Since I moved to Korea, going to the bank has become one of my favorite routine chores. The first time I went in, I was rather intimidated about the prospect of having to try to conduct financial business in Korean, given that I don't actually speak Korean. So, I was pleasantly surprised when by chance (they use a take-a-number system here, so you can't choose your teller), I got a teller who actually spoke quite good English. The fact that he had a delightful pompadour hairstyle was just an added bonus. Since then, every time I've been there, he has just happened to be the one that calls my number. Actually, I think that he does it on purpose. He now knows my name, where I work, and of course everything about my finances. I think that we may be Best Friends Forever.
Anyway, today was my big day to go to the bank, but the trip wasn't nearly as much fun as usual. It was delightful to see my own personal Elvis, of course, but not so nice to see my current bank balance. The fact is, IVF and financial happiness don't seem to mix very well.
Don't get me wrong, I am a very lucky girl. Six months ago, I was living in southern California, where the cost of a single round of IVF runs from ~$12,000-$15,000, and my health insurance had no interest in paying a cent. While of course a baby is priceless, baby roulette is somewhat less appealing. People often make the argument that few people would balk at paying $15,000 for a new car, and isn't a baby much more important than a new car? Well, that would be a good point, except that when you buy a new car, you actually get a new car. Then if you decide that you don't like it, you can even sell it and buy a different one. When you buy IVF, you MAY get a baby, you may get three babies, or you may just pay all of that money to get bloated and moody, have a sharp metal object shoved into your ovaries, spend two weeks trying not to lose your mind as you wait for the results (IF you're lucky and you make it to transfer), and then end up with nothing to show for it but needle tracks, a fine collection of used hypodermics, and a bitter taste in your mouth.
The good news is that here in Korea, reproductive assistance is much much cheaper than it is in the USA or Canada. I am expecting to pay not much over $3000 for the whole cycle, including drugs. Yes, that's several fun-filled rides on what is euphemistically called the cooter-cam, enough hormones to make a bus grow boobs, egg retrieval, loving care for the developing embryos in a top-notch embryology lab, and then the return of said embryos to their carefully prepared uterine home, all for the low low price of only $3000. What a bargain!
As it turns out, though, $3000 is still kind of a lot of money. It's not $15,000, but since most people manage to get pregnant without spending more than a few bucks for a couple of margaritas and maybe a Barry White CD, paying $3000 to a doctor for a CHANCE at a baby does tend to make me feel a bit sorry for myself. I do know that I'm very lucky to have this opportunity. I really do. Tens of thousands of infertile women worldwide have no access to this kind of care at all. The fact that I can afford to try IVF makes me one of a lucky minority. The fact that I just happened to move to Korea right when I realized that I needed IVF is unbelievably fortunate. Still, when I start to feel anxious about whether this cycle will work, the financial ramifications of failure do feature prominently in my waking nightmares. I am determined to be a mother one day, whether through IVF, embryo donation, adoption, or whatever other options come along. The question is just whether the money will run out before my will to keep trying does. We can afford this round of IVF, and if it doesn't work, it won't be too much of a strain to do another. However, what if that one fails? And the next one? At what point do we have to cut our losses and start saving for adoption? These are some of the the questions that keep me up at night.
Then I think--maybe I should just give it up and spend the $3000 on that nice pair of Korean cowboy boots that I saw the other day. Hey, I could be a Korean cowboy, couldn't I?