This story was produced in partnership with SoFi as part of our Modern State of Fertility 2020: Career & Money report. We’re sharing stories to both celebrate and create space for the many ways we navigate our careers, relationships, and finances in relation to our reproductive health. If you have a story to share, get in touch.
Denver-based marketing executive Kandace Proud is still on the fence about having kids as a single 41-year-old. For this SoFi member, it all comes down to money. After freezing her eggs and attempting IUI three times, she is facing a decision: Does she spend $10,000 more to become a single parent?
When I was in my early twenties, I was like: “I’m going to have three kids by the time I’m 30.” The closer I got to 30, I thought: “Hmm, I’m not sure I need to have any kids right now.” I always thought kids were in my future, I just didn’t know exactly when — I wanted to wait until I had a partner first. In my late thirties, I changed my tune: I realized I don’t need to wait for a partner to have kids, if that’s what I want to do.
I’m a Virgo, so I’m a big planner — I plan for things like vacations months in advance. I like to make things happen. I recently made the move from Santa Monica, CA to Denver, CO and that was all part of a plan I had laid out for myself. Planning around fertility though? Not so much.
Still, I’ve felt an enormous sense of societal pressure to have kids throughout my life. I first started feeling stressed about kids when I was in my late twenties and all my friends were getting pregnant. I wasn’t worried about my biological clock so much as the fact my friends and I were going in separate directions. All my girlfriends were talking about babies and getting pregnant — I felt left out. I remember one time, my boss told me that I should stay in a certain role because it would give me a lot of flexibility ahead of having a baby. Looking back, I’m so glad I didn’t listen to her.
For a while I just focused on my career and on finding a partner. Then I started feeling a sense of urgency every time I went to the gynecologist. My doctor would say things like, “Oh, you’re getting up there in age.” When I was 38 years old, I decided to freeze my eggs to help “buy” myself time — even though I knew there were no guarantees. I just thought it would allow me to put off the decision for a few more years.
I had never really thought about my hormones or fertility before my egg freezing consultation. I went into the clinic and the doctor told me I was a “perfect candidate” for egg freezing. It was actually a fairly easy process for me, just a bit inconvenient. At work, I was pretty vocal about what was going on, especially since I was taking time out of my day to go to appointments. I took a few half days after the procedure since I had some slight pain and discomfort. Luckily, my boss was supportive and my work was flexible. I got 17 viable eggs in total.
At the time, I didn’t realize that egg freezing is the first step before IVF. I spent about $10,000 out of pocket for the retrieval, from clinic costs to medications, since insurance didn’t cover anything. (I’m still paying about $600 per year to store my eggs.) I used a financial windfall to pay for egg freezing: a company I was working for got acquired, and I received a compensation package as part of that. I have a ton of student loans because I got an MBA, and I spent a lot of time wondering if it was a financially responsible decision to put part of my windfall toward freezing my eggs when I had so much debt.
Last year, I turned 41, and the pressure got to me. I thought: If I don’t try getting pregnant now, I’ll regret it. So, I gave it a shot. I knew that if I wanted to use my frozen eggs, I’d have to spend roughly $10,000 more to go through IVF. I decided to try IUI in an effort to keep costs lower. I tried three times — the last attempt was in December 2019 — and none of them took. Each attempt cost about $1750: $1000 for the sperm, and $750 for the medical procedures. I budgeted for it, adjusted my lifestyle a bit, and put some of it on my credit card.
The IUI experience was a lot more emotional because I was anxious about the outcome. The two-week wait to take a pregnancy test was really hard. I was analyzing every little cramp, wondering if I was pregnant. I was distracted at work, and I couldn’t say why. I kept the fact I was going through IUI really quiet — I didn’t even tell a lot of family members I was doing it. I didn’t want to answer questions like, “Did it work? Did it work?” Especially because I’m a single woman going through it. I didn’t want to invite in outside opinions on my decision.
All in, I’ve spent over $15,000 on fertility preservation and treatments to get pregnant. Looking back, it felt kind of like a dumb decision to try IUI, which is hard to admit. Not the whole “getting pregnant on my own” side of the equation — but the financial burden I was putting on myself.
Throughout all of this, I’ve invested a lot in my career, especially finding the right role and company to support the life I want. I always knew I wanted to go into marketing, and now I’m at a senior level marketing role in a great company. I keep coming back to something I heard Carrie Palin, Splunk’s Chief Marketing Officer, say at an event. She was talking about her role as a working parent and said, “Listen, I’m a mom first, CMO second.” Hearing this gave me the courage to prioritize that type of work-life balance when I was looking for my next role — even though I’m not a parent yet. I realized I should be vetting companies for the type of lifestyle I wanted. So, when I was interviewing for the job I have now, I asked about flexibility, daycare benefits, travel requirements, remote work. I recently moved to Denver for my new job, but also partly because I knew Los Angeles was an expensive city to raise a child as a single parent. My lifestyle and current job now are both more flexible to accommodate a child — if that’s what I end up wanting to do.
I’m 41 years old and still undecided about kids. I keep asking myself: “How much more do I want to spend? Do I spend the next $10,000 and try IVF? If that doesn’t work, do I call it a day?” Becoming a single parent will definitely make my life harder — and I don’t want to get into a huge financial hole to have a kid. Everyone tells me that if I haven’t made a decision yet, it’s not going to happen. I probably think about this every day, and I’d like to make a decision in the next year. I still have two vials of sperm from my first-choice donor left, just in case. I know I’d be a great mom.
Personal essay by Kandace Proud, edited by Hannah Levy