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When faced with a crisis of conception, our gut impulse as the fertility challenged is to want solutions NOW, or for some of us, YESTERDAY.  Just getting online and finding the nearest practitioner, although convenient, could be the biggest mistake you make in the first steps on your journey.  Resist the temptation to just get in the door of the first person dressed in a lab coat calling themselves "doctor."  Your chances at motherhood, your health, your bank account, your sanity, and your marriage or partnership depend on it.  Here's how:

1) Slow Down

Look, I was 38 when I started down this road and trust me, I was always looking over my shoulder, fearing that my blasted biological clock was about to tick it's last tock.  My Darlings, this however is not the time to lose your grip. Take the time to consider what you want your journey to be like--even if it's a few minutes, seriously.  Be honest about who you and your partner are.  Is this your first merry-go-round?  Do you have a ton of questions?  Have you been burned in the past by an unscrupulous quack?   Being clear who you are and what you want your journey to be will go a long way toward finding a fertility practice that is right for you.  Be open minded, but stick to your guns about non-negotiables.

2) See Your General Practitioner or OB/GYN First

Sometimes the answer may be right under your pretty little nose.  Depending on your health plan, you may have access to some great options through your own network of doctors.  It also makes sense to check in with whomever does your annual pap smear.  In addition to referrals, they may be able to request some of the initial tests you will need if you end up going to a specialized fertility clinic, such as blood work for infectious diseases, FSH Level, thyroid function, a saline sonogram to check your uterus for abnormalities, a hysterosalpingogram to check for blockage in your fallopian tubes, just to name a few.  Having a check up to make sure that you are in overall good health before spending a dime on fertility treatment is time well spent.

3) Check Out the Hospitals and Fertility Clinics in Your Area

Get online to just familiarize yourself with your options.  Consider how far you are willing to drive, keeping in mind that it may be worth your time and gas to get to a clinic that is going to care for you in the way you deserve.  Check out their websites.  Do they offer lots of practical information?  Do they post statistics for their "success rates?"  Are they up front about the costs?  Do they offer much patient support, such as groups, orientations, etc.?  What is the energy they are putting out there?  Are you diggin' what they are puttin' out?  Listen to your gut!

Make a list of at least 3 that appeal to you.  Make notes on the gender of the doctor, number of years in practice, services offered, posted pregnancy rates, and price.  Write a single word to describe the feeling you get from each site and circle it.  Each of these things will play various roles in the decision making process.  Only you can assign their level of importance, but be aware of them.

4) Talk to Your Friends

Depending on how comfortable you are with discussing the subject of fertility treatment, talking to the people you know, or people they know, can offer invaluable information. There is nothing like fellow travelers to help steer you in the right direction. BUT, be mindful of the obvious, the doc one person raves about, could be absolutely the wrong fit for you.  In my experience, someone always knows someone who knows someone.  Had I been in a place where I felt willing to have an open conversation with other women whom I knew had fertility treatment, I could have avoided some real misery.

5) Make Appointments with Your Top Picks and Interview Them

This is your chance to interview them.  Don't forget where the balance of power is.  Sure, you are feeling confused, terrified, and your heart is breaking, but no doctor can guarantee you will leave with a baby in your arms.  Not one!  "Baby Maker" they may be, but God they are not.  Your questions should be answered.  Your feelings should be respected.  Remember that you are looking to create a partnership with your treatment team.  It could be a very long road.

Some clinics charge a fee for the initial consultation.  I would not necessarily be put off by this, as it may include an initial sonogram to determine the number of follicles you have.  It may also be their way of weeding out lookie-loos.  Anyone who doesn't charge a fee may likely roll the cost of any initial exam into your treatment plan, so you are likely to pay either way.  A few hundred bucks is worth spending in order to save you the heartbreak and expense of choosing the wrong clinic!

6) Be PRESENT During Your Consultation with the Doc

Look around.  This may sound ridiculous, but does it feel clean?? Does it feel welcoming?  Is the doctor and his or her staff attentive, professional, and compassionate?  Does the technology look up to date?  Are you comfortable with the idea of being under heavy sedation there? Remember, you may be having an invasive surgical procedure in this place, where your precious eggs are aspirated from your overworked ovaries, so it shouldn't resemble a chop shop.

If you feel like you are getting the hard sell and start wondering if you are buying a used car, instead of making a life decision about medical treatment, it's time to go.  Be wary of anyone who promises you the moon! Be a little cautious of someone offering a "Spring Sale" on IVF.

It is in a clinic's best interest to put their best foot forward.  If they don't bother to do that, trust me, it won't get better.

6) Be Honest and Map Out Your Budget

You might be willing to mortgage everything for that little bundle of joy, but putting yourself into insurmountable debt is reckless.  What if the miracle you have been praying for happens and you get pregnant, but you have racked up so much debt that it puts your ability to make ends meet in jeopardy?  Don't let your fertility "spend" destroy your life  and your partnership.  Have an open and honest conversation with your partner.  Consider how much you make and how much you would realistically be open to spending on fertility treatment.  Keep in mind that there are NO GUARANTEES.  You could spend $100,000+ on fertility treatment and still end up childless.

7) Follow Your Gut

This may or may not be something you are used to, but trust that feeling you have inside.  You will know immediately if a clinic is right for you. Make no excuses for how you feel, and don't let your aching desire to have a child derail you into an unholy alliance with a less than stellar treatment team. Choose the doctor and team you LOVE, not one that just managed to fit you into their schedule.  Only you get to decide who is PERFECT for YOU!

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@ From Maybe To Baby 2014