positive thinking

I didn’t write much detail about my acupuncture appointment in my last post since I did a quick post from my phone, but it was a very interesting experience. I really do like the doctor, he seems extremely well-informed, connected, and experienced in treatment for infertility.

It’s quite a different feeling than an RE office. The RE office is … sterile, packed, hurried, and cold. The acupuncturist’s office is warm and inviting. On my way in, they offered a hot cup of (decaf green) tea. The doctor was stepped through my history with me slowly. Afterwards, I went to a treatment room for acupuncture. I explained to him my history, the 3 IUIs before Leopold, the losses, the surprise of Leopold without treatment, the three unsuccessful IUIs with folli.stim this year, and our plans of IVF in January.

I also explained my elevated FSH levels and the theory from my RE that we’re dealing with an egg quality issue in addition to some low morphology issues from my husband. He was so positive that whatever my issues, they were not a big deal and would be easily overcome given my age and history (I’ve seen women with FSHs of 30 who are much older become pregnant with acu, 12 is no big deal). He was so optimistic and dismissive of my issues given my age, that it was frustrating. I felt silly for even coming in a way, if my problems aren’t a big deal, WHY am I doing IVF? Why haven’t IUIs worked? Why am I even here? It was a bit frustrating and my feelings and problems felt in no way validated. I sensed he was just trying to be optimistic and not let any sense of pessimism touch the conversation.

As he was hooking me up to the electro machine, he said “don’t worry we’re not going to shock  your ovaries out of your body or anything, just stimulating them a bit.” I bantered back “yea, my ovaries kind of suck, but I’d like to keep them.” The doc looked at me sternly and said I needed to stop this kind of negative talk and that we would talk about me having a more positive outlook in future appointments. I didn’t actually think my comment was all that negative actually, so if he considers this negative I’m in trouble!

I get a little frustrated at the positive thinking meditations and the line that is drawn at what’s okay to say and what’s not. Sometimes, don’t we need to acknowledge the fact that our reproductive bits are less than stellar? Isn’t that why I went to that appointment in the first place, why I am pouring so much effort into this, because we have some substantial issues with baby making? Isn’t it also cathartic and ok to validate that I’ve been through a lot and I am dealing with some serious reproductive issues? Because honestly, given his response about our issues, i just felt a bit crazy and like I didn’t need to put this kind of effort in because my issues are SO NOT A BIG DEAL.

It’s true that our situation could be worse. I am pretty confident that if we stick it out, we will have success after one or two IVF cycles. I know we have time on our side and I’m thankful of that. I’m lucky we have a child and know that I can carry a child to term, and that my ovaries are capable of producing healthy eggs.

But ignoring our issues or minimizing them doesn’t make me feel optimistic;  just frustrated and ignored. Maybe my issues aren’t the worst my acupuncturist or my RE have seen and that’s great, but they are our issues and they feel pretty important and difficult to face to me. Especially as I watch other couples get knocked up repeatedly like it’s no big deal in the time it took us to have one child.

I know my acupuncturist is not my therapist. It’s not his job to help me feel validated or work through this on an emotional level, but shouldn’t he acknowledge and recognize the issues at hand and help me face them instead of tossing them aside as “no big deal” in comparison to other cases? This isn’t a deal breaker for me with this acupuncturist, I will stick it out with him regardless for treatments because I feel he’s competent. I will admit that a weekly dose of positive thinking is good for me too and I really enjoy the 40 minutes of relaxation during treatment that follows where I focus on being optimistic and those needles working with my body to create life is good for me (I admit, I sometimes fall more on the negative side).

I just needed to work through and write out why this bit of the appointment irked me. I’d like to hear what everyone else thinks: do you feel that positive talk is sometimes frustrating or dismissive as I felt in this case? I understand that while focusing on a given cycle it’s valuable to concentrate on the positives ‘this is going to work, this will work, my body is capable’ etc. But I also feel it’s valuable sometimes to understand the issues that we’re facing are difficult or be upset and negative when a given (particularly a medicated) cycle is unsuccessful.

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9 thoughts on “positive thinking

  1. First off – love this post. YES – I do think that “Just think positively!” can be dismissive, and is frustrating and invalidating. Most comments that being with “just/at least” are. I can totally see why that irked you. It sucks when someone else says something is “no big deal” or “not the worst” when it IS a very big deal to you. Blerg. I’m sorry that was the attitude, but I am glad to hear all the things you did like about the treatment too. I really hope it is a helpful therapy for you! 🙂

    While I think that thinking only negatively is harmful, so can forcing ourselves into thinking only positive thoughts (or being told we should be…like that’s possible!) Neither are realistic or representative of the true experience. In my own journey, I have found that practicing mindful meditation – acknowledging and accepting *all* thoughts and feelings as they come and go (like clouds across the sky), and then refocusing on the present (in my practice on *that* breathe) is more helpful than trying to force myself to think a certain way. It’s difficult though, and I do use a guided practice because I can slide into acknowledging only the negative and dismissing the positives. But those few minutes a day help me throughout the day to catch myself before the spiral, if that makes sense? So, I guess, what I am saying is, honour every feeling you have and try not to (as my meditation says) “should” all over yourself. (Which cracks me up, but I like the message 🙂 )

  2. I totally hear where you are coming from. In my experience with the acupuncturist, she was very warm and comforting, but upfront that this would not be a quick fix. She wanted me off medication and to give her several months to try and see some improvement. I felt she wasn’t negative, but just realistic. My OB on the other hand made a comment back over the summer that “I should be pregnant after 3 months on Metformin” and I laughed in her face. Obviously we got lucky and she was right, but I would have bet a million bucks she was wrong. I would think with your acupuncturist being a specialist (I think that’s what you said) in working with IF patients, he would be more understanding and not so stern. The OB, I can see how they are more optimistic b/c they get a majority of the fertile ladies right off the bat. I think there is a good balance between the two. You don’t want to be all doom and gloom all the time, but you also have to realistic expectations and want that from a true professional also. I hope the future appointments go well and he doesn’t harp on you too much about this.

  3. OH I should tell you not to say “infertile” around P…he hates that word. He believes with treatment we are all fertile beings….subfertile is however acceptable.

    I agree it’s hard to just focus on the positives. JUST THINK POSITIVE, doesn’t really work for a pessimist like me. However I did find that during my acu sessions I was able to focus on the good things about my body and not the bad. I acknowledge the dysfunction, but also praise what does work on me. Focusing on that and focusing on (while going through my first IVF) our baby(s). Using guided meditation and/or visualization also helped me stay positive and focus on the positive energy in my reproductive parts….it sounds hokey, but I got Raegan, so I say if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right?

    P is one of those always positive people. Sometimes I just want to slap him back into my reality. I choose not to and hold on to the negative. When we had our failed FET in September, he was very reassuring and hopeful for the future, but he gave me my session for free because he doesn’t like to profit from my misery…so he does recognize some negative, just wants to focus on the positives…

    I’m glad you liked him otherwise. I’ve been going now for almost 2 years EEP! Really? I can’t believe it’s been that long, but yes, consistently (except for the first 4 weeks of Raegan’s life) for 2 years. I really believe it has a positive effect on my life. Hoping it has a positive effect on my next FET too!

  4. You know, I had the same reaction you did just reading this. I sort-of feel like that accupuncturist stole your reality from you and put you in somoene else’s reality. All that matters is what YOU are going through, YOUR diagnosis, YOUR challenges. I find his statements to be very dismissive.

    I’ve said this in one of my own posts – if positive thinking could make us pregnant, our first IVF cycle would have worked because I didn’t think we could fail. I think staying positive is a good thing in theory, but it’s just not realistic. Sure, you can be positive at times, but to just force yourself to think positively all the time, I think you’re cheating yourself out of the normal grieving process that we need to come to terms with our realities.

    You need to think all the things you’re thinking – and let yourself feel free in thinking them. This is hard stuff – moving onto IVF is scary for so many reasons. You just need to do what you feel is right for you.

  5. It’s great to think positively. But forcing ourselves to pretend we don’t feel what we feel isn’t the same as positive thinking. I just had a conversation about this today with my therapist that helped me to see that there is a positive way to acknowledge negative emotions without denying their reality. For me (and for you) to think, “I am afraid right now that I won’t be able to have another child. I understand why I feel that way, due to my past. It’s okay to feel scared or sad or down right now. I know I can feel happy or optimistic or hopeful another time.”

    And also, I firmly believe neither positive nor negative feelings affect the outcomes of these cycles one way or another. I was at my most negative during my pregnancy with Smudgie–I was certain the IUI would fail, literally terrified every waking moment that I was going to have a miscarriage, just in a bad place. And everything was fine. Other cycles I was positive things would work out great and they didn’t. So who the f knows, right? I think the “power of positive thinking” is just another lie people tell themselves to feel like they’re in control of an ultimately uncontrollable universe. I believe in the power of positive doing– of taking the steps to bring us to a positive place despite fear and hopelessness and loss and despite the very real possibility that they won’t bring us where we want to go. By pursuing IVF and with your acu treatments, you are doing that right now. So feel positive about that!

  6. I can definitely to relate to this situation and found both my RE and acupuncturist to be very similar when I was TTC #1. I understand that my situation is no where near as bad as it could be but when dealing with me and my problem, I want it to be acknowledged for what it is, not compared or belittled. I do understand that in your case and mine, these people were probably just trying to make us feel better about our situations and get us to feel more positive about them but I don’t think it can always work like that. It just makes it confusing and think things like you did, “Why am I even here then?!?” and if it is so small a problem, why is nothing working? I think when people force us to think too positively, it could result in more heartache in the long run. Positive is good, but so is being realistic and honest in situations like this. I am glad you enjoyed the session other than the guy being a bit over the top positive. Maybe ask him not to speak next time, just get to work?! Only sort of kidding! 😉

  7. I totally understand where you are coming from. And frankly I am surprised that he said those things. Most acupuncturists are about months of slight tweaking and recalibrating to try to get the body to work more harmoniously, nothing is a quick or easy fix with TCM. That is the whole point of it, it’s whole body health and that isn’t something that can be changed overnight. I would have been really frustrated by all that as well.

    I hate it when people tell me to just be positive. I don’t handle that well at all. Maybe my depression makes it harder to stomach. 😉 But I do find it to be dismissive. People are basically telling you to deny your feelings, your experience and mostly they are insisting you do that so they can ignore how you feel and make themselves feel better. Sure, some genuinely want you to feel better about things, but if they are going about that by saying to just be positive I think they are making a grave mistake and most of the people I know who genuinely care, don’t make that mistake too often.

    A lot of what is hard about this journey is that it is so easily overlooked. It is basically invisible, except when intrusive comments invite a sharing of it. But those comments and questions don’t really invite anything except the answers people want to hear. So when people know about our struggle and still choose to dismiss it by asking us to think positive, or just relax, or don’t worry, it will happen, that does nothing but make us even more invisible. No one wants to be invisible. Everyone wants to be seen.

  8. I remember when I was in the middle of my first (doomed) IVF cycle, I opened some Dove chocolate (sounds about right…) and it had some stupid inane saying on the inside of the wrapper. Something about not waiting to pursue your dreams and going out and doing it TODAY! I fucking freaked out. I’M TRYING TO PURSUE MY DREAMS, DOVE! I’VE BEEN TRYING FOR A LONG ASS TIME NOW AND EVEN SCIENCE AND MEDICINE HAVE LIMITS AND on and on and on.

    Infertility isn’t something you can just will yourself over. It’s not a lack of “gumption” or “nerve” that keeps us from being pregnant. And it’s really annoying to hear “reach for the stars”-like encouragement when it just doesn’t apply.

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