(See some of the backstory in Part I)
My first cycle with acupuncturist Li was excruciating. It was extremely long, and when I started bleeding at work on the first day of my period, the pain was so extreme I nearly passed out. My new boss (I had only been on the job about a month, fabulous first impression, no?) nearly called an ambulance but I managed to convince her not to, and instead she kindly gave me a ride home since a bike ride was clearly impossible. The period lasted longer than usual, and was heavier than usual. I was miserable. Li was thrilled.
The very next cycle, my temps started to move up a bit, I ovulated, and the next period wasn’t nearly as bad. She moved me through several rounds of herbs meant to do various things I didn’t comprehend (what does “tonify blood” mean?). In the year or so that I was with Li before the cycle that worked, I only missed ovulation on one cycle. As my cycles regularized (about 32-36 days), my mucus improved, and it became possible (though not necessarily easy) to identify ovulation with signs and a vast collection of OPKs, I started to have hope my body really could do this. Gail and I decided to still get basic labs with an RE (which we had not done for Gail), which I did in March 08. The RE gave me the all clear, despite being fairly dubious as to why my hormone levels were fine after I had described my history (and asking for Li’s contact info for her other patients). I told Li we were ready to try. After all, we’d given her far more than the three cycles she had originally asked for, and she said, I kid you not, “You don’t try this time. You will have a miscarriage.” After much badgering I managed to get out of her that she wanted my post-ovulation temps higher, consistently above 98, and was concerned I did not have adequate progesterone yet. I put it off one more cycle but I had been waiting so long. You can only push a girl so far, and I don’t know many women who would wait through nearly a year of acupuncture before trying at all. I decided my body might not be perfect, but I had semi-reliable fertility signs and did ovulate regularly now. We decided that if I could identify ovulation, we would try. Li reluctantly agreed, but wanted me to use progesterone cream on that first try.
At that point, Li and I had gotten into a bit of a battle of the wills. I felt so dependent on her. She had done for me something I thought was impossible and I was deeply indebted to her. But on the other hand, plenty of straight women had even worse cycles and got pregnant just fine. I knew that if I never tried, I really would never get pregnant. As I moved slowly through 3 cycles of trying, interrupted by break cycles due to travel and one anovulatory cycle, she gradually seemed to approve more and more of each try, and I felt a little less like I was fighting her tooth and nail. But on the cycle that worked, she still thought maybe we shouldn’t try because I’d been sick and recently traveled, even though she said my hormones were great. But we did it anyway, because I finally actually got that OPK smiley face, and it was our last shot at the three year spacing I so coveted. Obviously, I’m so glad that we did. I can’t believe that starting where I did a year and a half ago, I ended up getting pregnant without meds, on the 4th cycle trying. Now when I see Li, she’s practically busting at the seams with pride, though at my visit to try to fix this constant nausea last week, her first words were “Why you carry that heavy bag!? Don’t ride your bike! Walk slowly!!” I hadn’t seen her in over a month, and it felt kind of like when you come home from college, and your mom starts to nag you right away. You know it’s out of love and concern, but you’re still annoyed.
So there you have it. I probably had no business getting pregnant without meds, with frozen sperm. If I were someone else, If I were older, had a different history or didn’t have such deep concerns about the medical system and its inherent undisclosed risks, maybe it wouldn’t have been worth the time, work and money (at least $3600 total for acupuncture alone). I certainly don’t begrudge those who head to the RE right out of the gate, and if we’d gone on for several more unmedicated cycles unsuccessfully, we would have been there, too, and grateful for the help. But I am so glad that we gave my body this chance. Along the way, Li fixed longstanding problems with headaches and evened me out a bit emotionally, somehow helping me gain a reserve of calm I thought was only possible for folks with less fiery temperaments. Is acupuncture a cure all? Probably not. It has yet to fix my morning sickness, and I could really do without that. Is it potentially powerful if you can give it time to work? In my case at least, with a skilled practitioner, yes. But even I got impatient, and I was bound and determined to give it a full shot, so I’m sure that means it isn’t for everyone. If you’re in the thick of trying, it is excruciating to give up one cycle, let alone 3, or 6. I’m happy to provide a referral (if you still want one after I described all that nagging) to other Eastern MA folks. I swear by Li, even though she sometimes kind of drives me crazy.