In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) children are some of the most wanted children on the planet. Anyone who has gone through IVF to have a child is a courageous and determined person. IVF gives many couples a chance to have their dream of parenthood come true, and it is a miracle that medical science has found a way to make this happen. Medical procedures often focus on the biological level only, and the emotional/psychological/spiritual aspects of the experience can be neglected. Conception is a powerful and sacred moment, and pregnancy is the cauldron for our life’s deepest, core templates, also influencing our brain and neurological wiring. In my work with IVF families, I attempt to bring the sacred and the practical back together, providing a balanced, integrated approach to the IVF process of conception, and to healing from IVF.
My work is somatic and focuses a lot on early imprints, attachment, and parenting, covering the period from pre-conception through early infancy, including conception, womb life and birth. The imprints laid down during this time affect our lives profoundly, and if you are interested in this field of work, called Somatic Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health (SPPP), you may want to explore further on both the Association for Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health (APPPAH) web site at birthpsychology.com, and here on my web site. You are also most welcome to call me with questions, feedback, etc.
From the SPPP viewpoint, we are conscious when we begin to come in to our body at conception, and we continue to be fully conscious and sentient throughout our womb life, birth and early infancy. Our life does not begin after birth, as the longstanding cultural myth would have us believe. In my practice I am learning about IVF from both children and their parents, and will share with you some of my experiences and observations. I hope this will help you in thinking about your child’s experience of coming into life this way, whether born or unborn at the point of reading. It might help you to think about IVF from your baby’s point of view as a conscious, sentient being.
There are three main areas in IVF that can potentially cause issues for babies, or that may create a need for some support in order to integrate the experience (this is not by any means a comprehensive list as we are still learning):
1. Sperm and egg collection
The Collection of Eggs & Sperm:
After the eggs and sperm have been collected, they are immediately taken to the laboratory where they are put in a dish, which is then placed in an incubator, and the sperm is introduced. The eggs are monitored daily and, if fertilization has occurred, they can be transferred to the mothers womb in 3 to 5 days.
In a natural conception the ripe egg leaves the ovary and comes into the fallopian tube where it is fertilized by the sperm. In an IVF conception, the eggs are ripened with fertility drugs, and many are harvested from the mothers ovaries by her doctor. It is miraculous that we can facilitate the creation of life in this way. Dad’s sperm are also collected and taken away, and they are either injected into the middle of an egg with a needle, or they can be placed with the eggs in the dish to find their own way in to the egg. I have heard IVF mom’s say “How do I know that they used the right eggs or sperm?” – in other words how do I know this is my baby? This can be a big concern, causing deep doubt and trust issues at this stage. This concern is not necessarily about the competence of the medical staff, it is more about the extremely unusual circumstances surrounding IVF. It is very unusual for us to have our eggs/sperm go out of our sight, and for them to be tended by many strangers. It is equally unusual for conception to happen outside of our body, our being, and our sight.
Normally a mother would have no doubt that it was her egg, and she would know to whom the sperm belonged. There would be no one else involved in the conception unless you were having an artificial insemination conception, or an egg donor. In IVF we have a whole cast of characters involved in the pre-conception and conception phases who would not normally be there. We know in SPPP that even at the conception stage we are being influenced by the energetic field around us, and by the people closely involved with our mother in particular. That field is primarily our parents and their relationship/connection, and very close others. Your child is having her own experience as she is navigating through this elaborate process. We need to gather much more information from children about how this is affecting them.
If you used a local egg donor your child may have other siblings living in your community if she is actively selling her eggs there. This is a situation unique to families who have used egg donors. Even though your child has never met her siblings, she may have a connection to them. I have seen many children in Prenatal & Birth play sessions demonstrate intricate, ongoing relationships with siblings who came in and left before them, or who came in with them and left before conception or birth. Children will communicate these relationships very clearly in sessions by using baby/child figures repeatedly to tell the story of the lost sibling/s, clearly demonstrating their connection and their understanding of what happened.
I would like to see the collection of eggs and sperm in IVF procedures held in the energy field of the parents’ deep love and connection, and with the sacred reverence it deserves. For example, rather than sending dad off to produce sperm alone, the parents could do that collection together so that it is held within their sacred and loving intentions to create a child together, within the field of their love, connection, and hope. When mom’s eggs are being harvested, let their loving connection and desire for a child together create the space in which the extraction occurs. There is nothing more miraculous than the creation of a child. We need to find ways to bring reverence into this process called IVF, which is really an assisted conception with a large cast of characters, all working together. If the IVF doctor won’t allow sperm collection with both parents present, you can connect energetically with each other as the sperm is collected by making an agreement or setting an intention together. In this way you can bring all of your love to the conception of your child; be creative and create your own rituals too if that helps.
An IVF conception is totally unique in that it is the only time a child is conceived with both the parents not present. There is a lot going on at conception, as we are:
– Coming into the physical body of our mother
– Beginning to grow our own body at the same time as we enter into the physical realm
– Entering into the field of our parents for the first time
– Coming into the ancestral lines of our parents, and into what our soul level commitment is with this family line in particular.
Conception necessitates two people coming together to make a baby, and there is the potential for that union to be deep, passionate, conscious, and totally present. As we come into life at conception we get our first imprint of relationship from how our parents are together, how they made love, how they feel towards each other, their level of intimacy, etc. We also get our first imprint of sexuality, since we are conceived out of sexual union. As you can see there is a great deal happening at conception, it is a very important moment. So, what does this mean for a child who comes in through IVF?
What Mikaela Taught Me About Her IVF Conception:
Mikaela, a very bright and active 3 year old, was very intent on showing us, and processing, what occurred around her conception. She played repeatedly, over a number of sessions, with various plastic containers and trays, plastic droppers and syringes, water, paint, and kitchen roll. She mixed and moved a lot of fluids from one container to another. This is not surprising when you think about how much movement of ‘liquids’ from one place to another is occurring in IVF. I have plastic trays, syringes, and droppers generally available in my play space and kids with a natural conception never take any notice of them. Mikaela avidly mixed and moved fluids around in the same way for approx 5/6 sessions as she showed us her experience of her conception (her parents were present the whole time in the sessions). She was showing us, “I was there, this affected me, I remember it and I want you to know what it was like for me”. Children naturally process through play, they show us what they need us to know, and what they need support with. It helps them to integrate the experiences, in which they may have felt alone or overwhelmed. They are intensely engaged in this kind of play, and they really need their parents to deeply see this event through their eyes. Mikaela was working very hard to bring her conception back to her parents; they were not with her in the original conception. It was very important for her to do this processing. After 5/6 sessions Mikaela asked me if she could take ‘it’ (the mixture) home? I gave her two plastic containers with lids into which we transferred some of the mixture. This was an important changing point in her play, as she had not done this before. In a very sacred moment, Mikaela somberly gave one container to each of her parents. Prior to this shift Mikaela had always left the mixture in my office. This shift marked the end of her avid mixing, although she would still do a little mixing, she moved on to process the ‘reduction’ of her twin siblings. I asked that her parents take extra special care of the mixture, and that they put the containers in a special or sacred place in their home. It is a sacred gift to witness a child showing us her conception, and the returning of it to her parents. She worked hard on it. Conception is a sacred event and the sacred is rarely included or acknowledged during medical procedures, unless we include it ourselves. Our already profound understanding, in the somatic prenatal & perinatal psychology community, of the emotional/psychological/spiritual aspects of early imprinting, need to be applied to the IVF process, along with a healthy dose of curiosity, and some deep thought and creativity.
It makes a lot of sense that for IVF children the absence of their parents’ presence at their conception is acutely felt by them. It is not yet possible to say what the affects of IVF conception are on our children in relation to their sense of relationship, sexuality, embodiment, and spirituality. Mikaela needed a lot of containment in her sessions. When she first came in to see me she was described by her parents as ‘bouncing off the walls’. It may be harder for these children to feel their own body boundaries, and to feel contained. There are unanswered questions. It may be that some IVF babies are spiritually/energetically with their parents at conception even though the event itself is physically happening elsewhere. It will be fascinating to hear the stories unfold from the mouths of our babies and children.
It’s important that we listen deeply to our IVF conceived children. Let them teach us about this way of coming in to life, so that we can give them the support they need to be happy, healthy, and integrated. Ideally, I would like to see the medical community creating the opportunity for IVF parents to be present at their child’s conception in the lab, including both parents at sperm and egg collection. I am sure that there are ways it could be arranged for parents to be there for this very important event, the beginning of a new, very wanted, and much anticipated new life.
If you are thinking about IVF, ask your doctor if you can be physically present for your child’s conception. If that’s not possible then you can be energetically present for the conception using visualization, intention, prayer, and meditation. Many people naturally have a connection with their child before conception. If you are one of those, you can use your connection with baby to stay in touch with her throughout the IVF process – before and during conception and up to implantation. Find other ways to be present and involved if you are unable to be physically present. You can hold a sacred space for your magical child to come into your lives, and surround your child with your love and intentions. What a lucky child!
If you are already pregnant from an IVF conception, you can connect with your unborn baby, together if possible, and then use your imagination to go back to his/her conception. See your presence and love union in your mind’s eye energetically surrounding the whole IVF process. Imagine yourselves together at both sperm and egg collection; your energy surrounding your sperm and eggs at all times, including the actual conception.
IVF conception can involve more than one embryo (fertilized egg) implanting into your womb lining. This can often mean that at some point parents have to make a decision about whether they are going to keep all of their implanted babies. A “reduction” is an abortion, or multiple abortions, depending on how many of your fertilized eggs implanted, and how many babies you choose to keep. This is often a very difficult decision, both a joyful moment and a sad one, because you are pregnant and happy to choose a child to keep, and simultaneously you have to decide not to keep your other children. The abortion/s are carried out in the presence of your chosen child. Most of us are unaware of how conscious prenate’s are in the womb, and it can be hard to imagine what it must be like for a little one to witness this moment in which she is simultaneously chosen, and has to witness the loss of her sibling/s. One remedy to avoiding this issue is to have only one fertilized egg placed in your womb, although this can reduce your chances of a successful implantation.
The loss of one’s siblings in the womb is a huge event. Many children have shown me how much it means to them, and how connected they are, to their lost siblings. The lost one’s can be siblings who came in before them (miscarriage, abortion, stillbirth), or who came in with them. Babies and children communicate what happened, and their feelings about it, in Prenatal & Birth Play. Here are three examples from sessions:
1. A 3-year-old IVF boy, Sam, demonstrated over and again how there were three of them in the womb (his twin siblings were “reduced”), and then there was just him alone. He had some very mixed feelings about this time in his womb life, and really wanted us to deeply understand how that had been for him. He would tie three of us together with yarn, put us all into a small space, and then he would have two of us leave the room (his twin siblings). The remaining person (usually me in this game) would be left alone, locked in and tied to something (umbilical cord) so that I couldn’t leave. The feeling of this game was deeply sad, miserable, and overwhelming. This was Sam’s way of conveying to us his feelings about what it was like to go through that experience. Children are very creative when they are given the space, and when they know there is deep listening available.
2. Ellie, a 5-year-old girl, often had a 6-year-old boy on a bike in her sessions. He always went on very long journeys away from his mother when she didn’t want him to, and his mother never had any choice about him going away. Ellie’s brother had miscarried 6 years prior to her sessions with me. When pregnant Ellie’s mom had been sure that her lost baby was a boy.
3. A 4-year-old girl, Maisie, tied babies to the end of the birthing tube in my office as she explored her relationship to her mother’s previously aborted babies. She tied the exact number of babies that were lost. She was always deeply sad when showing her mom that she knew about her lost siblings. Her mom had never discussed them with her or in her presence. She would look at her mother during this process with the most somber, sad eyes I have ever seen. It can help children if we grieve and process our own feelings about the children lost in our womb, because the imprint left in the womb is reduced for the next occupant. This is also good for women’s health – another big subject!
How children feel connected to their lost siblings is a big subject that I can’t do justice to here. When working with adults I have also seen the profound affects of lost siblings, lost twins, etc. With IVF children we must consider that they have not only lost their sibling/s, but they have witnessed their removal through abortion. Reductions are without a doubt one of the most traumatic aspects of IVF for a baby, and it can also be very difficult for conscious parents.
The more aware you are of prenatal consciousness, and that your baby is having her own experience, the better you are able to take care of your baby. Reductions can be challenging for the whole family, but there are ways to both keep the trauma to a minimum, and to heal from it afterwards.
It’s important for IVF families to have this information whether it’s before IVF, during pregnancy, or after birth. At every stage it is possible to bring consciousness and healing to the experience. We can make it easier for IVF children and families with some support and understanding.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Prenatal experiences, and our womb environment, influence our perceptions of life, our sense of our family, and whether the world is safe or not. I recommend that IVF parents don’t wait until after birth to get support for their unborn baby if they had “reduction/s”. When a prenate witnesses their sibling/s being aborted they can feel unsafe, and may feel life threatened. This is normal when we are faced with, or witness, life threat or death in the womb. With early support from an appropriately trained practitioner, your baby can return to a feeling of safety and relaxation. IVF children are some of the most wanted and chosen children, and they have a very unique journey into life. If your baby gets help with this before birth it will have a profound affect on the remainder of her gestation, and will positively affect birthing outcomes. What happens to us in the womb affects birthing outcomes because we bring all of the experiences we had before our birth, to our birth.
Our conscious, unborn children can be prepared before the IVF process begins, and it can be navigated consciously. It is always possible to heal and repair after the event, the earlier the better; it is also never too late. Please call me for a free initial telephone consult if you have concerns and questions about your experiences, and about my work.
If you have other information to offer on this subject from your own, or your children’s experiences, I would love to hear about it from you.
© 2016 Karen Melton
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