Testimonial: Starting a family through medically assisted procreation
At the end of 2018, Jeanne and her partner, Clara, welcomed their daughter Camille into the world after four years of fertility treatments. Here's the story of their journey to become parents.
Jeanne1, age 43, and her partner, Clara, age 34, began fertility treatments six years ago. Although they thought they were well prepared, they had to overcome many hurdles before their daughter, Camille, was born. Here's their story, with its ups and downs and lessons learned along the way.
Plan as much as you can
When Jeanne and Clara went to their first fertility clinic appointment, they'd already come up with a basic plan. They knew that Clara, the younger of the two, was going to carry the child, and they knew the donor profile they were looking for. Since they'd spoken to people who had been through the process before, they also had an idea of the costs to expect. And given the difference in their salaries—Clara is a doctor and Jeanne is self-employed—they already had a long-standing agreement for managing their joint finances and savings.
But with this kind of project, planning has its limits: "It's not like a retirement or home-buying plan, where you know you're going to succeed if you do your homework," says Jeanne. No couple can predict what's in store for them or even be sure that their efforts will bear fruit. "Fertility clinics have a price grid for each possible scenario, but you don't know which one will apply to you: scenario A or scenario E? Will you stop at artificial insemination or will you try in vitro fertilization?"
These scenarios vary widely, as do the number of steps, the associated costs, and the impact on those involved.
Changes in 2015
In 2014, when Jeanne and Clara began fertility treatments, access to assisted procreation was covered by the Québec government. The following year, however, the rules changed: public coverage was replaced by a tax credit system based on household income. Due to Clara's high salary, the couple had to bear most of the treatment costs.
This legislative framework changed in March, 2021: Bill 73 allows to once again fund assisted procreation for women between the ages of 18 and 41 with provincial health insurance.
A challenging journey
For Jeanne and Clara, there were many steps. From the initial appointment to pregnancy, the process took four years and had its share of challenges. During the first year, the couple went through nine unsuccessful insemination cycles.
"Knowing that the clock is ticking makes each failure very hard emotionally," says Jeanne. "It just adds to the stress and fatigue you're already feeling from the treatments."
The constant waiting and many failed attempts took a heavy toll on Jeanne and Clara. Mentally exhausted, they decided to put their relationship on hold for a while.
At the end of their break and after discussing next steps, they decided to try in vitro fertilization (IVF). That's when the tide turned: the first IVF cycle produced a lot of embryos, and Clara became pregnant with the second transfer. "We were happy," says Jeanne, "but we didn't want to get carried away, as previous attempts hadn't gone so well. We didn't let ourselves believe that we were having a baby until the end of the pregnancy."
Today, the two moms share their life with their two-year-old daughter, Camille.
Surprises and lessons learned
What did Jeanne and Clara take away from their experience? Firstly, in terms of finances, there are always surprises, which is why it's so important to save up a significant amount of money in advance. Even though they had a general idea of what to expect, they soon realized that the costs were piling up at every step (follow-up appointments, tests, blood tests, etc.). In total, Jeanne estimates that the project cost $16,000. "After you add it all up, it seems crazy. The entire process caused us enormous stress, but at least we had no financial stress. So, for a couple on a tighter budget..."
"Good drug coverage is crucial to reducing costs," says Jeanne. That's what allowed her and Clara to cut the IVF bill in half (by about $12,000). She also recommends considering the optional tests that clinics offer at the beginning of the process. "We're both thrifty people, so we didn't see the need to pay for them, or to add delays by going through the public system," she says. "But in hindsight, we realized that the tests would have allowed us to detect and solve certain problems earlier." This would have saved them money—and anguish—in the long run.
Support, communication, faith
Jeanne is upfront: one of the best decisions she and Clara made, during the toughest time, was to see a psychologist who works with couples undergoing fertility treatments. "When it comes to fertility, the approach is very, very medical. Nobody talks about psychological support—they don't present it as an option, either." During the difficult initial stages, the couple had to take the initiative to seek help and work hard to find support resources. "It's really important," stresses Jeanne. "But for the moment, it's something you're expected to figure out on your own."
Another crucial element in Jeanne's eyes is the quality of communication. It's vital to communicate openly with your doctor to discuss next steps and get the information you need to make an informed choice. "With IVF, our doctor was empathetic and very human," she says. "She was convinced it was going to work because she had the statistics to back it up, and that reassured us." It's equally important to communicate with your partner. Throughout the process, even when things weren't going well, Jeanne and Clara kept an open dialogue and made sure they agreed on what to do next. Being able to rely on each other, and the process, is essential. "You really, really have to have faith to go through it."
Planning a project: Best practices
Regardless of your income level, starting a long-term project like Jeanne and Clara's involves three essential steps:
- Set a budget that takes into account the estimated cost of the project, how long it will take to complete, and the amount you've already saved.
- Choose a savings vehicle tailored to your project. When there are lots of unknowns and surprises, it's a good idea to pick a flexible solution that lets you make withdrawals at any time, free of charge.
- Develop an easy-to-follow savings strategy. Automatic savings are a good option. Deducting a fixed amount from each paycheck lets you determine when you'll reach your goal, and helps you put money aside without stress while respecting your financial capacity.
Keep your savings local
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