Heidi Isern

writer. thinker. whiskey drinker.

Egg Freezing: What They Don’t Tell You

Should corporations store our future in the freezer? Or is this giving a select few false security with a bizarre fad? Facebook and Apple’s decision to pay for women’s egg freezing has stimulated new controversy in women’s cocktail conversations.

“I feel this sends a message that women will never be able to balance a career and a family at the same time and we must choose.”

“It’s like the Sex and the City episode where Carrie spends a small fortune on wedding and baby gifts for her friends and realizes no one gives her anything to celebrate her life choices. I’m never having babies —so will my employer pay me a premium for my continued productivity (i.e. no maternity leave)?”

“They are buying us time. Now I won’t go out and get married to the wrong person and / or ruin my career just because I can’t get a handle on my ticking clock. I can relax. Although if I still don’t meet the right guy by my 40th, I may still jump off the bridge.”

Despite the range of opinions, few women really know what egg freezing is like nor if the whole process is really worth it. As someone who did it, I’d like to tell you what others DON’T and raise a few new questions of my own.

Seven Egg Freezing Truths (that no one talks about)

1. First of all—egg freezing isn’t a guarantee of ANYTHING.  All you are doing is buying probability.  According to one study, a typical 35 year old woman who is able to freeze 10 eggs has a 21 percent chance of a live birth from them.  Some women have more, some less, and others undergo multiple sessions to increase probability; an expensive endeavor (Unless you work for Facebook and Apple).

2. Doctors still hope you get pregnant the ‘natural way’ and never have to use your frozen eggs.  A friend asked me—“Is your #1 goal to have a child or to meet the love or your life?  If it’s love-just wait. If it’s to have a baby—then go to the bar and hook up with a 27 year old be done with it.  Instead of $12K of fertility treatments it will cost you $30 in tequila shots.”

3. Assuming you forgo ‘Plan Tequila’, for ‘Plan Freeze’ you will replace all food in your fridge with boxes of drugs called Follistim and Menapur. (hm. sounds oddly close to ‘Menapause’, doesn’t it?).  A nightly dose costs more than a suite at the Ritz and ten bottles of tequila, causing a fertility black market to emerge.  My friend who froze her eggs before me had leftover Menapur.  “You want it?” she asked in a hushed voice.  “I can find a way to get it to you.”  We agreed to meet in a dark alley on 6th and Mission where she would fork over Menapur vials in exchange for a batch of cookies.

4. You will turn into a fertility junkie, injecting yourself nightly for two weeks. Although my friends regaled me with tales of prancing around their house like a woodland nymph artfully juggling syringes, it wasn’t *quite* so fun. However, syringes are the easy part. The weeks of hormones will make you an emotional nightmare (and 5-10 pounds fatter). Sadly, you cannot exercise to work off your neuroses or you run the risk of twisting an ovary. So instead of going to the gym at 7am, I would call my mother sobbing. “Why did I never marry <insert elementary school boyfriend here>.”  To add insult to injury, you also cannot drink alcohol to soothe the pain. If this sounds unbearable then imagine this times ten when you are pregnant…for 9 months.  You start to wonder if you really want to get pregnant in the future…

5. Your jacked up hormone self wonders if you shouldn’t just get pregnant now and be done with it. I started eying my successful male friends as quality sperm donor candidates.  One got very nervous and refused to hang out with me during my cycle. “Heidi—you cannot have my sperm,” he said looking at me with terror in his eyes. “Stay away. I am not your baby resource.” My younger male friends, alternatively, started getting excited about possibilities of “natural ways” and sent me flowers with the note “your backup plan.”

6. But alas, the idea of having sex, natural or ala petri dish, was the most unpleasant thought in the world.  After 2 weeks of injections you feel like you have a bag of rocks inside of you. And after the egg extraction procedure (where they suck out the eggs with a long needle) your insides swell like a balloon.  You feel as sexy as Humpty Dumpty.

7.  The number of eggs you grow does NOT equal the number extracted.  And the number extracted does NOT equal the number they are able to freeze. You are playing God with your body and results are never really what you hope for.  Despite promises of rabbit-like fertility my results were only okay. My doctors asked me if I wanted to do it again to buy more probability.

Despite my complaints, I was really happy I did it once.  I felt empowered with a bit of pressure taken off of me. But AGAIN?!  Am I playing blackjack with my ovaries? Instead of asking if I should join Facebook and have them pay for it, I instead starting asking myself why I am doing this in the first place.

On one hand, I like the idea of preserving my fertile self.  But it isn’t a true insurance plan unless I do this multiple times and create a whole egg arsenal. A Heidi egg farm seems a bit narcissistic. Do I so badly need to recreate young humans in my image that I fill up a hundred egg cartons? Aren’t there thousands of beautiful babies across the world that need good homes?

Plus, I’m not sure my frozen younger eggs will be that much better than my unfrozen older ones or someone else’s. I also am not sure if 20 years from now we won’t look at egg freezing as a bizarre fad, akin to leeching or lobotomies.  (“remember the time when we all pranced around our living rooms with syringes…”)

The egg freezing premise assumes you want to wait to have kids when you feel good in your career or when you have met the right partner. Hm. Can I really bank on meeting the love of my life at some unknown time in the future? And is there ever a good time in your career? Or should we all just focus on the present moment…and go shoot tequila together?

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