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“It will take an act of God for you to get pregnant

on your own...” Even now, two years after they were


spoken, those few words from our fertility specialist
still break my heart.

Contrary to the popular myth about career women,


I wasn't delaying childbearing until it was convenient.
I had always been anxious to start my family – I just
wanted to find my Prince Charming first. What I didn’t
factor in was that I wouldn’t find him until I was 37 years
old – a ripe old age in fertility terms. Instead of baby-
making the old-fashioned way, I began charting my basal
body temperature, drinking daily pots of Chinese herbal
teas that tasted like mouldy tree bark and going for
weekly acupuncture treatments. There were early
mornings at the fertility clinic for blood work and
ultrasounds, learning how to use a syringe to inject
myself in the belly with fertility drugs (sometimes in
shopping mall bathrooms!) and postponing our
wedding to save money for IVF treatments.

From Patient to
by JOANNE HORIBE

Advocate
For me, the hardest part of infertility and IVF isn't any
of the obvious things like the physical discomfort or the
huge financial cost. It's the feeling that I have no control
in this very important area of my life. On a monthly
basis, I careen from hope to despair. Every new cycle
brings fresh optimism, which spikes upward or plummets
dramatically based on the daily ultrasound report on the
size and number of my ovarian follicles and the phone
call from the lab with reports on fertilization and cell
division. Frustratingly, the results seem completely
unpredictable and unrelated to my actions, both positive
(going to yoga and taking my supplements) and negative
(sneaking in just one coffee and eating wheat and
sugar). For a self-professed control freak, this has been
the most difficult part of this journey.

34 Creating Families • WINTER / HIVER 2010


When I reflect upon what caused me make a difference. In November 2008, for Babies and even held bake sales
to create Conceivable Dreams, I see I boldly announced to my class that to raise funds for their IVF treatment.
that it was a way to take some control I intended to convince the Ontario I contacted Kerri and Ashley who both
over this seemingly uncontrollable government that infertility was a agreed to work with me in lobbying
thing called infertility. I certainly did- medical condition like diabetes and the Ontario government to fund IVF
n't wake up one morning and set out high blood pressure, and therefore treatments. Conceivable Dreams – the
to be the poster child for the infertile. should be funded under OHIP. At OHIP for IVF Coalition – was born!
But as I read infertility blogs and met that moment, I was unsure how I was We created a new Facebook group
women in the clinic waiting rooms,
I was astonished to discover so many
couples struggling through this alone
or anonymously online. There seemed
to be a stigma associated with infertili-
ty that stopped people from talking
about it openly with their friends and
family members. I wanted to shift the
infertility conversation from one of
shame, embarrassment and silence
to something open and courageous;
I wanted the infertility community to
have a collective voice.

But what was the common thread that


would bring us together? And what
would that collective voice say? I started
with Internet research. It seemed that
everyone had a different opinion
about which drug protocol was more
effective, which fertility doctor was the
best and whether acupuncture
improved success rates. The one thing
that everyone agreed upon was that
the financial cost of paying for IVF I wanted to shift the infertility conversation from one
treatment was crippling; for many,
of shame, embarrassment and silence to something
it meant no treatment at all.
open and courageous; I wanted the infertility
After handing over my VISA card to community to have a collective voice.
pay the $6900 cycle fee to the clinic
for my first IVF (along with an addi-
going to make all this happen, but and hoped to attract 200 members
tional $3500 to the drug store for the
saying it in front of sixty people in a few months. Within 10 days we
fertility drugs), I felt that lobbying
suddenly meant that I was committed. had 230 members. Kerri's husband
the Ontario government to fund IVF
I had to take action. Alex set to work on creating our
would be a powerful way for the
Conceivable Dreams website while
infertility community to band
I started with Facebook and stumbled Ashley reached out to her vast net-
together and speak out.
upon a Facebook group called work of friends in online chat groups.
“Support Public Funding for IVF Within weeks we had over 700
As a volunteer, I teach a personal
Treatment.” The group administrator members through Facebook and
development program for Landmark
Kerri Stanford was from Ottawa. I also our website.
Education called the Self-Expression
noticed that there were a number of
and Leadership Program. During this
newspaper articles posted about Our momentum was building fast,
four-month program, each person
Ashley Bulley from Tilbury, Ontario, but we needed to make use of our
(including me) takes on a project in a
who, with her family and friends, growing membership – and fast. I had
community where he or she wants to
organized a rock concert called Bands heard rumours about a march in

WINTER / HIVER 2010 • Creating Families 35


Do you have to let Queen's Park know
that you are coming?
(ANSWER: Yes, you have to book Queen's
Park and get a demonstration permit from
the City.)

Where do you get those sticks that


hold up the protest signs?
(ANSWER: buy 2x1’ wood at Home Depot
and ask them to cut them in half for you.
Yardsticks are too expensive and flimsy.)

Wow, printing flyers costs how much?


(ANSWER: a lot, around $100 for 200
copies.)

Where does one find a megaphone?


(ANSWER: Long & McQuade or any-
where they rent musical instruments.)

One of the most incredible experi-


… the hardest part of infertility and IVF isn't any of the ences of the march was the unbeliev-
able generosity of friends and even
obvious things like the physical discomfort or the huge strangers. I was brought up to believe
financial cost. It's the feeling that I have no control in that people are naturally helpful and
generous, but I didn’t truly realize
this very important area of my life. how generous they can be until our
march: Kerri's brother-in-law Ben, a
Australia where infertility sufferers Timing was short. It was now graphic designer, created our amazing
pushed empty baby strollers to protest February 2009 and we wanted to poster; Richard, my real estate agent,
the government’s threat of cutting off ensure that the Expert Panel on donated forty used real estate signs to
IVF funding. The rumours turned out Infertility and Adoption heard from use as backing for our protest signs;
to be wildly overstated (in fact, no Conceivable Dreams before issuing its Eric at AIIM Group donated huge
such march ever took place), but the recommendations in the summer of black-out stickers and printing to
idea of such an event inspired us. We 2009. We also wanted to garner media cover up the real estate slogans; an
asked ourselves, would a bold state- attention for our event to raise aware- anonymous benefactor donated the
ment like that work here in conserva- ness across the province. Although it services of their PR agency to attract
tive Ontario? Would infertility suffer- was an aggressive timetable, we decided the media. The list goes on and on.
ers really break their silence to march that holding the Pram Push for IVF
in the streets? Would it be too upset- Funding would pack the most punch Mother's Day quickly arrived. I was
ting for would-be moms and dads who on a specific day: May 10, 2009 – nervous and stressed – Please let there
dream of pushing their baby in a Mother's Day. be no rain! Please have people show
stroller to push an empty one? up! Ironically, Ashley was put on bed
Things now started happening quickly. rest with her IVF twins in utero, so she
We were told on countless occasions We set the route: the march would couldn’t attend the march. Instead,
by experienced infertility organizers begin at Toronto City Hall, turn up she conducted media interviews from
that it would never work. People suf- University Avenue and end with a rally her bed. Between Kerri and I, we
fering from infertility were reluctant and speeches at Queen's Park. Did could count on at least 20 attendees.
to sign their names to petitions and I mention the naïve and uninitiated? We wondered whether any of the
letters: they would never come out to I had never even attended a march or other 150 people who had confirmed
march. Despite all of the naysayers, rally before, let alone organized one. on Facebook would actually show up?
and with the boundless optimism of We had many more questions than The march was set to kick off
the naïve and uninitiated, we decided answers and learned nearly everything at 10 a.m.
to make some noise and go for it! through trial and error:

36 Creating Families • WINTER / HIVER 2010


9:30 a.m. It’s just me, Kerri, and exception. There were hundreds of who suffer from infertility, and not
our families and friends. Tamils lining Queen’s Park Circle. As just through lobbying for support of
we approached, they immediately let government funding. Our march shift-
9:45 a.m. One couple who had made us through; many expressed solidarity ed the conversation from silence to
the drive from Windsor join us. by joining us in our chant. communication and courage. The
following two stories from the Pram
9:55 a.m. Fifty people are milling We were now several hundred strong, Push are poignant examples of this.
around and the media start to arrive. standing in front of the Ontario
Where is everyone? Legislature. April stood at the podium and shared her
fifteen-year battle with infertility (begun at
10:10 a.m. After finishing a TV inter- “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Ontario pay the age of 21), leaving nary a dry eye in
view with Global TV, I get a chance to for IN-VI-TRO!” the crowd. Afterwards she was approached
look around. The south end of the by four Tamil men who had listened to the
square is packed! As I stood at the podium to welcome speeches. All of these burly men had tears
in their eyes and one spoke for all of them.
everyone and introduce our powerful
“Thank you for sharing your story. In my
Some participants had brought speakers, I was moved to see the
country, there are many people who are
strollers, some had homemade signs; incredible group in front of me; men,
dealing with infertility but our culture
participants from online chat groups women and children; young and old; teaches us to be silent and say nothing.
were meeting IRL (in real life) for straight and gay; members of every Now that I know that people can talk about
the first time. People brought their ethnicity; from all across Ontario. such things, I am going to spread the word
children, adopted or conceived All were dealing with infertility or in my community so that people know that
through IVF; others brought their supporting loved ones who were. On they are not alone. When is the next protest
parents, anxious for grandchildren. Mother's Day, we were a force to be so that we can help?”
All were there to lobby the govern- reckoned with. The stigma of infertility
ment to fund IVF and be heard. would no longer keep us silent! Jane and Mike, who had been trying for
Several months after the Pram Push, 5 years to have a baby, never told anyone
10:15 a.m. We started to march. the Expert Panel on Infertility and in their family what they were going
Adoption released its report, includ- through. That morning, after attending the
The mood was upbeat and optimistic. ing a recommendation that the Pram Push, they told their families where
As we turned up University Avenue, Ontario government fund up to three they had been and that they were lobbying
one of our guest speakers Jan (who cycles of IVF. The Pram Push has the government to fund IVF because they
was reminded of her Ban the made a difference in the lives of those needed the treatment and couldn't afford
Bomb/Flower Power youth) suggested
that we needed some kind of chant.
We had a good laugh over a few
funny, but inappropriate slogans.

Inc.
Then Ben suggested “Hey, Hey, Ho,
Ho, Ontario pay for IN-VI-TRO.”
It immediately caught on and we
proceeded toward Queen’s Park,
marching and chanting.
Aina Zhang
A Leading Acupuncturist in the Treatment of Infertility

• Master’s degree in gynecology (China)


“Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Ontario pay for

• Medical Doctor degree in combined


IN VITRO!”
Chinese and Western Medicine (China)
• Licensed Acupuncturist in Quebec
In the days leading up to Mother’s

• Over 25 years of clinical experience in


Day, members of Toronto's Tamil com-

Chinese and Western medicine


munity had been demonstrating every
day in front of the U.S. Embassy and
at Queen’s Park, protesting human
rights abuses of Tamil people in Sri 4177 Decarie Blvd. • Montreal, QC • H4A 3J8
Lanka and petitioning the international (514) 483-6669
community to intervene. Today was no ainazhang@sinocare.ca www.sinocare.ca

WINTER / HIVER 2010 • Creating Families 37


it. Each set of would-be grandparents
offered to pay $5000 each for Jane and
Mike's IVF treatment.

That's what I am most proud of help-


ing to create: a shift in perception that
infertility isn’t anything to be ashamed
of, it’s simply a medical condition, and
its treatment should be funded by
OHIP.

During my ongoing journey to become


a mother, there has been plenty of
heartbreak and disappointment and
many times when I just want to quit.
There were dips and breakdowns that
made me want to give up on the Pram
Push too. But forging ahead with
Conceivable Dreams and the Pram About the author
Push provided me with more joy, Joanne is a co-founder of Conceivable Dreams, the OHIP for IVF Coalition
pride and fulfillment than I had ever that currently has over 1000 members. She is senior legal counsel for a major
imagined. Deep down, I know that's international corporation and is currently undergoing her 6th cycle of
how motherhood is going to be too. in-vitro fertilization (IVF). She can be reached through
www.conceivabledreams.org or jhoribe@hotmail.com

WINTER / HIVER 2010 • Creating Families 39