The New York Times Strikes Again

There has been another article about infertility published in The New York Times, this time a first person account by a woman who went through several miscarriages. At first as I read the piece I thought: perfect. An acclaimed novelist writing about her experience with infertility! How can this be bad?

But somehow, the article reinforced the agenda we’ve seen with The New York Times already. (Click here for a refresher.)

The author, Charlotte Bacon, apparently easily gave birth to her first baby at 35 but before she had her second child, she suffered two losses and had to pursue fertility treatments. (I’m guessing: she says when she was 41, through “a stark amalgam of science, chilly doctors and who knows what measure of luck my daughter arrived, strong, sweet and fully loved.”)

Then, during a trip to Bhutan, Ms. Bacon goes to a fertility temple called Chimi and prays to have another child.

Five months later, she’s pregnant at the age of 44 with a healthy baby boy.

The story is beautifully written. Ms. Bacon tells her tale well, and is a sympathetic narrator.

My problem is not with her story so much as with her profile. Again, someone faced with infertility in The New York Times:

1. Has plenty of discretionary income. Between the trip to Bhutan (well out of the reach financially for most people) and this statement (“I don’t generally pray, much less to fertility goddesses. I don’t fall to my knees for anyone or anything, except a reliable nanny.”), I’m assuming that Ms. Bacon and her husband are fairly well-off. Maybe that IS a wrong guess. But nothing in the article contradicts this impression.

2. Decides on a whim that they’d like another child. “A friend calls these unexpected additions ‘martini babies’, yet I can’t even blame alcohol.”

I don’t know. I’m working on my big secret project and it’s making me wonder why some people have so many resources and the majority of others barely stay afloat.

It’s not just the 1% who read The New York Times, just like it’s not just the 1% who are infertile. 1 in 8 of us of child-bearing age in the United States is infertile. (Resolve) The average price of one IVF treatment cycle in the US is $13,774 and American facilities only met one quarter of the estimated demand for fertility treatment (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology). And it’s no wonder: the average income of a household in the US? $46,500 (Wikipedia) which means that an IVF cycle would cost the average American household 29% of its yearly income PRETAX!! We all know how crappy insurance coverage is of infertility treatment. (And feel free to share your own experience below.)

I really would like to see The New York Times cover one of the 75% of Americans who can’t afford infertility treatments. Don’t make it a lifestyle story, fine. We know our boring non-1% lives are ineligible for that kind of treatment. But write about us in the health section or the news section.

Do you agree? Or have I gone all Marxist on you 😉

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13 Comments

Filed under Infertility

13 responses to “The New York Times Strikes Again

  1. If you hadn’t of titled it like you did, I would’ve gotten my hopes up with the fact they profiled someone with repeat loss. But OF COURSE she’s wealthy and her situation is unlike most of ours here. (If I could only count how many times I’ve gotten pregnant after I’ve flown to Bhutan to pray to the gods! Oh wait, that would be zero.) I wish we could get the NYTimes to read one of these posts…they’d be lucky to have someone like you writing for them and providing an insight to the reality of pregnancy loss and infertility. It’s not sugar coated in our world.

  2. Esperanza

    It’s very frustrating that this piece is written by yet another person with considerable means because she is a beautiful writer and I enjoy her prose a lot. But she is obviously very well off. And it is frustrating. The story of a well off New York family working to create their family is very different from the story of 99% of the IF community, especially when money is such a huge part of the IF experience.

    You’re right that the NYT is never going to put a story about most IFers in the Life and Style section but they should be running something relevant in the Health section.

    Boo NYT!

  3. veetamia

    I agree with you thoughts! Sad part is that the other stories are left unheard and people get the wrong impression of the challenges we are faced with.

  4. You know, the wealth, combined with her age, contributes to the perception that fertility treatments are a luxury way to make babies. As in, if you have the money, you can wait until you’re 44 and then just pay someone. Nobody ever likes to mention the 24-year-old at the RE clinic.

    I get so frustrated with the lifestyle section. Is that the only kind of person whose lifestyle we should be interested in?

  5. Hope

    I agree about trying to get a more realistic article in the health section. But probably the NYT, just like so many other people, things that since raising children is a lifestyle choice, not being able to have them is “just” a lifestyle issue, not a health issue.

    I also wanted to thank you for putting those average numbers in your post. It reminded me of how incredibly lucky I am to be in a position to be able to afford (and therefore consider) most family building options. It is so sad that in this country so many people’s family building options are limited to what they can afford.

  6. The problem is that the NYTimes, I suspect, is covering the people it thinks are most likely to be able to afford subscriptions to it or buy it on the street. I would love for all media to cover the people whose voices are unheard. And I don’t think you’re Marxist. But if those people aren’t going to make the media any money, then they’re not likely to be given their due billing.

    Doesn’t make your argument any less right … just a speculation about why they make the choices they do.

  7. I think you are right about the biases of the NYT coverage of this subject. I also suspect that it says just as much about the people who write for the Times as it does about the newspapers agenda. The writers tend to be a certain kind of East Coast elite and, as you point out, this kind of experience belongs largely to them. So there’s another reason to get annoyed by this coverage, particularly as an aspiring writer!

  8. SOOO frustrating. I’m getting really close to posting something on facebook and outing myself. I can’t believe how terribly ignorant people’s views are of infertility. The NYT will probably never cover this…

  9. Rachel @ Eggs In A Row

    We are the 99%. The 99% who have never even heard of the fertile waters of Bhutan, let alone been able to get work off in order to go wade in them…

  10. Courtney

    I would love to see a story about the the people I see at my RE’s office who you can tell are spending their life savings (and maybe even their parents’ life savings) for just one shot at conceiving a child. I’m not going to pretend to be one of those people – we had insurance coverage and knew (and still know) how lucky we were to have it. You could see a different level of stress in the eyes of many of the patients as they wrote checks at the front desk, or split their payments across several credit cards. Everyone in the RE’s waiting room is stressed beyond belief (well – beyond the belief of normal, fertile people anyway!) – but you can see a different level of stress in those who are spending their last dollars (and likely going into debt) to try to build their family. It’s sad. It’s devastating. It’s painful to watch and know – because all of us (able to afford it or not) know that that single treatment that they’re paying for doesn’t have the best odds at fulfilling their dreams. Many of us spend money we don’t have time and time again – cycle after cycle – in hopes that the next one will be THE ONE. It’s just awful, and no one will talk about it.

  11. A little Marxism can be good for the social justice 🙂

  12. I agree with you. I’m tired or reading stories of people like in the NYT profiles…these women seem so far from the norm…
    My experience (since you asked) was I had ZERO insurance coverage for anything fertility related. We were able to do a lot (4 IVFs, 1 FET), but only because a) we spent all our savings, b) we overall live VERY frugally, and c) I have the ability to make extra money as I freelance and can control how many hours I work, which I am very grateful for, but it came at a big cost. Each time we needed to scrounge money together for another IVF I would keep my normal 8-10 hour workday, and fly out and live in Boston for a period of weeks and go into an office 8 hours a day on top of my normal workload, which I would get done in the early mornings and evenings. So away from my husband and exhausted and doing nothing but working every waking hour…not a good quality of life. And I’m not complaining, again I am very grateful to have been able to do this, but being able to afford IVFs came at a big sacrifice. And we tried for 5 years to have our first child…
    We were very lucky as we were DONE emotionally and financially after this last round and I am now pregnant, but I wish things weren’t this way…and I do truly wish that the dream of a child was not out of reach for so many…we were lucky and it’s just not right…

  13. This article also perpetuates the stereotype that all infertility is both age-related and solvable with treatment. It makes it all the harder to explain why this is so difficult. The author was able to use her vast resources to compensate for her advanced age. Many of us have much more complicated issues that are not age related and even after spending lots of money on multiple rounds of expensive treatments still are childless.

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