Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Oh, Disturbing Memes

I was scrolling through facebook the other day (briefly, because you know I'm trying to reduce aimless phone time) and my eye caught a meme in my feed, originally posted by RESOLVE.

This meme:
Unsure how to credit but I got it from RESOLVE's page. 

It was meant to be a ha-ha. It sort of filled me with fury and distaste instead, for a couple of reasons.

1) The whole "Money can't buy happiness" and yet it CAN thing. Um, I know you spend lots of money on IVF or various other infertility treatments or adoption in the hopes of having a family that will bring you happiness, but this idea that YOU BOUGHT HAPPINESS makes me uncomfortable. It's a tiny step away from I BOUGHT MY BABY: something often stated by critics of IVF but especially third-party reproduction or adoption -- anything where money exchanges hands and it results in a human joining your household. It brings up this whole murky thing where we did not buy donor eggs or donor sperm or sell our embryos and we are not buying the baby we hope to adopt, but money does change hands for services and expenses around those processes (and the sperm donor one is really hard to argue because we did, literally, "Add to Cart" on that one). But to say that paying for IVF is "buying happiness" really blurs that line and stirs up icky silt. Not to mention, you can't actually buy happiness.

2) Bringing the monetary thing into it really highlights the financial inequity of IVF. IVF is not actually accessible to everyone because it is costly, and if you need higher-level interventions like donor material or gestational carrier, the costs skyrocket quickly. Ditto for things like assisted hatching, intralipids, IVIG, genetic screening. If you can't afford it, IVF or complicated IVF is simply not an option for you. You can go into debt (as many, many people do), but it becomes a heavy weight overshadowing this supposed happiness you've bought. And many people do not see IVF as an affordable option and don't pursue it, especially since it is largely not covered by health insurance in the U.S. and other countries. And so they are excluded from this sort of happiness. That apparently you can buy.

3) IVF does not equal the couple in the picture with the baby. This meme perpetuates the great fallacy that IVF works! Every time! Well, almost every time! But hang in there, it will work if you just KEEP THE FAITH! And keep paying out all that MONEY! The truth is, there are very few people for whom IVF works the first time. Most people experience more IVF failure than success, if they are lucky enough to be able to pay for multiple rounds in the first place. And for a largely meme-ignored but larger-than-you-would-think population, it never ultimately works. I take exception to this meme, because it leaves out the many, many people for whom IVF failed. Where vast sums of money were spent and yet it did NOT buy happiness. Tens of thousands of dollars (I started counting it all up in my head last night and then stopped because it literally made me feel ill, but let's say between the price of a seriously luxury car with all the options or a small home in the city near where I live) that never brought anything more than the most fleeting moment of happiness. I didn't even get a heartbeat for all that money. I did get a tube removed thanks to an ectopic, scarring in my uterus due to multiple hysteroscopies, the experience of an early miscarriage, and years of emotional trauma and exhaustion that will in some way haunt me to the end of my days in some form or another. Maybe not daily, but I will hold this grief forever. Hopefully I will also hold a baby in my arms, through adoption (and NOT bought happiness), but I worry that my too-long, too-many stint with IVF wore down my stamina. Not my capacity to be a mother or desire motherhood and parenthood for the two of us, but my emotional ability to stay in this limbo for additional years. Because I looked at the comments on this meme on the original site, and someone did protest the message that this meme is hurtful for those IVF did NOT work for, but someone else commented my FAVORITE, "At least there is another way..." I'm assuming this person meant adoption, which is another way if again: you can afford it, it is even available to you, the additional layers of complexity in parenting a child who has birth parents and developing relationships with said birth parents are a challenge you're up for, traveling and cultural layers if you are adopting internationally, court dates and healing from trauma and the possibility of not parenting a foster child you'd hoped to adopt if pursuing foster adoption, you are prepared for the heartbreaks of failed matches or other outcomes where you don't bring a baby home you thought you were, you are ready to wait a possibly very long time (after possibly waiting through infertility treatment already)...and on and on and on. But please, say "AT LEAST there is another way." So helpful.


I find this meme disturbing, in part because it is an extension of the myth that IVF works most of the time. I also find it disturbing because I wonder if I had been successful earlier on, would I feel the same way? Would I have given it a heart or a LOL face? Or would I have stopped and given a thought to the other people who might see that meme and think, WOW is that EVER not for me? and commented on its insensitivity despite my own success? Would I have given that a second thought, or just reveled in my bubble of it worked!? I don't actually know. I'd like to think it would bother me no matter what, but I am colored by my own experience over the past seven years and have a hard time accessing the me that was all hope and rainbows about IVF, or an alternative reality where this chapter of our story ended with a pregnancy and a birth and a child.

What irritates me is not the success part of the meme. It's this part, "Whoever says that money can't buy happiness has never had to pay for IVF," that pretends to be inclusive but really excludes and patently ignores those of us who paid and paid but were left without the happiness. It assumes a lot. Lately I am sensitive to a feeling that the only story that's valued on social media is the one that ends with a pregnancy or a baby, and it makes me feel like a marginalized group within a marginalized group. I don't want to take away from the joys from those who are successful, really I don't.  This meme, unlike the other "miracle" ones that rub me the wrong way but I get and can pass by without comment, is in bad taste for everyone.

18 comments:

  1. Ugh...yeah. This meme sucks. There is so much wrong with it. I take offense to anything that implies "buying" a child, for starters. Then, that a child equals happiness, when happiness has to come from within first. And then of course the suggestion that happiness can be bought. Just ugh.
    A coworker of mine confided in me today that she had done IVF to have her first and just had a miscarriage at 11 weeks over the holiday. So yeah...this meme can suck it.

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    1. Oh, no...I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. How awful. And I second and third your Ughs. So true that happiness must come from within, that a child can bring you happiness but a child itself is not actual happiness.

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  2. Sigh. I will say that people whom I have known do IVF fall into two groups- those who had it work first time or those who went through multiple attempts and ended up with nothing (that would be me). I know there are some out there who had success on the third or fourth attempt, but have not knowingly met them.
    On adoption, I grew up in the USA, and am comfortable with it, but now live in Australia where it is virtually impossible. As a result of some truly poor adoption plans through the 20th century, adoption has declined steeply over the last 25 years. International adoptions are almost impossible, unless you can demonstrate that the parents willingly gave the child up (and not for money) or the child is a genuine orphan. Since those conditions are not possible in most adoption hotspots, not happening. And domestically, social workers do everything possible to keep the family together, government supports young mothers (not fantastically, but to some degree) and birth control and abortion are available(even in the state where I live, where it is technically illegal it is still available). Net result, fewer than 100 adoptions domestically per year, and most of those are to extended family of the mother. Every time sometime suggests it to me, I have to point out my best chance is to literally move back to the USA and try (I am a US citizen and could then have that fight with the government on behalf of a child who has one citizenship already). I think that's why there are so many awful surrogacy stories about Aussies, it's the only other option.
    So, yes a it is a terrible meme.

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    1. Oh, man. I feel like my IVF people do not include anyone who got pregnant on the first cycle. I met a person once who got pregnant and stayed that way the first time, so I know they are not mythical creatures, but I feel like everyone else got pregnant on their second, third, fourth, etc. cycle. Which means they experienced more failure than success, really -- we got pregnant on our 3rd and 5th (or was it 6th, the details are finally fuzzing up a bit if I don't look it up) attempts but didn't stay that way. I am so sorry about adoption in Australia, and how difficult it is...this is something I didn't know until I met bloggers from Australia and New Zealand, and I wish more people were aware that as hard as it is to go through the process in the US, it's damn near impossible in other countries. It's such a hard option, too, when you think about how young families or families who struggle in various ways SHOULD have more supports to help them all stay together, and that placing for adoption shouldn't feel like the only option for birth families either, but these situations lead to the possibility of parenthood for people like me and so all I can hope is that all options were weighed and adoption was considered the best option, not the only option due to financial reasons or lack of governmental support. Sticky wicket.
      Thank you for sharing your perspective, and I hope that meme dies a terrible death.

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  3. On the surface, I get where this meme is coming from. Those who fall pregnant easily don't understand that there are many who will go into debt for a chance at that opportunity. But I absolutely agree with you about the wrong message this meme is sending and why RESOLVE should remove it immediately.

    One of my biggest fears is someone will attack the Beats with them being purchased. Doing so implies that they are somehow less and are freaks. And yet "buy a baby" is continually associated with the ALI community. It needs to stop. It like telling someone with cancer that they bought their life when they chose to go through treatment.

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    1. I love that comparison so much, that's a really great point. I remember years ago when I taught at the high school going through some books in the library and finding one called "Designer Babies" that basically said babies were being bought and sold, by parts (donor gametes) if not by whole. I was angry then, and I had no idea what all lay in store. Why give those people more fodder to decry family building as purchasing a baby? So not accurate. I hope no one says that to the Beats, or to you. How awful. Wrong message, indeed -- you would think by now there would be more understanding of IVF and related treatments, but I guess not.

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  4. Very pertinent points. I think what bothers me most about that meme is the implication that a baby (another human) functions to bring you happiness. It really reduces a baby to an object serving the parents' ends. Of course, babies do often bring happiness, but setting up that expectation as part of a transaction is ethically questionable, in my view. And just foolish. Starting a family means embarking on a new life, and nobody knows what it will bring. Happiness is hopefully found along the way: or for many people, along a different way. The meme shows a staggering amount of naïveté and entitlement.

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    1. Thank you. And yeah, that part bothered me a lot, too. Obviously not as much as implied outcomes, but it's so very close. I so agree with your assessment of naivete and entitlement. Wise comment!

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  5. Yeah, there is so much flippant stuff put out there in an attempt to be funny. I'm guessing the intent was something like "some of us have to spend a lot of money trying to build our families." But that was a messed-up way to say it. I wish people would think about things a few minutes before posting them.

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    1. Right? SO many other ways to say that. There was another meme in the comments about an IVF jar where when people asked "When are you going to have kids?" they'd have to add $5, which was ha-ha funny without excluding anyone or having ethically questionable thoughts about buying happiness or children equating happiness. Sigh.

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  6. I sincerely believe that you should write a book about your experiences. This type of post reaches so many people on a very deep level.

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    1. Thank you! I appreciate the compliment. Someday!

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  7. Ugh that's annoying. We literally did buy donor sperm online. I mean, we just did. We also bought the few drugs we opted to use for the insemination. We paid for the physicians services. But we did NOT buy this baby. It was sheer luck and everything aligning just right. We didn't buy the happiness any more than we bought the anxiety we live in every day.

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    1. Yes, yes! Bryce actually said that too when I expressed my ire but then said, "Uh, we totally Added to Cart with the sperm though." He said, "Sperm alone does not a baby make. We had to decide to use that sperm, mingle it with your eggs, and do all the other things that might have resulted in a baby. We didn't buy a baby." I mean, clearly, because we don't have one, but it was an interesting perspective! And hell yes to the anxiety that comes with the happiness...and all the aligning.

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    1. Thank you...it really rankled me.

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  9. Gah strap me down - WTF is that? And RESOLVE posted it??? OK, I can see that the author is aiming at a bit of wry infertility humour (I think), but yes, this also fills me with distaste. It's kind of implying: yeah, so you blow a few thousand and that sucks, and people don't appreciate it, but you do get a baby. And a baby means happiness (can I not have that without a baby?). And at the very least it should contain smallprint ("Approximately 28% of people will achieve "happiness" via IVF"). It's misjudged, trite and cack-handed. There's so much wrong with the message. I think you and the comments have nailed that.

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    1. Right? Seems like NOT the sort of thing an organization for infertility resolutions of all kinds, supposedly. OMG, I love that idea of the small print. It's small print I didn't understand until I was so far into it. And I love, love, love the phrase "Cack-handed" -- amazing! Thank you.

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