Find that statement hard to stomach? Yeah, me too. But the further into this journey we go, the more I see that this system is designed in a way that really doesn’t equally support all hopeful parents. If you are queer, the cost is astronomical. It’s expensive for ANY person who doesn’t get pregnant without assistance. If you are a woman struggling with fertility, for any reason, it’s not fully-funded (in Canada), like other illnesses or conditions. Fertility is seen as an elective procedure.
It’s not really a ‘choice.’ It’s not my choice not to be pregnant – if it were I’d be pregnant right now. Some people (idiots) talk about ‘choosing’ to be gay… if that were true, I’d quickly be choosing some healthy stud to knock me up. Crass, I’m sorry. But when it comes to this: elective is a slippery word, because it isn’t about choice, it’s about need.
Yes, it should be ‘elective’ to have children. You should choose it (whether you wanted to become pregnant or not), you should know on some level as you carry the child to term, that you want to create a human being (or a few). But not being able to have children as simply as some shouldn’t mean that you have to choose between that… and rent.
Don’t even get started on the price of baby THINGS once you have them. As soon as you put ‘baby’ on the label it’s 50x more expensive. Sort of like a terrible sequel to the consumer blockbuster “The WEDDING,” where everything is way more expensive than it should be because it’s someone’s ‘big day’. That means the beer costs more, the venue costs more, the dress costs more, the cake… which obviously knows it’s ‘wedding cake’ …costs more.
I’m getting off topic. Two days ago, I got a lovely note in the mail from a friend, thanking us for hosting an amazing weekend away in Ontario’s wine country. We had a fab time. I didn’t drink. I was conspicuously booze free. They were invited in on our secret. So, when the card came and I spoke to the sender they said, ‘Good! It arrived!’ and I felt compelled to mention what else had arrived:
Inside my body, it’s total assault time. But it’s also an assault on our wallets, at our most vulnerable, unpreventable moment. No, I’m not talking about the 17% hst (tax) on essential ‘feminine hygiene products,’ I’m talking about the failure of our government to provide access to subsidized IUI and IVF. But Viagra is covered, fully, by my work’s drug plan.
Which brings me back to a system that is systemically designed to privilege some, not others. Today, at the clinic Nurse N, always the beacon of joy and pleasant updates was there when I went in for my blood work, external and transvaginal ultrasound (the one where with a full-bladder they press the jelly-lubed wand agains your pelvis, then after you pee they put it inside and stir it up, all while on day three of your period)…
She lets me know: they are closed for the Labour Day (ironic, no?) weekend… AND… wait for it…additionally…
They’ve changed their policy on subsidized IUI. The cost of the subsidized procedure is currently $500 (plus drugs and the cost of the sperm $750).
Now, she says, all patients will only have 3 partially-funded IUIs.
So, I asked, ‘how much is the procedure without the subsidy?’
Deep breath. But, she tells me (cause remember it’s all about the bright side here), ‘I have some patients who have been here forever and they’ve had like 5 cycles and now we have to tell them they are out of subsidized ones.’
Great. That really puts it into perspective. And, she continues, ‘You’re coming up in October for your subsidized IVF cycle’. That’s awesome… except that even with the subsidy we could be looking at $10,000 for that. The ambiguous enormity of that pricetag looms over us…
To be fair, they are limiting it to 3 per patient. That is fair, but it isn’t equitable. Some people have a way harder time than others. Some of us have our significant other come and ‘cum’ in a cup, for free… while others have to buy, ship, store, freeze, thaw and test the sperm. And others have seemingly insurmountable difficulties… none of it is fair. This funding change happened when we didn’t see it coming.
And yes, I hear some of the eye-rolling internal narrative: at least you have health care. At least you have a government that subsidizes any of it. At least as a lesbian couple you are allowed to have a marriage and babies. At least this isn’t Trump-land.
Yes, but stop there; it is possible that way worse things are happening right here, and far away, in perpetuity. But are we really going to content ourselves by aiming for the lowest common denominator as a goal?
That is where we tend to go, when things get tough. (Skip this part if you aren’t interested in a little rant about the parallels between the past teacher strike action and lack of funding for fertility): I remember the mentality that was swirling around a few years ago, with all the vitriol and teacher-hating, when we challenged the Ontario government who imposed a contract on us and took away our right (protected by law) to negotiate our contract. People immediately started the sing-song of ‘lazy teachers/summers off/paid too high already/look at their benefits/they only work ’til 3/I knew a totally terrible teacher once/I work a real ‘hard’ job’/how dare you take away your voluntary after school coaching and extra-curriculars when my kids needs them to get into university? … and the like; mostly what people failed to realize was that they remember what their adolescent self remembers about teachers (and since everyone went to school, they think they know with some accuracy what that job entails). What they didn’t realize is that we weren’t fighting for more pay, we were protesting slashes to our contracts and to protect collective bargaining (a right that future generations will enjoy unless the government erodes our ability to stand up for these gains). What kind of laws do we have, and what do they mean, if the government can choose to disregard those laws when it suits them? We were protesting the stripping of our contracts, the devaluing of the job we get paid to do and work very hard to do well, often in conditions that are adverse and made more difficult by policy makers who have no idea what we actually do. The biggest complaint I heard was: teachers have a cushy job with great pay, vacations, amazing benefits and retirement plans. We should stop whining and take a pay cut/benefit cut/pension cut… because lots of other people have none of these ‘good things’. But… Rather than begrudge many hard-working (99 percent of the people I work with are passionate and do this job so well) people the things you don’t have, why don’t we strive to ameliorate the systems that prevent ALL of us from having these things? Shouldn’t the goal be to avoid raking back the policies, pay and benefits that maintain a stable middle-class, and healthy and well-supported professionals doing their jobs well? All of us should have retirement security, health care, time off when we are sick, bereavement leave, mat leave, access to a fair income to be able to create stability for ourselves and families. That is what progress looks like. P.S. The Supreme Court found the Government GUILTY in the suit against them for the very the actions we were striking over. When you get pushed, sometimes the only way to not lose any more ground is to push back.
Government cuts to fertility mean that my clinic, the 4th my wife and I have been to, now has a new policy, unceremoniously dropped on us today, that limits our access from a previous ‘no-limit’ to a ‘for fairness sake’ limit of 3. This leaves us to ask: what will we do when the money runs out? By ‘we’ I mean my wife and I, a dual-income household. I have three degrees and have worked for almost ten years in my field; my wife has 13 years in her industry and just took a contract position in the face of massive layoffs in the media sphere. We own a house, purchased before the huge skyrocket in prices in the GTA, which we will be paying off for 27 more years. If we, the people who should fall squarely into the middle class, are struggling – how on earth could we do it as single or low-income earners? As people with student debt? If we were also faced with precarious employment?
On one hand, yes, I was sad for myself when I found out I wasn’t pregnant this past Monday. But I know we can scrape together money for a few more tries. I’m saddened for the whole process, which is so much less crucial or vital than the crushing and immense problems occurring globally; I talk about that in real life, in my newsfeed, at art and activism events, in my classroom. But this is my real. This is where I talk about how hard it is to still muster the optimism that everyone thinks I have. Because on the outside I do seem to be taking it in stride. But part of me is indignant about the injustice of putting myself into debt in order to do what others can do for free. When an arbitrary decision about three tries, might mean ‘three strikes and you’re out.’
But we are all grownups and know: life isn’t fair.