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Buy Buy Baby

Posted May 22 2012 2:03pm

When I made my “What IF” video two years ago, I included this question:

What if I can’t counter the thought I had to “buy” a baby?

To this day, that question still eats at me. I’m not sure what bothers me more: how much we’ll have to pay all told, or the fact that I have to pay anything at all for something that comes “free” to so many others.

I hate that I have to question any of this. I feel like it makes me sound like The Bitter Infertile Lady. Fact is, I’m not. I’m just another 1 in 8 who would do anything to have children of her own and/or without assistance, and can’t.

Buy Buy Baby

Image by Keiko Zoll via Morguefile

Did you see the NYT Motherlode column on this weekend? I did. And then I saw on that column… and wished I hadn’t.

From Jezebel:

It’s more that being asked to fund someone else’s fertility treatment feels a little bit, well, annoying—like being asked to give money instead of gifts at a wedding. I think it’s because IVF seems so entirely optional and personal. While chipping in to someone’s adoption can be seen as an altruistic act, paying for a friend’s IVF seems closer on the spectrum to being asked to help pay for a chin implant to help make their dream of not hating their face a reality.

I find it interesting that the article’s author takes the time to distinguish between funding adoption versus funding treatment – even though they are both means to the same end – yet places a higher moral value on funding adoptions. The author reinforces the same trope about fertility treatments: “optional and personal.”

It’s her characterization of comparing IVF to plastic surgery that’s really the one-two punch in the gut.

I’m amazed that the author fails to use the word “selfish” at any point in her argument – that’s usually the next logical step when opening up the “fertility treatments are optional” doors. But she does round out the article with this little gem:

…if we pay to help create a baby via IVF do we then somehow have a stake in its future—as though we invested in a tiny, squeezably cute company?

(She’s using this in reference to sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, whose sole purpose is to create mini-rounds of localized venture capital backing, without all the rigamarole of actually going through VCs.) What’s even more amazing is that she still reinforces the ideas of baby as commodity and fertility treatments as elective, even with this clever little dig at couples just trying to build their families.

Because through her lens, it’s not about building a family – it’s about funding a product.

. . .

Before my husband joined the Masons, I always thought of Masonic Lodges, Moose Lodges, Elk Lodges – all these lodges – as places where the community came together for potlucks to raise money for something or someone in the community. That, and school functions outside of school that needed to be held somewhere cheap when the School Board couldn’t afford the local banquet hall.

I remember growing up and hearing about benefits for so-and-so in the community: they might have been sick or lost a job, or worse, a head family member passed away and it was a benefit for the children. We didn’t get invitations in the mail; it was all usually word-of-mouth:

“Hey, Jimmy’s family is having a benefit for his kid with leukemia at the Elks Lodge in Somerdale. There’s even a 50/50 raffle and his wife’s makin’ those meatballs. You should come.”

My husband even went to a benefit for his barber a few weeks ago, a prominent member of the Salem community.

Crowdfunding- virtual or otherwise- it’s just what people do. It’s how a community comes together to support one another in times of great need.

But suddenly, to take the same banquet hall benefit model and utilize the power of social media and viral marketing to do the same exact thing online – and to do that to fund your chance to build your family…

Now it’s “annoying.”

I think it’s progressive, personally.

. . .

Nobody ever wants to ask for a handout.

I still remember the first time I had to ask my parents for rent money. I wasn’t even six months out of college. Larry’s poverty-level graduate assistant stipend wasn’t cutting it. I was barely making minimum wage at a temp job. Our rent was due and we just didn’t have it.

I called my mom and remember feeling just mortified.

I’m lucky to have parents that can support me in times of need like that. It wouldn’t be the last time I’d need to ask my parents for money and every time feels just as awkward. Which is why, as I get older and should seemingly be more fiscally responsible, I try not to do it.

Knowing that we still need additional financial help to build our family feels just as mortifying, even with all of the breaks we’re getting with insurance and having a gracious, generous friend as our egg donor.

. . .

“You should never ask anyone how much money they make,” They Say. “Talking about money is taboo, verboten, tacky.”

I hate talking about money.

But I’ll lay this out there, because I think it’s fair to see just how our fertility finances stack up.

The IVF procedure itself: retrieval and transfer – are covered by my insurance. Our egg donor’s testing is not. Her meds will be covered under my prescription plan, but we’ll have a prescription co-pay that will most likely be up to $500 per med because there are no generics when it comes to fertility drugs. We’ll also have deductibles for the procedures as well (like my hysteroscopy), as much as $1000 a pop. We’re already paying $500 for our mental health evaluations alone. Plus there’s legal fees, other blood tests and diagnostics, and G-dwilling, cryopreservation of excess embryos.

All told, we’re looking at about $6,000-8,000 out of pocket for our cycle this summer.

I know how extremely blessed we are, because that is a drop in a bucket compared to folks undergoing treatment without insurance. However, what’s not factored into this: the amount we pay in insurance premiums because I’m the subscriber in our house. That’s right, me the freelance writer and social media consultant, who pays $850 a month in health insurance premiums. That’s over $10,000 annually just in insurance payments.

And we’re also not adding in our daily prescriptions, all of which as just as vital to our IVF cycle being a success because, hey – we have to be healthy too. That’s another $500-600 a year.

We do not have that much in savings. And there’s no refill system in place once we blow through that money.

This one chance to build our family will wipe out our savings.

. . .

$6-8K is chump change, really. Yesterday, I asked the following on my Facebook Page :

Let’s talk taboo this morning… how much has your infertility journey cost you in dollars Treatments, medications, homestudies – let’s see it in numbers.

I really didn’t think anyone would respond, because talking about money is icky. Boy, was I wrong: 34 comments, 1 like and 1 share.

In my very unscientific sample, here’s how much these 34 commenters have spent to build their families so far:


No, I didn’t add an extra comma. I almost don’t even know how to respond to that number: over a million dollars spent in fertility treatments and adoptions. That’s comes out to about $32,400 out-of-pocket per commenter.

My wedding didn’t even cost that much. We’ve never paid for a car that’s cost that much. My total student loans are less than that.

And from what I could tell, of those 34 commenters, only 10 have children.

. . .

There are financial resources out there. Grants are available . Some clinics participate in cost-sharing and financing programs .

Still, when you see a sample of just 34 people with a grand total of 1.1 million dollars in family building expenses, you wonder just how much can that help?

And that’s where crowdfunding comes in, despite Jezebel’s objections.

I’m not here to play Miss Manners. I’m not here to cast judgement on one family building option over another.

I just want to be a mom.

I just want to make my husband a dad. And for us and the 7.3 million other people trying to do the same thing here in America – it’s going to cost us a lot, financially and relative to our household income.

Let’s face it: there’s no such thing as a “free” baby, right? Babies are stupid expensive. But for anyone facing infertility, we already start at a disadvantage by having to pay (substantially) for something that otherwise comes “free” to others.

And let’s not forget: this is all a high stakes, high roller gamble. We’re not buying a baby.

We’re buying a chance.

I use positive language as much as I can as we get ready for our cycle this August. I try not to say “if the cycle works” or “if I get pregnant” but rather “when this cycle works” and “when I’m pregnant.” But the fact of the matter is: no matter how much money we throw into my reproductive system, we have no way to guarantee that this will work.

You can see why I channel hope like it’s my fucking job…

I have to in the face of such daunting numbers.

. . .

I want to talk about money, as much as I hate talking about money.

This is a discussion we need to have and more importantly, that others need to hear. Please weigh in, comment and share.

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