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Intuition Is Everything

intuition about fertility treatment

a blog by Traci Shahan, RN, WHNP-BC, Doctor of Nursing, Albrecht Women’s Care Denver IVF, January 16, 2012

"The only real valuable thing is intuition."—Einstein

I have the honor of taking a graduate course with an incredible professor at the seminary that I attend. Though I love the topic — Celtic Spirituality — I am much more in awe of the crucible that this man and his wife have endured. They are quite open about this issue, even writing about it online, so it is public knowledge that their only child died in 2009 after enduring brain cancer for many years. I knew about this tragedy prior to starting the class, so I went into the classroom, prepared to encounter a person steeped in grief. Having endured multiple pregnancy losses over the years, as well as having accompanied thousands of patients confronted with same, I felt confident that I would be able to sense and perhaps even obliquely help this man on his grief journey.

I needn’t have worried.

Professor Martin (not his real name) is truly a marvel. I carefully watched him throughout the class, thinking that surely there would be some hint that he is still sad, a vestige of what must have been relentless pain. Instead what I found was an incredibly joyful person, committed to teaching, well aware of the fleeting nature of life, seemingly content to teach classes in Divinity and shepherd pilgrimages to foreign countries. He has this truly marvelous way of studying a person, pausing a moment before speaking, then looking the person in the eye as if that person was the only human alive on the planet at that moment. His soft gaze never waivers. My thought while driving home that evening was, “Wow, if this guy can go through the hell of enduring a son with brain cancer, finally losing him to a catastrophic stroke, and be present and intentional with his fellow humans, how can I better serve our patients and be present with my fellow human beings?”

I thought back on the years when I saw, first, an Ob/Gyn, and then finally a fertility doctor (reproductive endocrinologist) for my fertility issues. I recalled the most positive experiences, the first one of which was when, after having a D and C for another pregnancy loss, I struggled to open my eyes after regaining consciousness, to find a blonde, blue-eyed woman in front of me, one of her hands on my forehead. Looking me in the eye with the kind of compassion I thought possible only of hospice workers, she murmured, “You did beautifully.” She turned and was gone. I look back on that moment now and realize that it was a pivotal point in my treatment, that I had not been treated as I wished by my OB/Gyn up to that point nor his team members. (One nurse told me to “throw away” tissue that I miscarried.) I remember thinking that it was odd that a nurse anesthetist whom I had never met and probably would never see again, could treat me with more compassion, care and concern than my own fertility team. (My own doctor, right up through the IV being placed in my arm before that D and C, stated several times, “…this procedure will be performed to remove dead products of conception.” This cold statement, after the ultrasound tech left the still image of my dead baby on the screen while I sat alone, in the dark, waiting for the doctor to appear.

They were dark, dark moments of the soul.

Finally, after a couple of years, I decided to can the OB/Gyn and move on to an RE. But how? How could I find someone who could not only treat my physical problems, but someone who had assembled the resources and team to meet the spiritual and emotional needs that are pretty universal in those of us who have undergone fertility treatments longer than a year or so. (I will say here that there is no one time frame, but I have noticed that if a patient comes to our practice with more than a year of fertility treatment under her belt, she is typically more aggrieved than a patient who has recently sought fertility care for the first time. So it was with me.)

How in the world could I possibly find the right team for my husband’s and my needs?

I will say that today it is a lot easier than 15 years ago. There is the internet that provides a rich vein of some credible information. Caveat here: stick to sites like American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) and FertilityAuthority. Do not place credence in sites that are not recognized as leaders in the field of reproductive endocrinology. Also, do not believe propaganda, which is to say any commercial, infomercial or other paid advertising like newspaper ads, television ads and promotional spots. Because I have written about this issue in previous blogs, I will not belabor this point, but buyer, beware in America — anyone can pay to spin any topic.

Or you could go the old fashioned route and ask friends who have been successful in fertility treatment about their health care provider. This is how I found my doctor. One fertility doctor believes that the Litmus test for assessing a medical team’s appropriateness for a patient is to simply call area hospitals and speak with the charge nurses on the Gyn floors or speak with the nurse who heads up the perioperative department. A recent poll out last month once again rated the field of nursing as the one that they most trust. Generally, nurses feel strongly about the role as patient advocates and will be a great help for those seeking care.

Bottom line as I have offered before is: Trust Your Intuition. If something feels awry to you, seek care elsewhere. If you are not treated with dignity, an awful lot of time, respect and patience, transfer your care. Remember fertility is a crossroads in life. You deserve a nurturing environment that edifies you, one in which you leave with a desire to come back.

I wish everyone a fruitful 2012. As always, please feel free to contact with me questions .

Comments (2)

Traci, you are beyond wonderful at what you do. I am so thankful to be going through this journey with you and everyone in your office!

Thank you, dear. It is our honor to serve you. The truth is I cannot wait for the day when you graduate to an obstetrician and we are officially in your rear view mirror. Then your journey will transmute into the family that you so desire. Peace.

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