Dollars and $ense of family building

This post is my very first foray into ‘blog hopping’ and it has been organised by Write Mind Open Heart and Baby Smiling. If this is your first time to my blog, click here for a quick background on me and what I am up to.

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I remember very clearly the moment I paid for my first IUI cycle. There had been many other financial transactions leading up to that moment – the fertility specialist appointments, the multiple health checks, the clinic admin fee and a donor management fee, to name a few, but when I paid for my first cycle it really felt like the beginning of the beginning.

At my clinic, you have to ring up and report Day 1 (err, the first day of your period for those uninitiated) and then pay for the full cycle before you pick up the drugs, which need to commence on Day 3. Given the amount of time you can spend on hold to this clinic, it’s best to kill two birds with one stone. It was a Saturday, I was super enthused and the clinic was going to shut shortly for the remainder of the weekend, so I jumped into my car and headed towards the clinic, while simultaneously hooking my Blackberry up to Bluetooth and getting in the phone queue. I finally had the opportunity to speak to a patient liasion officer (the fancy name for the not so fancy job in an IVF clinic) when I was jammed in traffice on a well known busy stretch of road in Melbourne. I proceeded to read out my credit card number, while keeping a keen eye on all things traffic. Sold! One IUI cycle with full drug options, thank you very much.What a transaction! I tell the story often, because it was a surreal experience and it definitely sits outside the regular baby making discourse of most of my coupled friends.

The financial aspect of trying to conceive was hugely uncomfortable for me. Not because I couldn’t afford it, although it was a stretch, but basically because money and conceiving a child just seemed a little ‘oil and water’ for me. I didn’t/don’t think I was entitled to free treatment and I’d obviously chosen to go through a clinic, rather than stroll down to the local bar and try my luck (in addition to all of the obvious detractions to that approach, I am far too highly strung to execute it – I shiver as I imagine all of the associated anxiety with trying to nail my ovulation charting so I could hit that bar and pick up that random but appropriate person at the right time, who would then be prepared to… gah!), so I went in knowing the financial ramifications of trying to conceive in a way that felt ethically sound for me.

I just didn’t like them.

I lived below the poverty line for the first half of my life, and without digressing into a lengthy post about my relationship with money, ‘throwing it away’ on intangibles isn’t something I can stomach all that well and IUIs definitely felt like I was throwing money away on intangibles. Especially when I became fixated on the lack of guarantee there was that the sperm would even meet the egg. $1850 per shot just flapping in the breeze. When I grieved my first failed attempt, the money I had ‘lost’ was a very real element of that grief. I am aware this is probably considered strange and I am not sure I have ever really nailed why I felt so violent about the financial side of trying to conceive. I am not tight with money. I manage money quite well and I am, for all intents and purposes, relatively middle class these days.

Maybe it was the influence of the tale of my own conception. My mother’s story of how I was conceived is shrouded in mystery, but tinged with magic and ethereality. My mother, a solo mother by choice herself, always tells me she wished me on a star. This blog is named after a line in a poem she wrote about our connectivity as mother and daughter:

I wished you on a star

and of all the blessed miracles

suddenly you are

from a universe of night sky

or a world of ocean blue

from a far away horizon

you heard and then you knew

never mind the distance

it is merely one of time

and space which has no substance

and sits on no line.

Choosing to try and make a baby in the way that I was rubbed up hard against the family lore that surrounds my very beginnings. Paying for my cycle that day, in the traffic with a Blackberry, a Bluetooth device and a credit card, didn’t feel like the start of the magical and spiritual adventure of bringing a child into the world. It just felt like the rest of my life. OK, a slightly bizarre ‘parallel universe’ experience inserted into the rest of my life , but certainly nothing that I could connect with on a spiritual level and nothing else along the way came close either. I know my mother’s wishes for a child weren’t granted by a star and maybe the act of my conception was actually a mundane experience for her too, but it’s undeniably difficult to produce magic and zsa zsa zu from the clinical experience of trying to conceive.

I ultimately walked away from trying to conceive because of fears about and for my body and fears about and for my mind. I don’t miss for one moment though the thought of having to pay out large sums of money for hope with no guarantees.

I am not eligible for intercountry adoption or domestic infant adoption in Australia because I am single. I don’t know whether I would’ve pursued either of these options had they been available to me and I don’t know whether I would’ve handled the financial implications any better or worse. If I didn’t have other choices, I suspect I just would’ve worn the finances and stuck it out with trying to conceive. The whole episode cost me around about $4500. I actually don’t think about that money so much now. It is gone, end of story. I now focus on the money I am setting aside to take a year off work if I am blessed with a child through this new process, and the repayments on the mortgage I was able to secure by not seeking further fertility treatment that will keep me and any future child in stable accommodation.

My friends who are in throes of trying to make babies as single women through clinics often reference the tens of thousands of dollars spent on fertility treatment. Tens of thousands. One IVF cycle here in Melbourne is $8000 upfront. Sure, you get around half of that back, but add a frozen transfer or two and very quickly you’ve tipped over from 4 to 5 digits.  Many of these women, whom are dear friends, are on a rollercoaster that I just couldn’t bring myself to ride – emotionally, physically and financially. I am in awe of their tenacity. I have times where I feel like perhaps I gave up too quickly; that I am epitomising all Gen Y stereotypes by walking away when the going got a teensy bit tough. I know I’m in for a long, hard road ahead though – which will also have financial ramifications – and I don’t think I’ve chosen the easy way out by any stretch. I’m still trying to find my forever family and I’m still just as committed to doing it on my own.

Maybe I should just start wishing on stars?

While there are seven questions to ponder for this blog hop, probably only two of them are relevant to me at this point.

1. When calculating the costs of your family building, what do you include? The direct costs are easy (such as RE fees for a cycle or homestudy fees), but what about fees that didn’t directly lead to your child’s existence in your life, such as cycles that didn’t work, adoption outreach avenues that didn’t work, failed adoptions, avenues that were explored (and that cost something) but not pursued, etc.?
In the figure I gave above ($4500) I included everything. I began a spreadsheet, and abandoned it, but I kept a rough tally in my head. I can’t imagine I’ll be counting much anymore. It just feels like a completely different frame of reference this time.

2. To what extent have finances determined the family-building decisions you have made? How have you able to balance financial considerations against other factors such as medical, ethical, emotional…?
I think my whole post probably answers this question. It was my body and mind that initiated the walk out, but money wasn’t far behind.

Visit Write Mind Open Heart for more perspectives on the Dollars and $ense of Family Building and to add your own link to the blog hop by May 1, should you want to contribute your thoughts.

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17 Responses to Dollars and $ense of family building

  1. TortoiseMum says:

    You beat me to it 😀 I started a post for this blog hop today, and got it nearly finished, but ran out of time before other duties called. I’ll try to get to it in the next day or two. Great post hon, and a fantastic insight into those convoluted whys? and what ifs? and can Is? that are the bread and butter of trying to become a mummy as a solo woman. Money is just part of that grand tapestry I reckon.

  2. Jess says:

    Whaddya know! Will be thrilled if you also join in – your perspective on your experience will be undoubtedly dramaticaly different to my own, even though we are from the same ‘hood’ in so many ways 🙂 Can’t wait!

  3. Thanks so much for participating in Dollars and $ense! There are several other single mothers by choice (not all of whom have put up their posts yet) whose perspectives you may particularly enjoy.

    I’ve also spent many hours on hold with the clinic from my car, and it’s a far cry from the babymaking process that most people engage in.

    Your mother’s poem is just beautiful.

    Best of luck to you.

    • Jess says:

      Thanks so much for dropping by and initiating the topic! I’m new to blogging (publicly) and blog hopping, so I got a real kick out of participating. It was Calliope from Creating Motherhood that alerted me to it, as another SMC, and I’ll look forward to reading contributions from others!

  4. thelovefarmer says:

    Great post, and that poem must just give you tingles, it is lovely that you have such thoughtful and eloquent words from your mother. What a treasure!

    While finances weren’t a huge consideration for me at the time of making the choice to adopt from foster care (I was naively thinking that owning my home and a small “nest egg” would be ample!) it still amazes me that not only has the universe blessed me with the 2 most amazing children in the universe, but the government actually pays me money to do it! Isn’t that extraordinary?

    I am in awe of the women who spend so many years and thousands (and tens of thousands) of dollars on conceiving a child of “their own”. There is no doubting their commitment to the cause, but on the other hand, it saddens me that there are children like my own who, through no fault of their own, still do not have parents who will love them.

    I know that it’s not for everyone, but I do think it might be an option for more people than are currently signing up, if only individuals and society in general could open its heart and mind to the possibilities of permanent care and foster care!

    • Jess says:

      Another name change from you?! 🙂 Thanks for your comment and again I think we’re on the same wavelength! The poen is actually much longer, but I wouldn’t dare post the whole thing – if my Mum ever found out I’d get in big trouble 🙂 Can’t wait to see if you get the inspiration to be blogging publicly yourself soon!

  5. Seriously? A “patient liasion officer”? Lah-di-dah. That in itself probably cost you an extra bundle.

    I like the way you label treatments as intangibles. It really is hard to spend on something that is so phantasmic.

    So glad you joined the blog hop!

    • Jess says:

      I actually remembered after I posted, they’re called ‘patient liasion administrators’, because the acronym was PLA’s. Even worse!

      Thanks for kicking of the blog hop and stopping by – it’s been a real pleasure to participate!

  6. Ernessa says:

    I loved your mom’s poem, too. And you know, I don’t think it could hurt to wish on some stars. You never know…

  7. Jopee says:

    I know I am slow (and Gen X) but what is blog hopping?

    • Jess says:

      It’s all new to me too, lovely. Basically, a topic is put forward that bloggers can write their own piece on and then they can all be linked back up on the interwebz, so you can look at each others’ contributions etc. It’s been fun!

  8. luna says:

    glad you contributed here; love reading the perspectives from overseas.

    love your mother’s poem, just gorgeous!

  9. Thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving such a kind comment.

    You mother’s poem is so beautiful. I admire your plan to take a year off after you become a parent. That sounds heavenly! I look forward to reading future posts…I like your writing style.

    • Jess says:

      The adoption program I am going through actually tell you that you have to take a year off and prefer you take two! In Australia, it’s pretty standard to take a year off after having a baby, but it has to be self funded. So I suppose it’s not that standard really!

      Oh, super exciting about the Versatile Blogger Award! Yay! Will definitely participate – next post. Thanks so much and hope you drop by regularly. Good luck with your next TTC effort – I’ll be keeping an eye out and cheering from the sidelines.

  10. PS. I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. I think others in the single IF community would find your blog just as thought provoking as I do. You can stop by my blog to find out more about the award. 🙂

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