January 5, 2011

Praying for babies

Sometimes, “putting it out to the universe” isn’t enough.

One of my oldest and closest girlfriends wrote a story for Recovering Yogi —a creative side project I started with a few fellow collaborateurs — and I thought I would share it with y’all here as well. I’ve watched her struggle with trying to get pregnant for years. She and her husband, who is also a longtime close friend of mine, are seemingly perfect parent-types. And according to all of the doctors they’ve visited over the years — Eastern, Western, and otherworldly — their insides are in perfect shape too. So why hasn’t it happened for them? Are they just not trying hard enough? I don’t think so. I think nature is fairly random, and for whatever reason, their number hasn’t yet come up. But tell that to the legions of New Age friends who love to dispense advice about how maybe they should “pray harder” and “manifest more.”  I know there are plenty of women out there who will relate to Karen’s story. If you know one, please pass this along.

Praying for Babies

By Karen Seaver

My husband and I have been trying to conceive for the past five years. When it wasn’t happening naturally, we turned to the help of Chinese medicine and then finally to the help of Western medicine. We have been unsuccessful at every turn. It’s been quite a humbling process, especially for this former yoga teacher who was sure I knew my body so well that when I was ready to get pregnant I would simply get pregnant.

Recently, while confiding in a family friend and fellow yoga teacher about our fertility struggles, she asked me if I had considered prayer or “the power of manifestation.” After I assured her that I had, she continued by asking about the quality of my prayers, suggesting subtly that I wasn’t putting my all into it; that I somehow wasn’t staying vigilantly positive and believing completely with every fiber of my being that I could get pregnant. Because until I could get to the mind-state where I felt I WAS ALREADY pregnant, it clearly wasn’t going to work.

I would wager that a woman who has been diagnosed with “unexplained infertility”—and whose body (which is designed for this very thing) feels healthy and tests even healthier—prays more than the average bear.

Speaking for myself, I was not only searching for answers but also, because there is no physical/mechanical explanation for why I was not getting pregnant, I was convinced that there must be something wrong psychically or with the mind side of my mind-body connection.

And because I can do woo-woo with the best of them, I’ve tried acupuncture, herbs, shiatsu, meditation, chi kung, energy therapy, regular therapy, chi ne tsang, astrology, watsu, talking to a psychic, vitamins, carrying talismans, past life therapy, and lots and lots of praying to bolster the mind-body connection and repair whatever spiritual disconnect was perhaps behind my infertility.

Truth be told, every chance I got I visualized being pregnant, (The Secret suggests you visualize what you want in your mind so that you can experience the positive emotional resonance of that goal achieved), and I prayed for the opportunity. Just as The Secret instructs, I closed my eyes, seeing my big pregnant belly in my mind’s eye and cupping my hands into the shape I imagined they would hold as I rubbed my possible future pregnancy. I prayed over every meal. My mantra was “I am open to being pregnant and I am doing everything that I can to make sure that happens.” I also prayed each night before I went to bed, right before I fell asleep with my nurturing hand on my belly.

For five years.

And although I was a yoga teacher for a decade and made a living by encouraging students that it’s never about the destination, but rather about the journey, that went right out the door in this case. I definitely have a destination in mind; however, I still haven’t reached that destination, despite the seemingly endless positive energy and self-care I have invested in getting there.

At a certain point, my wholehearted faith in positive thought, prayer, and The Secret began to erode.

Recently I was swept up in the excitement of the World Series (living, as I do, in San Francisco) and it was while I watched the Giants win the Series that my changed feelings around this whole “power of prayer thing” were clarified and reinforced. In Game 5, bottom of the 9th inning, with elimination on the line and the Giants up 3-1, every person in the Texas stadium was on their feet. I would safely say 95% of those people in the stadium were Texas fans (and I’d wager quite religious considering Texas’s prominent place in the Bible Belt) and were no doubt praying that their last three batters would make some miracle plays that would save them from losing the whole thing. Numerous pans of the camera showed people with their hands in prayer, some looking up to sky. Roughly 45,000 fans and the entire Texas Rangers team visualizing, hoping, and praying (and in the case of the players, playing their hearts out) collectively, all in one place. But still the Rangers lost. You can argue that perhaps the Giants fans were praying just a little bit harder, but I’m not buying it.

I’m not saying there’s not value in positive thinking or prayer; I’m saying we should put just as much time and energy into cultivating acceptance. Acceptance that nature doesn’t care how much you pray—it’s still potentially going to rain on your wedding day or snow you in at the airport. There are laws of nature that simply are. If you are cut, you will bleed, and no amount of prayer is going to stop it. Visualizing not bleeding is not going to make it so. And many times in life, things just are or happen, without rhyme or reason. Acceptance is not the same as resignation or giving up hope. Acceptance is coming to peace with what is.

All is not lost for me. I still give thanks for my food before every meal, I still hope for pregnancy, and when looking for parking in San Francisco, I still pray to my personal patron saint of parking: Gladys. “Hail Gladys full of grace. Please help me find a parking place.” But in the thriving metropolis of San Francisco, sometimes Gladys cannot free up a space for me despite my invocation, and I accept that.

About Karen Seaver

Karen Seaver is a retired yoga teacher who was part of the first wave of Bikram teachers in the late 90s. She brought Bikram yoga back to her hometown in Western Mass and was the first teacher to open a heated studio in that half of the state. Years later, in her last gasp as a yoga teacher, she owned and operated a heated vinyasa studio. She is a certified Chi Nei Tsang bodyworker, but after practicing for a year decided it was finally time to part ways with the wellness profession entirely. (“Still searching for a vocational home?” one might ask Karen. ”Yes,” she would reply.) Karen lives in San Francisco, currently works in the wine industry in Napa Valley, and continues to be humbled by the fact that a daily yoga practice still eludes her.

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