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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.


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.