Playing fertility 'Snakes and Ladders'
By Juliana Kassianos, Transformational Fertility Coach, Yoga Teacher and Founder of The School of Fertility
The journey from conception to birth is very much like playing a lengthy game of ‘Snakes and Ladders’. When you find out you’re pregnant, it's really exciting, because you know you’re finally in the game. You might be at square one, but you're totally psyched up and ready to roll. At this stage you’ve got one thing on your mind, winning against the odds, climbing up the ladders and holding your precious prize at the end of it. You visualise this moment and hold it close to your heart.
You know it’s not necessarily going to be an easy journey, as the path ahead is riddled with slippery snakes trying to stop you in your tracks. As your protective instincts kick in, you proceed to progress with caution, hyper-aware of anything that could endanger the new life you’re now carrying and to which you feel responsible for.
Days feel like weeks as you slowly inch your way around the squares of the board, ticking off each number as you pass. Fully aware that the fate of your pregnancy lies merely in the roll of a dice, you live each day in hope of making it to the next.
As the initial weeks pass, you start to ease yourself into the game, giving yourself almost a false sense of security that all will be okay. For my husband Steve and I, this was at 10 weeks when we went for an early pregnancy scan. We felt so close to reaching the 12-week mark when the risk of experiencing any horrible encounters starts to decrease. It was clearly in our sights. Little did we know though, that all was about to change.
It appeared out of nowhere, giving us no warning as it reared it's head and delivered a gut-wrenching blow to our stomachs. In one fell swoop, it speedily chuted us all the way back down the board and out of the game altogether. We'd landed head first on the square no couple wants to land on as we were told we'd had a ‘missed miscarriage’. It was 'Game Over'.
It didn’t seem fair, after all we’d played by all the rules – preparing for pregnancy three months in advance, whilst keeping a healthy diet and lifestyle. The thought that we now had to start all the way back at the beginning was hard. If we even managed to conceive again, there just seemed to be so many 'snakes' that could rear their ugly heads at us; chemical pregnancy, molar pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy, more miscarriages, genetic abnormalities or still birth. It may not be healthy to think like that, but when everything's still raw, it's hard not to as your brain naturally starts to catastrophize – fearing the future, instead of living mindfully in the moment.
Having a baby started to feel like a huge unattainable feat, so much so that it made me question whether I’d ever get to be a mother. I figured the key to winning the game though was to keep on moving forward, despite any setbacks. Something I can tell you is far from easy to do when you’ve been knocked down and badly hurt. It requires not only bucket loads of courage, but also emotional strength, to pick yourself up, recharge your batteries and get back in the game. This wasn't a game I was playing alone though, I had Steve by my side every step of the way. Being merely in his presence gave me comfort as not only did he love me, but he was the one person who understood how I felt and shared in my grief.
Starting back at the beginning, I feel confident in the knowledge that whatever we may encounter along our fertility journey, that we'll overcome it together, making it back on to the board and through to the finishing line, no matter how long it takes. The struggle is part of our story and if anything, I know it will help us to become stronger in ourselves, more solid in our relationship and perhaps even better parental role models to our children.