Ouch: And Other Stories Of IVF
I’ve always had a lot of faith in Western medicine.
My grandma was a nurse as are two of my aunts, so growing up in rural North Dakota I was raised with a healthy mix of scientifically proven medicine and a “walk off that sprained ankle” pioneer spirit.
Which is why I was so surprised when I found myself lying on a table in the middle of Beverly Hills doing something I never thought I would: acupuncture.
As my husband, Jason, and I round the bend on our final stage of IVF, I find myself doing a lot of things I never thought I would. Like swallowing fistfuls of hormones. Or writing about our journey openly in my home state newspaper. Or letting my husband give me a shot in the butt.
You know, fun stuff like that.
But I’ve always resisted acupuncture. Every time I thought about it I could hear my grandfather’s voice asking why I would pay someone to stick me with a bunch of needles when he could just gather up some nails and do that for free.
To me, acupuncture fell firmly in the “ridiculous” category. Like dogs in sunglasses and cars that cost more than your house.
But as the day to our embryo transfer approached, I started to wonder if I was ignoring something that could be helpful just because I didn’t understand it. I’d do anything to have the best chance of success, even if it meant letting someone put a needle in my ear.
Before my appointment, friends regaled me with stories about how this treatment had helped them, made them fall asleep, see colors, or feel better immediately.
So when I arrived at the office I tried to keep an open mind. After a get-to-know-you session with the admittedly lovely woman, I crawled up on the table and prepared to become a human pincushion.
She started with my feet. I braced for the needle poke but… Huh. Not that bad. In fact, I didn’t really feel anything. Pretty soon, she left me alone in the room and I took a deep breath and prepared for something incredible to happen.
I waited and waited. And then waited some more.
I wasn’t feeling anything. I wasn’t falling asleep. I wasn’t seeing colors and I definitely wasn’t relaxed. With needles sticking out of my feet, arms, stomach, and ears, all I really felt was annoyed.
After what seemed like an eternity, my acupuncturist came back, removed the needles, and stepped out again so I could put on my shoes. Feeling disappointed and like I’d just wasted a lot of money, I swung my legs over the table and onto the ground.
As soon as my feet hit the floor, I almost collapsed. My legs felt like jelly and my head was filled with cotton. What was happening? I felt… I felt… Oh dammit, I felt amazing! Sorry, Grandpa.
A general sense of well-being rushed through my entire body. Everything was going to be fine. The embryo transfer? Fine. The shots? Fine. The hormones? Fine. Everything was going to be just fine, fine, fine.
The only other time I’d felt this way was on an airplane – and that’s just because I’d taken a lot of Xanax.
I left the office stunned – or as stunned as I could be through my relaxed fog. How was this possible? How could this have worked? But it did. Somehow one of those needles had pierced my skeptic’s heart.
Will it help get me pregnant? Who knows. But that night, I felt a little part of my anxiety diminish knowing I’d left no stone unturned in our quest to build a family.
And maybe that’s all I needed.
Trying to get pregnant through IVF is so full of unknowns – full of a million things you can’t control. So finding something to keep the fear and doubt at bay, something that you can hang on to that makes you feel even a fraction less overwhelmed is important.
So while I might still walk off a sprained ankle and call my aunts for medical advice, I’ve also made another appointment with the acupuncturist.
I’m sure my grandfather would understand.
This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum. You can find them (and me) here.
Photo by Jason Elias.