In many parts of Canada and the United States, women who need in-vitro fertilization to realize their dreams of becoming moms often have to beg and borrow to come up with the funds for the procedure. Not only does this add an enormous amount of stress to an already difficult situation, it can wreak havoc on the finances for years to come. In Quebec, however, IVF procedures have been publicly funded for the last two years, making it possible for more women to have their dreams come true.
We had the chance to speak with two women, Sam and Mary, in completely different situations who both went through funded IVF in Quebec to make their dreams of becoming a mom come true. Read about their experiences and advice for other women or couples in the same situation.
The impact of IVF Funding on Two Different Women
OFW:Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
Sam: I am currently 38. I made the phone call to start this journey on my 36th birthday. I had been single for 3 years and there were no prospects on the horizon. Time was ticking. I have wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. I thought long and hard about the decision to become a single parent. I went through 3 rounds of IUI and 1 of IVF. The IVF worked. I found out I was pregnant on Good Friday 2012. I will never forget that phone call! My son was born in December.
Mary: I’m a teacher, was 34 at the time (almost 35). Had always wanted kids. We were married for almost 5 years at the time of our successful IVF. [Dad to be] works in customer service, was 33 at the time.
OFW: When did you first realize that you were struggling with infertility? What was that “aha” moment? Did you know going in that you would have difficulties, or did it come to you after months of trying? Did you suffer from a disease, treatments, medications and that’s why you required help.
Mary: We had been trying for a year before going to the clinic. We were “undiagnosed”, meaning there was no reason for our infertility. All tests were clear — his sperm was good, my eggs were fine, I was ovulating regularly. I always thought that having a reason would have made this whole ordeal a little less frustrating.
OFW: How long after that moment did you decide to try IVF?
Mary: We were with the clinic on and off for close to four years before trying IVF. Part of it was not wanting to admit that we needed “technical assistance”, part of it was “let’s just wait and see”. We started with IUIs, because with no official diagnosis, they wouldn’t jump straight to IVF. Money was also a factor, obviously.
OFW:Did you have any initial fears about IVF? Any doubts or worries?
Sam: I was pretty much unaware of what IVF would be like. I had a basic knowledge. My only fear was of it not working.
Mary: My main worry was that it wouldn’t work, and then what? I was open to adoption, but my husband wasn’t as open. The fear of knowing that IVF could be our last shot at having kids was tough to deal with. I didn’t even consider the process itself, and in the end, that was the most stressful.
OFW: How did your fertility specialist help put your mind at ease?
Sam: My doctor always answered all of my questions. I found writing them down before our apt helped. It is an overwhelming process and it’s hard to keep up with all of the info.
Mary: They told us that with our age and lack of any real reason for it, we had a good shot.
OFW: At what moment in the process did you realize you would need help financially?
Sam: The costs are very high for IVF without government assistance. It isn’t just the actual IVF, it is all of the diagnostic tests one has to go through before also. The medications cost thousands per cycle, and even if you are covered by private insurance, your portion is still considerable.
Mary: From the beginning we knew it wasn’t something we could have afforded without some sort of help, be it family money or a bank loan — both of which would have added to the already helpless feelings that infertility naturally harbours.
OFW: Was the process of getting financial assistance from the government relatively easy, or exceeding challenging?
Sam: For me it was easy. I got a referral from my gyno and the specialist guides you through the rest of the process. I had to be approved by the fertility psychologist since I was using donor sperm. There isn’t much wait for IUI and the nurses put me right through for my IVF. I think my age was a factor there. It took me a year and 3 months to get pregnant from when I started.
OFW: Could you have done it without the financial assistance without putting a major burden on your finances? Did knowing that at least the financial aspect of the procedure was covered help ease your mind a bit?
Sam: I absolutely could not have done it. I would not have my son today if the procedure was not funded. I am eternally grateful that it was! Even though I am not medically infertile, being a single female has the same result, the inability to conceive a child.
Mary: We couldn’t have done it. My husband experienced job losses, and though his job is stable now, finances were problematic at a few points in our journey.
OFW: Can you tell us a little about the IVF process from your personal point of view? Many of our readers understand the science and medical details surrounding it, but we’d love to share a more first-hand look at the process.
Sam: It’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. There are many many doctors apts to juggle, many medications to keep straight and new things to learn. The side effects of the medications can be unpleasant also. There are so many meds to take both before and after the actual procedure, from pills, to injections to creams; that I had to make myself a spreadsheet.
Mary: You have to check any self-conciousness at the door. Get used to taking your pants off. Learn how to give yourself shots. Pray that your husband can learn how to give you shots, too, in case you need progesterone injections post-transfer. Know that you will have moments of unbelievable despair, and no matter what anyone tells you, you won’t magically forget them “as soon as you have that baby in your arms”. My baby has brought so much joy to my life it’s unreal, but I can still tell you exactly how I felt when I miscarried at 12 weeks, how I felt when 8 IUIs were unsuccessful, and how I hated pregnant women on sight. I had to leave work early the first time I heard my betas, because they were incredibly low and I couldn’t deal with seeing anyone. I had a full-on panic attack in the waiting room of the clinic at 10 weeks because I was SURE I had lost the baby. The whole process of IVF is physically and emotionally draining, and I was lucky enough to have a partner going through it with me. I admire women who decide to go through it alone. So, is it worth it? Yes, but just know that, long or short, the road is a hard one.
OFW: If you could talk directly to those in charge of putting funding in place for IVF for couples like you, what would you say to them to convince them that it’s the right move?
Mary: I would tell them to read what I wrote above, and then imagine that one or both partners have to work more than one job to pay for it, or they have to swallow their pride and ask their families for money. Getting pregnant should be a private manner, but with IVF, that privacy is gone. Having to beg, borrow and steal to get it done is supremely unfair. Honestly, even though it’s “covered”, and I have private insurance that covered most of the (expensive) drugs, our IVF cost us $800 (private blood tests) and $500(drugs that weren’t covered) out of pocket, not to mention transportation costs.
Here’s where I’ll get controversial — we couldn’t have afforded the IVF, but we can afford to raise our child. One of the things that really bothered me before I could get pregnant was the number of women who had no trouble getting pregnant, but couldn’t or wouldn’t care properly for their children without government assistance or intervention. Most of the people who get IVF will care for their children to the best of their abilities, and it won’t cost the system much beyond the IVF; think of the money that is spent caring for children whose mothers got pregnant “accidentally”. Like I said, I’m sure it’s a controversial point-of-view, but I thought it all the time.
OFW: Do you have any words of wisdom or encouragement for women dealing with infertility and considering IVF?
Sam: Stay away from Google!
Mary: Know what your limit is. Will you stop at nothing to have a baby, or can you only go through with one round? If you can sort of see the end, it might help. Also, don’t be afraid to let people know what you’re going through, if only so you don’t have to constantly be asked, “Soooo….when are you having a baaaaaby?”
OFW: A question for the dads: Were you feeling helpless at some point? I would imagine how difficult to watch your partner going through the whole process!
Mary: I’m answering this for my husband. “Helpless” and “useless” were words that he often used, since all of the painful experiences were mine (internal ultrasounds, the egg retrieval, the transfer, the shots). He helped me by letting me cry, and by wanting a baby as much as I did.
OFW: For moms, what does Mother’s Day mean to you now?
Sam: Wow, I haven’t even gotten there yet! My baby is only 4 months old right now. I imagine it will be a very special day.
Mary: Last year, Mother’s Day was right around the due date for a baby that I miscarried. Thankfully, I knew that I was pregnant again by that point. This year, my first Mother’s Day, will be special, and I’m sure I’ll cry. Then again, I appreciate motherhood every day, so maybe it won’t be that much more special…
For women who want to become mothers and can’t without help, IVF may be the only solution. Sadly, as Mary said, while many women can afford to care for a baby, they cannot afford the steep fees involved in unfunded IVF treatment. Conceivable Dreams, a patient advocacy group based in Ontario, is trying to help ensure that every woman has the chance to become a mother by seeking public funding for in vitro fertilization. Help Conceivable Dreams in their mission by following them on Twitter and Facebook and sharing their messages.
Disclosure: I am a valued member of the Conceivable Dreams blog team and as such have been compensated. My opinion is my own.