Everyone assumed that it would be easy for AcroYoga teacher Deven Sisler to have a baby. After all, she was a healthy 35-year-old who had been practicing yoga and meditation for 12 years and eating organically for 20. So when she miscarried at 9 weeks in June 2015, it came as a big shock to her and her husband. "It was the single most painful, empowering, and transformative time in my life," she reflects.
Sisler took the rest of the summer to sleep, eat well, and take care of herself, and by October she was pregnant again. Once again, she miscarried at 9 weeks. "In mid-December I just started bleeding. I curled up by fire and cried my heart out," she says. The doctor later confirmed that it was a non-viable molar pregnancy. Her emotional recovery was more complicated this time -- just when she was starting to feel better after her second miscarriage, she got hit with postpartum depression. "I didn’t know you could have that without a baby. My legs were knocked out from under me," she reveals.
Around the time that she started recovering from the depression with the help of family, friends, and restorative yoga, Sisler learned she had a rare precancerous condition called gestational trophoblastic disease as a result of her second pregnancy -- a condition that can be deadly if not treated immediately. "I had to get a shot of Methotrexate -- a form of chemotherapy -- once a week for 8 weeks. I responded really well to treatment, but the fatigue was really, really high for me in beginning and I lost a lot of appetite. Everything was a struggle."
Finally, after the treatment wrapped up in April, Sisler started to feel a little bit better every day, and by the end of May she felt like herself again. "I'm really grateful every day to have my uterus, to be alive, to have my hair," she says. "I think about how amazing my husband is, my family and friends who dropped parts of their life to cook for me and support me, how much I love my job."
Along the path of her journey to healing, Sisler found she could do restorative yoga, sometimes just one or two poses, and it would help her relax. "Restorative yoga allowed me to still be in my practice. It's really important when you're going through anything physically or emotionally wrenching to have a restorative strategy, to create a little bit of space for healing. Something you can do when you feel like you can barely do anything."
And while Sisler is not ready to start trying to get pregnant again just yet, she recently started dreaming about having babies. "We definitely want to have a family so we're confident that's going to happen. I'm open to the fact that I have no idea how that's going to happen."
She also helps hopes that sharing her story about miscarriage will help reduce some of the stigma and shame surrounding this common and painful experience. "Through sharing my story, women from all walks of life are saying 'me too.' After my first and second miscarriage, a number of people went out of their way to look me in eye and say, 'You didn’t do anything wrong.' A lot of women need to hear that."
A Healing Restorative Yoga Sequence
Sisler recommends using the following restorative sequence, which contains a healing meditation for each pose, as a launching point to find your own healing flow whether you're recovering from a miscarriage or any other traumatic experience. "This sequence is an offering of relaxation, so your body and your nervous system can hit the reset button and help you restore equilibrium. Change into your favorite pajamas, put on your coziest socks and favorite relaxing music, and just relax," she says.
YOU WILL NEED A bolster and 2 pillows or 2 blocks.