Here we are, a few months into our final run in our infertility journey. I still have not started the first IVF cycle because my estrogen is too high. I feel uncomfortable pushing more hormones into my body when the ones I already have are out of whack. But my husband and I are not in a hurry, knowing that we want to make this the most physically and emotionally healthy experience for our family. I am no good to my 4-year-old son, Jackson, if I am laid up on the couch with migraines for two straight weeks during stimulation. But I'm not here to give you an update on my hormones. Instead, I am going to remind you that when it comes to parenting, infertility, and just about anything in life, your gut is always right.
If you've been following our story here, you know that we switched reproductive endocrinologist offices for this round of unexpected, insurance-covered IVF treatments. We loved the people at our previous office and are thankful that they helped us get Jackson through our second IUI five years ago, but their main office is too far away from our home to be realistic this time around. With preschool drop-offs and swimming classes to deal with, 5 a.m. commutes in Chicagoland traffic for early-morning blood draws and ultrasounds weren't going to work for us. As hard as it is to switch doctors, my husband and I chose another RE office. The office was close to our home and had good success rates. When I called to ask some questions, I spoke with a very helpful nurse who seemed to be empathetic and confident. The doctor had some bad reviews online, with some reporting an awful bedside manner, so I felt a bit uneasy. But after working in health care for the first 15 years of my career, I know this: You don't necessarily need a great doctor with a cheery bedside manner. You need a competent doctor and excellent nurses. I've found that during infertility treatments especially, you tend to see the nurses more than the doctor, and as long as the nurses are awesome, I can deal with a jerky doctor. Just get me pregnant, already.
My first visit to the office happened to be on Day 3 of my cycle. If you are familiar with infertility protocol, Day 3 is the best day for blood draws and baseline readings. So my general consultation with the doctor became a circus of internal ultrasounds and needle sticks. I didn't mind all the extra, and unexpected, work. I'm a multitasker; the more we can get done in one visit, the better. However, when my bloodwork came back with an unusually high estrogen reading, my initial uneasiness became more profound.
To keep the story as short as possible, my doctor called me on three separate occasions (after multiple blood draws) to accuse me of lying to him about why my estrogen was high. He couldn't understand why I would have such a high reading unless I was taking herbs, vitamins or other medications that I didn't tell him about. It was so bizarre to be verbally accosted by someone who was charged with my care. I began to quickly feel both physically and emotionally unsafe with him leading my protocol.
I wasn't taking any medicines, herbs or vitamins. I have no idea why my estrogen is high. I believe that it's his job to figure it out. However, after letting my husband listen to another rude phone call from my doctor, we both knew that it was the end. There was no way I could ever trust that doctor. Things began to feel a little bit shady, like he just wanted my insurance IVF money and didn't actually care about my specific story or journey. Since I've never liked a confrontation, I decided to just quietly switch clinics and keep the whole situation quiet.
But my husband reminded me that this doctor doesn't just see me. Other patients could be trying to get pregnant and are miserable under that doctor's care. Together, my husband and I decided that I needed to tell the office what took place and how I felt it wasn't right. Surprisingly, the office was understanding and apologetic. Their response to my story and feelings was enough to make me feel comfortable staying with the clinic, although I would be switching doctors. My first doctor isn't even allowed to consult on my chart. While I might still end up switching clinics, I'm proud of myself for being honest about what happened, how I was treated and how it made me feel.
Moral of the story? Trust your gut and advocate for yourself. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. And if you feel that you are being treated poorly, tell someone.