You’ve heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Well, there’s a new twist on that. Couples are turning to an online “village” for help paying for expensive fertility treatments.
They’re sharing their private journey on sites like www.GoFundMe.com, hoping friends, coworkers and even strangers will donate to help them pay for IVF.
When Shirelle Gaston met Frank Armstrong, a single father of three, four years ago, she just knew. Six months later - on her birthday - they married. Shirelle says, "It was the best day of my life. It rained cats and dogs, but that day was just magical for me."
And right away, they started thinking about a having baby. Frank says, “It's a part of me that I want to share with her, it's a part of her that we want to share together." Listening to her husband at their Locust Grove home, Shirelle says, "I think I would make a wonderful mom. I just, it's all I think about at this point in my life."
It hasn't been easy. Shirelle has severe endometriosis, and other complications.
After several surgeries, and one unsuccessful round of in-vitro fertilization, her fertility specialist recommended trying IVF one more time, saying it was their best chance at getting pregnant.
At the Atlanta Center for Reproductive Medicine, Shirelle's eggs would be collected, fertilized in the lab with her husband's sperm. Then they'd be re-implanted into her uterus.
But, first, they have to pay for IVF. Shirelle says, "It's kind of pricey, each cycle can run anywhere from $12,000 to 15,000 and that's without medication."
Shirelle found company called Attain IVF, which - after evaluating her case - offered a packaged deal: four cycles of IVF - two with fresh ages, two with frozen - for $22, 700. That’s a big discount from paying separately, but it’s still a daunting amount of money. And, they have 90 days to come up with it.
The Armstrongs started trying to come up with a plan, quickly. And that’s when Shirelle's best friend Stephanie stepped in.
Shirelle says, "She contacted me and said, "I can't give you very much, but what I want to do, have you heard of Go Fund Me?" And I said, "No, what's Go Fund Me?"
Go Fund Me is a fundraising website, where you share your story, and, if people are moved, they donate. Stephanie created an account for them, and Shirelle says, “We started sending out a link to our friends. They started posting it on Facebook."
But, for a "private" couple, going public with something this personal, was awkward. Frank says, “I was not at all wanting this to happen. But, sometimes I just have to let down my pride and realize sometimes you need help doing things."
And, slowly, help is trickling in, from friends, coworkers, and, increasingly, strangers.
With six weeks to go, the Armstrongs have raised almost $3,000, which is $19,000 short of their goal.
But, every donation feels like a tiny kernel of hope. Shirelle says, “To have someone donate $5, it means so much to us. Because they could've taken that $5 and bought a carton of milk."
The Armstrongs know this baby is a longshot. But a child is all they think about. Shirelle says, “It's funny because we don't even talk about having a baby. We talk about Brooklyn. Because that's the name, boy or girl." Frank adds, “We talk about it every day, and Brooklyn, it's almost like it's here. It's here.”