Needles, Psychics and Wackos (an excerpt from Breathing Faith, chapter 5)
Part of my journey was to find the people who could really help me—and who I could deal with. In my extensive research about infertility and “alternative” methods, acupuncture was one modality that kept coming up. Being, basically, an open-minded person, I was always ready for new experiences. I thought, what the hell? I’d give it a try.
Luckily I lived in Boulder Colorado, a Mecca of sorts, for alternative medicines and treatments. We had more massage therapists, herbalists and acupuncturists per square mile than probably any other state in the union. Okay, maybe not California, but still. If you wanted your chakras aligned or your auras lightened or your energy lifted, someone in Boulder would most certainly have something to recommend—massage, vitamin, herbal remedy, tincture, high colonic, astrological reading, martial art, yoga pose or experiential therapy (horse, wilderness, scream, you name it). It was great to have so many services from which to choose. It was also overwhelming when I was attempting to find just the right person.
I went through three acupuncturists before I found the one who I believed could really help me with my infertility issues. My first experience with acupuncture was at a local college, the Southwest Acupuncture School. Students, under supervision, worked with new clients for a reduced rate. I went, with some apprehension, to see if I could handle the needles. It turns out that I could, so I sought out a professional, someone who already had some years of experience, preferably in dealing with infertility.
The waiting room of Acupuncturist One almost put me in a trance, it was so calming—a water fountain, Asian art, dark red walls. I expected her to be equally groovy and soothing.
After she asked me some questions and felt my pulse by holding my wrist, she frowned and said, “Wow, you really have old energy.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond to this. It did not sound like a compliment. I said nothing.
She continued. “You’ll never get pregnant with this energy. We need to build up your chi.”
Oh my chi. My ovary, my uterus, and now my chi.
“You’ll need to stop eating tomatoes.”
“Oh, that is no problem…” I started.
“And drink three cups of organic raspberry tea a day. Made from loose-leaves, not a tea bag.”
“Okay.” This wasn’t sounding so bad.
“And give up coffee and sugar and wheat and all dairy products.”
“Jeesh,” I gulped. I really did not like Acupuncturist One all that much. I wanted to go back to the waiting room where it was calm and watery and nice.
“And you should take up the practice of chee-kung to get new energy flowing. Do you know what that is?”
“Huh?” I was still trying to wrap my head around the no-caffeine rule.
She spelled it out on a piece of paper. Oh, qi gong. Over the years, I’d taken classes in karate and meditation, yoga and Tai chi. I had not, in fact, gotten around to qi gong. I knew qi gong was another form of a traditional Asian martial art that involved slow movements and deep breathing. I wasn’t sure what this had to do with my fertility but I was willing to try anything.
She went on. “In Chinese, qi in qigong means ‘air’, life force, or dynamic energy. ‘Gong’ means work applied to the discipline. So qigong is breath work or energy work.”
So now I was being told to give up several of my most favorite things—my daily extra hot, nonfat latte, yummy warm homemade organic wheat bread with butter and even my good friends, Ben and Jerry. No more New York Super Fudge Chunk, no more Chubby Hubby, no more Cherry Garcia.
I stuck it out with Acupuncturist One for several appointments. I hoped that, despite her dreadful personality, she could help me. She was late for our last two appointments and forgot to apologize. I ate some cheese and tomatoes and bread, visited our local Ben and Jerry’s scoop shop and had a cup of Chocolate Fudge Brownie…and moved on.
Acupuncturist Two was a wonderful guy, very cool and hip, and he seemed to know a lot about women’s gynecological issues. He too had a water fountain in his waiting room. (Is this a requirement for alternative doctors?) He was very upbeat and positive. The only problem with Acupuncturist Two was the Chinese medicine that he prescribed. I had to cook things that looked like a combination of tongue depressors, marijuana and dirt. When I boiled these herbs, it smelled like a concoction of cow manure and dead people. One Sunday afternoon, it stank up the house so badly that the stench actually drove Jay right out of the house. Try as I might, I couldn’t deal with it.
Finally, I found the right acupuncturist for me. Acupuncturist Three was not groovy and not cool and not warm and fuzzy. There was no calming dripping water in his waiting room. But he knew his stuff. And, he had a real passion for helping infertile women.
“There is nothing wrong with your energy,” he said during our first appointment.
“Yay,” I said with false enthusiasm but my heart bounced a bit.
“But we do want to build up your blood. Do you like to eat meat?”
I’d been a vegetarian for years, but had started eating turkey and chicken again in the last few years. On occasion, I would eat some red meat. But I was not drawn to it like Jay, whose eyes would roll to the back of his head when presented with a juicy elk steak or filet mignon. I was more of a Cobb salad kind of girl. But when Acupuncturist Three recommended that I ‘beef up’, I left his office and drove right to my nearest natural foods store.
As I stood in front of the meat counter, I was suddenly overwhelmed. I had no idea what kind of meat to buy or what cut. “Jay, you have to help me out here,” I said when I reached him on his cell phone. He laughed and said, “Get some buffalo.” That night I tried; I really did try to eat buffalo meat. But I was exhausted. I was tired of the decaffeinated raspberry tea and the needles and the deep breathing and the advice and all I wanted was a triple espresso mocha latte with whipped cream from Starbucks. Hadn’t I sacrificed enough? Jay held my hand as tears began to drip onto my plate. I couldn’t make myself eat it. It looked disgusting. “Screw it!” I got up to make myself some pasta.
The next time I saw Acupuncturist Three, I told him about my buffalo woes. He kindly recommended that I get some beef marrowbones, cook them, and then cook rice in those juices. This way, he told me, I would still be getting the goodies from the beef. I could do that. I ate beef-bone-rice for dinner for a month. Yummy.
I began to look forward to my visits with Acupuncturist Three. I began to like him. Perhaps most importantly, I believed in him. I believed he could help me. And thankfully, the herbs that he prescribed came in pill form, so the days of gagging on dirt tea were finally over.