My Egg Freezing Story
Stories from PFC patients about their experience with freezing their eggs
ON FEAR AND FERTILITY- Why I decided to Freeze My Eggs
"Don't be late, Don't be late," I repeated to myself as I pulled into the parking garage at Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco where I had planned to freeze my eggs. My lateness was surely a reflection of an ambivalence I had about the whole process. I was in too much of a rush as I pulled open what appeared to be an entrance door with a "NOT AN ENTRANCE" sign on it. I scurried up five flights of stairs and yanked on the 5th floor door. It didn't budge. I raced up and down the stairs pulling on the doors at the 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st floors. I was locked out of all of them.
After four increasingly stressful phone calls between myself and the reception desk to figure out where I was, a building security guard found me in what I later learned was a back entrance no one used. When I finally arrived at the reception desk I couldn't get my name out ahead of the tears. "Why am I here? I shouldn't be here! This is not what I envisioned!!" My internal dialogue sent more tears gushing as I exchanged name and address details with a receptionist who, seeing my fragile state, kindly escorted me to a private waiting room before my appointment. I was late for the appointment as well as a marriage and family plan that, in my mind, should have happened 10 years ago.
I was married at age twenty in a conservative religious tradition that touted the importance of family. At the time, it felt progressive of me to consider holding off on having babies until twenty seven. Twenty eight at the latest, I thought.
A divorce at 25 changed all that. I set out on my own to do the things I feared I never would if I stayed married: travel, have a career, figure out who I was. After intermittent stretches of dating unavailable men, I hit 37 wondering where the time went. As a fellow single friend put it "It's as if I forgot to set the alarm on my biological clock and slept through my 30s." I woke up in a panic. What if I missed my chance to have a family? What if I'd always be alone?
I've always thought I may adopt a child one day, but the idea that time was taking away my opportunity to have one of my own seemed unfair. I felt like a victim and started experiencing each of my failed relationships like I did the locked doors in the stairwell that day. Each unsuccessful attempt to make one work left me feeling increasingly frantic.
When I collapsed into tears again on the way into Dr. Liyun Li's office, she welcomed me with a smile of a woman who had seen my strain of anxiety before. As she patiently and thoroughly explained the details of the egg freeze process I tried to wrestle my mind around a swirl of details on statistics and medications involved in the process. While the idea of freezing the cells of half babies in a $12,000 procedure was not part of my original life plan, forty minutes later there was only one thing I was clear on: I would do this. This was one thing I had control of.
I sat through my injection class in a haze as Power Point images of needles and vials appeared. The class made it all seem so simple. "Fill, measure, inject." It was simple. But on my first try I magically made several hundred dollars worth of liquid Menopur disappear by failing to load it into the correct syringe. I winced at the loss and idea of injecting myself. I then held my breath, grabbed an inch of skin around my belly, and stuck the medication-filled needle in.
I knew the hormones were kicking in when, on day three, I cried when someone cut me off in traffic. On day six I cried because the grocery store was closed when I got there. On day seven, a friend's "I admire what you're doing " sent tears streaming down my face.
But as each doctor's visit allowed me to see my little eggs multiplying via ultrasound, I was reminded of what my body was capable of. The truth is, in all my single years, while I hadn't forgotten that I wanted children, it was too painful to think that I wanted something so badly I couldn't have. So I conveniently shut down my relationship with my fertility. And, like any difficult breakup, I wasn't sure we would ever be getting back together.
The morning of my egg extraction, I woke up feeling uncomfortably bloated with what seemed like quadruplets growing in my ovaries. "Please get these out of me," I asked Dr. Li just before I went under anesthesia. I woke up to a nurse tapping me on the shoulder. "Here's how many we got," she said while pointing to a number seventeen circled on her clip board. In a drug induced drunken state I cried out "I'm soooo proud of myself!!!"
When a technician later arrived with a snap shot of all seventeen circular cells, I studied the contours of each one in pride and awe.
Thirteen survived the freezing process and will be held for safe keeping until I choose to use or dispose of them. While there is no guarantee of their quality or that they will survive the many steps between being thawed and becoming a baby, I am highly relieved to have the procedure behind me.
I recently returned from a 15 year college reunion where, for the first time I can remember, the site of pregnant bellies and waddling toddlers didn't trigger me into despair. Doing what I could to preserve my fertility has made me less afraid of losing it.
Strangely, I'm one of several women I know who started the most promising relationship of her life within months of her egg freeze. Perhaps it's like one of my father's favorite expressions: "Our ships come in on calm seas."
I'm sure if I had been in a little less of a hurry that day of my first appointment I may have seen the "NOT AN ENTRANCE" sign, walked in the "correct" door and not been late. Still I can't regret that 20 minute detour, nor the 10 year one that took me off track from the life I had planned. But I do believe that sometimes when we stop being in such a fear-driven hurry, life is far more likely to get us where we want to be. Right on time.
* Author: C.J
Egg-freezing allows more women to buy time for motherhood
This story was published in the San Jose Mercury News and was written by Martha Ross. She interviewed a PFC patient and PFC's Dr. Philip Chenette for the story. Below is a portion of the original published story.
Through her 20s and early 30s, pediatrician Kristie Manning was so neck-deep in medical school and training that she had no time to focus on having children. Still single, the Pleasanton, Calif., native isn't ready to start a family by herself.
So she bought herself some time. In May, facing the biological threshold of age 35, when a woman's fertility takes a steep dive, she went to the California Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco and had 14 eggs removed and frozen for future use.
For Manning, those eggs represent an insurance policy of sorts. Even though she's not sure she will ever use them. Even though there's no guarantee any of the eggs will one day provide a baby. Even though she paid dearly for them.
That $12,000, she says, bought peace of mind.
"I don't know what the future holds, but I feel like I can look back years from now and know no matter what happened, that I did what I could," she said. It also means that if she meets a potential partner, there's less pressure to jump into a relationship just to have kids: "I can think more about if he's the right person."
Manning is among a small but growing number of women who have seized on recent advances in "oocyte cryopreservation" to widen the window of time for starting a family.
Over the past decade, clinics that provide reproductive services such as in vitro fertilization have offered egg-freezing to women facing chemotherapy for cancer or other medical issues that could affect their fertility.
In the past few years, however, the technology has improved to the point that it's no longer deemed "experimental," and clinics have begun touting it as an option for women who delay starting families in order to pursue advanced degrees, build their careers or meet a suitable partner.
"Fifty years ago, women would graduate high school or college, go ahead and have kids and be done with childbearing by age 40," said Dr. Phillip Chenette of the Pacific Fertility Center. "Now women's careers are taking off in their 30s, but that's also the time when fertility is declining in a straight line."
About half of all women older than 40 have fertility problems, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, and older eggs carry increased risks of chromosomal abnormalities that can cause miscarriage and birth defects. For this reason, women in this age group have much more success using donor eggs when undergoing in vitro fertilization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
Egg-freezing allows women to preserve their own genetic material for future in vitro fertilization, an option that in some ways gives them more control over their reproductive futures.