Things my fertility clinic never told me

Listen up, Ladies. Because in the last two weeks I’ve learned something I wish I would’ve learned months ago. And the fact that I wish I would’ve learned it months ago makes me lucky. Because there are likely so many of you who would put themselves in the whish-I-would’ve-learned-about-this-years-ago category.

And maybe this isn’t news to some of you. But it’s been eye-opening, life-changing news to me – and to my sister who has struggled with infertility for years. So if there is one thing you read and pass on about infertility today, I hope it’s this. Though we all know that we search, scour and devour about a hundred links and articles about infertility a day. I won’t tell if you won’t.

So here’s where it all sorta starts:

Two weeks ago, I thought I was accidentally pregnant.

I say accidentally, because my husband and I were not even trying last month. The Dragon Lady had me on a strict regimen and even stricter orders to stop trying to conceive for 3 months so that we could work to get my egg quality up. So to prevent yet another miscarriage, my husband and I used the same birth control methods dumb high schoolers use during the time I figured I was ovulating.

And when I started spotting exactly a week before I was due to get my period, I, and the Dragon Lady, were both convinced it was implantation bleeding. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. But go along with me here for a second.

The Dragon Lady was not happy about the fact that I was likely accidentally pregnant .

“I tell you I make you so fertile. But eggs not ready yet!”

I, of course did nothing but stare at her blankly, because what was I supposed to do now? magically unimpregnate myself?? To further freak me out, she started going back over my paperwork and medical history and was asking me more in depth questions about my family history. Like if I had a family history of stroke or heart attack.

And I do. My dad died of a heart attack when he was 41. Yes 41. Now, he also smoked a lot, ate terribly, had one of the most stressful jobs someone could have, and generally didn’t take care of himself.

And so for most of my adult life I have religiously exercised and made sure to eat healthy and maintain a healthy stress level. And because of that, I assumed that other than the naturally high cholesterol that I likely inherited from him, his health issues would not, could not, be my own.

I also told the Dragon Lady about my sister who has had unexplained infertility for four years. But because she has never gotten pregnant and I’ve managed to get pregnant multiple times but miscarried, I assumed our issues were completely unconnected. That we just happened to be two related sets of different unlucky statistics.

It’s so easy to look back and connect the dots now. Especially when those big dots are not surrounded by the noise of the other, everyday dots.

But back to the Dragon Lady. After hearing about all of the above, she yelled out,

“You have autoimmune problem! You. Dad. Sister. All autoimmune problem”

No, no I told her. I couldn’t possibly. Because my RE had already tested me for everything under the sun. And all the tests had come back normal. The lupus anti-coagulant test. The anticardiolipin test. Beta 2 glycoprotein. TSH. Prolactin. CMP. Glucose tolerance. All normal.

And I proved it to the Dragon Lady. I pulled out the piece of paper in my purse that had all the test names written down and she looked at all of them and said,

“This only some!”

And she went on and on about how REs aren’t doing the right tests and they aren’t correctly diagnosing all these women that she sees in her own practice, and I won’t try and repeat it word for word because it’s too important.

And also, because really, there’s one thing I want you to know. And this thing is something everyone needs to know regardless of whether or not they have a family history of heart attacks or a sister who is infertile:

The tests most REs run are only the tip of the immunological iceberg.*

The Dragon Lady then handed me a list of all of the tests that need to be run to rule out an autoimmune or blood clotting disorder. And this list is long. The tests my RE had run were only four out of the more than twenty on that piece of paper.** She also gave me a lot of medical literature about what these tests determine and how they should be treated to achieve and maintain a pregnancy. And more often than not, it’s just one or two medications that need to be prescribed. But of course, first, the issues need to be identified.

Now at this point, I thought I was likely pregnant. And I also think the Dragon Lady sure does know a whole lot more than any OB or RE that I’ve talked to. So right away, I called my RE’s office and spoke to a nurse practitioner. I asked if she would order a blood pregnancy test, which she did. And then I asked her to order the tests the Dragon Lady had just opened my eyes to. To that, she said no, that they had run all of the tests that they typically run.

I asked her why they don’t run more tests that are known to signal autoimmune and blood clotting issues. And she said, “Because our practice doesn’t treat those.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

Almost in tears, I explained my entire conversation with the Dragon Lady and that I felt I was going to lose yet another pregnancy unless they could run those tests. And that I didn’t care if they treated them or if someone else treated them, I just needed to know before it was too late – yet again. She agreed to order four of the tests.

The first test result to come back was the hcg test. Negative. I wasn’t pregnant. And for the first time ever, a negative pregnancy test made me breathe a sigh of relief.

The other four test results took almost two weeks to come back. Again, they were only four of the more than twenty tests on the list from the Dragon Lady. But sure enough, one of those tests, the antinuclear antibody test, came back positive.

I have abnormally high levels of antinuclear antibodies.

At this point, I know that could mean a number of different things ranging from just a slight inherited abnormality to lupus, and it could very well be the reason my AMH is so incredibly and unexplainably low. And I’m betting that my sister will have the same abnormal results. But I am not going to get ahead of myself. There’s not a ton that can be determined from just that one result. So I’ve been referred to Dr. Kwak-Kim in Chicago who will be able to run the rest of the tests and tell me what’s going on.

Dr. Kwak Kim, as I found out only after googling her name, is a reproductive immunologist and is one of the few doctors in the country who will accurately test for and treat (in conjunction with my local RE and OB) all known autoimmune issues. And because of that, she’s also incredibly hard to get into.

My appointment isn’t until Mid April.

But in the grand scheme of things, having to wait two months pales in comparison to having another miscarriage, or having years of repeated, unexplained miscarriages.

And I honestly think that had I never started seeing the Dragon Lady, and had I never had that accidental pregnancy false alarm, I never would have known any of this. And it’s a scary thought – not just when it comes to fertility, but to my overall health.

The Dragon Lady seriously saved my ass. And now I feel like it is my duty to make sure other asses are saved.

So maybe you know all this, because you’re more informed and farther along in your journey than me. But if this is news to you, and, like me, you haven’t gotten a lot of answers thus far, you might think about having a conversation with your RE or OB that starts with “Are there other tests that can be run?”

*I am not a medical professional and I work nowhere near the medical field. I’m just an impatient person who has spent a lot of time searching for answers. So my advice is not meant to be medical. Only personal.

**If you want to see the document with the list of tests, please email me privately.

Dear moms I know

In the last year, I’ve seen a lot of popular articles and posts filling up my newsfeed with titles like “13 things non-parents should never say to parents” and “An open letter to my friends without kids” and “Here’s Everything You Just Don’t Get About Being A Mom You Wicked, Childless Shrew.” Okay, not that last one. But the first two are real.

And I know it all comes from a justifiable place. Because, yes, there are things that I truly don’t understand about being a parent. Things that you could write a book about.

But dear friends and family members with kids, there’s something that I, your childless friend and family member, would like to say to you. Anonymously of course.

And it’s this:

Please stop implying that my life is easier than yours because I don’t have kids.

I cannot even tell you how often you do this.

Sometimes it’s a subtle reminder from you that you just don’t have the kind of time that I must have on my hands. Often it’s the expectation that I or my husband continuously go out of our way to do something you won’t because, after all, we’re the childless ones. And most frequently, it’s a comment made like, “must be nice to be able to go out to dinner whenever you want.”

I get it, we all envy what we don’t have.

And I see how impossibly difficult it must be to be a parent. I see the grocery store tantrums, the food stuck in your hair that you haven’t had time to deal with yet and your panicked rush out of the office because daycare is about to close. And I know that’s just a tiny glimpse of the marathon that is your everyday.

I know you’re exhausted. I’m exhausted just witnessing your exhaustion.

But to imply that my life is easier than yours because I don’t have kids is like saying that cloudy days are so much better than sunny ones because there’s no need to mess with sunscreen.

Now I am in no way comparing the rearing of your child to applying sunscreen, no matter how hard and messy it is to rub that shit into your hairline. I mean, seriously…and I still end up with a peeling scalp. But I digress. I, your childless friend, do not want to diminish the responsibility you have as a parent of a tiny human that you must nourish and nurture and teach to look both ways, be a decent human and chew with their mouth closed.

I can’t even begin to understand the weight of that.

But what you don’t know – what you don’t think about when you imply that my life is easier than yours – is how desperately I want to understand that weight.

And for how long I have waited for that weight. Only to be handed a much different weight, filled with medical tests and instruments shoved up my hooha and blood vials and visits to specialists who turn out to not know shit and me demanding those specialists run more tests because of the thing I read from someone somewhere on the internet and the hours arguing with insurance providers and looking for another specialist who lives hundreds of miles away but can hopefully maybe possibly tell me why I miscarried this time and then having to wait months to actually see that specialist all while knowing my window is closing and secretly crying because another friend is pregnant and then feeling guilt from secretly crying because that friend is pregnant and not knowing what to say when people ask why we’re not pregnant but hoping this month will be different and waiting and waiting to find out that no, actually, this month is exactly the same as all the others all while watching you envy the spare time I must have all because I don’t have the one thing I want most in this world.

No, my life is not easy.

And neither is yours. Lets just give each other that.

And then, one day, when hopefully the sun does come out for me, and we’re both out in the warmth commenting about how difficult it is to have to rub sunscreen all over, we can discuss how we’d definitely take this warm sunny day over any cloudy day. Hands down.

The Dragon Lady wants me to burn myself

The Dragon lady and I are getting into a real routine.

I go in to a treatment room, I take off my pants and lie on a table with a sheet over me. She eventually comes in, stares at my face and points out all the zits that are coming in as if I hadn’t already spent two hours staring in the mirror, agonizing over them. Then she tells me my diet is bad.

I then swear to her that I have been so good. And I start listing everything I’ve had to eat for the last two days before I realize how weird it is that I’m doing that, so I stop.

Then she feels my pulse and says,

“Oh, I make you so fertile.”

I get my hopes up and think maybe I’ll be able to get pregnant soon. Then she deflates them by saying something like,

“It take time. Some women just weaker.”

I become reminded that I am a weak white girl who cannot carry a child. Then she puts needles all over me while telling me about some other poor girl in the next room who’s had more miscarriages than me, or who has worse acne than me, or who has something weird growing out of her shoulder. I hope the girl in the next room can’t hear.

Then the Dragon Lady leaves me for 25 minutes to go put needles in some other woman down the hall while telling her all about me.

I lay there and try to relax. But somehow, I cannot stop thinking about how there are 64 needles sticking out of my body. I close my eyes. I forget about the needles. Then I absentmindedly adjust my foot. And Damn, there’s an effing needle in there!

Finally, the Dragon Lady comes back in, resuming her conversation about the girl in the next room, as if she had never left the conversation at all. She pulls the needles out, then has me turn over so that she can put needles in my back. Apparently, not every patient needs needles on both their front side and back side. But I am an especially weak white woman who cannot carry a child, and “this make stronger.”

The Dragon Lady leaves again, and for ten more minutes I lay on my stomach trying not to think about the needles that are all over my back. I find that easier now, because it takes all my concentration to figure out how to breath with my face smashed into a pillow.

The Dragon Lady comes back in and takes all 30 needles out of my back in less than ten seconds, giving her just enough time to tell me about the woman in the waiting room who has two uteruses.

The treatment comes to a close with the Dragon Lady trying to give me a quick, awkward hug. But with me, lying pantsless on my stomach and her standing over me, it’s more like a strange moth mating ritual.

And that’s what I’ve come to expect of my twice-a-week visits with the Dragon Lady.

Except for this one visit where things got weird. er.

After removing the needles from my backside, the Dragon Lady had me flip back over to lay on my back again. Then she took a ball point pen and started marking up my body like I was a sidewalk ready for a demolition crew. Then she said,

“Stay here. She come in. Show you herbs.”

And then the Dragon Lady left the room. I didn’t know who “she” was. And the Dragon Lady already had me on so many herbs and supplements that the inside of my purse looked like a Chinese Walgreens, but when the Dragon Lady tells you to do something, you do it.

A few seconds later I found out that “she” was the receptionist. And the “herbs” were some kind of fiery, smoking, smelly stick she held in her hand.

The Receptionist told me she was going to show me this thing I would need to do to myself at home three times a week.

Then, without warning, she held the fiery, smoky, smelly stick up to one of the pen marks on my leg and said,

“Your instinct is going to be to move your leg away, but don’t. We need it to get nice and red.”

Say what?

The Dragon Lady and the receptionist were plotting together to roast my weak white body, one ball point pen mark at a time.

This practice is called moxibustion, and it is an important component of Traditional Chinese Medicine. And I know this because several google searches including keywords: smoky sticks, burning, smelly and acupuncture, finally told me so.

Like acupuncture, it forces blood to travel to important blood vessels, inducing the body’s natural healing process. I have ten spots on my body that I must hold a special burning stick up to until each turns bright pink and hurts like hell.

So naturally I’ve started doing this on the floor of my family room at night while watching Breaking Bad. My husband demands to be in the room with me while I do it. Not because he’s worried I’ll hurt myself or set the house on fire, but because he loves the smell. Weirdo.

And I kind of enjoy doing it. Not just because I know it is helping me along the long, windy, broken path to motherhood. But because I want to make the Dragon Lady proud of my weak, white self.

With each burning red mark I create, I imagine some day she is going to feel my pulse and say more than just, “Oh I make you so fertile.”

The Dragon Lady is going to say, “Oh I make you have baby.”

The Dragon Lady hates my face

I’ve always had acne. Always.

For me, acne is like the stupid scarf I got from my mother in law. I hate it, but I have no choice but to wear it. So I do. Trying to make is look as unhideous as possible, and only occasionally succeeding.

For the last decade or so, birth control helped me make the scarf look pretty passable. But ever since I stopped birth control, that motherfucking scarf is out of control, growing more and more scarves on top of it, each more hideous than the last. Okay, stopping the scarf analogy now.

Anyway, since I’m seeing the Dragon Lady, I figured I might as well ask if there’s any acupuncture she can also do for my complexion. Grumpily, she told me,

“Oh honey, that easy. That so easy. We do at end!”

Translation: Silly white girl, your body keeps miscarrying and you’re worried about your face? Fine, I’ll take care of it.

And that was all we spoke of it. Until I showed up to my next treatment with a zit on my forehead that really shouldn’t even have been called a zit. It should have been called: Giant Golf Ball Growing Out Of My Brain Scaring Everyone In Its Path.

Because occasionally, golf balls do scare people.

And that got the Dragon Lady’s attention

“Your face bad.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. She then quizzed me about how much dairy I ate, when my period was coming and how many greasy hamburgers I had a week, throwing in commentary like,

“American diet so bad.”


“Every girl come in, face all bad, so many, all eat junk.”

The next appointment, the golf ball was more of a marble. But other marbles had started to join it – soon, there would be enough for a full game. A cruel joke, since I’d never learned how to play marbles. Clearly, The Dragon Lady had never learned to either, because all she said was.

“Your face still bad.”

So this time, she ordered me to write down everything I ate for the next five days and then bring it to her at my next appointment. Heck yeah, I thought. An assignment, and I’m going to ace it. I am going to show the Dragon Lady just how devoted to clear skin and yang-eating baby-making I can be.

The next several days, I was on my best behavior, diligently writing down everything. That handful of carrots, that banana, that turkey sandwich on whole wheat with tomato and no mayo, that sautéed kale. What? Yeah, I was nailing it.

And the whole week, I’m thinking, “damn I am good. Damn my face has gotta be clearing up soon. Man, am I also an effing pro at this yang deficiency thing, thankyouverymuch.

5 days later, I stroll into my appointment, food list in hand, triumphantly imagining the impending celebration of my diet by the Dragon Lady. Once she saw my neatly typed and perfect food diary, she would have no choice but to lift me on her shoulders, carry me out to the waiting room, and announce to the receptionist and all those waiting that I had the most perfect American-white-girl-trying-to-get-pregnant-and-also-clear-up-acne diet.

It did no go down that way.

The Dragon Lady took one look at my paper that I glowingly handed to her and said,

“Oh, no no. Now I see. Now I see why face like that.” (points to my face)

I felt just like Ralphie in a Christmas story after Santa told him, “you’ll shoot your eye out.”

“Tomato, bad. Mustard, bad. Toast, bad. All so bad”

“but it’s whole wheat toast!” I argued, quietly.

She quickly put needles all over me and left the room with my food diary, telling me she would mark it all up for me. Oh yay.

I lay there, needles all over me, dejected, thinking “what went wrong?”

Later she returned with paper I could barely recognize as my own typed paper I had brought to her. Red pen and pink highlighter covered all the foods I shouldn’t have been eating. That paper looked like it had just gotten its period.

And it all served to tell me that not only had I been ruining my female reproductive organs with salads, raw vegetables and veggie burgers. I’d also been ruining my face with gluten, tomatoes, mustard, pineapples, oranges, juices, nuts.

There was only one thing I could do now: never eat again.

Which was a fantastic plan until I got hungry 20 minutes later.

So now, for the second time in 3 weeks, I have completely revamped my diet. For those interested, this is the Dragon Lady approved diet for a scrawny, yang deficient western girl desperate to make a baby and also clear up her acne. Or at least, this is what a typical day looks like:


hard boiled egg

gluten free whole wheat toast (from whole foods gluten free section) with olive oil spread

blueberries and strawberries

mid morning snack:



Two chicken thighs (leftover from the night before)

Steamed carrots or steamed squash

Afternoon snack:



Pork chop/grilled steak/chicken/ground turkey (I alternate so things don’t get boring)

Sauteed kale


And it really has helped. My skin has cleared. The Dragon Lady likes to point it out to me every time I am in her office. And I want to impress her so much, that I always look forward to her pointing to my face and saying,

“look better”

In fact, after my last appointment, The Dragon Lady, her receptionist and I were all talking in the lobby and she said to the receptionist,

“See, look how pretty she look now. She pretty before. But now, so better.”

Finally! I felt like I was having the moment I’d dreamed of. It was as close to her lifting me on her shoulders and parading me around the office as I was going to get.

I left her waiting room elated. The Dragon Lady approved! Then, right as I closed the door and stepped out into the hallway I heard her announce to the receptionist and everyone else in the waiting room,

“She eat so bad!”