A question I am often asked in my line of work is “Why?” – Why Chinese medicine? Why specialize in infertility? How did I get here and why have I made it my life’s work? These are all fair questions, especially when my patients first meet me and are about to trust me with the most important journey of their lives. The answer isn’t simple – it isn’t short – but it’s true and it’s honest and it’s my story.
Confusion. Fear. Anger. Destiny.
My road to helping women conceive started long before I knew it. During my teen years, I watched my grandmother slowly die from Alzheimer’s. Seeing her lying there motionless, clearly just waiting to die but holding on to every last breath because her autonomic nervous system had no other choice. This is the grandmother I knew, not the grandmother in the stories my mother would tell me.
I was told that everyone loved “Pinky” (her nickname). She was sweet, caring and a fiery spirit.
“You’re just like my mother”, my mother would always say. “You look just like her and have her eyes and personality. But don’t wait too long to have kids, Nana went through menopause early and you will too.”
Wait, what? Why on earth would my mother be telling me this? She must know this is confusing to a young girl? Why would she think this is actually helpful to say to a teenager who hasn’t even started her period yet, and then continue to repeat this throughout the years? Why don’t you just put a hex on me too while you’re at it!
It was at that moment that I first took an interest in medicine. This fear instilled by my caring mother turned into a fascination with health and later a desire to create something – and it plagued me for the next 20 years.
Heartache. Tenacity. Relief.
Years later… there it was, my diagnosis of INFERTILITY. After two years of “trying” to conceive and many more of “not preventing” pregnancy, I sought the help of my gynecologist. She immediately gave me an ovulation inducing drug called Clomid and ran a few blood tests. She insisted on doing a hysterosalpingogram (or HSG) to see if anything was obstructing my fallopian tubes. The HSG came back negative and the only alarming blood test showed an FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) of 16.
The gynecologist immediately referred me to a Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility Specialist (REI). Although I had spent nearly 15 years working in various types of Western medical settings, I was nervous and naïve as I entered the REI’s office, thinking: Surely, Western medicine has the answers. I mean, there have been huge advances in Western science helping women conceive and there MUST be a solution for me. Part of my fear, of course, was my mother’s voice that rang through my head since those early days.
Just like that, in walked a smug reproductive doctor who looked at a few blood tests and said to me, “Your options are donor egg or adoption. You want a baby, I’ll get you a baby.” This doctor can’t be serious.
My cool-headed husband nearly jumped across the table and throttled him. He had no interest in helping us “conceive” but rather took pride in showboating his clinical expertise during a couple’s time of ultimate fear.
Not one that takes no for an answer, I began searching. The internet was still in its infancy and smartphones were non-existent, so being an avid reader I went to the bookstore. It was there that I found a book that changed my life, called The Infertility Cure by Dr. Randine Lewis. How did I not know about Chinese medicine, the antithesis of pills and one size fits all approach to health?
A long time Western medicine employee and a healthy skeptical with an analytical mind, I questioned how this could help me. At that time, Dr. Lewis was holding fertility retreats just outside her clinic in Houston, and I told my husband that I wanted to attend. “Worst case scenario I will spend $3000 for 5 days at a 5-star spa and come home completely relaxed, which I totally need,” I said. He agreed.
Dr. Lewis gave me a Chinese herbal prescription, and was actually concerned about me and the details of my health and how that was affecting my fertility. It was at this retreat that I experienced my first acupuncture, released negative emotions about my ability to conceive and met lifelong friends. Dr. Lewis changed my menstrual cycles to make them less clotted, less painful and without night sweats. My next menstrual cycle started without fanfare, in fact, I barely knew it was coming.
It was during that cycle that after two years of trying to conceive and being told by a reproductive doctor that my eggs were old and that I would never conceive, that I conceived naturally with the help of Chinese medicine!
Success. Grief. Determination.
In utter disbelief, I tried to rationalize the logic of it. It’s literally been over two years and after two months of using Chinese medicine I’m pregnant?! Anecdotal, yes. Coincidence, no.
Without a doubt, Chinese medicine changed my menstrual cycles and regulated my endocrine system enough to allow my body to conceive. More specifically, the changing of the quality of my menstrual cycles (which were like that for a very long time before Chinese medicine, by the way), helped my embryo implant into my uterus. Amazing.
Weeks later, we knew something was wrong. My heart sank as the ultrasound tech searched for the heartbeat. “I’ll be back in a minute,” she said. S*it! “There’s no heartbeat. It’s no doubt a bad egg”, the doctor said. We were devastated. The joy of having this living, breathing thing inside of you one day, and not the next is indescribable unless you’ve lived through it. Many women had. And now I was too. There was nothing that my husband could say or do to console me. I would breakdown in the privacy of a shower, the warm water washing away my tears as fast as they flowed. All I could tell myself was that time would heal.
I knew that if I got pregnant once, my body could do it again. But I also knew I needed the help of Chinese medicine. I went to several local acupuncturists but none of them knew much about treating infertility. They were generalists that treated everything, and the one thing I learned during this process was that treating infertility was complicated and required a specialist .
It was then that I realized my fate and put my business skills to use. I wrote a business plan for a practice specializing exclusively in treating infertility and women’s health and applied to Chinese medical school. I knew that I didn’t want to pursue IVF and that if I couldn’t conceive myself then I would help other women.
“How could you handle doing this work daily?” “Do you ever feel sad?” …Those are just a few questions I receive from my patients, but I can honestly say that each time a patient conceives I feel a sense of relief, joy and pure astonishment. We each have our own journey in this life and I have faith that mine is exactly the way it is intended.
I always say that motherhood is more than just a baby and its biological mother. I sometimes mother-hen my husband, I do my part in mothering the planet earth, and I am surely a mother to all my patients. I have birthed a skill that helps other women birth their own story, and I find true joy in that. Some people have children and never realize their passion in life. I have found my real passion in life and never had my own biological children.