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.
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.