Exemple
This column originally appeared in The Jewish News of Northern California , November 12, 2019

 

Several months ago, I was asked to speak at an event for Hasidah, a Berkeley-based nonprofit that “raises awareness of infertility, connects people to support resources and reduces financial barriers to [fertility] treatment in the Jewish community,” according to its website.

I so wish my family had known about this agency’s work when we were struggling with these issues.

I care about helping build Jewish families. So many of us take for granted that when we are ready to build a family and have a child, it will happen. I know from my own family’s experience that it doesn’t always work so easily, or economically.

Topics such as infertility were rarely spoken about until recently.

Growing up, I knew our past generations had hard times, but my life and the future seemed simple. College, career, get married, have kids, be a mom, then a grandmother.

Fast forward. It was not so easy.

Seeing one’s children struggle with their health or struggle to create a family — it was not easy at all.

One of my daughter’s struggles began in high school with severe abdominal pain. Today we see commercials on TV about endometriosis, but 20 years ago I had never even heard the word. Many years went by — years of tests and surgeries and different doctors — with no diagnosis. Finally, one doctor was able to give her an experimental drug that took away her fertility for five years (ages 20 to 25) with the hope that it would just “pop back.”

Through all those appointments, shots and bone-density scans, the fear of “what if fertility doesn’t come back” was always looming, And there was no place to talk about it. Yes, her fertility returned, as UCSF had hoped, and she and her husband went on to have a family.

Then my other daughter married and learned she had issues getting pregnant. With her wonderful husband’s firm support, they tried many options, talked over all the possibilities, the what-ifs.

One day a friend of hers who knew the situation asked me, “How are you?” Seeing the dark cloud hanging over me and being a mental-health professional, she shared that the dark feeling isn’t just over the couple but over the whole family.

My husband and I were in a dark place, but we came to understand this was our daughter’s journey, and we were there to support her.

We tried not to show our pain to her when treatments failed and as she felt more and more isolated. Through many very expensive processes, a woman’s enormous generosity and modern technological miracles, we were granted two more beautiful grandchildren.

Every day we thank HaShem for those beautiful children.

I began to see how so many others could use this kind of support.

My daughters were fortunate that our family could help them financially. Not everyone is in a position to afford fertility treatment or to help their own children. There hasn’t been anything in the community to help.

I have since become involved with Hasidah, which provides “financial, spiritual and emotional support for people experiencing infertility or fertility challenges, and build[s] awareness about fertility,” according to its listing in the 2018 Slingshot Guide of outstanding Jewish organizations. Hasidah, which means “stork” in Hebrew, was founded in 2012 by Rabbi Idit Solomon.

Hasidah.org is packed with information, such as the average out-of-pocket cost for one in vitro fertilization treatment being $24,000, with a $61,000 total for “a successful outcome from IVF.”

People need so much support when they are facing infertility, which is why it was so important for me to step up and help. Not only for my own family, but I could help others overcome their fertility struggles, too.

It was imperative for me to help each of my daughters become a mother.  It is imperative upon all of us as a community to help others who are facing infertility and other family building challenges.

We need to replenish those lost during my parent’s generation. We need to support the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying. And it is the Jewish way to help others in need.

Jewish children are the future of the Jewish community. I have endless joy from each of my grandchildren. I hope our community can prioritize this issue for our sake, and for our future.

 

Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email
Exemple

#IVFContests #IVFAwareness #BuildJewish Families

Another group held a video conference for a free IVF. This was a new twist however, because the host of the contest was a radio station in Utah. The ends of the contest – the chance for someone without the financial means to be able to receive treatment that may lead to having a baby – is a wonderful goal. An important question is if those ends justify the means.

Unlike most coverage of these contests, a recent article reporting about this contest shared both sides of this story. The pro’s include building awareness about infertility, the emotional and financial costs that it takes, and providing someone with treatment. It may also help people speak out and get support they may not have otherwise received.

The con’s are another story.  “Asking couples to create a video for a radio station about raw, difficult experiences can feel like making entertainment out of someone’s misery” said one contributor to the story. Another shared that the contest is, “ a very offhand or casual way to deal with something that we generally view as being a more serious issue.” Indeed.

The public votes on the videos submitted by the finalist for the radio station contest. Imagine you are applying for this and were told you were a finalist. Do you make your story the saddest? Do you show yourself as the most hopeful? The most desperate? Do you need good production values? Do you have others speak for you? Should you be funny? How do you get people to vote for your video? Whatever the criteria for earning IVF treatment, it seems as much a reflection of how to use publicity to show yourself as deserving treatment.  And that is a problem. Someone deserves treatment more than others? Someone’s story is more compelling? Or is it a popularity contest with extremely high stakes? None of the answers are good.

Another con is that these contests overshadow an underlying issue of why the treatment is not funded in the first place. The insurance industry is not taking on this issue and the idea that it is expensive is not a legitimate answer. Cancer treatment is not cheap. Neither is a mastectomy, cataract surgery, diabetes treatment or treatments for accidents and traumas. We ought to be asking more challenging questions about why treatment for infertility like IVF is not available and affordable.

For Hasidah, these issues are not taken lightly. The medical appropriateness, financial need, and personal information are taken seriously to ensure the best possibility of building a Jewish family. Hasidah grant applicants take a significant amount of time and effort to apply which often is not rewarded with funding. We try to honor that with continual efforts to build awareness, to treat our clients with the utmost respect and not make a spectacle of their experiences.

If there was a contest to be held, perhaps it ought to be finding the most effective strategy for making IVF affordable and making insurance coverage for it part of standard health insurance. That would be the mother of all contests.

Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email
Exemple
Does your income potentially affect the chances that you will access treatment for infertility. In an already much cited article, the answer was a resounding yes. Education plays a role too. People with a college degree are more than twice as likely (11.6 vs 5) to access fertility treatment with those who do not have a high school diploma.

The infertilty sword cuts both ways because those with less education are likely to earn less and be able to afford less and therefore be less likely to seek treatment. And while this recent study does not tie education to infertility, research has shown that people with higher levels of education are more likely to have children later and therefore have higher rates of infertility. Basically, we can’t get around it.

One thing this study of treatment access cannot account for is who is seeking the treatment and the effects of not getting treatment. In other words – the reality that some people really want to have a child and want to pursue treatment vs others who may not feel as strongly about having  child. For Jews, being part of a pro-natal and family oriented community can increase pressure and isolation that infertility causes and make the desire to seek treatment higher.

At Hasidah, we know well the variety of ways in which one can experience infertility – from genetic diseases, to cancer, to age, to low ovarian reserves or sperm, to unexplained infertility. The people seeking help from Hasidah have earned from $25,000 to over $350,000. They are married, single, LGBT, older, younger, teachers, singers, lawyers and doctors. They all want to have a Jewish family.

The study shows for sure that the infertility rate is 12.5%. That’s about 1 in 8. That number only increases with age and body mass index. And Jews are no exception.

Infertility is not likely to change, but our response to it can.
Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email
Exemple

Some things are just human and it doesn’t seem to matter much where you live. Facing challenges to building a family might be one of them.  A recent survey in England got the following stats from people struggling to become parents.

  • 90% say infertility feels like a trauma.
  • 94% don’t think their friends, family or colleagues really understand what they are going through
  • 55% feel hopeless and like a failure
  • 68% believe other people think less of them because they do not have a child.
  • 54% feel annoyed by other people’s comments
  • 37% feeling angered by what others say
Healthcare in England is different than in the US, but again, some things seem similar. The stats there revealed that 34% of those who paid privately for IVF put themselves in financial risk in doing so.
One third of people paying for IVF are putting themselves at financial risk.
So for those who didn’t put themselves “at financial risk,” what did they have to give up?  
What are you giving up to try to have a child?
Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email
Exemple

Hasidah’s name which means “stork” comes from the Hebrew word hesed, which means loving-kindness. Loving-kindness is showing support when people need it in the way they need it. Loving-kindness is maintaining their dignity while they are in need and in the process of helping them. Loving-kindness is helping them without making them beg for it. 

Every one of these baby crowd funding campaigns is a lost opportunity for the Jewish community to show loving-kindness, something we do so well for many other circumstances. Wanting to have a child is a basic desire that most of us understand without much explanation. Yet, we let people beg: Help me fund a chance to have a baby!

Thanks to the Forward for highlighting this issue. Let us know what you think – if the Jewish community will spend billions on trips to Israel in the name of the birthright, how can we direct support for the birthrate?

 

 

 

 

Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email
Exemple

Pack your bags! Is it the beach, the mountains, the slopes, the amusement park, or the ranch? Maybe the spa? How about the clinic…

More and more people are traveling to seek medical treatment and infertility is no exception at all. Someone recently asked us about infertility in the US and around the world and how much travel people do for treatment. Considering there is no international data collection, it is difficult to answer. However, a recent article came out exploring that very question. Here are some facts about ReproTourism around the world.

  • Belgium – first for their invention of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) which helped address male factors
  • Spain – best country for egg donation
  • Latin America – two major hubs for tourism
  • India – over 500 clinics (but debatable hub for surrogacy now)

Another trend is that medical tourism used to be from poorer regions to wealthier countries. ReproTravel is often the opposite. Treatment has become much easier and costs in less developed countries make it attractive.

Biggest reason for travel besides costs? Friendlier legislation. You can only have a treatment if the procedure is legal.

See the full article.

Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email

Many options fill the list of concerns for people facing infertility: emotional stability, how to choose treatment, which doctor to choose, social pressure, spiritual crisis, stigma, fear treatment will not work, physical effects of treatment, marital issues, balancing work with treatment, and of course how to pay for the treatment. All of these are very significant, but one of them in particular exacerbates the others in a unique way. A recent study found that the biggest concern is cost.

Cost Concern

Fertility Treatments in the United States: Sentiment, Costs and Financial Impact. May 2015, MarketCube sponsored by Prosper.

Not only did costs top the lists of concerns (84%), for those “very concerned” it topped the list by over 15% to the next option of handling the treatments emotionally (62% vs 45%).  Cost tops the list for the reason people delay treatment (82%) and remains on top of the list of concerns even once treatment has started (70%). Costs top the list of concerns all around.

The irony of this is that for many people, addressing infertility is one of the hardest challenges facing us in our adult lives. To be sure, life can dish out some bad challenges. For most, however, infertility is completely unprecedented. For other issues, perhaps we have thought about them, we can prepare to address them, we can see a logic even if we don’t agree, we can give a good fight and feel better about it. In the case of infertility we often  feel out of control, unprepared, and simply at a loss. It lasts with no known ending. The stress of infertility has even been compared to the levels of stress when facing cancer. Yet the cost of treatment is cited as a bigger concern than the emotional toll.

To truly address the communal issue of infertility, we do need to address most if not all of these concerns – the emotions, the spiritual crisis, the marital issues, the stigma, the everything. When Hasidah was founded however, the basic premise was that the Jewish community spends millions and millions of dollars helping kids be Jewish. Of all the things standing in the way to having a Jewish child,  financial barriers ought to be something we can remove. We can do it.

The emotions will not go away if treatment is financially out of reach. The decisions are made for us if the options are not affordable. For sure we need to address the difficult emotions and decisions. However, if we are going to start at the top of what is concerning people experiencing infertility, then address the costs.

 

Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email

Hasidah is fundraising to help Jewish babies be born. We get the questions posed in this Crowdfunding Babies article a lot. The Jewish community funds camps, day schools, trips to Israel, children’s books, community gardens, learning programs, film festivals, guest speakers, musical performance, etc, etc, etc. It seems that having a Jewish child is a least as worthy. We don’t ask parents to crowdfund their children’s education, or for seniors to fund raise for their meal assistance. The community subsidizes it because it is important. And we should. We should also assist those struggling with infertility to bring Jewish children into the world.

See more posts like this on on our Facebook page: Facebook.com/JewishStork

Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email