My background as an English teacher and an all-around lexophile tells me to break down the word into morphemes, or units of meaning. From Late Latin eligere, this word means “to choose.”
But what happens when this word means something you didn’t have a choice in? Something you wouldn’t ever choose to go through, let alone anyone else?
In my mind, I always had a feeling we would struggle to get pregnant. Anxiety-ridden and needing to feed my destructive perfectionism, I would go months at a time without my period during college. But each time, it would come back, and I assumed everything had balanced out. But it wasn’t balanced. And it didn’t stop when college ended.
Almost immediately after my husband and I got married in 2013, the question of “when are you going to have kids” popped up at family gatherings, church, and work. At the time, this question seemed to be just annoying. What I didn’t realize is how painful this question would be when we found ourselves struggling four years later, still without a child.
The first bill I received during my struggle with infertility was for a blood test in 2017. On the insurance statement, coverage was denied because it was an “elective” blood draw. Elective? I didn’t choose to need blood drawn in order to receive fertility treatment. In fact, given a choice, I would have chosen the easier path: getting pregnant right away.
Soon, I received my results and discovered that I had low progesterone, a hormone that implants the fertilized egg and makes sure it stays implanted. With this news, I did make a choice. I chose to fight for the possibility to have a child of my own.
A month later, we found out that the fight wouldn’t be easy. The night before leaving for a business trip, I miscarried at six weeks. I was devastated. For a brief moment, there was hope and wonder, and then it was gone. Knowing I’m a mother who will never hold that child breaks my heart to this day.
I chose to keep fighting.
Appointment after appointment, blood draw after blood draw, test after test, I continued to pay for my “elective” procedures out of pocket, watching the total amount continue to rise, just to create my family. With just two more rounds of our current fertility treatment plan, I could see In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) rapidly swinging into our future, which I knew would be denied by my insurance, since my health plan, like most others, covers 0% of infertility treatment.
With the treatment and medications running between $15,000 and $20,000 per cycle, I didn’t even know how to prepare for this “elective” procedure. I wanted to keep fighting, but my medical coverage wasn’t there. I feel inspired knowing there’s a treatment available to me—a chance at carrying to term and having a child of my own. Nevertheless, I struggle with the juxtaposition that I have this treatment at my fingertips, but the only choice I have to receive this treatment is to pay tens of thousands out of pocket. And that’s if the IVF even works.
For my husband and I, wanting kids was our choice. Struggling to medically have kids is my burden, not my choice. Every time I see “elective” on a bill, it feels like an extra punch to the gut, reminding me that if I’d won the genetic lottery, I wouldn’t have to make these “choices” and pay for my “elective” procedures.
As we face this looming financial decision, I elect to be present in my feelings and emotions. I elect to save every penny I can to help bring us our child. I elect to support the incredible network of people in my infertility support group, and I elect to raise awareness on the subject of infertility. I elect to vote for individuals who will support women’s rights to their own bodies. I elect to do everything in my power to work toward allowing our voice to be heard by insurance companies, to know that this is not a choice we make, but a circumstance we endure; to know that infertility is a legitimate disease, and that it deserves legitimate coverage.
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