Two weeks ago, I walked through the rain to yet another unfamiliar medical building and knocked on the door of yet another office.
The waiting room was completely different from that of Clinic One: or Clinic Two, or Clinic Three, for that matter. The entire space could probably have fit into a single ultrasound room at Clinic One, in fact, and I couldn’t imagine the cheap white IKEA chairs in this waiting room finding a home among the faux-leather and plush seatbacks of the other offices I had visited recently.
The doctor, who I suspect can’t legally use the title of doctor, was the only person in the tiny IKEA showroom of an office on this particular rainy Thursday. Smiling, she ushered me down a narrow hallway into an even smaller room, with a treatment table, a small desk and two chairs. Several diplomas were framed on one of the beige walls, none of them bearing her name. I sat down and, somewhat ashamed, handed Dr. Nature, the naturopath, my incomplete medical history forms. I had left them almost entirely blank: a combination of the bustle of the last day of work before vacation, and my own reticence regarding this appointment.
You see, it’s actually fairly implausible that I would be sitting in a naturopath’s dimly lit office on the late afternoon/early evening before leaving for vacation. I wouldn’t have believed it six months ago, frankly. Many people, both online and offline, who I respect greatly place a lot of faith in a broad range of “alternative therapies”. I use that term only because I can’t think of a more descriptive one at the moment, though logically I recognize that these therapies– acupuncture, reiki, massage, aromatherapy, naturopathy, hypnotherapy, whatever else– are actually much less radical than their medicalized alternative. That said, I have also somehow developed a deeply ingrained belief that something isn’t likely to help you unless it is available in a pharmacy, prescribed in a clinic, by somebody who was issued the title of doctor by a recognized medical school. I know: I’m so cynical that I make myself wince.
My visit to Dr. Nature wasn’t the result of a Christmas miracle in which my Grinch-like heart grew three sizes, but rather the quirks of my work-funded health insurance. I’m very, very, very grateful to have the health insurance that I do: it’s the reason that my teeth are checked for cavities occasionally, and my impossibly tilted and scratched glasses were replaced last year. However, my health insurance seems to fund things in a haphazard sort of way, with no rhyme or reason to what is covered and what isn’t. Fertility treatments? Not covered, at all. Therapy, which would also be fairly useful? Nope. Prescriptions? Sometimes. At some doses. Maybe. Massage? Sure! Go for it! Naturopathy? Absolutely!
A coworker of mine, pregnant belly pushed up to our office lunch table, reminded me of this fact in early December. She had been trying to get pregnant for a year in a series of IUI cycles, unmedicated and medicated, using frozen donor sperm. After a year of failed cycles, she had seen Dr. Nature. She was pregnant the next month. Sitting at that lunch table, my cynical brain screamed “Coincidence!”, but hope and my insurance coverage countered, “Why not try?” Which is how I found myself sitting in a small clinic room with Dr. Nature, the same naturopath seen by my pregnant coworker.
Though my scepticism about naturopathy didn’t dissipate when I walked into Dr. Nature’s office, I decided pretty quickly that I liked Dr. Nature herself. She was nice. If she saw my scepticism, she didn’t point it out. She responded to my nervous joking with her own humour, and accepted my incomplete medical forms– offered sheepishly– without criticism. She began by asking why I had come to see her– to which I responded by mumbling something about how I had heard she got people pregnant. She then turned to my incomplete intake forms and began to ask me questions.
We talked about the two IUIs using frozen donor sperm that have already happened, and chatted a little about the pros and cons of the area’s fertility clinics. I told Dr. Nature about Clinic Three and the extensive male medical history form that Sea had been required to complete, and laughed. She asked about follicle size, hormone levels, and my uterine lining. My scepticism began to waver: she clearly knew a lot. She asked about exercise, stress, medications, my family health history and my diet. As I responded to this last inquiry, her smile began to falter a little. She noted that Sea seems to be a good influence, which is true: if it weren’t for Sea, my instant noodle intake would be much higher, and I probably wouldn’t know what kale is. She also noted that my consumption of approximately a candy store’s worth of sugar a day is probably not supporting fertility. She doled out dietary advice in the manner of a ninth grade home ec teacher: eat leafy greens, dark berries, orange foods. I asked her if barbecue chips counted as an orange food. She put her head in her hands, slumping towards her desk. I took that as a no.
Having finished prescribing a much less candy-centred diet, she asked me how I felt about pills. Having determined that they were neutral territory, she wrote out a list of pills, oils and drops that were to join the thyroid pills, B12 supplements and prenatal vitamins already filling my cupboard. Looking back at her notes about my diet, she threw in an additional Omega 3 supplement.
Finally finished, she walked back down the narrow hallway to issue me a receipt. We were the only people in the tiny office, as far as I could tell, and she was receptionist as well as doctor for the evening. As I stood to follow her, I looked out the window behind her desk: it was now completely dark, and the rain had turned to sleet. We had been there for an hour and a half. She was still sitting at the reception desk as I left, probably writing notes about her most difficult patient ever. As I walked out into the rain, I realized that I had forgotten to ask her about whether Doritos were an acceptable orange food.