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Statistics Or Bedside Manner? The Answer Is Both

a blog by Suzanne Rico, May 8, 2012

When I first realized I might have fertility issues, I had no idea where to turn, so I called a friend who is a neonatologist. Even through his job is to care for babies, not make them, I needed somewhere to start.

“Get the best doctor you can,” counseled my doctor friend, “but don’t forget that the best doctor does not necessarily mean the one with the highest statistics.” Huh? I thought. It doesn’t? “You need to connect with someone,” he continued, “who will care for you both physically and emotionally -- because you’re talking about creating life.”

Good advice, right? But I ignored it. My gynecologist had recommended a fertility doctor with a fancy practice and sky-high success rates, and despite what I’d just been told, I believed that if I paid my money, I'd get my baby. Off I marched to the best fertility clinic with the best doctor, even though when I met him, I found his personality quite small and his ego quite large. When I look back at that naive woman with unexplained infertility who, at 37, thought this was going to be an easy fix, I wish I could warn her she was about to waste valuable time and hard-earned cash.

Fast forward through two in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles and two miscarriages. I called my neonatologist friend again in tears, and while he did not exactly say, “I told you so," he begged me to find a doctor who had more to offer than a decorator-perfect waiting room and impressive numbers on a spreadsheet. He reminded me that liking the person behind the doctor who was going to help me make a baby was key. And this time I listened.

Michael Vermesh, M.D., turned out to be my man. He was kind. He listened to my questions and then explained the medical science. He was genuinely sad when my beta numbers came in low and genuinely happy when they kept doubling. He welcomed my attempts to participate in my own reproductive future, approving of acupuncture, yoga and a wheat-free diet.

“It can’t hurt to do that, Suzanne,” he said, with the smile of an indulgent uncle, “so let’s give it everything we’ve got!” We approached the conundrum of my infertility as a team, with both of us out to do our best.

My third round of IVF combined the philosophies of both Western and Eastern medicine. I got unparalleled medical care and a mind-body-soul connection. I felt cared about at this clinic, not just cared for. Ultimately, this sense of solidarity and protection allowed me to relax — and accept that I had very little control over the outcome of 21st century baby making. And I think that’s why it worked.

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