Infertility, Support, and Yoga

03/24/2020

When Heidi Brooks began reflecting on her experience with infertility, she joked, “I lost track of how many frozen transfers I did, there were just so many!” It’s true, Heidi went through a lot in order to build her family, which now consists of her, her husband, and two kids. She’s now pregnant again! Heidi is also certified in fertility yoga and fertility support practice, alleviating some of the stress associated with infertility. She acts as a resource for women experiencing infertility, through yoga and emotional support. 

Heidi’s experience with infertility was full of treatments. After five unsuccessful rounds of IUIs, Heidi began IVF. After the first round, a fertilized egg implanted and she became pregnant. After seven weeks, there was a heartbeat. The doctor told her, “you can relax now”, to which Heidi responded, “I’m never going to relax.” The next ultrasound revealed there was no heartbeat, which confused the doctor who was sure everything was going fine. They didn’t know what was going on- Heidi was ovulating every month, and there were no issues with her husband’s sperm. They did a second round of IVF which was unsuccessful, and a third which resulted in a pregnancy yet eventual miscarrage 10 weeks later. At this point, Heidi began to ask “We’re missing something, right?” They just didn’t know what was going on. 

Heidi ended up going to  a new doctor who ran a recurrent loss panel. This doctor found that Heidi was a carrier for MTHFR, causing her blood to clot mildly. She began taking baby aspirin to combat this situation. Soon after Heidi had begun her next IVF cycle, she started experiencing intense pain. She was extremely hot and sweaty at first, then felt an intense abdominal pain. It got to the point where the pain was so bad, Heidi threw up inthe middle of the street in Manhattan. She called her doctor immediately, who ran tests that revealed Heidi had had an ectopic pregnancy. 

Upon running more tests, the doctor realized Heidi had one of the worst cases of endometriosis she had ever seen. “It was literally all over my ovaries, all over the outside of my uterus and starting to climb up where my lungs are,” Heidi said. It was particularly surprising because Heidi had never had symptoms of endometriosis. After the diagnosis, she changed her diet, and had surgery to remove the excess cells. When she didn’t get pregnant after yet another round of IVF, she was understandably very frustrated. She had already done so much to get pregnant and nothing seemed to be making a difference. 

Finally, after another round of IVF, she got 8 eggs, and 6 embryos. After testing the embryos she had 5 left. They implanted two embryos and Heidi became pregnant. Her son didn’t show a heartbeat until 8 weeks in, but sure enough, he was healthy. Heidi had a rough pregnancy and experienced high blood pressure the whole time. Ultimately, her son was born 8 weeks early via c-section. “He’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” Heidi said. 

When her son was eight months old, something crazy happened to Heidi. She felt sick and thought she had the flu. She visited the doctor, who discovered that Heidi had become pregnant naturally. Heidi jokes, “Why would I be on birth control!” Despite all odds, Heidi was pregnant naturally. She gave birth to her daughter, and her family grew. Recently, Heidi decided she was ready for another baby. She had more embryos left over from her last IVF cycle. They implanted one, which stuck. Heidi became and remained pregnant. She now has a third baby on the way, and is so excited to welcome a new member into her family. 

Throughout her experience with infertility, Heidi started researching yoga as a way to reduce stress. She found one studio which offered fertility yoga once a week. Classes were an hour and a half, but the first 20 or 30 minutes was used to discuss group members’ experiences with infertility. They would go around and speak about where they were in their cycles, fertility treatments, and anything else pertaining to their fertility. “That was my first taste of community. It was really exciting for me because I had been so alone on the journey beforehand,” Heidi said. One woman told Heidi she should join the Instagram community, where she met many more women who are still close friends. It was nice to be able to talk to people who had the same experiences. 

The community she found through yoga was so important to Heidi, and she wanted to continue her practice. She thought, “There has to be something I can do professionally, using all this experience and information I’ve accrued by going through this. I wanted to help other people and be that emotional support.” Her journey through infertility was so high stress, but she reflects on yoga as her relaxing outlet. She got certified in prenatal yoga, and later found a program to certify her in fertility yoga, and fertility support practice. “You learn about cycles, you learn about different types of treatments, but you also learn about why this pose helps with blood flow to the pelvis, or why you wouldn’t do this pose at a certain point in your treatment cycle. For me, it was so enlightening and empowering to go through this process while prepping for my most recent FET.” She is so happy to have this knowledge now, and reflects, “I wish I had known all this the first time”. Now, she is able to help women with the support they need, and educate them about hormones, cycles, and treatments.  Many women have support systems such as friends, family, and partners. However, Heidi reflects, they may not always know what to say or what to ask. “I know the questions to ask because I wish someone had asked me,” she says.

Heidi now works with women going through their own fertility journeys. She guides them through fertility yoga, supports them emotionally, and serves as an educational resource. “This has become an incredible passion of mine,” she says. “I’m finding that the best part of our session are the conversations.” Heidi has built a strong community based on mutual support, important fertility information, and the practice of yoga.