Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ancient Chinese Secret

One thing about infertility is that it is completely non-discriminating. It affects men and women, regardless of race, religion, geography... across the board. What is interesting is the cultural aspect. Infertility is still often seen as a taboo subject; and the lack of understanding and pure ignorance can sometimes be exacerbated by cultural pressures and expectations.

Grandchildren are a huge deal in most cultures, and Chinese is no exception. And I suppose the lack of any at the time, even if it wasn't by choice, was a cause of great concern for my parents.

Frustrated with the lack of progress on the “Western” medicine front, I let my mother convince me to see a Chinese doctor, a specialist in Chinese herbs and medicine. A friend of a friend’s daughter was in her late 30s, not having any luck for years, but after she saw this doctor and got the special soup, presto, she got pregnant.

I was skeptical. I suppose it came from so many years of schooling in science, and then working in the drug industry. What ingredients were in all these concoctions? Hey, where were the double-blind, controlled clinical studies performed to show that that EXACT dose of dried frog testicle mixed with bat wing could actually increase our chances of having a baby? My mom only got me there because a) this doctor actually also had a medical degree from the US. So a doctor trained on both sides of the ocean. Bonus. And b) infertility can lead to desperate measures.

I brought both my parents with me, my Mom to translate in case needed, and my father, because he comes part and parcel with my mother, ever since their retirement. And Mom is the one with the special Chinese pot that she would use to cook up whatever soup needed to be prepared. What is it about Chinese Moms and their soups? Dark, murky, stenchy soups? I was just happy that it wouldn’t be stinking up my place.

Turns out that according to the doctor (at least at the time), Chinese medicines are actually more effective if the fertility issues lie with the male. He felt that I should continue on the standard protocol prescribed by my “Western” doctor, as from what I told him the tests showed that we were both “normal”. Nevertheless, he prescribed a mixture of various herbs in a paper bag, and gave written instructions to my mother as to how to boil it up. It was just a general health soup that both Ian and I could drink. Increase the general health, increase the chances of conceiving. While we were there, Mom also bought some stuff for her and my Dad. I swear I saw desiccated beetle legs sticking out from their purchase.

Leaving the herbal shop, we walked back into the Chinese mall toward the elevator. My mother was happy that I had finally gone to this doctor with her. She began chatting with me about her own struggles trying to have the elusive son for my Dad. There are almost 12 years between me and my younger brother, but my mom hadn’t to this point shared any of her experiences with me. Yet.

The elevator door opened and the three of us got in. A tiny elevator. And I was squished between the folks.

Mom: ” Your father wanted a son so badly, you would not believe …”

Dad: Silence

Mom: ” … the things that we did … the things that we tried and tried ...”

Dad cleared his throat. Shuffled his feet a bit, looking down.

Mom: “I did headstands, if you want a boy you ...blah blah positions …”

Me: “Uh, okay MOM STOP -- I get it!!”

Oh, the things we’ll do for a baby.


(Originally posted June 16/08)

*disclaimer: I know of people who have been successfully treated with Chinese medicine, acupuncture etc. This is not intended to be an endorsement nor a criticism of this option for infertility treatment. Just my own story, folks. And unfortunately, no, it wasn't a miracle soup for us.

(Images from and stock.xchng)

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