It is so unfortunate that for people who can’t naturally have children the journey to building and growing their families is attached to so many strings and price tags. Especially when infertility rates are on the rise. Even in Ontario, which is pretty progressive in terms of assistive reproduction, it is still not an easy or affordable process.
When Malcolm and I have talked to family and friends about our journey through infertility and the costs of the options available to us they say “don’t let money be the deciding factor”, “don’t let money be the reason you walk away from this if your heart longs for a family”…
It is really hard to reconcile our desire for a family with the costs associated with assisted reproduction.
Don’t get me wrong, other forms of assisted reproduction and even adoption are also so expensive that they are simply out of reach to many and I do not want to belittle that struggle at all.
The saving grace of the price tag attached to surrogacy is that it is spread out over time, but still, even for an independent journey where costs are far lower than they would be through an agency, it works out to be around a thousand bucks a week for a year. That’s a lot of money to have to come up with.
So, where do these costs come from?
The first thing is $355 per couple in consultation fees. Then the psych evaluations for Malcolm and me and Amber and Dan. These could be as low as $200 or over $1000 depending on whether or not Dan and Amber’s health insurance will cover their session(s) and how many sessions we all will need. My insurance through school will not cover mine and Malcolm’s sessions, so at the bare minimum we will be paying $200 for this.
Next there’s screenings for all of us. Some of this is covered by OHIP but there’s genetic carrier screening that Malcolm and I will have to do and that will cost around $500 and then there’s the 3rd party infectious disease screening that Malcolm and I will have to go through that will cost around $3000. Because of timing with doing the test and getting samples and getting the results of the tests we will have to pay $700 to have Malcolm’s sperm frozen.
Legal fees will be somewhere in the neighbourhood of $7000. And Life insurance will be around $700 over the course of the year.
The next big and extremely variable piece of the financial puzzle is going to be the medications that Amber and I will have to take. We already know that my meds will not be covered and we will have to pay out of pocket for them. This is a common exception in health insurance plans and honestly I think that is absolutely terrible, as it really is kicking a couple when they’re down. We also know from the last time that I tried injections that these meds add up fast. We don’t yet know if Amber’s insurance will cover any of her meds. If they do that could be a huge relief for our journey. Since there are still so many unknowns, we have put $7000 for me and $7000 for Amber into our spreadsheet, but really at this point it feels like a random number generator would be just as accurate.
The final piece is compensation for Amber on this journey. In Canada surrogacy has to be an altruistic act. This means that a person can’t be paid for carrying another person’s baby. It does not mean that no money changes hands. We are responsible for making sure that Dan and Amber do not endure financial hardship as a result of this journey. That means we pay for Amber’s prenatal vitamins and any over the counter medications. We pay for any unpaid time off work for her and Dan for appointments and delivery and such. We also pay for maternity clothes and any increase in food expenses. As the person delivering the baby, Amber qualifies for 16 weeks of mat-leave at 55% of her average insurable weekly income (some employers might do some sort of top-up thing to around 80%) it’s our responsibility to supply the difference up to 100%*. Again this is a hard thing to budget for since it can be so variable. We have 10 months in our spreadsheet and we have a range of estimates in there from $1000 to around $3000 based on when she might go off work and when she might need a new wardrobe and those types of things.
*Edit: we might only need to top up to 100% for six weeks. We will discuss this with the lawyer when we’re at that stage.
So… Why am I writing all of this out? Why am I sharing all of this financial info with all of you? Is this the point where I start begging for money?
Why write about the costs associated with an independent surrogacy journey with a funded IVF cycle?
To answer the first question: I’m writing all this out because waiting is a big part of how I process. As I said at the start, the most common piece of advice we have been given is not to let money make our choice for us. That is hard. We try to live within a budget, we try very hard to live within our means and not spread ourselves too thin. We work extremely hard to pay off our debts and we think long and hard about big financial decisions. So seeing these numbers add up is scary.
I feel like it’s unfair that because we can’t get pregnant the old fashioned way and because my uterus is a serial killer, the government, the insurance companies, and the fertility clinics all expect us to have tens of thousands of dollars lying around to throw at a chance at a family. It feels like they are preying on our desperation. It also feels like they kind of set us up for failure. Kids are expensive. If we start our kid’s life in a sea of debt that we accrued to create that kid, how are we going to be able to provide that kid with the quality of life that we want for them and that they deserve?
So I’m writing this to get all of these thoughts and feelings out of my head and into a form where I can look them over, prioritize them, pull them apart a bit, and better understand them.
Why publicly share about how much money goes into a surrogacy journey?
Yeah. It’s pretty awkward to openly share budgeting and finances. Money is uncomfortable and it might seem like I’m casually throwing around a whole bunch of big numbers where each one individually could mean all the difference in the world for the person reading this. These numbers aren’t little or insignificant to me and I am not flexing.
I know that $300 is a lot of money and could make the difference between eating and not eating or making your rent/mortgage payment or not. I have struggled with talking about this because I fear how it could make people I care about feel as they deal with their own financial stresses.
The reason I am sharing this though is because this is information I have not easily found on my journey. I have found snippets and bits and pieces on websites and in FB groups and through chats with other IPs and experienced surrogates. Our spreadsheet is modified from one that another member of the surrogacy community got from her American agency and shared with me. We had to figure out what fields applied to us in Ontario and what didn’t and add in fields for things we have to do here that they don’t have to do there. The point is, this information is mostly hidden and you only find out about all of it as you’re doing it. And it sucks to feel like you have this plan and you know how you’re going to make it work and then to be blindsided by more costs.
We are fighting a tug of war between following our hearts and being rational with our money.
I wanted to take what I have learned so far and make it available and easier for other people looking into surrogacy in Ontario to find. I’m hoping this post can prevent someone else from being blindsided, heartbroken, and financially crippled by the cost of their journey.
I have created a blank(ish) copy of the spreadsheet Malcolm and I have been using and as I find out more information I will update it. This is a learning process for me too and this spreadsheet isn’t perfect. Please feel free to use this spreadsheet to help you budget your own journey. In order to protect all of our privacy, this Google Sheet is read only. You can go to File and either make a copy or download it to be able to fill in your information.
And that final question:
Is this the point when I beg you for money to help us out?
One of the hidden blessings in this journey is that we don’t have to pay a lump sum all at once. We have already started to save and Malcolm is always looking for ways to make a few extra dollars. I’m applying for summer jobs that I can do from home while recovering from surgery, and in the meantime I’m helping with some PressTitan boring SEO stuff to free up Malcolm’s time to do other things. If it comes down to it we have the ability to take out a loan.
We will be okay…
But it shouldn’t have to be this way
No intended parents should have to face the choice of financial stability OR starting a family. Every person you know who has been to see a fertility specialist, consulted with an adoption agency, been given an infertility diagnosis has had to worry about the cost.
Children are our future and it is natural and some would argue hard-wired into us to want to raise a family.
In a country like Canada that prides itself on taking care of Canadians through universal health care. It is a shame and something that we should be ashamed of that fertility treatments are a luxury only available to those who can afford them. All fertility treatments should be covered under our health care system. Any insurance plan that covers contraceptives should also automatically cover fertility meds.
This is a problem that is only getting worse, not better and we as a society need to do better. We should be working to set new parents up for success rather than making the path harder for them through the financial burden of fertility treatments.
You can also follow our surrogacy journey on instagram @operation.babyspaceship