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Friday, July 07, 2006

The Story Behind the Book

The financial aspects of IF was actually what kicked this book out of our heads and onto the page. No, we're not writing it to finance IVF or adoption (okay, so we all know full well how we're planning to spend the advance--it's nice to know that our writing has financed our entire parenting journey. The birth of a written piece truly equal the birth of a child in our case). This is how it began...

I came downstairs one morning and Josh was angrily writing a response to an advice columnist. He had followed an intriguing sentence from the "front page" of the online newspaper to read a question about adoption. This is the original question from Ask Amy (complete with her title to the question):

Couple should adopt new plan, not plea for cash
Published June 24, 2006 Dear Amy: My brother-in-law and his wife are adopting a child from another country.The couple has created a Web site about the impending arrival of their child. They are planning a baby shower.What seems strange to me and my husband about the excitement surrounding this adoption is that the couple also has requested financial donations from friends and family, including setting up a PayPal account to expedite these donations.We are aware of the costs associated with an international adoption, but such donations to finance it seem something of an affront to us.My husband and I are proud of their decision, as they are unable to conceive. Nothing is more life-affirming than providing a stable home for a child, regardless of country of origin. I suppose it is the request for money that has us concerned.As the parents of two children, we understand how much it costs to feed, clothe and educate a child. How can we relate this to them without squelching their excitement about the adoption?-- A Concerned Relative

It's funny; I have a different definition of "concerned" than this person.

This is Amy's response...

Dear Concerned: Your husband should have a discreet conversation with his brother that can start something along the lines: "I'm worried that you and Sandy can't afford this adoption. Is everything OK?"As you point out, one problem with this is that the expenses of child-rearing only begin once the child is brought home. If a couple can't finance the mechanics of having a child (whether through the high cost of fertility treatments or of overseas adoptions), then perhaps they should wait for the blessed event until they are more financially secure. Domestic adoptions can be far less expensive, and if this couple hasn't considered adopting an American-born child, then they should.Raising money in this fashion is a step way above and beyond gathering gifts (financial and otherwise) through a baby shower. Either this couple is very hard up for money or they feel entitled to use their child's adoption as a way to raise funds.Either answer isn't good.

Beyond the basic hypocrisy where gift registeries are "tasteful" and asking for money is "tacky" (even if money is what you need more than onesies with ducks--and gifts are suppose to be helpful), there is the basic lack of understanding in her response concerning (1) the financial strain of IF and (2) the concept that you receive the child you're meant to have.

Amy, sweetheart--how would you have felt if the world demanded that you cough up college tuition BEFORE they would grant you a child. No, you wouldn't have 18 years to save. You would have to cough it up. Right now. Because the cost of college (astronomical) is very similar to the cost of IF (whether you're bleeding money through treatments, adoption, surrogacy...therapy...). And how would you feel if your friends could get pregnant easily--for free--but you had to pay out $20,000. Free vs. $20,000. Hmmm...I can see how this concerned relative has a great understanding of who can afford parenthood.

I deserve to be a parent. Even if I'm not rich. And if it takes a village to raise a child, it certainly also takes a village to make one when you're faced with infertility. And when the opportunity comes along to be a parent, you grab it--regardless of your financial situation. You work it out. We wanted to scream at Amy, "do you think that the baby store will just put the child on hold for you until you can save up enough for payments?"

This isn't a car. This is a child. And it's the child this couple is meant to have.

I believe strongly in the adoption philosophy that the children you hold are the children you're meant to have. That fate brings you together. And to have someone demean that and say, "You should pass on this child because you can't afford her. Just wait until you're financially secure and the next kid comes along..." fills me with rage. Especially with the idea that you can't possibly comprehend the responsibility of parenthood until you are a parent. This concerned relative needs to step in (with Amy's help) and set this couple straight.

It made us so sad when we saw this lack of understanding between the two sides--as well as how tightly the financial strains of infertility wrap themselves around the couple, suffocating their decision-making, filling them with frustration, stealing away other choices. The couple who now can't afford a house because they spent their savings having a child. The couple who needed to take on an extra job and never see one another in order to fulfill their dream of becoming parents. Contrasted with the couple who have their child and THEN start worrying about finances.

I am simplifying this. Yes, we all need to make hard financial decision in our lives. We all forego things we want in order to have other things. Most of us live hand-to-mouth without any true savings. But the financial strains of IF are truly like pouring salt into an open, gaping wound. Reading Amy's terrible advice is like dousing aforementioned wound with jellyfish venom.

Keep the financial stories coming. It's an area of IF that is obviously fraught with misunderstanding between the two communities.


Ruta said...

I've loved this blog so far and have found myself nodding my head in agreement most of the time. But this post ... I keep coming back to it, trying to find the right words to explain why I disagree with it.

Amy's comments about not being able to afford to adopt are most definately off the deep end. But at the same time, fundraising to finance an adoption is one of those things that sets my teeth on edge. Most definately, adoption is expensive. I know that first-hand. But at the same time, we frown on fundraising for a wedding, for a child's tuition expenses, for a vacation. How is an adoption any different? Although I roundly disagree with Amy's reaction, I can *almost* understand where it came from.

The Town Criers said...


I totally agree with the idea of fundraising--setting up a lemonade stand, sending out emails to all your friends begging for money, holding a run...EXCEPT...

(see there had to be a big except)

That people do this all the time for personal help (as opposed to raising money for a cause). I have been asked to participate in contributing to a scholarship fund to support two kids who lost their father during 9/11. Or help with someone's medical bills by participating in a walk that a friend set up in their honour. And I'm not bothered by these things at all. If I can help, I help. There is no harm in asking. And adoption is expensive. Is it "necessary" like medical bills? No, not really if you make me be rational. But is it "necessary" when we're talking about emotions? I don't know. I truly feel like I couldn't live if I couldn't be a mother. Is that dramatic? Certainly. But it is how I feel.

And my second "except" is that their approach is more in-line with a registry or wish list. They wish for adoption funding. They're just putting that out there as the perfect gift to give them for their child. I have a wish list of books up on my personal web site. It's out there for two reasons: if you're looking to get me a book, these are the ones I want and for people to see what I'm planning on reading next.

And we do fundraise for a wedding. If you had a guest who didn't give you a gift, wouldn't you comment? Even if your "gift" is a donation to the charity of your choice?

Now the real question is what book are you going to get me from my wish list and how much are you going to give for adoption. Better take out the checkbook :-)

What are your thoughts on this?