Lesbians and IVF: Coping with the Cost of Infertility
“The decision to have a child is to accept that your heart will forever walk about outside your body.” — Katherine Hadley
Jeanine and I have been trying to make a baby for over eighteen months and this latest round of IVF pushed us passed the $42,000 mark. We learned a couple of weeks ago that the most recent procedure wasn’t successful. We didn’t get pregnant. Negative. Nada. Technically, Jeanine’s levels registered a pregnancy for a couple of days, but she didn’t remain pregnant, so nothing. It’s disappointing.
As each month passes, we’re on the brink of becoming one of those crazy, desperate infertile couples spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the baby. Or not? Jeanine and I tried last week to have a frank discussion about dollar limits. In a weak moment, I was beginning to wig out about the money we are spending and she was still reeling from the emotion of another failed attempt. The experts all warn that financial stresses can intensify the burden of grief and loss.
In Conquering Infertility, Alice D. Domar, offers insights into the coping process. She writes, “The stress builds as conception fails to happen the second month, the third, the fourth, the sixth. It grows as you start wondering if you’ll ever get pregnant and skyrockets when you see doctors, undergo tests, endure invasive medical procedures, and still fail to get or remain pregnant. The stress builds and builds and, in my experience, hits its peak after two to three years of unsuccessful trying. For many women infertility is the most upsetting experience of their lives, a tragedy that causes as much stress as does a life-threatening disease.”
What I’m learning though is that I’m reacting like a typical husband in an infertile heterosexual couple. Domar writes from this perspective, but many things apply to me as the non-childbearing partner. She continues, “Infertility affects every aspect of a woman’s life, from her relationship with her family and friends to her career. Often the first thing to be affected is her relationship with her husband, and for many couples infertility is the first crises — the first real test — of their marriage.”
“Most couples I counsel say that, looking back after their infertility is resolved, they realize that the experience brought them closer together, that they forged a deep bond during the process. While they’re in the middle of the infertility crisis, however, husbands and wives often find themselves out of step with each other. Although many couples agree that they both want to have children, I have never in my career seen a couple who are in the same place at the same time regarding pregnancy and infertility.”
I’ve learned that this has nothing to do with gender or being a husband. As a couple, because we are individuals, we respond differently to the infertility challenges. Another example told from the straight viewpoint but again, applies: Domar writes, “They ask themselves, ‘Why isn’t he [or she] reacting the same way that I am?’ The woman wants the husband to be more upset; the husband wants the wife to be more rational. They fight about it. They withdraw from each other.”
In our case, I believe I’m being more emotionally supportive and empathetic than a man might be. But then again, sometimes my practical side gets the best of me. Especially when it comes to money and that’s where we are at right now.
As far as I know Abigail Garner doesn’t have children yet, but she offered some great advice when I interviewed her previously about money. She said, “I recommend that hopeful couples agree on a financial cap in advance, and then take a break if they exceed that cap. Use the break to refocus on the relationship, get a sense of your financial picture, and reassess the tough questions about how — and if — they want to proceed. The relationship is in serious jeopardy when one or both of the people in the couple start to resent the financial sacrifice but won’t bring it up with their partner.”
Jeanine and I agreed that we would try three rounds of IVF. This is beyond the numerous artificial insemination tries last year. So as we creep towards our third attempt, it’s easy for me to be practical and think that if this next time doesn’t work then we move on to adoption. Jeanine isn’t quite there and this is where I need to be more understanding and supportive.
Back to Domar and her views. She writes, “And then there’s money. Infertility treatment is very expensive, and there’s no guarantee that it will work. For example, IVF costs somewhere around ten thousand to twelve thousand dollars per cycle but successful only 25 percent of the time. If your health insurance doesn’t cover such treatments — and at last count some thirty-nine states have no mandated coverage of infertility treatments — infertility can carry a tremendous financial burden. Often couples borrow huge sums of money to cover treatment, and if it fails, the couple may have no resources left to pay for adoption. Financial problems can cause arguments, particularly when the husband and wife disagree on how many rounds of treatment they want to try or whether they want to adopt.”
Jeanine and I are really fortunate that we’re using savings and not going into debt with everything. But if you’re a regular reader, then you know I’m the one with the hoarder tendencies when it comes to finances. So spending money is riddled with lots of emotions and issues that predate Jeanine… most go back to my childhood and the unhealthy relationship my parents had with money. Childhood, parents, and babies — everything cycles in life and I’m learning through this experience a lot about myself and Jeanine.
Hopefully, at some point, I will get to learn about my child. Another $12,000 might be all that it takes to get us there. I’ll keep you posted.