6/24/20 by Ronnie Katz Gerber
Having a child is a big decision. It changes your priorities, your budget, your freedom, your body. And sometimes this decision is not between couples, or single people, but between a lab, you, and the insurance company. And even having all the players in place does not guarantee success or an easy ride. Imagine when one something goes wrong. Or, it takes more and more time. More and more money. More and more pain, inconvenience and frustration. You need a solid belief and a solid workable plan.
I’m a grandmother. A Bubbe to two wonderful healthy granddaughters. Ruth, the youngest, was created, as I love to quote my daughter, the old-fashioned way in 2012. And what a surprise. This was five years after her older sister Shira was born in 2007. It took my daughter Rebeccah and her husband Eugene three years of in vitro methods. Legs up in the air. Proscribed diets. And there were many brief pregnancies. There was the actual morning sickness that gave hope each time. There were shots. Bekka, as I call her, had to self-inject painful needles days on end. There was her husband, forever holding her hand and going to appointments with her. And sharing the bad news. But they are a team and they wanted a child. Badly enough to go through this. Until…. The insurance company cuts you off and cancels your policy. Until your eyes are red from crying. Until you’ve all but given up hope. My daughter and her husband were not sure this had to be the end of the line, though. Bekka is a powerful partner in a nationwide law firm. This is not to boast but to show what determination and critical thinking can do. Gene, as we call her husband, is no slouch either. He and his family own and operate an international wigs manufactory. If any two can do it as one, well-you can guess. She created a new insurance policy from her office and allowed her husband’s to fall away. Being able financially to carry the burden of the out of pocket costs, which are many many thousands of dollars, they went ahead. Within a year they had a sustainable pregnancy. And lovely Shira is ours to behold. Quite a journey.
Then there’s Tami, a single adult who doesn’t see marriage in her future. But she definitely sees herself as a caring mother. She is also well-healed financially. I will keep bringing this up because it seems only the wealthy can go through this process and become parents in the new modern alternative way. There were two political issues she had to overcome. First, an insurance company that had a policy for ‘test tube’ babies, and second, a sperm lab that would take a single woman as a viable client. These hurdles took years for Tami to surmount. If she got one, she couldn’t get the other. Getting them both at the same time and to the extent that they could and would carry her through the entire process proved uncertain and unsteady. There were loopholes and time delays, there were repeated searches for proof of financial stability. There were psychological tests and sortings that the sperm bank wasn’t used to processing or doing. It takes two, they insisted. During this process Tami, an activist, dove into the structure she was trying to worm through. An advocate by nature, she began to tear away at the red tape and prejudices the institutions represented. And the money. The time and the money. The search and the dedication, the longing for a child of her own. After a few years of this hard scrabble fight and advocacy in congress, Tami found the right combination of insurance and sperm bank. She is a happy mother of a happy, well-adjusted teenager today.
Next is Lee F’s’ story. Lee is a social worker teacher and her husband is employed in foster care and adoption home placements. And he’s sure he doesn’t want to adopt. They are not rolling in dough. Lee happens to come from a financially comfortable family however. And so, her journey can begin. They are a young couple here in L.A. and want to start a family but it turns out that she cannot become pregnant. She knows about infertility labs and that she needs insurance for this and a few dollars extra. But, as fate would have it, neither her nor her husband’s insurance covers this. It also doesn’t cover the collateral costs no one talks about. Therapy, medications, a certain number of sonograms over the very few that are covered. The series of injections. Do you want a 1pack, 2pack, or the super three pack?. Three is a bit less expensive in the in vitro pack world. A business model that sounds like buy one get one free or half off. It doesn’t fit the idea of how a family is formed. As a matter of fact, it’s downright off-putting. But Lee and her husband chose the 2pack. Her family was supportive. And supporting. There’s a psychological consideration here. If many eggs become fertile can you, could you, would you be able to through selective reduction? Read that carefully. Some insurance companies still refer to that as abortion-and so another problem. Tami and Bekka had to integrate that into their decisions as well. And then, of course, there’s no guarantee anyway. Lee and her husband realized early on this was not a blame game. It was a money game outside their immediate control. It became obvious very early that money would solve many of the infertility/fertility problems. Failures to conceive would be dealt with through disappointment, frustration and nights of holding each other through tears. She began to tell many of her grad students of her journey. All of it. It was not only a support group for her, but it blossomed into an advocacy platform that she and her students are still involved in. I say still because this happened almost 20 years ago. And if you’re watching the news or following this Infertility Story in the media, not much has changed. Yes., it is more insurable. But it is not less expensive. Abortion versus Selective Reduction is STILL a hot button issue for the Conservative Right. Infertility is treated with money; it is a business here in our United States. A business whose doors are open to a few well-healed parents to be.