The myth of pregnancy

By Fiona Patterson

Not all pregnancies feel like rainbows and sunsets.

For many women, pregnancy is more like planning a trip to Italy, only to find out that your plane has landed in Estonia and there you must stay. Undoubtedly, you’d find this scary, unpredictable, confusing, and foreign. 

Countless magazine ads, social media posts, and celebrity photos portray pregnancy that appears glamorous, footloose and fancy free; however, this ideal is skirting on fraudulent.

The reality, for lots of pregnant women, isn’t anything close, and the result of this discovery can vary from disappointment to despair. 

To learn that the glow of pregnancy and the blissful belly you longed for isn’t yours to carry can make you feel betrayed by your own body.  No one, not even your doctor or midwife, can tell you what your pregnancy is going to be like, or how it’s going to evolve. 

And no one, not even your partner or your mom or your new pill-sized friend Zofran, can take away your discomfort for any length of time that really matters. 

If you thought you were going to feel and look a certain way during pregnancy, but don’t, what do you do? This can be an awfully lonely place. It can be really hard to say to someone, “I hate being pregnant”, or “being pregnant sucks”, when the risk of judgment looms in the air. 

But that’s exactly what you should do: talk about the way you feel.

Maybe you feel comfortable talking to your partner, mom, or fellow pregnant friend. Maybe you feel inclined to rant about it on social media. Or maybe those feelings have a place on a canvas, piano or in a journal. 

One of the biggest problems with a difficult pregnancy isn’t that it’s difficult, it’s that we don’t talk about it or do anything with those feelings so we can feel better and, ultimately, help to normalize unpleasant pregnancies. 

This happens for a number of socially unacceptable reasons:

  • You may not feel comfortable admitting you’re uncomfortable. 
  • You believe complaining is a sign of weakness and unattractive. 
  • You’ve been told pregnancy is beautiful,magical and a miracle and how dare you feel any other way. 

This is one of the most confusing parts of an unpleasant pregnancy; being pregnant is beautiful and it is magical and it is a miracle even when it’s the most physically gruelling thing you’ve ever experienced. Even when you so desperately wanted a baby. 

Your whole experience of creating a child is valid. All of it. From the loathing to the fear. It’s all OK. Socially, we need to do a better job of accepting a woman’s experience as is, and the path to this kind of acceptance is to be open. 

Not only will it help ease some of your discomfort, but it will help other women feel empowered to do the same. In turn, this domino effect can create a safer space for women to be honest with each other and educate their community. 

Forty weeks, or almost 10 months, can seem like an eternity when you’re experiencing:

  • all-day nausea
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • reflux
  • hemorrhoids
  • bone-crushing fatigue
  • weight gain
  • insomnia
  • aversions
  • sciatica
  • gestational diabetes
  • pre-eclampsi
  • and the list goes on. 

Creating human life is no easy feat, but remember this: no woman has ever stayed pregnant forever. In time, you’ll adjust to the place you’ve landed, buy new guidebooks, and do your best to settle into the unknown. 

Things will get better, and by the end of it, you’ll be holding your beautiful baby who, we hope, will make it all worthwhile. 

Fiona Patterson, who has a master’s degree in counselling psychology, has a private practice specializing in perinatal health and wellness. She can be reached at [email protected], or www.counsellingkelowna.com.


Stuck qi upsets tummy

By Michael Côté

In Chinese medicine, when we get abdominal discomfort, we say that qi is not moving properly.

Qi (pronounced “chee” as in cheese) is often mistranslated as energy, but it literally means gas.

Current scholarship suggests that Qi, is best translated as “gasotransmitters.”  Gasotransmitters are gases in the body like nitric oxide, oxygen, and carbon dioxide that are part of our physiology.

When these different gases, or qi, are unable to cycle through our body, we get health problems.

When someone complains about their bowels, a practitioner of Chinese medicine will often inquire about lung health. A person with a lot of stress will typically breathe shallowly, which prevents ideal gas exchange, and causes qi stagnation. And stuck qi leads to pain and discomfort. 

There are a number of ways qi can stagnate, so treatments will vary depending on the underlying cause, which is the diagnosis. In B.C. people registered with the CTCMA are qualified to make a Chinese medicine diagnosis.

So how does acupuncture work for IBS? 

A variety of research has demonstrated that acupuncture:

  • relieves pain
  • reduces anxiety and depression
  • regulates the motility of the digestive tract
  • decreases gut sensitivity
  • calms the parasympathetic nervous system which triggers the relaxation response.

Acupuncture can also alter the brain's mood chemistry by increasing the production of serotonin and endorphins. This helps to overcome negative states and breaks the vicious cycle of anxiety and IBS. 

Finally according to Chinese medical theory, acupuncture regulates qi.

A patient, I will call Adeline who gave me permission to share her story, came to me complaining of “really bad pain with loose stool.”

She experienced colicky pain below her umbilicus that was worse in the mornings. It felt like a stabbing pain at its worst and achy the rest of the day.  She didn't have allergies, and did not have a history of lung problems.  She had not been travelling anywhere because of this problem and had already seen her family doctor two years ago regarding this issue. 

She also saw a registered dietitian who helped her with meal planning to avoid trigger foods. Adeline, however, was still experiencing symptoms. Her pulses were slippery, weak, and slow. Her tongue was red and dry with a yellow coating.

The Chinese medicine diagnosis I gave Adeline was “loose stool from the small intestine not absorbing water, causing stagnant qi.” 

In other words, qi (gas) in the small intestine was not moving properly. 

I recommended acupuncture twice a week for two weeks, then less frequently as symptoms improved. I also prescribed a course of herbal medicine. The goal of the herbs and acupuncture was to help the small intestine absorb water and thereby help qi exchange. 

I also suggested that she add cardamom and nutmeg to her diet.

After five acupuncture treatments, taking the herbs regularly, and following a diet suitable for her, Adeline said that her stool is formed and she has had no nausea for the first time in four years. 

Recently, Adeline took a month-long trip, something she was unable to do previously because of her symptoms.  She is happy with her current level of health and I continue to see her on a periodic basis to help manage her condition.

If you suffer from bowel problems, here are some general guidelines that can help:

  • Breathing exercises like qigong or meditation helps with relaxation.
  • Having a plant-centric diet ensures adequate fibre intake.
  • Having a diet that is suitable for you, like avoiding milk if you are lactose intolerant.  In B.C. you can call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered dietician.
  • Avoiding triggers like ice-cold foods and drink, as well as greasy, heavy, fatty, rich foods such as cheese, bacon, and ice cream.
  • Cooking beans with kombu, ginger, fennel, or cumin can reduce gassiness. Don’t use kombu if you have certain thyroid problems).
  • If you need to use the washroom, excuse yourself and go instead of trying to hold it in. The book Everyone Poops, by Taro Gomi can help with overcoming bowel shyness.

If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to book a consultation or treatment please call me at the Okanagan Acupuncture Centre at 1625 Ellis St. in downtown Kelowna.

Michael Côté, R.TCM.P, is a registered practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He can be reached at the Okanagan Acupuncture Centre,1625 Ellis St. in downtown Kelowna.

Useful links:

For a summary on the research on acupuncture and Chinese medicine for IBS see the British Acupuncture Council website.

Anxiety and acupuncture

By Michael Côté

Anxiousness means fretting about what may happen. 

It’s fairly normal to experience it every once in while, but anxiety can become a persistent and severe problem that needs addressing.

In this case, anxiety is considered a medical problem and it’s important to seek help.

Typical treatments can include counselling, cognitive behavioral therapy, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication like lorazepam and buspirone.

In western medicine, it’s common to separate the mind and the body; we often think that our emotions are just in our head. In Chinese medicine, emotions are a part of our physiological processes and can be both a cause and an effect of health problems.

Someone who is experiencing a heart attack, for example, will often have anxiety, and someone who is chronically anxious may give themselves a heart attack.

This often leads to a vicious cycle that is difficult to break without help. Emotions are  closely tied to our overall health, and experiencing one emotion in excess can be a symptom of a health problem.

Proper health in Chinese medicine is defined as the harmony of various processes in our body. This includes our digestive cycle, hormone regulation, sleep cycle, circulation, and metabolism.

These processes are linked to our internal organs: the Spleen Stomach, for example, are said to be responsible for managing the transportation and transformation of nutrients.

Each organ system needs to work in harmony with other organ systems and when all of these systems work in harmony, we have homeostasis.

The most important system, in Chinese medicine, is our digestive system. The organ system responsible for managing the transportation of nutrients is called the Spleen system. 

This isn’t the same as the physical spleen itself, rather the Spleen system is way to describe how we view a particular process in the body in Chinese medicine. 

The Spleen system forms the foundation of health as it nourishes the rest of our body like our Liver, Heart, Kidney, and Lung systems.

These organ systems are also associated with specific emotions.

  • The Spleen system is associated with pensiveness, worry, and trust
  • Liver system is associated with irritability, depression and decisiveness
  • Heart system is associated with anxiety, joy, and passion
  • Lung system is associated with grief, and instinct
  • Kidney system is associated with fear, fright and willpower.

It is normal and healthy to experience these emotions at some point in our lives. However, these emotions can become a problem if they become overwhelming and interfere with daily life. 

This may be an indication that an organ system isn’t functioning properly. If someone becomes anxious even when they have nothing to worry about, it’s a pretty good indication that something is wrong. In this case, we would look at which internal system is out of balance and select the appropriate acupuncture points, herbs, and lifestyle changes to help restore harmony.

Does acupuncture actually work for anxiety? Chinese medicine is quite foreign so you may want an explanation of how acupuncture works within the context of allopathic medicine.

Fortunately, there is a great deal of research on acupuncture and how it affects the body. Acupuncture regulates your feel-good hormones like serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, GABA, neuropeptide Y and ACTH, which can alter the body’s chemistry and alleviate negative emotional states. 

In other words, acupuncture reduces sensitivity to pain and stress which promotes relaxation, thereby reducing anxiety and worry. Acupuncture also stimulates the release of our body’s opioids that influences the autonomic nervous system. 

This stimulates the relaxation response and takes us out of fight-or-flight mode. Also, acupuncture can reverse pathological changes in inflammatory cytokine levels that are associated with anxiety.

Acupuncture has a real and measurable effect on the body’s hormones, neurotransmitters, and autonomous nervous system. These influences can cause positive changes in our behaviour and biochemistry that counter the effects of stress and anxiety.

Because acupuncture is able to do this without medication, many people are turning to it for a drug-free option to reduce anxiety. 

It is important that you seek someone who is capable of making a Chinese medicine diagnosis before getting acupuncture. In British Columbia, they should be a registrant of the CTCMA.

I’d like to share with you a personal experience with anxiety and its impact on my health. I was getting married and doing my final exams for Chinese medicine at the same time, foolishly, and that stress I placed on myself caused me to develop irritable bowel syndrome. 

The pain in my gut was so severe I lost consciousness and knew I needed to seek professional help. I did a course of acupuncture treatments to stop pain and took Chinese herbal medicine to regulate my gut. 

This resolved the symptoms, but I also needed to change the way I dealt with stress. I was told about Dale Carnegie’s book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, which was so profoundly helpful that I now recommend it to anyone who comes to me dealing with stress, worry, or anxiety. 

Of course, as with any health problem, lifestyle is important in recovery and for maintaining health. Eating well, getting appropriate exercise, meditating, and speaking with counsellors can all help people dealing with anxiety.

Since moving to Kelowna, I’ve discovered that we have some wonderful resources and support teams available in the community like the CMHA and Okanagan Clinical Counselling.

If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to book a consultation or treatment please get in touch with me at the Okanagan Acupuncture Centre at 1625 Ellis St. in downtown Kelowna.

Michael Côté, R.TCM.P, is a registered practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine.


Growing by quitting work

Intentional Unemployment: Taking a Risk to Discover Your Authentic Self

By Kate Nestibo

Identity Crisis

Our jobs typically demand a great deal of our time and energy. They frequently come up as a conversation starter and may even be the first thing we’re asked about.

We form much of our identity around our chosen career and our professional accomplishments.

We judge others by their profession and make assumptions about them based on their job titles. We may stay in roles and working environments that don’t fulfil us or with leaders who don’t value us, not simply because we’re reliant on the income, but often for the prestige, power, or significance we feel they bring.

Who are we without our jobs? Some of us will never take the time to contemplate that question. The answer our brain conjures up may be more than we wish to consider.

I Quit

When your passion, strength, and values intersect with your career, you’re a force to be reckoned with. If you find yourself in a job that is out of alignment with your unique gifting or value system, the consequences of this misalignment can manifest mentally, emotionally, and even physically.

Recently, I made the decision to resign from a job after mere months with the company. For the first time in my life, I ended my employment without first securing another job. Yes, it was a scary move, and for some it’s an unlikely option with looming bills or a family to care for.

With a small financial cushion and a temporary stint in my parent’s basement, I realized the scarier option would be to continue down a career path I did not feel was the best fit for me.

During this season of transition, I’ve had the opportunity to think about work I’m naturally drawn to, the strengths I have self-identified or others have recognized in me, and my definition of success. Nobody wants to appear as if they hop from job to job, but sometimes you must ‘try before you buy’.

While job interviews are a chance to showcase our skills, experience, and personality, they’re also an opportunity for us to assess potential employers and corporate culture.

It’s a two-way street. Employees should be viewed as the greatest asset a company has, rather than its largest liability.

The Realization

So, back to answering the question: Who are we without our jobs? Well, you’re still uniquely you. Your job doesn’t make you. You make the job.

Nothing is accomplished without you and the distinct set of values, beliefs, passions, capabilities, and insights you bring to a role. And when you leave a role, you don’t lose those elements.

We must continually take time to get to know ourselves and to evaluate our mental, emotional, and physical well being in the workplace and beyond.

Dating While Jobless

If you really want to delve into how you define yourself without paid work, try going on a first date while unemployed. That’s precisely what I did.

When a friend offered to set me up on a blind date the same week I left my job, I figured it was either the best or worst time to meet someone new. Naturally, I had the thought that being unemployed and living at my parents' place may lessen my appeal.

I joked with my girlfriends about using this as my opening line during my impending rendezvous.

Luckily, I quickly circled back to the fact that this just happens to be the stage of life I’m in and having a job doesn’t change the story of me. There’s plenty more to discuss than my job description. If a date doesn’t agree, that’s OK by me. All I’m responsible for is putting forth the most authentic version of myself. Take it or leave it.

Seeking Support

When you’re experiencing a big change in life, a solid support system of family, friends, or mentors are vital.  Most people have a need to process their feelings and experiences with another person, ideally someone who understands their perspective and can offer a listening ear or practical advice.

Your relationships are best tested when you go through challenging periods of life. We may feel like there’s an expiry on the amount of time we are allotted to discuss our issues with those closest to us. Genuine relationships create a safe space where you can wrestle with personal issues for as long as it takes to find resolution.

We rarely judge our loved ones as harshly as we judge ourselves. Remember to extend the same understanding and compassion to yourself that you so freely give to others.

Nobody has life permanently figured out. We all experience ebbs, flows, highs, and lows. If not, you’re probably not truly living your life. 

Take the opportunity to experience change, risk, and personal growth then reap the rewards that trickle into every sector of your life as you seek out the most honest representation of your authentic self.

Kate Nestibo believes in the power of investing in people. With a varied background in marketing and communications, Kate has a growth-mindset that drives her to continually develop as a person and a professional, helping others along the way. Email: [email protected].

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