July 21
Tawana Ashcraft and her husband, Travis, and their children. The couple, who have children from previous relationships, are hoping to have their first child together. (Family photo)
Tawana Ashcraft and her husband, Travis, and their children. The couple, who have children from previous relationships, are hoping to have their first child together. (Family photo)

Tawana Ashcraft and her husband, Travis, hope to do an IVF cycle later this year. But paying for the pricey shots and fertility doctor’s visits won’t be easy. She runs a beauty salon in tiny Poplar Bluff, Mo. He manages a book and video store. So when their doctor told them the procedure could cost $18,000 and wasn’t covered by insurance, with no guarantee of success, Tawana was floored.

“That was very stressful,” she says.

They cut expenses. They made plans for a loan. And they turned to GoFundMe, an online crowdfunding site. Tawana set up a fundraising appeal for $9,000. Donations trickled in for $10 and $20, mostly from friends, inching them closer to their goal.

The Ashcraft’s attempt to crowdfund a baby — instead of a band or a business, the usual crowdfunding targets — is part of what GoFundMe calls “a recent upward trend” in the number of people looking for help footing the bill for fertility treatments. The site, which takes a 5 percent cut of donations, is among a short roster of crowdfunding places — another is Indiegogo — that focus on more personal projects.

A recent search on GoFundMe revealed more than 600 campaigns related to in-vitro fertilization and hundreds of campaigns related to infertility.  A couple near Detroit raised nearly $4,500 for their IVF attempt. A young couple from Albuquerque raised $3,700. And a couple in Mission Viejo, Calif., raised just under $300.

Infertility can be a struggle that people prefer to keep private, and many of the couples on GoFundMe write of working through their concerns about going public with such a personal issue.

The Ashcrafts, who have been trying for five years to have a child, confronted infertility after Tawana suffered two ectopic pregnancies. They have raised $210 so far. Not much. Still, Tawana is not dissuaded by IVF’s lofty price tag.

“I can’t say it’s outrageous,” she says, “if it works.”