I am the woman who has always claimed to be “risk-averse.”
But somehow, I always seem to take risks anyways. I’ve made sweeping life changes several times, like quitting jobs, going back to school, and changing career paths. When the opportunity to move across the country and work for a fledgling tech startup presented itself in the fall of 2015, my 31-year-old self jumped.
It was great until it wasn’t. In the beginning of 2017, I was unemployed, unsure of my future, and worst of all—single. This is when I decided I was a candidate for fertility preservation. I felt as though there wasn’t much in my life I could control. After years of sitting on the idea, I finally realized I needed to take charge of this one aspect of my future.
I have been “joking” about freezing my eggs since my early 20s—making awkward comments at family holidays and friends’ weddings. I’ve always thought I’d have a family someday, but haven’t been in a rush to get there. I was comfortable as the single friend, the third wheel, and the wing-woman. But for some reason, once you turn 30, the self-deprecating jokes start to lose a bit of their humor. I finally came to the point when I realized I could give myself the option of children in my future without the pressure of picking a partner, job, or city just because of my ticking biological clock.
Information is power
It took me some time to take action because the egg freezing process is a bit daunting financially, emotionally, and physically. Plus, there never seemed to be a “good” time—I’m not sure if there ever really is. Finally, after several years of delaying, I began the conversation with my gynecologist at my annual check-up in October 2016. She arranged for me to get a blood test to learn my anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) levels. AMH levels reflect one’s ovarian reserve—the number of remaining eggs left in your ovaries. This is considered the first step in knowing where you stand in terms of fertility and if you are even a candidate for egg freezing.
We have no visibility into our personal fertility unless something is wrong. For me, taking this test felt empowering—it gave me knowledge and insight into my body that I didn’t have before. I was relieved to learn that my levels were close to 4.0, which meant I was most likely a good candidate for the procedure.
The financial side of egg freezing
However, I sat on these results for almost five months. Given the AMH test results, my mind was made up that I would go through with the procedure, I just had to figure out when. Finally, in January 2017, when it felt like my life was spinning out of control I decided to start the egg freezing process. I needed to take some ownership of my future and this was one aspect I could control.
Start to finish, you only need about two weeks of committed time with no social engagements (no drinking, limited exercise, no sex). There is some financial prep work if, like me, you don’t have $10-15K lying around. The entire process ended up costing me $13,800 and my insurance didn’t cover any of it. I took out a new credit card with 0 percent APR for 21 months. I pay off a little bit every month and think of it like a loan. I attended an injection class where they teach you how to give yourself shots, which is terrifying. I just kept thinking: I can’t believe they trust me to do this. But you can and I did. It’s scary and overwhelming, but the class was helpful and after the first injection, I felt empowered.
The egg freezing process
Once you learn the details and get your supply of medication, it’s two weeks of daily injections, ultrasounds, and bloodwork. The first few days were disorienting. I really wanted to talk about it, but I hadn’t told anyone but my family and close friends. I felt like I had this big secret and I wanted to share it so those around me could understand my mental state, but you can’t really tell the barista at the coffee shop that you’d love to chat because you are in the middle of fertility preservation and it’s totally messing with your head.
The hardest part of the process for me was the egg retrieval. Not the day of the procedure, but the preparation for it. During one of my prep appointments, I learned that I could not just take an Uber home. Rather, I needed someone to come and pick me up. All of the sudden, I was crushed with the weight of feeling single, alone, and far from my family. I did not want to burden a friend to take time off work to help me out. For me, this moment was incredibly sad and lonely. I sobbed at the clinic.
But after I cried it out, I called a trusted friend who was generous enough to work from home so she could pick me up. The actual retrieval procedure was quick and simple. I was lucky to have a successful retrieval and ended up with 14 viable eggs that were then frozen. I spent the rest of the day in bed with a heating pad, taking ibuprofen, and watching Netflix. I would compare the pain to severe, intense period cramps. It was painful but manageable—I could not have been functional at work but I was also not in complete agony. The next few days, I took it easy and slowly adjusted back into my normal routine. I felt very bloated and it took a several weeks to feel completely like myself again. But eventually, I did.
Taking a bit of the pressure off
Reflecting back on the experience a year later, I am proud of myself. I am glad it is all behind me (for now), and I am relieved that I put a strategy in place to increase my odds of one day having a viable pregnancy. However, there is no guarantee with egg freezing. I don’t know what the future holds in terms of me starting a family, but I now feel better about letting things unfold in their own time, without me forcing anything.
This year, I celebrated my 34th birthday. But my 14 eggs will be 32 years, 11 months, and two days old forever, or at least until I need them.