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    Here's How Much It Actually Cost This Couple To Have A Baby

    "As I started to open up about my story, so many couples — straight, gay — were coming out like, 'We've had the same troubles.'"

    A 2017 study found that after giving birth in a hospital, insured Americans saw an average bill of $13,811. But for couples who receive fertility treatments, it can cost several times that amount just to conceive.

    After insurance, Americans pay between $1,000 and $2,500 out of pocket to give birth. But when it comes to fertility treatment, many insurance providers don't cover anything at all.

    With so many other costs to worry about, like housing and student loan debt, I was really curious to find out how regular couples who seek these treatments are making it work.

    Precious wearing glasses and a button down shirt
    Precious Ares

    So I talked with Precious Ares, a new mom and hearing officer based in Inglewood, California, to learn how much she and her wife spent on their fertility journey and what they learned along the way.

    Here are 10 tips and lessons from her story:

    1. First, to get financially ready for their fertility journey, Precious and her wife started by adding up their student loans and other debt to figure out where they stood.

    Precious and her wife taking a selfie at a stadium
    Precious Ares

    Between the two of them, they had a total of $120,000 in student loan and consumer debt. Both Precious and her wife, who works at a university, went to grad school in addition to completing their four-year degrees. But neither of them had really anticipated the student loan burden they'd be shouldering after graduation. "When I was young, I really didn't have an understanding of loans or how much I was really taking out. I was like, yeah, this is cool, sign sign sign, and really didn't have that knowledge. Then as I became an adult, looking for home ownership, looking at my credit score, I'm like, oh my gosh, that's a lot of money."

    Seeing your debt total can feel pretty daunting, but whenever you're planning for a financial goal, getting an accurate picture of where you're starting from is absolutely key. As much as it might suck to think about, you just can't make a realistic financial plan without facing down your real debt total.

    2. Then, in one of the couple's first big money moves, Precious refinanced her private student loans with SoFi. "That gave me more of a sense of control."

    3. At the same time, the couple worked together to cut their expenses and raise their income.

    steps to the debt snowball method
    Kathy Hoang/BuzzFeed

    Precious took on extra hours at work, using her overtime to pay down debt more aggressively and save for fertility treatments. They also budgeted together, tackled multiple debts using the snowball method, and set regular money dates to make sure they stayed on track with their goals.

    4. But they had to make some big trade-offs too. Precious actually bought a house in 2016 after saving money by living at home after college. But to reach their financial goals, the couple ended up selling the house and renting an apartment on her wife's campus instead.

    Precious and her wife holding flowers
    Precious Ares

    "My mom taught me most of my money lessons. She has a high school diploma but was able to save her money over the years to buy us our home," Precious said. "I actually lived with my brother and mom in a bedroom in my grandma's house until I was in the sixth grade. Very humble beginnings, but she really taught the importance of having your own home, how to save, how to work."

    So Precious knew she wanted to buy a house as early as possible. "I followed my mom's model of not being ashamed to stay at home longer as I started my career. I wasn't really in a rush to get an apartment or to get a brand-new fancy car off the bat." But once the reality of student loan debt and the costs of fertility treatment set in, Precious chose starting a family over home ownership, for now.

    5. After a couple years of budgeting and paying down debt, the couple started their first fertility treatments, a process that ultimately cost them about $10,000 in what Precious describes as "a slow trickle of expenses."

    At first, Precious tried IUI (intrauterine insemination) with a known donor in San Francisco. "We actually were commuting back and forth."

    But the couple found that coordinating travel and scheduling visits could be challenging, and there were other cons to the situation that made them rethink their plans. "Sometimes a known donor seems easier, but it can have its own challenges, especially legally and doctor's bills that the donor incurs." 

    6. And on top of the financial challenges, Precious discovered that it can actually be a lot harder to conceive than her education and the media led her to believe. "High school sex ed is like, not correct."

    Precious and her wife at the Los Angeles LGBT Center
    Precious Ares

    "We started our very first IUI like, 'Oh my gosh, sperm — I'm gonna be pregnant. It's gonna happen right away.' I wish I'd known that conception and fertility is so much more complicated. And it's not unusual." 

    "We tried for two years. It was a very long process, and I started to think there was something wrong with me. Everyone's journey is different in conception. It can be challenging for all types of people, and it's not that uncommon."

    "And oftentimes, you don't get to talk about it. You really have to comfort your partner as well as comfort yourself, because it's kind of this secret thing that you're doing, trying to conceive."

    "As I started to open up about my story, so many couples — straight, gay — were coming out like, 'We've had the same troubles.' Even my grandparents have struggled with fertility and losses, and we just never talked about it."

    7. So the couple decided to try something else. In 2020, they took out a $30,000 personal loan to try IVF (in vitro fertilization).

    Precious and her wife with their baby
    Precious Ares

    In the meantime, the pandemic actually helped Precious and her wife pay down more debt, as they found themselves staying in more and spending less on entertainment and activities with friends. 

    8. They also found ways to actually get their health insurance to cover some tests and other appointments so they didn't have to pay full price for everything out of pocket.

    "Some lab tests can actually be covered by our insurance, so we'll do this blood test over here with a primary doctor's request. So kind of mixing and matching in that can be tricky, but, you know, call and find out."

    Dealing with health insurance can be incredibly frustrating, and many companies flat out don't cover anything for fertility. But Precious has encountered some even more baffling and biased policies. "I've heard some companies say you have to 'try' six times before they'll cover it. But how do you 'try' as a gay couple???"

    9. A few months ago, after this long process, a pandemic pregnancy, and spending a total of $40,000, Precious and her wife finally welcomed a new baby to their family. "It's so surreal," Precious said.

    Precious and her wife in the hospital shortly after their baby's birth
    Precious Ares

    "Sometimes I just hold him and just look and stare at him like, 'I love you so much.' He can say 'mama' now, or make those sounds, and I'm like, 'I'm really his mom!'" she gushed. "Moms are just the greatest people in the world, so to be able to have that title — I'm just completely blown away."

    10. Now, Precious and her wife have paid off the baby loan, their car, a couple of credit cards, and Precious's private student loans, totaling $120,000. They still owe on their federal student loans, but are each pursuing public service loan forgiveness. And Precious has been sharing their story to raise awareness about the intersection of finance and fertility.

    Precious's baby son sitting on a blanket and smiling
    Precious Ares

    "We have regular, average jobs. I don't come from money. But I like to show that anyone can do it — like, literally anybody can do this and have the life that they want. When we think of surrogacy or IVF, we often think about celebrities, but I'm just an average person who wanted to have a family, and it happened."

    Does Precious's story resonate with you? Share your experiences in the comments below.

    And for more stories about money and life, check out the rest of our personal finance posts

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