Baby, plan your birth!

A couple of queer expats in Singapore on a quest to make a baby


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Where do babies come from?

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Where do babies come from? Bangkok, of course!

Babies come from Bangkok! We hope.

After a whirlwind of emotions, we set off for Bangkok on Tuesday night.  By the time we boarded, we were both pretty much done with everything – we spent the flight basking in the emotional turmoil of gloriously bad ABC family dramas.  Perfect.

Of course, I break that sweet, television-induced sedation by spending the rest of our evening scouring academic articles for everything known about IUI, trigger shot-to-ovulation timing, and whether 24 hrs vs. 30 hrs vs. 36 hrs matters at all.  Confirmation bias abounds.  Everything will be okay.

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Swanky clinic – image from their brochure, as they reasonably asked we not take pictures.

Bright and early Wednesday, we headed to our clinic, which turned out to be about 300% more swanky than we expected.  We huddled in our padded furniture pod alongside 30+ other families and waited to meet with the doctor. Despite everyone’s disappointment that I had not done things “properly,” the doctor (and her army of ultrasound technicians) seemed reasonably optimistic.

We broke for lunch, I tried not to eat too much street food (so hard!), and reconvened in the afternoon.  We donned our baby-making costumes – sexy sterile crocs and hospital caps and gowns for both of us.

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After prepping very, very slowly, to help delay the insemination time as much as possible, it was time to make some babies.  The doctor brought out our washed, processed, and ready for action sperm, which came in a lovely shade of pink.  I got all situated, and then the team got to work.

I was more than a bit nervous because most experiences I’ve had with doctors poking my insides have been negative.  I researched other folks’ IUI experiences, which, of course, were all over the place.  Usually, the range was from “didn’t notice” to “it was uncomfortable.”  So I shouldn’t worry?  Wrong.  Always beware the use of “uncomfortable” in a medical setting.

In non-medical settings, the phrase “uncomfortable” refers to anything from a chair with insufficient padding to an awkward social situation.  Maybe the over-full feeling you get after too much pizza.  Uncomfortable.  In medical land, “uncomfortable” is everything short of getting your arm cut off or passing a kidney stone.  It’s more like how spraining your wrist is “uncomfortable” or getting a bronchoscopy is “uncomfortable.”  HA.  It is “bad.”  Simply bad.

Despite the “uncomfortable” nature of the procedure, of course, I was a champ.  That is, if by “champ,” you mean that I hyperventilated, experienced an extreme blood pressure drop, and nearly passed out.  I went through those smelling salts like a champ, that’s for sure.  Aced it.

Then it was over.  I rested for an hour with my book, leaning on my right side as I was told to to help direct the little swimmers toward the good egg (still waiting for an academic paper on that) then we headed out for lunch and a relaxing evening.

And now we wait.

-E

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Question Box Answers: so many uteri, so little time

Anonymous question box” brings us a question!

“Being in a relationship where multiple individuals are biologically capable (?) of bearing children, how was the subject of who should bear a child decided?”

This comes up quite a bit, and it’s exciting to live in a time when we have SO MANY child-bearing options. One of us could carry, both of us could carry, neither of us could carry.  We could use our genetics or someone else’s genetics.  One person directed us to latest developments using three people’s genetic material to create one human.  The science is almost there but the legality/practicality side of things is yet to be sorted, and we don’t want to bank on our fertility at age 80, once it’s marketable.  Besides, our lives are interesting enough without being part of a science-fiction movie.   As it is, did you know that if one parent carries the other could still breastfeed? Our bodies are awesome.

The answer we came to, collaboratively, is me.

Short answer:  Way back in the day, when deciding whether we had a shot as a couple, we had very-important discussions about whether we wanted to have children (as you do). H said yes; I said yes.  H said there was no way a human would be coming out of her person, but that she’d leave it to me to decide between adoption or getting pregnant.  Fair enough.  I also liked the idea of adopting, but I have long thought that making a tiny human would be an interesting experiment I’d like to try at least once. I am biologically equipped to generate ears! That’s crazy. Let’s do it. End of discussion. Oddly, it’s one of the easier decisions we made – picking out an apartment involved more deliberation.

[I leave it to H to describe why she has zero desire to make a tiny human inside her – in short, feeling quite genderqueer makes the idea of being pregnant rather unappealing. Also she’s very protective of her bits. Am I allowed to say that?]

We’ve been surprised that a lot of folks had thought it would go the other way – H would carry and I would marvel and buy milkshakes.  As far as we know, either uterus would suffice, and I have a job that provides us with lots of dollars, while H has a job that provides us with few dollars.  Most cost-benefit analyses would suggest that it’s more efficient, more fair, more reasonable for H to carry.

I’m not entirely sure about that argument – having children at all isn’t particularly efficient.  Besides, H has signed up to do more than her fair share of childcare – including staying home with the wee one for at least its first year of life. The bottom line is that when you’re dealing with something you could describe as “creating the miracle of life” or, alternatively, “harboring a giant parasite in your womb,” personal preference matters A LOT.

So we got lucky, it was easy to pick.  I raised my hand!

-E


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Insurance powers unlocked!

We have insurance! Even the as-yet-imaginary person!

After failing to find adequate coverage in the first several pages of Google offerings, we refined our search, which is to say that we searched for someone who would know how to search better than we do. Enter the international health insurance experts at Medibroker. Steve McCrady, our friendly, patient, and knowledgeable international sales adviser, came up with a pair of plans, and when their powers combine, both E and hypothetical human get health insurance!

So. Baby gets Globality. That’s the only insurer that definitely covers babies conceived by artificial means. The sales reps at Allianz think Allianz also covers artificially conceived babies, but it’s not explicitly stated in the policy, and that’s just not good enough, Allianz. Try harder. Also, at Allianz, both E and I would have to have their insurance on a (very pricy) plan together. Because, you know, my health insurance coverage is super relevant in this scenario. Actually, it turns out that it is, but in the bad way that only makes sense if you’re on way-past-the-gateway drugs or you’re an actuary: I already have a pretty basic one-person plan with Allianz, and I’m not allowed to cancel it and re-up with E on the more expensive comprehensive two-person plan until my plan expires in November, and then the 10-month waiting period for any kind of maternity/birth/baby coverage starts. Sorry, Allianz. That’s crazy. (But good thought on the cancelling in November part. I might have a chat with Steve about some other options for me…)

Anyway, so Globality’s got exterior-baby covered, but interior-baby-wise, we needed something else because Globality’s comprehensive plan for mums-to-be is waaaay too expensive. So for E’s insurance, we have Axa, which is the only insurer that at least covers complications even if the 10-month waiting period isn’t over yet (e.g., if the baby is born prematurely and the aforementioned bloodbath ensues).

We definitely recommend contacting Medibroker. They really know their stuff.

-H


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Health Insurance, Smealth Insurance

Lesson of the day:  Buy insurance 10+ months before you want to give birth.  DO IT DO IT. Start looking 12 months in advance.  Start calling health insurance people and asking them very specific questions 11 months in advance.

The task “find insurance for wee one” has been on my todo list for about two weeks.  Finally, finally, I braved the Internets in hope of finding both health insurance coverage for a not-yet conceived human and maternity coverage for myself.

As an expat in Singapore, I’m not eligible for coverage through the government schemes.  My employer provides health insurance coverage to me (and to my wife!  Thanks!) , but that coverage is quite limited (caps out at $40k) and excludes everything maternity and any children fewer than 15 days old.

Until today, we had planned to pay out-of-pocket for everything birth related.  In part, this is because birth pricing is very transparent  – the government reports average costs at every Singapore hospital, down to the roughly $500 for the epidural (such a deal!). So we’re estimating that we get some “maternity package” that many OBs offer for ~ $600-800 covering pre-natal exams, and then expect to pay $6k-$7k for delivery.

The other reason for planning to pay out of pocket is that, well, looking for insurance is zero fun, moderately stressful, and invites me to think about all sorts of vague but dire healthcare scenarios.  They usually involve blood, beeping machines, and all our money.

So first there was skimming for insurance plans, and a general sense that meh, we don’t need insurance. Everyone else we know said they wished they had insurance but ultimately didn’t, like it was some dream unicorn we could never capture.  But then scenarios started playing, where I’m bleeding everywhere and there’s a tiny pre-mature human … and suddenly no one’s insured and everybody’s bankrupt and there’s so much blood … And have you ever googled “flee Singapore medical debts”?  It’s not a happy road.

Within Singapore, there is “baby insurance.”  You give them $300, and if your baby is born with any one of 18 awful conditions (“Absence of Two Limbs,” for instance) – they will give you $5000.  And promptly cancel your policy. Woo.  You now have a giant ball of fingers (Fey, 2010) and $5000.  Great. They also throw in a free thermometer.  I’m not kidding.

Fortunately, a number of big insurance companies with names that sound like toys our future child could one day play with – Aetna, Cigna, Bupa – offer better health insurance coverage with limits that would actually cover impatient care and – lo! – offer maternity packages that cover all sorts of things.  This is very appealing.  I pay them a few thousand dollars, and they cover delivery, pre-natal/post-natal care.  They even cover my tiny finger ball, providing it with all sorts of tests and surgeries.

But.

There are catches.

– 10 month waiting period (all plans, at best).  I have to be covered for 10 months until they cover whatever person is inside me.  This means PLANNING is important.  This would have been key information to internalize 10 months ago, but it’s doable.

– You have to be insured with you partner (some plans).  That’s right, if you’re a single woman giving birth – NO MATERNITY INSURANCE FOR YOU.

–  Your baby cannot be conceived via “artificial” means.  So if I, sexy gay lady, sleep with the first guy on the street, get pregnant, and have a baby (at least 10 months after I start my plan!), I am 100% covered.  If I, sexy gay lady, visit a fancy doctor’s office and have tested, washed, re-tested sperm put inside my person with sterile medical equipment, I am 0% covered.  Because that is “artificial,”  and therefore risky.

My less snarky self assumes that the underwriters freak out at the word “artificial” because people using artificial methods might be more risky on average, but (1) that’s not very nice and (2) I’m not feeling very risky.  Which isn’t very nice of me, but it’s also every person for herself here in the cold, dark world of NOT BEING INSURED.

So the hunt continues for an international health insurance plan that will cover one lady and one baby conceived artificially 10 months from today. The clock is ticking…

 

– E