Monday, 28 January 2013

Visiting the acupuncturist, revisted

I've already mentioned how much I appreciate my acupunture sessions, and how they've been an integral part of both my healing from loss and ttc journey. Having relocated back to the UK, I recently managed to find a practitioner who takes my health issues seriously and doesn't underplay their emotional dimensions. I'm excited about some of the newer treatments he's offering. But in order to get there, I first had to kiss a frog or two, as it were.

The first practitioner I saw when we arrived here, I selected specifically because she advertised a specialism in infertility and loss (something which was really never available in Portugal). At the first appointment, I couldn't help but note that her manner was a little overly clinical for my liking (I want someone who's aware of the mind/body connection), but the needles seemed to do their thing of calming my anxieties and putting me in a meditative state just fine, so I stayed the course.

On the second appointment however, we were discussing how acupuncture can be beneficial in treating infertility and loss, and she used the following phrase: 'women who have a habit of miscarrying'. ...Say what?!?! I am sure she meant nothing by it and it was just a stupid choice of words, but it bothered me. I didn't say anything at the time, but I left her office and it stuck with me all the next week, until my following appointment. I decided to give her the benefit of doubt and gently call her on it - not in order to reprimand her, but out of a genuine desire to improve her practice. After all, given her speciality, and the fact that she has links with the local IVF clinic, she must be seeing many women like me. I want them to have quality of care too. Most of all, I want the awfulness of my own experiences to count for something, whether that be challenging the taboo and silence surrounding our paths to parenthood in the ALI community, or helping people (particularly in professions that are often mandated to care for us) to be compassionate and supportive of our losses - whether the loss of children who were here for too little time, or of those we have dreamed of but never had the chance to bring into being.

So at the end of our next session, I politely explained to her that I had been taken aback by her choice of words and wanted to draw her attention to some of the sensitivities around recurrent pregnancy loss and infertility. I said that many women in my place struggle with feelings of responsibility and guilt, of somehow feeling incapable, like failures, and suggested that perhaps we need to use words that help challenge that implication of responsibility (of choice even, according to her formulation. Like we just made bad decisions that lead us towards bad 'habits'). After all, I pointed out, you wouldn't say of a cancer patient 'he has a habit of developing tumours', would you? She stared at me blankly for a few moments, but here's where it got irreparable: instead of offering anything like 'I hadn't thought of that', or 'thanks for pointing it out', or simply 'I'm sorry', she was clearly annoyed. She said in a kind of snippy voice, 'fair enough'. Just like that. Nothing more. So needless to say, I didn't book another appointment with her.

Just goes to show that even those with so-called 'expertise' can totally let us down in their lack of understanding. Sometimes I think there isn't even the will to understand. That makes me all the more glad to have a space like this, and the support of a warm and wonderful group of women who truly understand, though I wish they didn't have to. And my search for those whose expertise can truly aid me, with compassion and empathy, continues with this journey.


  1. Wow - it is too bad that she did not take your insight and try to use it to improver her practice! I think it is awesome that you decided to tell her how the comment made you feel - after all, how are people to get better at dealing with IF patients without feedback? Feedback is a gift and she did not take it! I have also talked to some of my providers about my experience. For example, I talked to the financial lady at my clinic's boss, because she did not have a clue how to deal with our need for DE/IVF and teh insurance policies. He really took the feedback as a gift andthanked me for sharing it! Wish your acupuncturist would have done the same!

  2. That's great you spoke up and hopefully she thought about it afterwards and made some changes. What a horrible phrase to use.

  3. Good for you to go elsewhere, it is her loss to get the chance to have more understanding. Something such a therapist always should thrive for. I get the feeling she didn't really agree with you, and that's a red flag, not to really listen. But I'm glad you have found something that is helpful for yourself in this journey. To find a good match is essential.

  4. It is so sad that you had to spend YOUR time being concerned due to the lack of tact of a so called expert. Complimentary therapy should always stem from the genuine empathy at its root. Or so I feel. If I had been her I would have been so gratefull of the feedback, coming direct from the you, with all of what you have experienced, you can't buy that information, also I would have been mortified that I had upset you. Honestly, things like this remind me that Im not such a crazy after all. X


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