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I admit that the bus shelter ads got my attention. A picture of a little baby, staring upwards adorably and wearing nothing but a diaper, with the caption “WIN ME”. Another one near my house had the caption, “Are you my mother?” But I didn’t give it much thought, as it was and ad for Hot 89.9, a radio station I don’t listen to and don’t particularly like. Also, I don’t particularly “get” a lot of their ads – I presume they make more sense if you are a regular listener.
 
But then I saw an article in the Ottawa Metro this morning whose headline read, “Win a baby, for real, on the radio”. Ok, that REALLY got my attention.
 
I read the article, which outlined a new contest being run by the radio station. Essentially, they are giving away up to 3 fertility treatment procedures (valued at up to $35,000) at the clinic of the radio station’s choosing. (If one of the treatments works and the couple conceives, they don’t get the other treatments.) I also went onto the website to find out more about the contest.
 
And wow, I found myself with a whole lot to say.
 
First of all, I applaud Hot 89.9 for doing something to raise awareness about infertility. This is especially well timed given the upcoming provincial election and the fact that provincial IVF funding is shaping up to be an election issue. And frankly, the generous prize could be the answer to someone's fervent hopes and prayers. That's awesome.
 
The newspaper article quoted the comment of one listener, Casey Schofield, on the radio station’s Facebook page: “I think we're crossing some morality lines with this contest ... imagine telling your child, you were a prize from a radio station because we had problems conceiving.”
 
To Casey, I have this to say: Imagine telling your child, “You were the result of a night of drinking and a broken condom.” Your comment makes about as much sense. Instead, if the contest winners succeed in conceiving and delivering their baby to term, they might say, “We wanted to find you so desperately, but couldn’t do it without help from doctors. That help was really expensive, and we wouldn’t have been able to afford it without this contest for people like us who wanted to find their baby but couldn’t.” Because the contest prize isn’t a baby… it’s the help.
 
And that’s one of my problems with the contest. It’s a gross simplification of infertility treatments. The contest says, “Win a baby!” – if that were the prize, yeah, that’s a big morality issue right there. But it isn’t what the station is giving away. They are giving away treatments that improve the chances of conception. And calling that “a baby” is wrong.
 
Even if you conceive, there’s no guarantee you’re getting a baby out of it. Infertile couples just want to get to the starting gate with everybody else. Anything can happen during pregnancy. And three fertility treatments aren’t even a guarantee of conception. Lots of couples have gone through three treatments, or more, without success. So don’t assume this story is going to have a happy ending for the winners.
 
Also, I couldn’t find anywhere in the rules and regulations that explained what constituted a “fertility treatment”. My own experience with IVF involved drug treatment for the donor, drug treatment for me, egg harvesting from the donor, sperm washing, fertilization, ICSI, and implantation. Where does one procedure end and another begin? Is all that one treatment, or several? Each couple is different and may require different treatments to best improve their chances. A treatment might entail a round of Clomid, IUI, sperm washing and insemination, or any combination thereof. Or is the contest just giving up to $35,000 in whatever the medical equivalent of a gift card is?
 
But these aren’t even my biggest issues with the contest.
 
My husband and I were pretty open about our infertility journey. (Well, I was, and he was by proxy.) I kept a blog, which was originally only visible to people we knew, and was gradually opened up to everyone. I was comfortable with that (and for the record, so was he). But so many people aren’t. There are people whose instinct is to keep their infertility completely private, and that’s totally legitimate. The journey is a very hard one – it’s an emotional roller coaster and having all your friends and family following each step can be difficult. Sometimes it’s better to just keep everything to yourself.
 
This contest is asking people to go public with their stories. Okay. But from the submitted applications, five finalists will be selected and the public will be able to VOTE on the winner.
 
The winners won’t be determined by a panel of judges that include a reproductive psychologist, and an infertility specialist. No, the general public can visit a website and determine who is the most worthy for the chance to get knocked up. 
 
I don’t even know where to start.
 
Infertility is such an attack on your dignity as it is, I can’t imagine the embarrassment of having strangers vote for you in such a contest. This isn’t a baby photo contest, folks, or a contest for a kitchen renovation. This is asking the public who is the most deserving of the chance to have a child. And while theoretical discussions of this very nature are happening right now in the debate to have OHIP cover IVF, a practical discussion about actual couples who have shared their stories openly seems so very wrong.
 
I don’t blame anyone for entering this contest. I understand the desperation that comes with being unable to conceive without being financially crippled. If that desperation leads you to enter this contest, I can only wish you good luck. I hope your story has a happy ending, and I hope that one day you can talk with your child about their origins in a way that makes them understand how desired they were. There’s no shame in entering the contest, and no shame in doing what you need to do to follow your dream to be a parent. But I am very, very sorry that your journey will be infinitely harder because it will be so public, so open, and potentially so humiliating. And I'm so sorry that Hot 89.9 has taken the "public voting" route with this contest.
 

Comments

( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Sep. 6th, 2011 06:40 pm (UTC)
As soon as I understood what this contest is all about, I wondered "what is Yumi's take on all this"? I completely agree with you and you have explained it perfectly. Their advertising is pretty crass in my opinion. But that's what this station does for ratings, it ruffles feathers.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 6th, 2011 08:01 pm (UTC)
I totally understand what you are saying but in this case I believe that the people that will enter this contest are the ones that have to consider this. It is there decision, knowing the rules and terms , to enter and have it be so public. The Hot 89,9 website clearly indicates what these terms and conditions are.

It is true that what the people are going through is very hard, harder than I will ever be able to imagine. But I believe that just having a chance to try what they could never afford on there own is much more important to them.

Going public about a situation like this is not for everyone but if people enter the contest, they are aware of what it entitles.

(Anonymous)
Sep. 6th, 2011 09:17 pm (UTC)
Very well said. As someone who has been following a clinic for a couple of years and has gone throught so many up and downs, I fell like the station is not realising everything that is involved physically and emotional. Their intentions were good and it does bring public awareness. I just think it could have been done in a different way or presentation.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 6th, 2011 11:45 pm (UTC)
i agree. great contest but emotional roller coaster for everyone involved.
kidsquared
Sep. 6th, 2011 11:52 pm (UTC)
Update!
I tweeted to Mauler from 89.9, and he responded that he appreciated the feedback. He also said, "You also do know (although I don't think I read it in your write-up) the clinic and the station have the final say in everything."

I decided that 140 characters wasn't long enough for my reply, so I sent him this email:

Hi, thanks for answering my tweet.

I thought it made more sense to continue the conversation here.

As I said in my post, I'm glad Hot 89.9 is running a contest will give one couple the opportunity of a lifetime. My husband and I struggled with infertility for more than 5 years - I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure at 29 and was told I'd never have a biological child. We essentially remortgaged the house to be able to afford one attempt at IVF with donor eggs. We were exceptionally lucky, and our one kick at the can worked, and after a successful pregnancy we became parents to a truly awesome little creature who is now our very happy and healthy 18-month-old son. We were ridiculously lucky. The sad truth is that most people aren't.

My concerns about the contest are that a) the marketing campaign gives people who aren't struggling with infertility the false impression that fertility treatment automatically equals conception and b) after sharing their stories and exposing themselves to the public, contest finalists will then have people vote on the question, essentially, of who deserves a baby most. I know you say that the clinic and the station have the final say, but public choice voting does still play a role in the decision. And even if it didn't, you're inviting the public to come and judge these people at their most vulnerable.

It's obvious from the contest rules that a lot of thought has gone into the possible legal and medical ramifications of the contest, and that is great. You've included the clause, "Finalists must demonstrate sufficient physical, psychological, and mental capacity to endure the process of the Contest as determined by the medical practitioner conducting the consultation examination." I hope that doesn't just include the psychological effect of infertility and the treatment process, but also the effect of the contest itself and the voting process.

When you planned the contest, what kind of consultation did you do? Did you consult a reproductive psychologist (such as Patricia Gervaize at the Ottawa Fertility Centre) or a panel of people who are struggling or have struggled with infertility? Did you approach the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada? Consider including some of these people on your judging panel, if they aren't there already. And if they are on the panel, publicize it! It will help legitimize your contest.

I hope you are able to use the contest to educate people about infertility. Good luck with it. Above all, I hope that the treatment works for the winner, whoever it is.
Christine Bruton-Cote
Sep. 7th, 2011 01:24 am (UTC)
I think this contest is disgusting but other than that I totally agree with what you said. We too struggled with infertility and then to top it off - our adoption agency went bankrupt (Imagine Adoption) and a birth family changed their mind. I am hurt and dismayed that they put these signs up and their radio announcements for this contest are just hurtful for those of us who are childless not by choice. I will be taking this further up with the radio station.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 8th, 2011 07:22 pm (UTC)
really
so if someone offers to pay for your fertility treatment they are disgusting?? Makes no sense.
vandyke_brown
Sep. 7th, 2011 07:35 pm (UTC)
I’d just like to say that I really appreciate the education you’ve provided me in the last few years.

As someone who has fought for the opposite end of the spectrum – the ability to avoid pregnancy - it hadn’t occurred to me how complex and challenging it is for people with infertility.

I can get resources to avoid pregnancy, and I can terminate an unwanted pregnancy, and OHIP will pay for that. Can you imagine if my ability to not have any more children were based on me being able to remortgage my home?

NDP and Liberal campaigners have been canvassing my neighbourhood, and that’s one of the many questions I ask them. Should families have to go into a life time of debt to be able to have a family, either biological or adoptive?

Further, with so many families who MIGHT be happy with a healthy newborn, why is it better for me (financially, and in my career) to terminate a pregnancy, rather than carry to term and put up for adoption?
vandyke_brown
Sep. 7th, 2011 09:30 pm (UTC)

(I say Might because I want to respect that I think the feelings surrounding addoption are complex and unique to every situation, individual and couple. Issues of racial and cultural identidy, or wanting a child to have a similar physical appearance are really valid.)
(Anonymous)
Sep. 7th, 2011 11:50 pm (UTC)
Baby contest
I'm not sure if the radio station is trying to loose some of their loyal listeners or they are just plain stupid.

It's a good idea to help couples but do we have to have a "reality show" contest for such a private and sensitive matter for all to know?

Take it off the air and find a humane way to help.

It's the decent thing to do!

Lori Jones
proonjoos
Sep. 8th, 2011 03:20 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you wrote to them. That is a terribly callous contest on many levels.
kidsquared
Sep. 8th, 2011 12:49 pm (UTC)
Josie's Reply:

Hello Yumi,

Mauler has forwarded your email to me, as the Program Director of the station it is my pleasure to respond to your concerns.

First of all, congratulations on the birth of your son 18 months ago! I am happy to hear that you and your husband were successful with your treatment.

We understand that infertility is a sensitive subject and that we are going out on a limb tackling it the way we are. I understand from your blog that you are not a regular listener of the radio station so you may not be familiar with our identity. The New Hot 89-9 is kind of like that lovable aunt who is sometimes very inappropriate, but has a big heart and is always fun to be around. We’re known for being, goofy, fun and light-hearted and we pride ourselves on doing radio promotions that reflect what our audience is dealing with in their lives. We’ve wanted to do this promotion for years. We all know someone who has had fertility issues, in fact our general manager’s son is the product of fertility treatments. We did not walk into this contest blindly. We know it won’t be for everyone, but something we’ve realized over the years is we can’t please all of our listeners all of the time. This will be a great opportunity for a few people, and for others it will be a beautiful story to listen to. Please understand that we are going to do our utmost to find the perfect contest winner and that we will respect all of our finalists and make sure they know exactly what they’re signing up for.

In planning the contest we did have several meetings with specialists in the fertility field. All of our finalists will undergo a consultation with a fertility specialist and we will use the results of those consultations in determining the winner. We felt the voting element was necessary to really engage our audience. As one person mentioned in the comments to your blog post, those participating in the contest will be willing participants. Also, in regards to the voting, it will be a secret vote. We will not be airing who’s ahead of who and the winner of the vote will remain anonymous, the voting is simply another tool for the Judging Panel to help make their decision.

Thank you for taking the time to write us and share your feedback, good or bad we always welcome it.
kidsquared
Sep. 8th, 2011 03:53 pm (UTC)
My response:

Thank you very much for your reply. I am gratified that the voting results will be private - that makes me feel much better. Also, thank you for your reassurance that you've done your research and met with specialists. I wish you success with your contest, and I hope the whole thing has a happy ending. :)


So, I'm feeling much better about the contest.
Casey Schofield
Sep. 8th, 2011 02:05 pm (UTC)
Well....
One: Most babies arent accidents. Two: And if they are, I'm sure their parents either did the right thing and gave them up or they raised them with love they never knew they could have for a baby. I was simply stating i dont think this contest is morally right. What about thousands upon thousands of children who are given up for adoption? Infertility is God's way of saying that your body/genetics are damaged and therefore cannot carry a child because of the risk to yourself and the potential for babies that are born with serious health problems. or for people who believe in Darwinism; Natural Selection. Just as miscarriages happen because there is something wrong with the baby(in most cases) a body that is infertile CANNOT carry a child. It is God's will or Natural Selection at play. Couples who cannot conceive should adopt one of the many UNWANTED children/orphans.
Sincerely, CASEY SCHOFIELD
vandyke_brown
Sep. 8th, 2011 02:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Well....

"Couples who cannot conceive should adopt one of the many UNWANTED children/orphans. "

While I have no personal experience in this, my instinct tells me it's not that simple.


(Anonymous)
Sep. 8th, 2011 03:36 pm (UTC)
Re: Well....
One assumes you also don't use medicine, or drive cars, since it's god's will that those things don't come standard in humans. Idiot.

[for the record, I am ok with the contest]

Ted
phae_girl
Sep. 8th, 2011 06:15 pm (UTC)
Re: Well....
Infertility is God's way of saying that your body/genetics are damaged

Have you actually read this blog? Do you have any idea how offensive and wrong-headed this statement is? While you're thinking about that, you may also wish to learn to grammar.

Phae "Waiting for Godwin's Law to be invoked" Deepsky
plastikgyrl
Sep. 8th, 2011 09:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Well....
One: A hell of a lot of pregnancies are unplanned. Some of those pregnancies lead to adoption, some are parented by folks who decide they're ready for whatever road this takes them on, and some are hopelessly lost and unable to get their shit together enough to parent effectively. Oh, and some terminate their pregnancies safely and legally in Canada.

As for whether the contest itself is "morally right," be careful about how you define "morality," because it is not a universal.

Infertility is heartbreaking, horrific, and something no one who genuinely wants a child should ever have to go through. I've had several family members deal with infertility in a variety of ways: domestic and international adoptions, and IVF.

Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to parent the way they WANT to parent. When finding out that their first choice isn't on the table, they visit their other options, and decide what they feel they can best live with. Adoption is that for some. Many parents want the whole parenting experience, from the beginning, and it's ridiculously hard to get a newborn placement in the public system. Fewer people are willing to adopt children who are over 3, and over 6? It's a hard sell. What I'm reading is that those who cannot physically bring new babies into this world without intervention are obligated to take the children who are currently occupying the system. Thing is, thousands upon thousands of children are NOT "given up" for adoption. They're apprehended. There's a HUGE difference. Many of these kids are kept in temporary care as infants and toddlers, and don't become available for adoption until they're older than most families are looking for. Don't get me wrong: my heart hurts for the kids who grow up as crown wards, who live in foster care, who face identity challenges and feel less valued because no one steps up for them. But why is it the responsibility of those families dealing with infertility to be solely responsible for providing families for these children? Why aren't we talking about putting structures into place to support the families these children came from initially, so that they're raised by their parents who may need more help, or by family members who need financial support to do so? Families dealing with infertility are not the dumping grounds for children no one else wants anything to do with. How is that "morally right?"

Also, I don't think Gd has anything to do with this. Diabetes is not Gd's way of saying, "We want to weed out all those people with a bum pancreas from the gene pool, so no insulin for you! Die!" Some folks need help. We're technologically able to provide it to them. Gd also gave us free will, and sometimes that means people will make choices you don't agree with. Guess what? This isn't morally grey: this is people deciding how to create their families, something those of us who've never had to worry about fertility get to take for granted.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 8th, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Well....
"Infertility is God's way of saying that your body/genetics are damaged and therefore cannot carry a child because of the risk to yourself and the potential for babies that are born with serious health problems."

The same way that thunder happens because Thor and Loki are bowling up in the clouds.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 9th, 2011 02:21 pm (UTC)
Re: Well....
The "damaged genetics" argument does not hold water. Most carriers of genetic diseases such as Huntington's are not at all infertile, whereas the vast majority of conditions causing infertility are not genetic at all, and cannot be passed on to offspring.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 21st, 2011 11:19 pm (UTC)
Re: Well....
So Casey I guess if you get cancer you are MEANT to DIE and not live. You are so ignorant because you have never experienced the struggle of infertility. Myself, I CAN carry a child everything works except I have full blockage in my tubes due to a car accident. Is that 'Natural SElection"? You seem like a spoiled little brat who probably does not fully appreciate the miracle and rarity of your children. Unlilke women who do conceive through fertility treatments, who conceive one precious child, who know the struggle. Wake up and get out of your own little precious ignorant world.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 8th, 2011 07:20 pm (UTC)
hmmmm
Im a little offended at the comment that people with fertility issues are competing for a chance to "get knocked up" as if their attempt at having a child is less meaningfull and loving than those to conceive naturally.

If this contest would be embarrassing, they wont enter. If they really want to enter and have no issues with it, they will. Thankfully it is their choice. Public voting seems inappropriate though as some with lots of friends or coworkers will vote alot and those who are quiet with small families will not get alot of votes yet just as worthy. I think the station should decide on a story they like.

To be honest it is refreshing to me to see that after millions of baby shows, baby olympics, new mom shows and mom to be contests (that no one has a problem with exploiting the babies and pitting moms against each other) that there is now some lightheartedness and compassion surrounding those who are trying to conceive, and finally a contest they can actually enter if they choose to. Clearly OHIP should help more, but until then im glad SOMEONE offered to help financially.

I have been blessed with 6 kids and have a sister who has been trying for many years.
kidsquared
Sep. 8th, 2011 08:23 pm (UTC)
Re: hmmmm
I was being ironic in my use of the phrase "get knocked up".

As I said, the aspects of the contest that I object to are the public voting (although I am now told that voting results will be private, and that reassures me) and the marketing campaign of "Win a Baby". The prize itself is excellent.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 8th, 2011 11:21 pm (UTC)
re:Well
Infertility is God's way of saying that your body/genetics are damaged

I have to say I'm appaulled by your ignorance and your ease in offending the people who have broken down every possible barrier they can only to confront the one battle they have little to no control over (their own body's ability to conceive or carry a child). When you are "unlucky" enough to be blessed with an easy conception and carriage and delivery of a child, then perhaps you will have a different point of view. In the meantime, someone who is confronted with the fact that they need some level of intervention actually has to go through a lot of practical thinking along with the heart wrenching pulls to and silent pleas to "God" to just fix this issue for us. The reality is that most couples will weigh and balance the cost and the risk and the guarantees associated with all of the options open to them. I for one even spoke to a surrogate. But my guess is that you would feel surrogacy is equally blasphemous. Truth of the matter is, faced with this decision, you consider that in an adoption, the wait times are excessive and you have to weigh your ability to deal with children who come with potential medical issues, which evolve into more significant social issues the older the child. The legal costs for this are also a huge consideration. The costs of surrogacy arrangements are equally daunting and also often require couples to refinance their homes to afford the chance for the surrogate to conceive and carry their child. With all of the "options" afforded to infertile couples, I'll just have you know, that every last one of them is equally out of reach.

Yumi, good for you bringing this forward in the positive way you have done. Good on you for seeing the level of interest in your post and your response. And to be honest, good on the radio station for taking your concerns to heart and for being committed to ensuring the privacy of the vote and the delicacy with which they intend to treat the winners. I, like you, hope that the winners of this contest get what their hearts desire and are able to successfully conceive and carry their own baby. It's such a huge miracle, and my heart feels for every woman who is desperate enough to enter.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 9th, 2011 02:04 am (UTC)
For those of you who suggested to "just adopt" it is not all that easy. Let me explain the steps needed to complete before the paperwork can be sent the the province to approve (this applies to Ont only)
You meet with a social worker, who explores you and your spouses sexual and family history, you are asked intimate questions about your current sex life and your thoughts on sex. You are given scenario's where you have to explain how you would discipline your child in multiple situations. You need 5 reference check each from friends and family. You need to have a criminal check and get fingerprinted. You need a letter from your employer stating your annual income. You need to fill out your assets and liabilities to show you are financially stable. You need to send in copies of your assessments from CRA, showing you owe no back taxes. You need to take a 6 week parenting class and have a physical from your Dr. The last thing is a house inspection. The social workers comes to your home and ensures that you are properly prepared (now) for a child that you will probably not get for 2 years. There was a binder with various things that needed to be done for the home inspection. The only "exception" was that you did not need to purchase the car seat and the crib since you do not yet know how old the child will be. This takes approx 6 months and none of this is free (unless your Dr decides not to charge you for your letter) unless you adopt from CAS.

To adopt from CAS, they will do all of this for you but it is not easy from there (just free). At CAS, you are given a large binder with every disease, disability and syndrome etc possible. You then have to "pick" which illnesses you are willing to accept in a child. We were told that there were no babies (fine we were thinking an older child) and that there were no children available whose mothers did not either do drugs or drink during their pregnancy. All of the children will also have been either mentally, physically or sexually abused or a combination.

To adopt privately, you do all of that but then need to create a book to show to potential birth parents. These books cost an enormous amount of money and you need a number of them. If you are chosen to adopt, then you need to pay for certain medical expenses for the birth parents and they have up to 21 days after giving birth (and the child living with you) to change their mind - and some do change their mind - it happened to us. Cost is approx $40K

To adopt internationally, there are many different requirements from the different countries, so I will not go into more detail but it all costs money. Cost for this type of adoption s approx $60-85K.

All of this to say, that yes, I think 89.9 had the right idea behind their contest, why didn't they offer to give someone $36K to put towards their choice of way to have a child?

Did they think what it would do to someone to see a picture of a baby with a slogan saying that you could win him-her? Or hear an announcer (in a sarcastic voice) say you could win a baby?

No, I do not think so. It is disgusting, it causes heartbreak to many people who are usually silent. Those of us who are childless not by choice are not heard nor understood so I am not surprised as the ignorance of some posters.
vandyke_brown
Sep. 12th, 2011 06:20 pm (UTC)
"You then have to "pick" which illnesses you are willing to accept in a child. We were told that there were no babies (fine we were thinking an older child) and that there were no children available whose mothers did not either do drugs or drink during their pregnancy. All of the children will also have been either mentally, physically or sexually abused or a combination.

. . .And I imagine that while such children may be loveable, and an imnense joy and blessing within a family, they may also have very expensive needs, both financially and time wise.

I can't even qualify to foster-parent, since I work full time outside of my home.
everlastinggoo
Sep. 9th, 2011 11:36 am (UTC)
Good for you for brining this out in such an honest and positive way. And also good for you for communicating with the radio station rationally and politely about your concerns and posting their responses. Its wonderful that you AND the station are getting this issue out in such a positive way.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 9th, 2011 06:33 pm (UTC)
Finally!
It is so upsetting to bash these people for wanting a baby. Unfortunately, for some people, getting pregnant isn't as easy. I am not sure, but for some people having a baby is a life time dream, but if for some reason or another your body needs some assistance, and people's wallets are only so deep these days. Yes, lets remortgage our houses, take a line of credit, max our credit cards, let go into some deep dept. Not saying people wouldn't do that to have a baby, but if you were offered a chance to win a chance to have a baby, at no cost...
I applause the radio station for thinking outside the box on this one, and granting some couple's wish to conceive, carry and have a baby of their own.
To those who think other wise, really?...
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