In the end, everything is a business. Milk is a business. Health is a business. Fertility is a business. Life is a business. Minding-your-own-business is a business. By preying on someone’s weakness, you’re making it your business. Okay, I’m digressing. Let’s rewind.
Like I said, milk is a business and fertility is also a business. The similarities, if you look close enough, come two-fold. First, you get pumped with hormones. Second, you get ‘milked’ (the monetary way when dealing with fertility!). Hence, a fertility clinic is much like a milking shed, only with unfortunate humans replacing the cows. (As a side note, I love milk, regardless of hormones and all. So if you think I’m promoting other lifestyles [like veganism], you’ve misunderstood both me and my point.)
So, how do you come about the important business of choosing a fertility clinic once you are done with your child’s play antics? Do you go via the NHS route or the private route? Or both? For all three IVF treatments, we were fortunate enough to choose the private route. Through the NHS route, you first need to meet certain criteria and qualify to be eligible. Then you are put through a pecking order and have no real guarantee as to when to expect your turn to begin treatment. Going private, the decision is in your hands and are free to choose your start date (obviously everything depends on your ‘cycle’). I recently read a paragraph that I wish to share and will help enlighten you further on the differences between the NHS and private medicine when dealing with infertility. From Adam Kay’s book ‘This is Going to Hurt’, he explains:
“In most aspects of private medicine, you get a mild upgrade on the NHS, but no huge difference in actual care. You get seen a bit quicker, the receptionist’s got all her teeth and there’s a decent wine list for your inpatient stay – but ultimately you get the same treatment. When it comes to infertility medicine though, the private sector is leagues ahead – they will investigate and treat you until you have a baby (or an insolvency order)”. (I’d like to point out that this can be true or false; it depends on the couple and when they wish to stop. If they have an unlimited supply of cash and emotions, then by all means carry on till the cows come home.)
Back to Adam’s explanation, “The NHS requires you to fit into quite a narrow demographic to qualify for any treatment, and it’s often not enough to achieve a positive result. I understand there’s a limited pot of money, but you don’t ever hear this said in other corners of medicine. ‘We don’t treat leukaemia – there’s a limited pot of money.’ ‘We only treat fractures on the right side of the body – there’s a limited pot of money’.” (Clearly Adam’s a man of my heart; at least our humour is alike.)
So back to this post. Through the years, we have visited five different clinics and heavily researched another, and we can easily categorise each into three types. (I should point out that it’s only after our extensive ‘learning’ that we have been able to differentiate them. We had no clue when we first started out.) For ease of clarity, I’ll use traffic light symbols. (They work well; also, I had a temporary lapse in imagination.)
Red. These are the clinics that are hardcore and have military-style regimens; more than double the injections, more scans, individually tailored (to some extent), involves every test imaginable, involves trying to ‘correct’ every result no matter if it’s good or bad for the body (I’m referring to immunology here), no real sense of privacy, known to work in a ‘trial-by-error’ fashion and heavily based on experimental techniques. We came across two clinics that would fit snugly in this category. They appear to get results and so are very popular (think battery-farming for infertility); but all this is achieved at the cost of your soul (and your wallet).
Orange. These types are the ones that think they are doing you a favour and trying to portray a professional atmosphere, when actually they are in it for the business. Again, no real sense of privacy, false empathy and inconsistent consultations (you see one doc today; another tomorrow). As soon as you step in to the clinic, you need to first pay for your day’s appointment (consultation, scan, etc.) before proceeding further than the reception. Quite placid; bit like the orange traffic light. Our first IVF was at such a clinic. At that point in time, we did not know any better; but now, we recognise its flaws.
Green. This category comprises of those that operate on evidence-based results (i.e., every technique is highly researched before being offered). They are pioneers in technology and do not offer add-ons simply to ‘tick all boxes’. They stick to their principles and proven techniques. Any techniques or tests that their research has shown as beneficial and necessary are automatically included in their treatment plans; they are not optional add-ons. Likewise, any that are experimental or ‘hearsay’ are not offered. They advise you correctly and are honest with you, even if that means you need to re-think your family-planning scenario. They do not prod and dig until there is nothing left of your soul. They treat you like an individual. Every staff member (right from the receptionists, to the accountants, to the nurses and doctors) is so kind and caring – one of the most important necessities for couples going through IVF. They go above and beyond. They make you feel good (yes, I was shocked that in such a scenario, you could be made to feel good) and look forward to your clinic days. Their facilities are second to none. Everything is in-house – the consultations, the scans, the labs, the theatres … all under one roof. Yes, this list is exhaustive, but essential. And we have only ever come across one clinic that fits the spec. The one we swear by.
Desperation and the end result play a large part in how we tell a story. It’s easy to forget the journey if we get to the result we desire. It’s no different with infertility. Every couple will have (some) good things to say about the clinic that gave them their ‘take-home baby’. No matter the experience with the clinic or how gruelling the whole treatment was, in the end if you have your baby, you will definitely be sharing contact details of that clinic to the next person looking for recommendations. We, on the other hand, have the upper hand. Yes, we do. Since we do not have our ‘take-home baby’, we are objective in our reasoning. (Infertility: 6; Sita: 1. I’m slowly catching up.)
The clinic you choose plays a crucial part in your mental state. Of course you want the one that demonstrates good results; but you also want to be treated kindly. Whenever we speak to people about IVF clinics, the first question uttered is, ‘What are the success rates of that clinic?’ Well, my husband and I don’t dwell on those statistics. (Shock! Horror!) Stats are only numbers, formed by a collective whose results are specifically chosen to be included in the ‘theory’. It means nothing to us. Our success rate is not dependant on other people’s. There is always a statistic to dispute another. Your life is not dependant on a collective statistic. (I’ll elaborate – I’m surrounded by very fertile family members and I am one of three children, so surely by some statistic I should be quite fertile? Oh wait, there is a statistic to dispute that, which says 1 in 6 couples are infertile. And so on.)
So, let’s re-count the number of clinics we have visited: five in total, with a heavily-researched sixth. You know, the world is full of well-meaning individuals that genuinely care for your wellbeing. We’re lucky to be surrounded by such people. In our quest to have a baby, they also make it their quest to wish and pray for our happiness, to the extent where they have more hope of things working out when we, frankly, have run out of hope. But hope is a sucker; a life-sucking power. This summer, a concerned friend suggested we go for a second opinion. (Patience is a virtue; a virtue I have come to possess in bundles.) A deep inhalation followed by an exhalation; “Forget second; we’re way past our third.”