I got so angry reading the papers this morning.
Emblazoned across the front page of our national daily was a story on how fertility rates are at an all-time low and how worried the authorities are. Some of the suggestions on boosting our population include improving childcare welfare, maternity/paternity leave and reducing the opportunity costs for women who leave the workforce to look after their children.
Sounds good on paper but what really galls me is that everyone seems to have forgotten about a group of people: those who want to have children but, for one reason or another, have difficulties conceiving.
I speak from experience: both my husband and I are on the infertility journey. There, I’ve said it. We are battling the challenges of being infertile. I never thought I would ever say these words but that, my friends, is the truth. Since coming off birth control and working seriously towards building a family in late 2009, we have struggled at conceiving.
Right now, as I type, I am recovering from a laparoscopy done to ensure that my womanly plumbing is in order (thankfully, it is). It was done under general anesthesia and boy, did I suffer from the effects of it. I almost blacked out at the hospital and had dry stomach heaves. My stomach hurts from the two incisions and I can’t do little things like bend down and cuddle my cats, or cough, or get out of bed without feeling pain. I stubbornly resist taking my painkillers because I don’t want to ingest yet another medicine.
Over the past year, we’ve both suffered the indignities of being poked and prodded like cows. I’ve taken so much hormone medication that I don’t know if what I feel is from my own reserves or from the side effects of the meds. I’ve had so much blood taken for tests that I feel like a blood bank. I’ve taken hormonal trigger shots that hurt like a bitch. You would think that I would get used to the pain with every jab but it never goes away.
We’ve done five intrauterine inseminations over the past six months with two different doctors. I cried buckets after the second and the third – because my doctor had difficulties reaching into my cervix, she tried dilating me manually and the excruciating pain is like nothing that I have ever felt in my life. I’ve cried with every negative result, cried at the injustice of it all, cried at my in-laws’s desperate need to have grandchildren, cried at all the rejection I received from my first doctor (she said it’s hopeless, try IVF), cried at the kindness of the second (he said it’s okay, you don’t need IVF yet), cried with the births of loved ones’ children.
Pity party for one? Check.
And yet, we still plod on this tedious journey that’s costing us more money than we have. And for what reason other than the fact that we really want a family?
But does my government care? Apparently not. Sitting in their ivory towers, they are of the belief that our population rates are falling because, the selfish citizens that we are, we don’t want children. But they seem to have forgotten that there are those of us who want it but can’t have it.
And what do we get in return for our fervent desire? A maximum of three deductions from our Medisave for ALL assisted conception programmes. That means, if you have withdrawn from your Medisave for three IUIs, you will not be allowed to do so for any subsequent IVF treatments. Also, the government will only co-fund any treatment costs for a maximum of three cycles in public hospitals. If you are seeing a doctor in private practice like we are, tough luck, everything will have to come out of your own pocket.
Neither of us is raking in the big bucks, to be perfectly honest. These treatments cost quite a bit and we’ve had to put off big-ticket purchases indefinitely. That means no long haul holidays for us, no replacement computers and if my washing machine or refrigerator breaks down, well, too bad, we’ll just have to put up with three-day-old clothes and eat dry crackers.
If only they would include this group of us when planning policies, even a little bit of help would go a long way. Not just financially, but spiritually too. Because on this seemingly endless road of infertility, it can get really lonely.
I’ve only shared it with very dear friends and family members because I felt nobody would really understand what we are going through. The emotional distress is heavy on the heart and the physical pain is nothing compared to the emptiness you feel. And the very last thing I need to hear is relax, if you don’t stress it will come naturally. I call bullshit on that one. I don’t need well-meaning useless advice, I don’t need someone to join me in the pity party, I just need to go at it till I get the result that I want. And without financial aid or the recognition that we need help, the going can get tough.
So dear government, if ever someone in the right place is reading this, have some sympathy for us. We have the brains, we have stable jobs, we have a house. We would be the perfect citizens if we could have a child too. And that is something you can help us with. Please don’t shun us, don’t ignore us, don’t pretend that we don’t exist. If you would just offer a helping hand to all those having problems with infertility, you can be certain that your birth rates would definitely be boosted.
Because there’s more of us out there than you would ever believe.