Have you ever had that experience in a conversation where you assume that you’re saying something entirely logical and something of near universal agreement only to be greeted by silence—a loud ear drum splitting silence? You back pedal in your mind trying to figure out what you said exactly to see if somehow you accidentally inserted a “not” or confused a word (like the time when I inadvertently called Schlitz beer “shits” beer and couldn’t understand why everyone was silently staring at me—and no, it was not because I had imbibed in said substance prior to the conversation). Recently I got an email from one of our Creating a Family community members recalling just such as experience.
She was talking with friends about her infertility, and while she was specifically sharing her frustrations on how to pay for treatment, I have to believe there was a strong undercurrent of sadness—after all, her friends knew she had gone through six failed IVF cycles and eight miscarriages. The conversation-stopping comment was during a vent about her insurance company treating infertility as an elective procedure. She expected universal outrage, but instead got silence. After a (pardon my choice of words here) pregnant pause, one friend suggested that insurance shouldn’t be expected to pay for fertility treatment because it was elective since you had alternatives.
I asked “Like what, adopting, which costs as much as an IVF cycle? Because either way, it’s a lot of money that no one helps you with.” “No”, she stated quite firmly, and we both looked relieved as I didn’t want to have another discussion about how I should adopt. But then she said, “You could always just live without kids.”
Insert here another long loud silence.
Our community member was hurt. How could anyone think that wanting or not wanting children was a something you can just decide? How could anyone see it as a choice?
But then it got me thinking – have I really lost it? Am I like that woman I saw on the TV show Taboo who refuses to take out her DDD breast implants despite having an infection? While it seems like not a choice to me, is it not a choice because I’m making it not a choice? Can I tame this desire to have children that burns inside me?
I don’t have an answer to her question, but I appreciate her willingness to explore the possibilities. At first blush, her friend’s response seems callous, but since they are friends it’s worth giving her the benefit of the doubt; maybe her response, while poorly delivered, came from a place of caring. Maybe she does think that our community member is a tiny bit like the lady on Taboo.
Not that wanting to be a parent is the same as wanting to have humungous breasts (DDD???-think of the backache), but at some point on the infertility journey, you have to reassess your wants and needs and realistic options for meeting them. Six IVF cycles is a lot—and not just in terms of money. While in the short term these medications are considered safe, the long term potential health effects remain unknown. (See my recent blog on Does IVF Cause Cancer?) We do know that the IVF drugs are powerful and should be used with caution. Everyone has to run their own mental risk/benefit analysis, but repeated failed cycles must surely alter the benefit end of this analysis. Eight miscarriages is also a lot to put your body and your heart through.
I would like to think that after two to three failed IVF cycles her infertility clinic would have sat this couple down to help them explore their options and maximize their infertility dollars. I would assume that donor egg and/or sperm was explored. I would hope that donor embryos were explored if appropriate for her diagnosis. Surrogacy, with or without donor gametes, should also have been discussed. Surely most clinics are helping patients realistically analyze their options!?!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, adoption is not a cure for infertility and is not for everyone. It is an alternative worth exploring if what you really really want is to be a mom. It can be a wonderful way to achieve this goal. Child-free living is also not a cure for infertility and is not for everyone, but it too is an alternative worth considering if you can’t get comfortable with adoption. A childfree life can be full and rewarding, ripe with options to grow and blossom in ways other than through parenthood.
She ended her email by saying, “I just want my happy ending, and I want to find a way to be happy there.” I so want this for her as well!Image credit: the.mutator