Expectations: Changing Course


Charlie signs us up to attend a panel discussion on family-building options for queer parents. The event is in the conference room at a really nice hotel, and I’m glad I wore something vaguely professional-looking (read: not Doc Martens). I always feel awkward trying to make small talk at grown-up events, as though I’m an impostor spying for the enemy and someone is going to shine a bright light in my eyes and say “You expect us to believe you’re an adult? You cry every year when it’s time to do your taxes, don’t you? DON’T YOU?” But I feel like on this occasion I’m covering reasonably well. The small crowd is almost entirely made up of people who either organized, or are speaking on, this panel. Spectator-wise, there’s us and one other lesbian couple.

The panel is fairly informative–they talk about IUI and IVF, the laws governing same-sex parenting (we’re happy to learn that, since Colorado recently overturned its gay marriage ban, it will be much easier to have me declared our future child’s legal mother), and the adoption process. I’m increasingly interested in adopting from the foster system and I want to seriously consider it at some point in our lives, but right now the goal is to get Charlie pregnant and I don’t think my delicate emotional balance could stand trying to accomplish both at once.

This panel was obviously planned to address a wide variety of general interest queer parenting questions, but since there are only four people present and we’ve already decided how we’d like to become parents, the prevailing energy is sort of fidgety and impatient. I doodle a lot. The panelists do not ever address the questions we really need answered, which are, How do we know if what we’re doing will work? When should we give up and try something different?

We stick around after the panel is over and talk to the representative from the IVF clinic. “Should we switch to IVF?”

“Unless you’ve had twelve unsuccessful attempts to conceive, in the absence of other information, you shouldn’t be diagnosed with infertility,” he says. “I can’t really speak to your specific situation, but I don’t see any reason not to keep trying with IUI.” We see his point. On the other hand, we’re running out of money and we don’t want to keep spending hundreds of dollars a month for no guarantee that we’ll end up with a baby.

We start researching local clinics that provide IVF. By “we,” I of course mean Charlie. When it comes to making important decisions, I prefer to follow my intuition (which is another way of saying “totally half-ass it and hope for the best”). Charlie, who works with data for a living, is much more scrupulous about considering every option, weighing the merits and drawbacks of each (this almost always involves spreadsheets), and coming to a well-supported conclusion.

So anyway, Charlie looks at our IVF options, and the takeaway is: This is going to cost a Jesus-load. Most places charge $15000 or more for one cycle of IVF, and of course, many people take more than one cycle to get pregnant. There are clinics that offer to refund most of your fees if you don’t conceive after two cycles, but you have to pay for both of them up front–we would essentially be betting against Charlie’s ability to get pregnant. Not to mention that we have no idea how we’d come up with 30 grand in the first place.

Then Charlie has the bright idea to look into IVF clinics in Arizona, where he’s from and where his family lives. Since the cost of living is cheaper there than in Colorado, he reasons, medical procedures might be cheaper also–perhaps even cheap enough to justify the costs of travel.

This, it turns out, is a stroke of genius. IVF in Tucson costs HALF as much as IVF in Denver. Even adding in the cost of multiple trips down for retrieval of eggs and transfer of embryos, we’d still save major cash by traveling out of state. Charlie gets a phone consult with a clinic in Tucson (for $250, because if you’re a fertility doctor you can charge more than some people make in a week to answer your phone), and the doctor is so much more encouraging, supportive, and generally pleasant to talk to than our RE in Denver that Charlie is instantly at ease. He sends us paperwork to fill out as well as a note to give to Charlie’s PCP, in which he describes Charlie as “delightful” two separate times. A few days later we have an appointment to fly down to Arizona in January so a doctor can extract a whole bunch of egg cells from Charlie’s ovaries.

The appointment is three months away. In the meantime, Charlie is supposed to take birth control for two months to thin his uterine lining (most patients only take it for one month, but they want to take extra precautions because of Charlie’s family history of endometriosis), then go on a medication regimen that will kick his ovaries into hyperdrive, producing way more eggs than they did on the paltry fertility meds our reproductive endocrinologist prescribed. The three-month lead time also gives us some time to figure out how we’re going to pay for the procedure.

The clinic in Tucson partners with a loan company to offer financing for IVF, but you need to have a certain credit score in order to qualify. Our credit score, thanks mostly to some injudicious student-loan-related decisions, is approximately negative one billion to the power of go fuck yourself. We’re going to need some assistance on this one. Fortunately, Charlie’s mom wants grandbabies bad, so she’s happy to apply for the loan on our behalf – after we swear up and down that we will make our payments on time and never besmirch her gleaming credit.

So the IVF is scheduled and paid for, except for the medications we’ll have to buy out of pocket. We qualify for an income-based discount on the drugs, which makes me feel financially secure enough to quit my grownup job and experiment with being a full-time freelance writer. Now all we have to do is send the clinic some frozen sperm.

Don is back in town and willing to assist, but we’re wondering if our chances would be better with a different donor. Ultimately the choice is made for us by Don’s poor time management. He puts off scheduling a donation appointment for weeks and weeks; finally, he gets a new job with regular 9-5 hours. The sperm bank only schedules appointments for Tuesday mornings. Don will not be able to take a Tuesday off by the time we need to send the sample to Arizona for its encounter with Charlie’s eggs. Frustrated though we are by Don’s procrastination, in some ways it’s nice to have the decision taken out of our hands. We need to find a new sperm donor.

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