My Homeopathy

Ever since Dawn appeared on the Creating a Family podcast, I’ve been going back and listening to their archives. I started with the old adoption shows, reasonably enough, and then I ran out and started listening to infertility shows. I did worry about secondary infertility after Cricket—some time after I got pregnant with the little bird, on a night when I was doubting that I was actually pregnant, Mr. Book let me know how annoying my baseless worry about infertility had been, and that I was pregnant now, so for God’s sake! I can worry at a professional level, and I don’t doubt that it’s super irritating; unluckily for Mr. Book, he can be awfully funny when he is aggravated. So now I am learning about ART and many other things. When Mr. Book sees me wearing headphones these days, he gives me a flat, disbelieving stare and shakes his head. I guess it is a bit weird. . . .

Most recently, I was listening to a podcast on the use of traditional Chinese medicine to treat infertility. Once of the first callers explained that she was trying to conceive, and that her doctor considered her (at age 42) to be of advanced maternal age, “but I don’t believe it.” The TCM provider agreed, saying that she doesn’t believe in advanced maternal age—and, for that matter, she doesn’t believe in infertility. The host was a bit startled, and asked for clarification: the TCM provider explained that if you open yourself to life, you will get pregnant. It’s as simple as that. What bothered me, and what I’d really like to hear about from those with experience  (since I don’t have personal experience with infertility), is that it sounded to me like this blames women for their inability to get pregnant or carry a baby to term. If all you have to do is open yourself to life and you are not getting pregnant, you are failing. Maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way, and please correct me if so!—but it seems like a pretty tough row to hoe. There’s nothing wrong with trying to have a baby at forty, of course, but suggesting that if it takes any more time or effort than it might take a twenty-year-old, that is your personal spiritual failing and not biology . . . I don’t like it.

I should probably disclose that I start out pretty skeptical of traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, aromatherapy, and most forms of alternative medicine. I will drink ginger tea when I’m having an upset stomach, so it’s not as though I have a deep aversion to useful herbs, but my views in the area overall are pretty conservative. And yet, when I was pregnant with Cricket, I took homeopathy tablets at my midwives’ insistence, despite the fact that I agree with James Randi about that course of treatment. I think that’s why the TCM lady bothered me so much—women in vulnerable positions are being sold a bill of goods, and I don’t like it.

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15 thoughts on “My Homeopathy

  1. You and Dawn need to work on telling me things – I did not know this podcast existed much less that Dawn was on it. Come now! It’s your job to introduce me to the world of adoption (forget the social worker). Can I find it on itunes?

    on infertility: I have no firsthand knowledge at this time, obviously. And I’m all for the power of positive thinking (it can only help) but come on now. We’re born with a finite amount of eggs. That’s just science. Eventually, a woman stops being able to have children. As for untimely infertility, well, that’s science too. Sometimes it’s freaky and weird and there’s no explanation, and if it makes one feel better to attribute it to mental defect, more power. But correct me if I’m wrong: more often than not there are diagnosable problems at play. It just seems cruel to add to a crappy situation by making it now only BIOLOGICALLY the woman’s “fault,” but mentally and emotionally as well. It would sure make me feel like crap to be told it was my slutty emotional state that got me pregnant, instead of biology.

    That’s just my two cents. I’d be interested to hear what other people think.

    PS- I know I comment freakishly early on your posts. My phone alerts me to new ones via email, and it’s a welcome break from the monotony of my job. I’m not a stalker! Well, maybe a little… heh heh heh…

  2. (grumbles at the TCM person). If pregnancy happened just by being “open to children”, then I’d have a hundred by now! Well, maybe not, but at least one pregancy that “stuck”. But everyone has their beliefs, I guess, and are entitled to. As I read your post, I’m thinking, “but what about my old, crusty eggs! What about men who have no sperm, few sperm, lazy sperm??” Sorry, TCM infertility non-believer person. Infertility exists. It just does.
    (steps down from soapbox now.)

  3. Isn’t this along the same lines as Ms O’s theory on the power of positive thinking? Based on the TCM’s logic, I should be able to spontaneously conceive without hubby! Alas, after many many many years of trying everything under the sun, including lots of acupuncture and the best medical minds in my area, pregnancy eluded me. It was not for a lack of positive thinking or opening my heart either. The TCM may as well have said “just relax and it’ll happen”.

    Sadly, infertility is real and there isn’t a person in this world that could convince me otherwise. If it was so easy, MG would have the baby brother she so desperately desires.

    Cool about Dawn though.

  4. I went for acupuncture treatments to help with my infertility. Due to a change in my work demands/schedule I had to stop earlier than I wanted to, but during that time there was a VERY significant change in my cycle! And after I stopped my cycle went back to it’s old horrible self. (Normally I have a 2-week cycle with LOTS of debilitating cramps, during acupuncture I had a normal 4-week cycle with minimal cramping – only time ever in my 25+ years of having cycles). My regular OB/GYN thought it was a waste of time, but it wasn’t invasive and it was cheap (my insurance covered it) so it certainly didn’t hurt anything. I also had the nice side-effect of weight loss. And it was definitely one of the more relaxing things I’ve experienced.

    I don’t believe that simply being open to life will get you pregnant, but I do believe strongly in the power of positive thinking. I believe that our brains are definitely wired to the other parts of our bodies and if the biology is there, being open to life could help it along. And for the record I’m generally not a fan of alternative medicine. I like my western doctors, thank you very much, but I think there is something to be said for combining the two because our western doctors tend to overlook the importance of our emotional well-being.

    As the acupuncturist explained to me, western doctors look at the individual organs and such, but not how they work together as a whole. Chinese medicine looks at the whole and how interconnected all our parts are. Through the use of the needles and heat you can adjust blood flow, etc, etc. and bring biological functions into better balance. When she explained it to me it didn’t sound crazy and new agey at all so I’m not doing her justice. Also, I would say it depends on the cause of your infertility. My cycle was way off so getting my cycle under control was a very necessary step to allow for a pregnancy. Turns out I needed to fix more than just a regular cycle and acupuncture couldn’t address the other problems.

    I think the key is also to find a really reputable chinese medicine practitioner. There are a lot of hacks out there.

  5. Um. Yeah.

    I was told as a teenager that I would likely have infertility issues, so I probably wanted to try earlier rather than later. But even then, pregnancy was unlikely. (Not terribly useful information to my teenage self!) By the age of 29 I started menopause. Yep, 29. After years of hormone treatments to try to push back menopause as long as possible due to concerns about early menopause being linked to heart disease, bone density issues and even cancer, the battle has been lost. I’ve got 3 tumors in my uterus, around 15-20 cysts (exact number varies as cysts burst and new ones form) on my ovaries and endometriosis has literally glued many of my organs into a compact little ball. I’ll be having a hysterectomy new month. I’m now 40 years old. ANd I did try fertility treatments for about a year until my sister, an obstetrician, convinced me to stop. She explained that I was putting my own health at serious risk and the odds of a viable fetus were exceedingly slim.

    Perhaps none of this would have happened is I had been “more open to children?” Please! What a load of crap!

  6. I beagn trying to concieve at 29. I have stage 4 endometrios. I have done 5 cycles of IVF, beginning at age 32. I have done chiropractic, TCM, meditation, astrology, herbs, massage, etc. etc, etc etc. I loved TCM It was great for my chronic pelvic pain. Did my fallopian tubes un-adhere to the back of my uterus whch was, in turn, adhered to my interstines. Alas, they did not. They are now gone. I was positive, hopeful, putting out good energy (for the first years, then not so much). The “positive thinking and if only you do XXX you will conceive (be cured, get the job, etc etc) movement” is ridiculous. We blame cancer patients for dying of terminal cancers because they were not positive enough. We blame infertile folks for not wanting it enough. Ay yi yi.

    Oprah can really kiss my fucking ass. So can Domar.

    My curren pelvic pain specialist, who did my last surgery. and is very into homeopathic remedies, has TCM practiced inhis office, was the most validating of my experience. He said to me “No amount of visualization, mediation, positive thinking would have made you fertile” I am simply too damaged, too infertile.

    I lovee my life now. I love my daughter. I will never be her only mother, and I am ok with that. She did not cure my infertility, and it is not her responsibility to heal the hurts it has caused me. Her shoulders are far too tiny to bear that burden

  7. I want to thank everyone who’s spoken to her own experiences; I’m definitely in favor of doing anything that helps you, for the record. But Dawn, my God: “Women who habitually miscarry or who have an incomptent cervix sometimes also have difficult accepting motherhood and their feminine role.” Does this mean that I could have prevented my crisis pregnancy by not knitting or baking? The mind reels. Some of the comments on that post are truly awful.

    • Exactly what I thought–if being open to a baby will get (and keep) you pregnant, then will being “closed” to one work as contraception? Apparently not.

      Barbara Ehrenreich has a book about how belief in the power of positive thinking has worked in our culture to benefit its promoters, but not necessarily its followers. One of her examples is cancer patients, who are constantly reminded how important it is for them to think positively–as if succumbing to cancer is a matter of having just not been positive enough 😦

  8. oh wow, I could write a book on this one. unfortunately I have way too much experience with infertility and not enough time or energy to share it all. I tried everything, including TCM, acupuncture, herbs, diet, yoga, meditation, visualization, chiropractic, massage, and counseling, as well as western approaches including surgery, drugs, and invasive treatments. oh yeah, and lots of SEX. I tried that too!

    I was as OPEN as a woman could possibly be to conceiving and carrying a baby to term.

    but infertility is a DISEASE. it has many causes and not many treatments. telling someone to “relax” or just “be open” is to ignore the many real physiological root causes behind one’s inability to get and stay pregnant. and yes, it’s another way to blame the victim.

    sure, I’ve known couples who were finally able to spontaneously conceive after giving up, or “just adopting” or when they removed some other stressor from their lives. but they didn’t suffer one of the many real physical causes of infertility.

    I still believe there is a powerful mind-body connection. but there was no possible way I could have willed myself to conceive or been any more open or let go anymore than I did during my many years of trying to build a biological family.

  9. That’s right up there with the people who told me the reason I wasn’t able to stay pregnant was that God was punishing me for not believing in him. Or the people who are told if they just have *faith* it will happen for them.

    Some people are just…broken, you know? Hell, *everyone* is broken in some way. Some people have diabetes or allergies or need to wear glasses or whatever. It just happens that my particular variety of “broken” means I can’t carry a pregnancy to term. And for whatever reason, people think it’s their place to comment on it, and their comments are usually about what I’m supposedly doing wrong.

    (Also not a fan of TCM here and definitely a Randi fan. On a personal level I feel like people can do whatever they want to do – if someone wants to spend the time & money on it & feel it works for them, great for them. Not my thing. But when someone uses their position as a practitioner of something like that to spread the same sort of BS attitudes about infertility to a wider audience, that annoys the hell out of me.)

  10. Ugh, I miscarried 5 times and had random people telling me it was because I was too stressed. Yeah, thanks for telling me that I killed my much wanted babies. Really compassionate and caring.

    I’ve heard of quite a few studies looking into acupuncture and infertility, but not heard any results, so who knows. I think part of the problem (in addition to the positive thinking garbage – I second the recommendation to read Barbara Ehrenreich’s book) is that people find it difficult to believe that we shouldn’t be able to get anything we want. In other words, you want to get pregnant? You must WORK HARDER! As as other commenters said, biology doesn’t work like that…

    • I guess it ties into the idea of the American Dream; with enough grit and determination, you too can be president/have a baby! When realistically, I never had a shot at being president, and neither did most of the people I know.

  11. Suziebook, What this practitioner said rankles me for the same reason that you stated. It is not just an intention, and nothing in life is soley under our will. Plus, as somebody studying TCM I can tell you that what this woman said was not even good Chinese medicine. The Huang Di Nei Jing, one of the basic classic documents, clearly lays out the waxing and waning of fertility across the lifespan. And plenty of TCM masters spend a lot of time treating and teaching about helping people with fertility problems become pregnant. Sigh.

  12. I’m just now coming to this. There are bad acupuncturists/ practitioners of Chinese medicine just like there are bad doctors, and that person sounds like one to me… as well as just clueless about biology. What, does she think a post-menopausal women can get pregnant… or should? I’m an acupuncturist/ herbalist, and i’ve seen Chinese medicine bring fertility to many people- and its exciting when it does! But its no less exciting than helping someone find that their true path doesn’t involve pregnancy… and finding peace with that.

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