking about. I saw and felt his joy and excitement at the idea of being a father. I also knew he was going through a lot of processing within himself, knowing that he would need to step up to protect and care for this new little being. My heart was opening up day by day, slowly accepting and beginning to see this as the miracle it is. The more I talked about it with friends, the more my love and joy grew.

By the end of the fourth week, my fear had disappeared almost completely, replaced by my acceptance of this new phase of life and all the changes that will come with it. My gratitude continued to grow, and I thanked the Universe daily for this gift. I was feeling more and more ready and willing and genuinely excited with every conversation I was having.

As quickly as it came…

The bleeding began slowly on a Sunday night, the beginning of the fifth week. I immediately knew something wasn’t right. As it continued to progress, along with a new growing fear in the pit of my stomach, I tried not to jump to conclusions or panic. I still hadn’t seen a doctor yet as it was so early on and I felt like going to a hospital would put me at risk for catching COVID-19. But the bleeding worsened as the night went on. And I began to get pissed. Why would the Universe give us this pregnancy, only to take it away so quickly? What a fucking tease. After going through the rollercoaster of emotions, working through my fear and finally reaching acceptance and joy, we’re just going to lose this baby now? How does this even make sense? What good can possibly come from this?

By the time I woke up Monday morning, the cramps had set in and I found myself sitting on the toilet feeling nauseous and in pain. Within an hour, I knew I had gone through a miscarriage. Thankfully, one of my dearest girlfriends is also a gynecological surgeon in Ojai. I called her and described what had happened, and she patiently walked me through how I needed to take care of myself. She said that while this miscarriage is unfortunate, we now know that we can conceive naturally, which would have been thousands of dollars worth of tests. And that this was a blessing in disguise because my body, in all its wisdom, knew that there were chromosomal defects with this egg, so it flushed it early at five weeks while it was still an embryo before it had a chance to implant and grow into a fetus. And finally, that my body is now primed to get pregnant again.

I spent the next few days lying on the couch, watching an endless stream of TV while eating iron-rich foods and doing salt bath soaks. I was back in processing mode again, only this time it was to make sense of this grief and loss I was feeling. On the third day, I decided to do an hour-long Vipassana sit, my first since the miscarriage. I sat down on my meditation cushion, closed my eyes, and felt an immediate welling in my heart. I sat there and cried and released, letting myself be with the grief and feel the sadness. After the tears stopped, I continued to sit there with my eyes closed, just being still and present in my body. I felt a pull to open up the reiki channel and I spent the next half-hour sending waves of love and light to myself, feeling the grief and sadness slowly dissipate, replaced by a new sense of peace and growing gratitude.

Hidden treasures.

I began to see the gifts hiding in this experience. This short month of pregnancy allowed me the chance to prepare my heart and my body for this next phase of motherhood. I was able to go through the entire gamut of emotions –– numbness and fear and judgement to joy and gratitude and excitement. It brought my husband and I even closer, knowing that we have each other’s unwavering support in our partnership through both the joyful moments and the sadness. I know he has my back no matter what, and that I can rely on his inner strength when I’m feeling tapped out. It also showed us where we each needed to grow and evolve in order to be the parents we want to be and that this child deserves.

I learned that within every shadow lies a treasure, if I choose to seek and find it.

As I’m writing this, it’s only been four days since the miscarriage. I severely underestimated how someone who was in my life for such a short fleeting moment could affect me so much. I returned from the 10-day retreat as a different person re-entering a dramatically changed world. And now, one month later, I feel as though I have undergone yet another a massive internal transformation, against the landscape of a world that is still shifting and redefining itself. My mind is constantly blown by how the Universe unfolds its plan, and how it continues to push me to evolve and deepen. I don’t take this experience for granted. I know it’s preparing me for something I can’t even comprehend yet.

As I continue to live every day more and more in the present, I also feel hopeful for what is to come. Some may look at our current situation as the darkest of days. I believe we have a choice in our perspectives. And I am choosing to see the many gifts that are hidden inside this COVID-19 crisis. I’m seeking the treasures within the shadows, for the wisdom that they hold. And so I must be grateful for the shadows that exist — within the world, within the experiences of our lives, within ourselves. It’s the only way we evolve to become something better and brighter, more loving and compassionate and whole. And after all, isn’t that the real point?

Treasures within the Shadows was originally published in we are all daughters. on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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