I've struggled with how to write this post. It's more personal than most of the things that I write about here but Peanut told me the other night that someone else might benefit from what I've learned, so here goes.
We've been struggling to have a baby.
I'm 31, and we've been
married two years. We turned our lives upside down last year to put
ourselves in a position where we felt we could start a family - we moved
across the country, we bought a sensible sedan, we bought a house.
Everything fell into place - except that when we started trying to
conceive, it didn't seem to be working. I began charting my temperatures
in the fall using the Taking Charge of Your Fertility method, and it was evident right away that something was, indeed, wrong.
I was lucky to have my doctor take me seriously after failing to
conceive for only 6 months - usually at my age, they make you wait a
full year. But I showed her my charts and she did some tests and
determined that I have polycystic ovarian syndrome - PCOS. I actually
skipped that chapter in Taking Charge of Your Fertility, because I lack every other defining symptom:
I'm not overweight, I don't have acne or excess hair growth, thinning
hair, sleep apnea, insulin resistance. I simply...don't ovulate. Which,
you know, is kind of important to that whole babymaking process.
The doctor recommended medication, which devastated me. I had a
vision of a natural, medication-free birth outside of a hospital and I
sort of felt like I wouldn't "deserve" that if I couldn't even get
pregnant without intervention (not to mention that it may not even be
available to me if I wind up having a high-risk pregnancy - which now
seems more likely than ever). I hinted at this back in March when I was first diagnosed, but after doing a lot of thinking I agreed to try the medication.
According to my charts, it hasn't made much of a difference. When I
started, my doctor told me to try it for four or five months and if I
didn't notice an improvement (in cycle length, in temperature
consistency, in achieved pregnancy) to make an appointment with her
colleague at the in-office infertility clinic.
Which I did. When I called to make that appointment, she said fairly
offhandedly "Does your insurance cover this?" I said I thought so -
after all, they covered the first medication and all the tests I'd had
up till now (I mean, theoretically - this is a high deductible insurance
plan, so so far this year, they haven't covered anything - but
everything I've paid out of pocket has been applied to the deductible
which means it's "covered"). She advised me to double check, so two
weeks ago I did.
The health insurance that I so carefully researched
last September/October, knowing that I would be attempting pregnancy
this year, does not cover infertility treatment of any kind. The
medication I'm currently on skated by because it is more commonly used
to treat something else, but the second medication - the one that's more
"sure fire" to produce pregnancy - would not be covered at all. Nor
would any more intensive procedures, like IUI or IVF - procedures that
frequently cost in the many thousands of dollars for each round.
It's a simple matter of a question I didn't ask, because I didn't
think it would apply to me. And here are some other questions I didn't
think to ask at the beginning of the process:
* How long are we willing to keep trying to get pregnant?
* What about medication that causes really bad side effects to me and/or increases our risk of multiples?
Which invasive and/or higher-risk procedures are we willing to try -
especially now that we will have to pay for them entirely out of pocket?
* Would we go into debt to have a baby?
* How much do we tell other
people about what we're dealing with? How do we handle the subtle
pressure that friends and family might be putting on us if we decide to
keep it quiet?
* How do we handle the strain this is putting on our relationship, or
the emotional effects it's having on me? (After all, I'm the one that's
* How do we handle learning of pregnancies in our friends and family?
* What do we do about health insurance now? Should we switch again at
the next open enrollment session? CAN we, or is this now a pre-existing
condition that won't ever be covered by anyone?
The reason I
write this post is that my answers to these questions might have been
quite different last summer, before I'd invested a year of hoping,
dreaming, and unpleasant side effects into the pursuit of starting a
family. I should not have been so cavalier as to assume that infertility
would never happen to me, especially as the rate of incidence of PCOS
and other hormonal imbalances is drastically increasing among my
The question you don't think to ask can affect almost any situation in
which your finances are involved. Having a baby is perhaps one of the
most emotionally fraught situations, but think about things as simple as
"What's your return policy?" or "How does this apply to me?" or "Is
that the best you can do?". One thing I have learned from this is to now
always, always ask the question that seems silly to ask - especially if I initially brush it off with "oh, that'll never happen to me."
Note: I will probably not write much more about our infertility experience, even as it relates to our finances. Even an anonymous blog is not totally private, and we have been keeping our situation very quiet in real life. If you have specific questions, please feel free to email me, but not to worry - this blog isn't going to turn into an infertility or a mommy blog at any point!
* I have my own theories as to why this is, namely, hormones in our
food, plastics that leach BPA, and rampant hormonal birth control use.
It would seem to follow that confusing our bodies' natural hormonal
signals can't help but affect the way they function longterm. But that's a topic for a totally different blog! (And, probably, a team of research scientists.)