Of all the posts on APW, the ones about navigating infertility have been some of the most enlightening stories I’ve read. In part because I frankly had no idea the emotional, financial, and logistical difficulties that infertility can present. But also because, as someone who has always had a hard time staring down the prospect of an unknown future, I find a remarkable amount of hope in reading about how other couples are dealing with their own unknowns. So while today’s anonymous post is a lesson in the ridiculous discrimination written into certain insurance policies, it’s also about the natural balance of maintaining a marriage when your world is turned upside down (to which I say, thank you).
—Maddie for Maternity Leave
When my husband and I married two years ago, we were sure children were part of our future. We both wanted two. We talked about what we might name them, whom they’d favor, all the little things people who want kids dream about. I got off the pill, and a few months later, we started trying.
At first, the trying was magical. It’s an awesome possibility, that a simple act can create a human. But as the months ticked by, I became convinced something was wrong. So after the insurance-mandated year of trying, I saw my doctor, and my husband saw his.
Honestly, it was kind of a relief at first to find out that I was right. It wasn’t that I was too stressed out. (How many couples with fertility issues are told to “just relax,” or that wanting it too hard is making it harder to conceive? Infuriating.) Our problem didn’t fall into the perplexing “unexplained” category into which roughly a third of couples fall. Our problem was quantifiable and clear: my husband wasn’t producing much sperm. Hardly any at all, really.
We were pretty devastated. Both urologists we saw concluded having a baby that was half me, half him would only be possible if my husband underwent expensive, invasive surgery. So we turned our attention to the possibility of having a child with donor sperm. As we learned more about it, we got more and more excited about our future child, and made an appointment at a local fertility clinic to get things rolling.
At the clinic, the doctor thought our plan was sound, and let us know what to expect. But after looking at our paperwork, he disagreed with the urologists. He’s dealt with cases like ours, and he thought traditional IVF—without the invasive surgery—would work for us. All along we were sure it was out of our price range (my insurance does not cover IVF, but it does cover fertility services that can be performed in an office visit, like insemination), but we had the insurance specialist double check that.
She delivered two bombshells.
The first? Yes, my insurance covers office-visit procedures… But not if they involve donor sperm. I never curse in public, but I swore under my breath when she said that, not just for us, but also for the gay couples who want to have children. It’s a shockingly discriminatory policy. Then she took a look at my husband’s coverage. Incredibly, his covered IVF one hundred percent! But. Fertility coverage is only billed through the woman. No matter what. Even if the woman is, by all measures, fertile. So his coverage mattered not one whit.
We left the office feeling absolutely lost. His workplace wouldn’t cover me because I’m covered by my company. (And dropping my coverage wouldn’t be enough to qualify—as long as I’m offered coverage, his company considers me uninsurable.) So we decided to add me to his policy as my secondary insurance coverage, and got excited to start trying for a baby in the new year.
It’s been a roller coaster, and it’s only just begun, really. In September, my husband was laid off, and when reading the fine print as he filled out his COBRA paperwork, we learned the plan to add me to the coverage only would have covered half of the cost of IVF anyway, putting it still far, far out of reach for us.
We feel like our baby keeps getting stolen from us (though I can’t think that, literally, and not laugh, remembering Willow). And there’s a part of me that keeps thinking, if it’s this difficult, should we really keep trying to force it? But then I think of all the uninsured and infertile couples and gay couples out there who want children, and I realize that kind of thinking is ridiculous. But still.
So now we’re watching my fertility window slowly slide shut, and trying to focus on the job search, which is complicated by the fact we hope to find my husband a job that offers IVF coverage, and would cover me, too. Incredibly, that old line about what doesn’t kill you making you stronger seems to apply to us. Don’t get me wrong—it’s not that we just cling to each other and hope for the best. We work hard at making sure we’re both okay, that our marriage is okay. My need to talk through various what-ifs can sound like catastrophizing to him. And his commitment to a positive, hopeful outlook can sound like burying your head in the sand to me. When we’re at our worst, it feels awful, like we’re speaking two different languages. But when we’re at our best—when I remind myself that his optimism is one of the reasons I married him, and he remembers that my organization and reasoning skills make me a good fit for him—the different ways we see things makes for a beautiful balance.
It’s almost too much to fit in my head, really. Thank goodness for our friends and families and their many, many babies. Though their coos and drooly chins and babbles sometimes draw the ache in our hearts into sharper focus, it is far outweighed by the joy we feel when we’re around them. I hope that stays true, no matter what the future holds for us.
Photo by: Kelly Benvenuto Photography (APW Sponsor)