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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

More on HOT 89.9's Contest to "Win a Baby!"

A couple of days ago, I read a local blogger's post (Yumi at To Infertility and Beyond) about the contest at The New HOT 89.9. She expressed her concerns extremely well I believe. In response to her concerns, I wrote the following. I wanted to post it in her comments section, and I will when I get a moment. But here are my thoughts on her points:

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I understand your point of view. Absolutely. However, I do disagree on some of the issues you spoke about.

Having been part of the Conceivable Dreams brainstorming session earlier this year (see my blog post at http://thehardestquest.blogspot.com/2011/03/27-now-thats-drop.html on March 1, 2011) I spoke with the director of the OFC who was already in the process of negociating this contest at that time with HOT 89.9. Everyone at the brainstorming session, REs (including Dr. Leader), the OFC psychologist (Dr. Gervaize) patients (current and former), and those involved with the infertility awareness community were wholeheartedly in support of the initiative because it -raises- awareness. Getting the Ottawa area listeners involved and learning about their own fertility, hearing how difficult it can be for some patients, realizing that a lot of money is required and that the procedures are not covered for Ontario residents, and of course, bringing the infertility issue to the table with the Ontario election at hand, were all reasons why we thought it was a fantastic way to get people paying attention to the problem. Infertility is a health crisis in our society. One in 6 couples is infertile. And it's still such a taboo topic that people are afraid to talk about it, share their stories, lobby government for change, etc. It's slowly changing but this type of contest and the immense publicity that it entails is exactly what might help us get it out there.

I went through IVF in 2008. I've been writing an infertility blog since 2006. I've already been so very public with our struggles and sharing the stories of other blogging friends. I would truly welcome the opportunity to sit behind a microphone at HOT 89.9 and speak to the problem, raise awareness, discuss statistics and help people become aware of the process, grief, worry, fear and immense joy (or alternatively, depths of pain) that a beta test brings. I would hope that whoever wins this contest is well aware of the requirements and is willing to do the same.

The one item that I do take minor issue with is the terminology. (I'm a writer; I'm picky about stuff like that!) "Win a Baby" isn't correct of course. Because we all know that going through treatment, no matter how great the prognosis might be, well... it doesn't always yield a live birth. Good Lord no. It might yield a miscarriage. Or a tubal pregnancy requiring surgery. It may (heaven forbid) result in a stillbirth. But even those things would be helpful for the public to realize. No, it isn't win a baby... rather "win a CHANCE at having a baby". Or "Win the money to go towards trying to have a baby!" But I do see the point of view from the marketing department: "Win a Baby" just screams sensationalism and yes, controversy. As they say, any publicity is good publicity. I have to set that on the backburner and look at the contest itself. A rose by any other name...

I will be entering the contest and although I doubt I'll get far as I've already had immense success with IVF (spending almost $40K to get there), I just hope that whoever wins does a wonderful job of sharing their story and infertility issues to the public. THAT will be a success in my view.


You can find my own journal and journey at http://thehardestquest.blogspot.com/.

Thank you for writing about your point of view. Again, discussion and raising awareness is the goal so I think it's great that we can engage in this sort of chat about such an important topic.
Gil
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In the last day or so, there's been a whole lot more publicity about the contest.
Ottawa Citizen
Metro
Huffington Post
Even our own Stirrup Queen posted her viewpoint! (YAY! Thank you Mel!)

As mentioned in the Ottawa Citizen:

Fertility treatments are a bizarre and simply wrong prize on many levels - the commodification of childbirth, for one. But the radio station may be on to something.

Despite the ethically questionable premise and the awkwardness of future parents having to explain their child's connection to the contest ("that's your radio station, honey, we won you in a contest"), the "win a baby" promotion may, in fact, serve a useful - if unintended - purpose when it comes to helping couples have babies, by raising awareness about how common infertility is, especially when childbearing is delayed. And the best time to start people thinking about that is early.

In fact, that is EXACTLY the intended purpose. To raise awareness. This radio station has a demographic of teenagers and mostly 20-somethings. I think they aim for the under 35 set. (I'm not their normal demographic I know, but I like the music! So sue me.)

And as Mel rightly pointed out, the posters are rather misleading. Okay, it's a downright lie. You can't actually WIN the baby. Of course not. But that is what the posters say. People believe, incorrectly, that having IVF yields a live, healthy baby. We all know this isn't true. We all know the stories of women here in our IF circles who have heartbreaking stories to tell about miscarriages or stillbirths after IVF. About tubal pregnancies. About birth defects that were unexpected. About the stress of going through the IVF in the first place!

As Mel said, the posters serve to perpetuate "this myth that fertility treatments work each and every time. That it’s closer to corrective surgery vs. a game of roulette." That's the issue I have too. Because really, IVF is roulette.

Win, and you win big.
Fail, and a piece of you dies inside.
The dreams and hopes go down the toilet.

That is exactly why I really hope that whoever wins this contest can speak to the issues and tell the real stories of how this works. Tell the listeners about the stress. The grief. The pain. The 'not knowing.' As my readers know, I spent my entire pregnancy worrying about Petite. I really did. Throughout the pregnancy, it was my goal to make it through one day at a time. Just to get from one milestone to the next. That's all I could focus on. The stress never left me at all. Up until after she was born and declared healthy and well, I worried nonstop. I held my breath as they examined her right after birth for heaven's sake, expecting the worst to happen. ALWAYS. That never goes away. Or at least, it didn't for me. Some of us are able to let go and enjoy the pregnancy and all that, but it was never me. That's for certain.

As to those who are turning away from the station, thinking that the contest is disgusting or immoral, I wonder what would happen if they watched their family dwindle in size, no children on the horizon to take on traditions. No opportunity to share family recipes. No one to share stories with around the dinner table. Are they speaking from experience? Do they realize how heartbreaking infertility is? As has been proven, studies show that being diagnosed as infertile is akin to a diagnosis of cancer. The grief is equivalent (I do not speak from experience, but I know infertiles that can on this point). The grieving process is the same.

And to the listeners who are saying, "Just adopt," well, there's a whole lot of things wrong with that statement. No, it's not the genetic link that people are necessarily searching for. But think about it for a moment. Think about the invasion of privacy that is required for the prospective parents. The exorbitant costs involved (I know one woman who paid over $60,000 to adopt a newborn). The excruciating wait that may never end; a friend of mine and her husband have been waiting for 9 years. NINE. They've not yet been 'chosen' to be adoptive parents and it breaks their hearts. Think about those who have been chosen only to have that shattering moment at the end when a birth mother changes her mind at the last minute. Literally. It's so difficult. It's more difficult to adopt than it is to do IVF. Most definitely.

As mentioned on the Conceivable Dreams' Facebook page, all listeners should be contacting our Member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario (Find my MPP) and let them know that we shouldn't have to pin our hopes for family building on winning a radio contest.

2 comments:

Val said...

Excellent post, Gil. The "win a baby" notion sounds so wrong, yet the idea behind the contest is wonderful. Sometimes, people don't realize - myself included - that using this kind of terminology is hurtful to couples trying so hard to conceive. Good for you for keeping up the awareness work you've been doing for years. We need more courageous and dedicated people like you to keep promoting the importance of getting some kind of funding for infertile couples.

kidsquared said...

Thanks for posting the comment on my blog. As you can see in the other comments, the original post raised a lot of discussion, and I was pleased to communicate with the Hot 89.9. They clarified a few things about the contest that made me feel much better about it.

They addressed the voting issue, which was a huge problem for me. They also assured me that they had consulted with experts in the field, and that they had been working on getting this contest off the ground for a long time.

I still can't stand the marketing.