According to Chinese medicine (and a pamphlet that I picked up during my office visit), “Qi is a fine, essential substance which nourishes and constructs the body.” It flows through your body via distinct channels. If the free flow of qi is restricted in any way or if too much qi pools in one area, the harmony in your body is compromised and this is when certain medical problems occur. The body has over 1,000 acupoints, where the flow of qi can be accessed. During acupuncture treatment, the doctor inserts needles into these points to try to help re-adjust your body’s flow of qi into a more harmonious state. Are you still with me?
Good. In case you were wondering how my acupuncture appointment went last Wednesday evening, let me break it down for you.
The patients who were there to see the chiropractors were lining the walls of the waiting room. I had never been to a chiropractor, let alone an acupuncturist. But, I was determined to keep an open mind and I had been looking forward to the appointment. The receptionist led me into a small office that was simply decorated with a few oriental wall hangings, some official looking certificates, and a little sign that was tacked to the wall above the desk that said, “Got Qi?” Cute.
I was handed a clipboard that held no less than one-hundred seventy-two forms for me to fill out. Dr. Z entered the room as I was filling out the HIPPA form and stated, “This is the American way. Too many papers. Sorry about that.” She was a middle aged Chinese woman of average build. She had short hair and sported glasses and a lab coat. She started to ask me questions as I was finishing up the necessary papers. She was pretty much all business from the start. She wanted to know the date of the embryo transfer and how long we have been trying to conceive. She also wanted to know about my bowel movements. “Not loose, right?” Well, I certainly couldn’t swear to that under oath, but I didn’t feel like getting into a detailed discussion of my bathroom experiences, so I replied, “Normal.” She asked to see my tongue. She wasn’t happy when I opened my mouth and stuck it out for her. “Your tongue is too big for your mouth. I can see the teeth marks and the color is too light. You are deficient. Your body’s resources are depleted.” Great. Now I have a fat tongue to add to my list of body parts that are growing from the hormones. Can a girl catch a break?
She consulted what appeared to be her trusty acupuncture manual for a minute or two and then, when I was finished with the one-hundred seventy-second form, we headed for the treatment room. The room was about equal in size to a hospital room but was sectioned off into “private” treatment areas by curtains that were suspended from the ceiling. The lights were low and she put on very subtle spa music. She told me that I would need to lie down on the little table that looked just like one that you would find in any other doctor’s office. I would also need to pull my dress up to expose my lower body. (It’s okay to continue reading. This doesn’t turn into a story that would be better suited for a girly magazine, I promise. I was able to keep my underwear on the entire time.) She left and allowed me to get ready for our session. I waited for her on the table, lying face-up.
When she returned, it was business time. She stood beside me and began inserting the thread-like needles into different areas on my body. She started with the top of my head and worked her way down. The placement of the needles consists of a quick, tapping motion. I could feel some of the needles being inserted and others I couldn’t feel at all. The needles that I could feel were a little uncomfortable but I wouldn’t use the word painful. At one point during this process, she said to me, “You are young. Why not just relax? Wait and try to have a baby naturally?” I kid you not. While I am trying to trust this process and be open-minded, this woman asks me perhaps the most condescending question that one woman could ask another who is struggling with infertility. If you are reading this and not understanding why this pissed me off and why I had to REALLY do some focused soul searching to get my zen-like mojo back at that very moment, then you and I need to talk.
There were needles in my head, ears, arms, between some of my fingers, wrists, pelvic area, legs, between my toes and other areas that I wasn’t even aware of. All I wanted to do was yell out, “I don’t have any eggs in my ovaries, Doctor Prickly! Were you NOT paying attention to a single word that came out of my mouth?! WOW. Relax? It’s that EASY!!! Why hadn’t I thought of that during the past SIX YEARS? It all makes PERFECT sense! I haven’t been RELAXED enough!” When she was finished she asked if any of the needles were bothering me. I told her that they were fine, and I was really struggling not to think negative thoughts about her and this entire process. She lightly touched my forehead and told me to try to relax. Then, she covered me up with a foil-like sheet and left the room. For those first few moments, I felt like I was trying to summon communication from aliens. Was I on another planet? Was Ashton Kutcher hiding around the corner with his Nikon Coolpix ready to punk me? Sweet Ashton, take me away.
After a few minutes I was able to let go a little bit. I concentrated on my breathing and why I was there. I was in a good place, visualizing the qi pulsating and free flowing throughout my body, especially energizing and pulsing in my uterus. This is good stuff. This is going to help. Just as I was about to really get into my ancient Chinese medicine groove, I heard the door to the room open again and what sounded like Dr. Z talking to Wilford Brimley, who was probably doing acupuncture in hopes to manage his “diabeetus.” The man’s breathing was labored as he affirmed that his bowel movements were “VERY regular,” chuckling. She asked him if he had any questions and he admitted that he was a little nervous about the thought of the needles. She assured him that it would be okay, to trust the process, that people had been doing this for centuries. Then she told him to undress from the waist down. Great. Here I am, undressed from the waist down, with nothing separating me from a half naked Wilford Brimley but a flimsy hospital curtain. At what point does this process become relaxing? Why can’t I stop visualizing Wilford Brimley laboring over one of his VERY regular bowel movements? Oh, that’s right, clearly, I have an issue with RELAXING!!!
After a few minutes of being serenaded by Mr. Brimley’s breathing over the spa music, Dr. Z returned and, honestly, I was ready to get the hell out of there. She removed the needles and told me get dressed and to meet her back in her office. Once back in her office, she again lectured me about the condition of my tongue. She handed me a small mirror and told me to look at it while she again described its undesirable features. She also recommended another session before the transfer as well as follow-up sessions to ensure a healthy pregnancy. She did not like the idea of me being on a bike at all (I am a part-time spin instructor) between now and the transfer and if we were in China, she would tell me that I had to take the bus, that she would not even allow me to use a bike for transportation. I also need to refrain from eating any dairy after the transfer. Really? Not even low fat cottage cheese or yogurt? This fat-tongued mama loves cheese!
She shook my hand and informed me that I could make my follow up appointments at the front desk. I had to pay on my way out, and, believe it or not, I made an appointment for two days before the transfer. As of right now, I am keeping the appointment on the books. I am going to wait to see how I feel this weekend to decide whether or not I want to go through with it. I am not one to think that just because something is not conventional in my culture means that it isn’t worthwhile or real. Who am I to decide whether or nor something is valid when cultures of people have practiced it for centuries with undeniable results. There is nothing wrong with getting your qi right. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.