‘Is It Because of Brexit?’ and other things you hear on the road to IVF

One of the things you do when you ‘decide’ to do IVF is attend two counselling sessions, scheduled and provided by the clinic. These sessions are compulsory, and we had attended our first a while back so our expectations were appropriately low. Approaching this whole process philosophically, Partner and I have generally been able to sit back and politely go through the motions in the presence of an infuriating and completely culturally incompetent system. Not today.

The Donor

Therapist: So you have a donor – how did you decide who to go with? Did you get a big selection?

Partner: We just picked one – there were two of UK descent and one not. We picked the one not. We’ve been through this with the co-ordinator: we only need one, it’s anonymous so there’s no relationship there. I’m not sure what the obsession is with having a selection. Our issue is more with the time it’s taken.

Therapist: So how many did you have to choose from, what about the donor stood out? What did he say about why he was donating?

Me: I don’t know, we didn’t pay attention to that. There were three and we picked the non-British one.

Therapist: So what do you know about the donor? What are things he like to do, what is his work, what does he look like [etc etc].

Partner/Me: I don’t know. Why do you need to know  – do you want us to send you the pdf?

Therapist: What do you mean you don’t know, how did you choose?

Me: He’s not of British descent, that’s the difference between him and the other two.

Therapist: (confused) what do you mean?

Partner: it doesn’t matter which one we picked, the decision is arbitrary, as we’ve said we didn’t need a ‘selection’ in the first place.

Therapist: Is it because of Brexit?

Partner: I’m sorry, what??

Support

Therapist: So what family members are going be involved?

Me: What do you mean, have we told people?

Therapist: No, you need family members to help you raise the baby, who is going to help?

Me: We’ll be raising our own baby, thanks. [It was around this point I think the anger really became evident in my voice]

Therapist: It can be helpful to get to know other people who have conceived through donor insemination – do you know anybody like that.

Partner: Yes, we know lots of people.

Therapist (looking surprised): Oh, I guess you would. It would be good if there were support groups, there’s Rainbow Families but they’re not in WA.

Partner: Last time we were here I told you about Playgroups with Pride, they are a group that provides support not only to LGBTIQ parents but also to those going through this process.

Therapist: They are in WA are they?

Partner: Yes, here are their details, and you should be promoting them as a resource to LGBTIQ clients.

Therapist: *writes it down on the photocopied sheet of paper containing the same information we gave her last time* So what do they do again?

The Wait

Therapist: This says you were last here 18 months ago – do you know why the wait was so long?

Me: I don’t know, every time we spoke to someone about the list they told us a different thing and contradicted each other. I actually don’t believe a thing anybody here tells me until after it happens.

Therapist: So did you not get in contact with them?

Partner: Yes, we did. Every time they failed to contact us I rang or emailed and was given another future date. When we asked what the hold up was our questions were ignored. We actually thought it was never going to happen at this point.

Therapist: Did you feel like you were being discriminated against?

Partner: Yes, actually – we felt like it was entirely possible that an individual was purposely ‘kicking the can down the road’ until we gave up. Whether or not that’s the case, the current political situation in this country doesn’t help, as I’m sure you can understand.

The Process

Therapist: So what do you think will be the most difficult part of this process?

Partner (with barely concealed rage): This, actually.

Therapist (shocked): These sessions specifically?

Partner: Yes, but also this whole process.

Me: You have to understand that we are going to be angry because straight people don’t have to do this in order to try and have a baby.

Therapist: What do you mean, everyone has to.

Me: No, ‘everyone’ with fertility problems who accesses a clinic for help has to. Straight people can just have sex to try for a baby. Lesbians have to navigate the law. And the way the law is written in this state, in order to be legally protected we have to go through a clinic and have the whole thing medicalised and be diagnosed with infertility and some doctor gets to hold us to ransom and decide how and when we get to try and how much it will cost. And we get treated like we have medical problem, our bodies are pathologized and we are asked insulting questions by people who refuse to hear our answers. All this just to be able to try. We didn’t necessarily want IVF, by the way.

Partner: And every time we walk in here we are asked questions and given forms that are designed for heterosexual couples and told ‘oh, just ignore the male part’ and every single time that happens, which it does repeatedly every time we interact with your organisation, we are reminded that this service isn’t for us and we’re being tolerated, at best. We’re here to access a service, we’re not here to educate you.

Therapist: OK, were you given a choice about IVF or AI?

Me: No.

Therapist: What would be a solution then?

Me: We would be able to decide how we wanted to go about this, and if we wanted we should be able to access the donor sperm and take it home to do it ourselves.

Therapist: Oh, they used to let you do that in the early days but the clinic wanted more control. You’ve got to understand when the laws were made this sort of thing wasn’t even on the radar.

Me: We’re well aware of the laws, thanks.

Therapist: Will you be giving us feedback?

Me: Oh, you’ll be getting feedback, don’t worry about that.

Partner: We’re just trying to get through the process right now, and it’s not the time. What you have to understand is that you are providing a fundamentally different and inferior service to lesbians who are after donor sperm than to medically infertile heterosexual couples. And that’s because you are treating the two as if they are the same thing. And they’re not.

Therapist: You’ve made me really sad (hides her crying and attempts to hug partner as she leaves the room).

Me (to Partner): Did she really just try to hug you?

This article is part of a series written by a local LGBTIQ+ couple looking to grow their family.

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