Infertility is defined as the failure or inability to become pregnant for a minimum of 12 months. What medical books will not tell you, is that those months feel like years.
Although I did not have infertility issues with my first child, I was in Boston when I found out that I was lucky to have gotten pregnant with my first child without assistance. I was told that I would need interventions to have a second child. At that moment I was frustrated that I hadn’t known sooner that I would be facing challenges and needing intervention, even non-invasive intervention, in order to have another child. I began the tests and spent a few thousand dollars in order for my doctors to be best informed in how to proceed.
A few months in, my family relocated. I was able to stay on my previous health care for a few months, and was able to connect with an incredible reproductive endocrinologist. He was both knowledgeable, empathic, and understanding of the pain that I was going through when people kept asking the rebbetzin, when will your son have a sibling? This happened multiple times a week. Together we decided on an initial course of action, but everything came to a halt when I had to switch to a new health insurance plan.
The new health insurance plan was a true HMO, with bureaucratic red tape every step along the way – be it for getting a prescription, which would only be covered from their pharmacy with an hour long line, to see any kind of in house specialist. The red tape was most certainly wrapped tightly around seeing a specialist outside of the facility that housed most of the operation.
As a family, we were paying over $18,000 per year for this plan in 2012. Fortunately, my amazing reproductive endocrinologist was covered by the health insurance, or so I thought, as long as I had a referral. It took approximately two months to get said referral, and then I entered into a month-long process with the HMO’s billing department, customer care, etc to get a clear answer about my seeing my doctor as it was not so simple even with a referral.
Eventually, I got the green light and booked the appointment. I was in the waiting room waiting to see him, when the front desk informed me that while Dr. Petrovsky was covered, the facility was not. I would have to pay out of pocket all fees including further testing, etc. I had no idea how much that would cost nor if it was feasible in our budget.
I cried. Dr. Petrovsky came out to the waiting room, comforted me, and told me which tests should be done next.
My HMO had failed me despite the assurance that they had given me. I asked my general practitioner for said tests recommended by Dr. Petrovsky. I was told that I would have to start from square one. All of the tests that I had already done had to be performed again. I would have to expend time and money on starting over because of the HMO. I was about to waste another six months of my time, of doctors’ time, other employees’ time, for no reason. I was about to waste another few thousand dollars, and the HMO was set to lose another few thousand dollars. I began advocating within the HMO system, but in the interim, I just wanted to perform the tests that my doctor had recommended.
I felt helpless when close friends suggested Planned Parenthood. I was scared. I was scared of what I would find there. I was scared that I would be seen. I was scared that people would make assumptions or judge. I was nervous that anti-abortion protesters might be present. I was scared for my safety. I was nervous that people would see the rabbi’s wife’s car visibly parked outside of the Planned Parenthood. But ultimately, I decided to go.
I walked in, and I was taken aback by who was in the room. There appeared to be a diverse group of patients in ethnicity and age, but it seemed that almost half of the patients were upper middle class. I looked around the room wondering why they were there, why they thought that I was there. Despite my curiosity, it felt like a judgement-free zone.
I had my appointment, which ended with discouraging test results, but at least I knew which steps needed to be taken in moving forward. I cried and laughed at the same time. I said this is so ironic, that I am crying in a Planned Parenthood because I want a child so badly. The doctor comforted me, and said, “We are here to help all people with any health issues. Do not feel bad about crying. Please know that our door is always open, and you are always welcome.”
I now have two precious children. As federal funding for Planned Parenthood is being called into question, I wanted to express my lasting gratitude for the role that it played in my life. Planned Parenthood provided me with sound medical advice, with support, and gave me hope.
This article originally appeared in My Jewish Learning on January 10, 2017.