By Annie, 50-Something Moms Blog
Infertility specialists in the U.S. are lobbying for inclusion of assisted reproduction benefits in the health care reform play. They point to the fact that even multiple rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF) cost less than caring for premature infants that arise from cash-strapped couples engaging in dangerous practices to achieve pregnancy to save money. Three rounds of IVF at $10,000 each is a bargain when the care of one premature infant runs approximately $200,000 from delivery to homecoming.
In Canada, the province of Quebec already covers all assisted reproduction, including IVF for all women up to age 42. Ontario is now being lobbied to include infertility treatments on the grounds that parenthood is the right of every person.
We have the right to motherhood, even it threatens to bankrupt healthcare for all.
I don’t agree.
Let me qualify here by revealing that my daughter is a product of IVF. My school district’s health plan at the time allowed for up to $15,000 of assisted reproduction intervention. My husband and I ran the numbers and concluded if we paid for the medications out of pocket at least two rounds of IVF could be covered.
I endured two IVF cycles. Something that, in retrospect, I wouldn’t do again. It was physically punishing and, as it turned out, there was a very good reason for our infertility which we discovered shortly after our daughter’s first birthday. My husband was diagnosed with a genetic metabolic disease. His illness was the root of our fertility trouble — again with good reason — it was incurable. Our not being able to have a baby on our own was Mother Nature’s way of putting an end to the continuation of this genetic glitch.
Sometimes life isn’t what many of us would call “fair.” Because I don’t believe that life is either fair or unfair, I can’t address that. I will say that often people unrealistically assume that life owes them certain things when, in fact, life owes us nothing. Life expects.
There is ample scientific evidence to support the reality that as we age into our thirties, we lose our fertility — men and women alike.
By 30, about 90 percent of a woman’s egg supply is gone and it would be safe to assume that our eggs are also being affected greatly by many other factors including: our diets, the environmental pollution we are exposed to, damage due to our sedentary lifestyles and eating habits — to name just a few.
Men don’t escape this aging and toxicity thing either. Though they continue to produce sperm throughout their lifetimes, the quantity and quality is not immune to environment, lifestyle choices and the degradation of the aging process. For example, evidence strongly points to a link between older fathers and autism.
There are reasons why we were designed to reproduce young but, unfortunately, those reasons don’t line up neatly with modern life as it is lived today. I suppose that is an “unfairness” thing.
Life is about choices. Life expects us to know its facts, crunch the data and make sometimes hard decisions like sacrificing education level or career advancement to parent or declining parenthood to achieve academically and/or financially.
It’s not a one size fits all. My first husband’s illness was quite rare hence the extreme measures. Not all infertile couples are faced with the prospect of IVF because their particular issues are “simple” fixes.
And I do believe that health insurance should cover the treatment of reproductive issues that, while they can impede fertility, can also lead to long-term health issues or are interfering with a woman’s ability to live life. For example, endometriosis, which can be painfully debilitating, is often treated through the use of birth control pills. Women are frequently denied coverage for them by their insurance despite having a real disease simply because the pill is a contraceptive too. PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is another condition that can lead to diabetes and heart disease if untreated but, again, sometimes it’s treated with the pill, and therefore not covered.
I well remember longing for a child, feeling less than a woman because I couldn’t do something that it seemed every other woman I knew could do as easily as breathe. But being female is more than reproducing and had I never become a mother, I wouldn’t have lost my membership in the gender. Motherhood is not something that was owed to me by anyone. It was something I chose to do, and I find it ironic, given the debate that rages over abortion, that I am allowed to choose in one direction only — though that’s a post for another day.
The state shouldn’t be compelled to pick up the tab when the facts about the reproduction window are clear. Women who choose to put off their parenting aspirations do so knowing they could very well end up forgoing them all together due to age or physical issues discovered too late.
Because the reality is, most of the time, we can’t have it all. Life is a daily balance of expectations versus needs and necessity battling wants.
Choosing, compromising and letting go is life, and it happens at a frightening speed, or over such a long period of time we might not notice that something that was once a choice — getting pregnant — is lost to us forever.
Perhaps this is an argument for including fertility in the sex talks we have with our daughters or maybe it’s just another of those lessons that only some of us are meant to experience for reasons that won’t be clear at the time or even in this lifetime.
Motherhood is a choice. We say that often enough in feminist circles but it has always meant more than we truly realized.
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