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Having a baby as a lesbian couple meant $30,000 in loans for reciprocal IVF — plus a career change

Having a baby as a lesbian couple meant $30,000 in loans for reciprocal IVF — plus a career change

6 min read

This story was produced in partnership with SoFi as part of our Modern State of Fertility 2020: Career & Money report. We’re sharing stories to both celebrate and create space for the many ways we navigate our careers, relationships, and finances in relation to our reproductive health. If you have a story to share, get in touch.

For entrepreneur and law professional Precious Ares, becoming a parent has always been a top priority. Now, after spending thousands on fertility treatments and making a big career change, she and her wife are expecting a child. Financial considerations and paying down debt from undergraduate and graduate school and a mortgage also played into this SoFi member’s decisions.

My wife and I have been trying to start our family through different methods for around two-and-a-half years. I first tried intrauterine insemination (IUI) with a known donor in San Francisco. We tried that for a year and a half, and spent lots of money on travel, hotels, and medical expenses. It ended up being around $10,000. Since IUI didn’t work for me, we then took out a $30,000 loan and transitioned to reciprocal IVF with my eggs and my wife as the carrier (that way, I am still genetically connected to our child). After attempting IVF twice, my wife is now 17 weeks pregnant! We plan to use IVF again for future pregnancies, but how many kids we want to have is still up for debate.

I was a police officer when we first started talking about kids — the physically demanding, stressful work impacted our timeline. Given the nature of law enforcement, taking time off for kids is challenging. Even talking about my plans, as a lesbian woman, was hard to picture. At the time, I was traveling back and forth between LA and San Francisco, so we put everything on hold until I finished my assignment. Eventually, I just decided to leave my position.

Precious Ares on leaving law enforcement to have kids.

I moved back to LA and started a small business doing professional development education for organizations and individuals — but I knew I needed to find something with a steadier income and health insurance ahead of having kids. I had a list of criteria that my new job had to meet. First, there was salary: I knew the bare minimum of what I needed to pay for bills, fertility treatments, and childcare. The next thing was flexibility: I wanted at least evenings and holidays off. I also looked at benefits and insurance. I was open to anything that fit my criteria, as long as I didn’t have a boss who micromanaged. In the end, I decided to take a job as a hearing officer.

I’m making half the salary I used to in law enforcement, but I’m happy about my career path. Being present and available as my wife is pregnant is more important than making a lot of money. And now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m glad my work doesn’t rely so much on meeting in groups or giving presentations like it did when I was focused on entrepreneurship. (In times like this, my small professional development business comes to a complete standstill.) Thankfully, my wife is also able to work from home. Going through this period reminds me of how hard my mom worked for our family. As a single mom with a high school education, she worked multiple jobs and put a roof over our heads. She taught me the value of working hard, sacrifice, homeownership, and family. Thanks to her example, I bought my home at 25.

Precious Ares on talking about LGBTQ+ fertility and family planning.

While we know that social distancing is necessary right now, it’s created emotional challenges for us during the pregnancy. The last time I went with my wife to the doctor’s office, they told us that only the patient is allowed inside for the ultrasound. I had to wait outside the building. This not only impacts my wife — as she loses her support system during important appointments where we learn major developments regarding our unborn child — but it also impacts me. It’s a little disheartening to be on the outside. Considering the possibilities of not having a baby shower is manageable, but my wife delivering our child alone is harder. Despite these new changes, we know they’re necessary to keep my wife and our baby healthy.

Going through this whole process to have kids has strengthened our marriage. Not only have we learned to understand each other’s feelings (because each one of us is processing everything differently), but we’ve also dealt with the biological and emotional changes that come with fertility treatment. On top of that, there are the normal stressors of everyday life and marriage — the rest of the world doesn’t stop just because we’re pregnant.

I wouldn’t change anything about our journey because we’ve learned so much through it all. Knowing the pressure my wife was under during IVF has allowed me to be more compassionate and empathetic. I’ve also learned to be patient, both with our timeline for kids and with my wife. I’m normally very rigid. I’m a third-generation cop. I like structure. When we originally talked about our plan for having kids, I thought it would take us three months to get pregnant, but it took us over two years. I realized now that it’s important to understand that things don’t always happen the way we plan, but these things happen for a reason.

Precious Ares on the trade-offs of becoming a parent.

Very few people can understand what we’re going through, so we have to rely on each other for support. Even close family members can make insensitive comments because they only see things from a financial perspective. I have friends in same-sex couples, but they haven’t gone through the process my wife and I are going through right now and don’t really understand the emotional strain.

As a society, we need to talk more about the cost of family planning for same-sex couples — and about fertility in general. If I had known about it, I would have definitely used a service like Modern Fertility prior to attempting IUI. By knowing your body and its hormone status, you can create a personal plan that will lead you to a successful pregnancy — the more you know prior to beginning IUI or IVF, the better plan you can create, and the more money you will save.

I had an early pregnancy loss (chemical pregnancy) after doing IUI, and because I’ve had so few conversations with other people about pregnancy, I didn’t realize how common it was at the time. It’s all so taboo. Even when people are talking about these things, the language we use is often geared more toward heterosexual couples than same-sex couples — even with doctors. The paperwork we filled out to get health insurance coverage for fertility treatments only refers to heterosexual couples who’ve had trouble getting pregnant, not the interventions same-sex couples need from the beginning. There needs to be so much more inclusion and openness around pregnancy.

For now, my professional advancement is on hold until my wife and I become parents. My new job as a hearing officer opened up opportunities for my business, so I’d like to continue growing it and eventually do that full time. Once we have our child, I want to get my bearings and feel pretty settled and stable before shifting gears. But, no matter what happens in my life or career, parenthood will always be my top priority.

Personal essay by Precious Ares, edited by Sarah duRivage-Jacobs

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