We’ve Spent $6K On At-Home Insemination Amid COVID-19

Welcome to Refinery29’s Fertility Diaries, where people chronicle their joyous, painful, and sometimes complicated paths to parenthood.
History: Two impatient women who are newly on the path of getting pregnant, during a pandemic, with a sperm donor on the other side of the country.
Ages: 28 and 36
Location: New York, New York
Occupation: Financial Strategist & Personal Trainer
Household income: $240,000
Names have been changed to protect the identities of the diarists.
April 2019
Thinking about babies
Emily: I’ll be honest: I can’t stop talking about babies. I’ve always wanted a big family, and, with my partner being older, we know we have a closing window if she wants to carry. I never thought I’d end up with a woman, so I never considered getting pregnant would be such a process. When I met Jane, I just knew she was my person. About six months into our relationship, I came to the realization that having a family would not be as simple as I’d always imagined. It would mean a lot of alternative paths, possible medical intervention, and maybe adoption. This has been a hard reckoning. 
When my brother came to me earlier this month and offered to be our sperm donor for our first baby, I was stoked. In my mind, this is the best option for us, especially because we want to be cost conscious. Purchasing sperm from a bank can cost between $1,000 and $5,000, and our insurance has very specific and limited coverage for intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). 
Jane: For most of my life, I was indifferent about having kids. Then I met Emily, and thought, Okay, yes, I want babies with her. I’m older, so we decide I’ll be the first to carry a child. When she comes to me pitching her brother as our sperm donor, my first reaction is hell no. End of story. 
Cost: $0
December 15, 2019
A change of heart
Jane: After our initial conversation about Emily’s brother donating sperm for us, we don’t discuss it again for months. In the meantime, I read a bunch of articles about sibling donors. Two stood out to me in particular: An article from The Cut and one from Vice. Overall, the stories they tell were positive and beautiful, and I realize that if we bring honesty and transparency into the process, we’ll also have a happy ending.
So, I tell her I have something serious I want to talk to her about, which I can tell makes her nervous. I’ve thought about it and I do want to use your brother as our donor,” I say. 
She doesn’t say anything, just starts beaming and gives me a huge hug. One decision down, a whole bunch to go. 
Emily:  I almost don’t have the words to describe my excitement! I’m over the moon, and feel a lot of excitement and anticipation. I’m so at peace and ready to start the process.
Cost: $0
January 2020
Making a timeline; booking flights
Emily:  I want to start the process of getting pregnant as soon as possible, but there are hoops to jump through. We have to fly to where my brother is while my wife is ovulating, which means we have to take vacation time. My wife is self-employed, so taking this time will mean she does not get paid. 
We also have to figure out how to actually impregnante her without having sex. I Google “how to get pregnant at home with two women”, then “I’m 36 and trying to get pregnant, what are my risks?” Within two minutes, I’ve closed that browser. 
My Google searches — and our health insurance — lead us to try at-home insemination, also known as an intracervical insemination, instead of having a doctor do a medically assisted IUI (where we’d pay about $300).  I suggest to her that March would be a good time to do the insemination.
Jane: March seems reasonable. It’s a few months away and I feel it’s enough time to begin mentally preparing. I sign up for a prenatal vitamin subscription, and purchase Mosie, a home conception kit that helps sperm get as close to the cervix as possible, and we book our flight to California where her brother lives. 
Costs: $440 total. The prenatal vitamins are $35 per month; flights are $325; and two Mosie kits are $80. Unfortunately, we aren’t able to use our health savings account money on this. The company advises you to use one kit per try, but we just buy two and plan to boil the kits to try to sterilize them for a few uses.
March 20, 2020
COVID-19 comes
Emily:  It turns out, this month wasn’t the best time to start trying. New York City “shut down” two weeks ago, and our flights to California are cancelled. I’m terrified of the virus but also heartbroken. Will this put off our plans for months? Years? 
Jane: The uncertainty is definitely a huge bummer. I tested positive with COVID-19 two weeks ago and have been bedridden for two full weeks. Between the debilitating body aches and headaches (I can’t even describe how bad these have been), I have done nothing but watch Tiger King and The Office. Getting my health back is my priority; getting pregnant is the last thing on my mind. 
Cost: $0
May 20, 2020
Annual Checkup with Gynecologist 
Emily: I’m so relieved because Jane is going to see her gyno today. I have been having a lot of anxiety lately about our process and her taking this initiative feels like a massive step forward. 
Jane: I’m sitting at my gynecologist’s office to have my annual checkup and some genetic testing done. They are screening me for 283 gene mutations that could cause various diseases and syndromes. Most couples don’t go through this process, but because I am over 34 and we are “choosing” our sperm donor, we opted in. If my test comes back with any positive results, our donor will then get screened for those same gene mutations. If we both test positive for the same mutation, there’s a higher chance our embryos could be affected, and we’ll probably use a different donor. 
Costs: $250 total. My gyno appointment is $0, with my insurance; Genetic Testing is $250 with my insurance — but it’d be $4,000 without. We're beyond grateful we have coverage to lower that bill.
June 17, 2020
Trying for the first time!
Emily: It’s finally time for our first intracervical insemination attempt. Despite COVID-19, we’ve decided that going to California and beginning to try to get pregnant is a priority for us. With the country in such despair, it feels a bit irresponsible to travel, but we are stocking up on travel-sized hand sanitizer and wipes, disposable gloves, eye glasses, and face masks. We take zinc every morning and we’ve had no symptoms of COVID-19 in the past two weeks.
Unfortunately, the plane tickets are quite expensive now. Between the Airbnb and the flights, I wonder if this is really going to be cost effective. I’m also stressed about what it’ll be like once we land on the West Coast. Will it be awkward? How will it actually work? I feel like we know nothing and aren’t prepared. 
The two apps we’re using to track my partner’s ovulationClue and Premom — are telling us two different windows so I’m also concerned about that too. I’m trying hard to stay positive, but I desperately want this to work. 
Jane: My genetic testing came back identifying one mutation, but we tested our sperm donor for the same one and it was not a match, which means our baby has the tiniest chance of being affected. The results means we are good to go! 
I have a strong feeling I will get pregnant my first time trying because of how regular my cycle is. Fingers crossed.
Costs: $3,225 total. Rebooked flights are $825 for two tickets, round trip; the Airbnb is $1,400 for the week; Food for the trip comes to about $1,000.
July 3, 2020
A no go
Jane: We are back in New York City, and I took my first pregnancy test today — two weeks after our first ‘swap’, as we called it. It came back negative. I’m so disappointed. Emily has been with me the entire time. I love having her with me while I wait but I also need some space to process my feelings. I’m going to take a few more tests just to be sure. 
Emily: Waiting for a positive pregnancy test result is interesting. I felt some trepidation that I didn’t expect. I want a baby — but I’m also pretty darn nervous about becoming a parent. Am I ready? Will I be a good parent? What if I make mistakes?
But then the test comes back negative. I’m disappointed, but know it’s just our first try, so I’m not too disheartened. The process with my brother was so seamless and somehow not uncomfortable in the least. With COVID-19 ramping up in California, he’s not able to travel this month, but has booked a trip in August. 
Costs: $29.29 total. Easy@Home Ovulation Test Strips come to $16.55; First Response Early Detection Pregnancy Tests are $12.74. We got both on Amazon Prime.
July 10, 2020
Another negative test 
Jane: I peed on yet another stick, but it didn’t come back positive either. Looking back, I’m realizing we could have been more informed about what we were doing. I watched a lot of informational videos that Mosie has on their website, and read a handful of articles, but  I’m going to really buckle down before we give it another go. 
Emily: I’m not surprised. After the first negative, I had a feeling all of her tests would deliver the same result. Now, I’m just trying to be as supportive and positive as possible.
Cost: $0
August 20, 2020
Our second time trying with donor sperm
Emily: Here we go again! We have learned so much more about insertion and the best angles for success. My best friend who is in med school suggested that I should insert the syringe of sperm for Jane. She says if Jane is at an awkward angle, she won’t be as relaxed and will likely miss her cervix. This is good to know, and makes me feel much more prepared. 
Jane: Having Emily do the injection makes me really anxious. I’m a private person and I feel I know my body better than anyone. I also know I won’t be relaxed if my wife is the one inserting the syringe. I love her, but her energy isn’t always the most calming. 
Costs: $560 total. More Mosie kits for $160; More flights come to $400.
September 9, 2020
Another attempt, another test
Emily: We found out today our second attempt didn’t take. I can’t help but question our process. There’s SO much room for error when inserting. Did I do  it wrong? Did I not go far enough? 
I’m also feeling some doubt about our broader strategy. With my brother being across the country, we basically have to try every other month because by the time we find out an attempt didn’t take, the flights are too expensive to jet back West immediately. 
I’ve started researching fertility doctors in NYC. Our insurance only covers IUI or IVF if we can prove we are having problems getting pregnant and have tried for a significant amount of time (like a year). 
Being two women doesn’t automatically put us in the insurance category of “infertile,” so we have to first get a bunch of tests done. I can’t believe that, and think procedures should be automatically covered. If the insurance company makes us try for a year, that will be thousands of dollars of us trying before we even get to the doctor. I also have a sneaking suspicion that even if we prove Jane has problems conceiving, it won't mean I'll automatically get coverage. I'm worried we're losing valuable time. 
Anyway, we have an appointment with a fertility specialist on October 6. They’ll be testing to see if my wife’s fallopian tubes are blocked, and will check her hormone levels, to help determine whether Jane can get pregnant without intervention.
I’m trying to stay positive. My wife is so sad and she feels like she’s letting me down. I  want her to be gentle with herself. I’m continuously reminding her to be patient.
Jane: I’m just really disappointed. I know it was only our second try but I think I should have gotten pregnant easily. I feel like I’m on an emotional rollercoaster. Emily has already made a baby registry and spends her Sundays reviewing it. I feel I’m failing her. She so badly wants this and I know she was made for motherhood. We’ve been fighting, which is not something we do often. 
I book two more flights to California in October, planning to try again after we see the fertility specialist. It’ll be nice to give it another shot with more information on our side. 
I really do not want to go to IVF. The process sounds grueling and the expenses are daunting; it sounds like IVF is almost never covered by our insurance. If we determine that the only way I can get pregnant is via IVF, I think Emily will carry our kids and we would find a different sperm donor. She has always wanted to adopt, so that would be a possible avenue as well. But I’m still hoping our at home insemination is successful.
Costs: $1,560 total. More Mosie kits are $160; Round trip flights for two people come to $400; The Airbnb is $1,000
Total: 6,344.29
Emily: The most challenging part of this is managing my expectations. I also wish I had more guidance or reassurance during this process. I feel desperate for a baby and feel the pressure of our timeline, our finances, and our lives weighing on me. 
Our plan B (ha!) is trying IUI with a doctor. Plan C: I try! I have recently diagnosed PCOS and my OB/GYN has said this may impact my chances, but she doesn’t seem too concerned. We’d then need to find a different donor and start the process all over again. Honestly, thinking about that overwhelms me. If all else fails, we’ll adopt, which is something I’m interested in despite our plans A through C. 
The most rewarding part of all of this has been how our family has grown through it all. We’ve really come to a place of openness while communicating with our parents and siblings about all this. I know none of them imagined this for us, but they’ve been loving and supportive through it all.
Jane: The most challenging part of this process has definitely been the pressure I put on myself to get pregnant. I realize we haven’t tried enough times and that it will happen, one way or another, but I didn’t expect it to be such a “process.” 
There haven’t been many rewarding parts of this so far, but I’m still proud of myself. I think I’ve really opened myself up to motherhood and all it will bring. 
If our current game plan doesn’t work, I’m not sure what will happen. I love the idea of Emily carrying most of our kids, but I know that might not be a much easier path. Adoption is not something I have ever considered but would be open to it. No matter what, I know I still want to be a mom. 

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