Guest post: Waiting on Pins & Needles by Ali Jepson

Hi friends, today we have a guest post from Ali who is living the good life down in LA. Ali keeps busy as owner and chef of Little Branch Foods, a granola boutique catering business in LA- sounds dreamy right? And she can be found in instagram posting delicious homemade meals(seriously mouth watering!) Ali and her husband are due with a little girl in early July and has graciously agreed to share how acupuncture has aided her pregnancy journey. Hope you enjoy, I find it really fascinating!

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I should start this post by introducing myself. Hello, my name is Ali and I am an anxious person. I wasn’t always anxious – or depressed for that matter. But it is something I’ve struggled on and off with since I was sixteen. Anxiety for me often rears its head in social situations – I get uncomfortable in large group situations and I become introverted and shy, or I can overcompensate and talk way too much which gets really awkward (pretty sure for everybody). As a result I can effortlessly talk myself out of leaving the house…like ever. My anxiety has also turned me into a planner – I do my best to anticipate what lies ahead and I’m not very good at surprises which is why finding out I was pregnant turned my world upside down. When I became pregnant my anxiety morphed into an even bigger monster – a combination of deep seeded fear regarding my ability to carry a child to term, as well as an impractical impatience regarding having to wait 40 weeks to meet our newest addition. In the voice of Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka, “I want it NOW” rings a bell.

One of the first pieces of advice one of my best friends gave me when she found out I was pregnant was “find a good acupuncturist.” And she said it just like that, “Acupuncturists are like therapists, it’s worth spending the time to find the right one.” I wasn’t entirely sure what she found so helpful about acupuncture during her own pregnancy or what “prenatal acupuncture” was all about, but it became something I logged in the back of my brain to get around to at some point. I was pretty sure I’d at least want to pursue it postpartum in case my anxiety increased tenfold with hormones. Anything can help, right?

But it wasn’t until one of the midwives at the birth center gave me a good solid reason to see an acupuncturist that I finally took action. During a routine checkup at sixteen weeks I went over what had become my all too familiar nightly routine: waking up to pee, an inability to fall back asleep, followed by reading play-by-play pregnancy woes tales on my phone, followed by more anxiety, getting up again to pee, and so on. At the time I was probably averaging 3-5 hours of sleep, broken up into fits and spurts that always left me feeling groggy and with a shorter fuse than usual. But I figured such was the life of a mama-to-be, after all, many people (including the ultrasound technician) informed me it was “nature’s way of preparing you to be a mother.” So imagine my intrigue when my midwife insisted acupuncture could address both my anxiety and sleep deprivation. I came home from the appointment and immediately began researching my health plan.

After finding a local acupuncturist within our insurance network, I described my symptoms, my hopes for addressing my anxiety about being pregnant, as well as my fears about suffering from postpartum. I was pleasantly surprised to find that attending acupuncture is more than just sticking a person with needles. My visits also involve relaxing music and heat lamps, and during our very first session my acupuncturist also prescribed me with a deep breathing exercise to practice first thing in the morning, as well as right before bed. The night after my first session I slept for 10 hours (which included, to the shock/delight of my husband, sleeping through a neighbor’s car alarm sounding off for 4 hours). Sure I still got up to pee, but I was uncharacteristically able to fall back asleep within moments of lying back down. Needless to say, I became a believer. I could not wait to report back the following week and book another appointment. Since then I’ve returned weekly for the past five weeks for 1 hour sessions. When I asked my acupuncturist what exactly he’s addressing in our sessions he breaks it down into the following goals: prolonged sleep, increased energy, and healthy kidney and liver function (which is supposedly good for the baby). We also treat acute symptoms such as the pain in my lower back, my morning congestion, or the leg cramping that happens sometimes at night.

I can now say with confidence that acupuncture has become one of the highlights of my pregnancy journey, and I will concur with my girlfriend that finding a good acupuncturist is an essential piece of the puzzle. The first thing I noticed about my acupuncturist is that he’s a really good listener. He asks a lot of questions and is invested in my general well being both physically and mentally (hey, maybe this is like therapy after all). He also encourages me when I’m taking good care of myself, and isn’t afraid to tell me when he doesn’t think something is a good idea (like the time I catered a breakfast for 150 people without any help). Since I’ve been going to acupuncture I’ve experienced better sleep, less anxiety and more and more confidence in my ability to take care of myself, and my ability to be an awesome mama one day. I understand why my girlfriend didn’t go into detail regarding her own experience – I do think it’s very personal, and needs and experiences can and will vary. But I do believe it can help every mama-to-be, even if it’s a simple as breaking up your week by seeking a relaxing sanctuary, and indulging in soothing environment and a nurturing experience for yourself and your baby. We are fortunate that our health plan fully covers 24 acupuncture sessions in a year, so long as the doctor is in network. That said, for those of you without coverage there is still hope. Try locating a community acupuncturist office in your area, they often have reasonable rates and some are willing to bill on a sliding scale.

In addition to acupuncture I’ve discovered a few more activities that have helped in giving me the optimistic tune-up I was in desperate need of.

Come back later this week to read the four activities that have helped in giving Ali the optimistic tune up she mentions above. Thanks so much for sharing Ali! Very happy to hear that acupuncture has had such a positive affect!

xx Ly