As comedian Jerrod Carmichael said, women are the only minority group who are the majority. While we comprise a little over half of the population, we receive lower pay, are disproportionately less promoted in the workforce, and deeply personal choices pertaining to our bodies are determined by a room full of men. Then there’s the fact that an incompetent, unqualified misogynist is now in the White House, which speaks volumes about how far male privilege can take you. And don't get me started on longer bathroom lines, mansplaining, and uncomfortable, if not painful, high heels. As if the many layers of a patriarchal society weren't enough, women have yet another disadvantage that becomes glaringly prominent with each passing birthday: fertility.
Throughout my dating career, with each dissolved relationship, my dream for a family felt further and further away. Looking back on my twenties, and now with the majority of my thirties behind me, I've watched my progression from hopelessly romantic, to prayerfully resilient, to low key panic.
As much as I've always wanted kids, initially I was not open to the idea of freezing my eggs. I associated it with desperation, resignation, and lack of faith. Coupled with the outrageously high cost, it just didn't seem like something I would ever do. I also felt a level of embarrassment or shame around it, as if it would be an admittance of failure. "Welp, it didn't happen for me, so here I am."
But with my desire for a family getting stronger every year, and my maternal instincts on high, I decided to do some research.
After a few days of some focused googling, I discovered there are countries in Europe where fertility treatment costs three to four times less than in the US. Between the hormones, the procedure itself, and fees for storing your eggs once they're frozen, the whole ordeal can cost over $20,000 here in the states. That means you either have to be in a high income bracket or willing to go into debt. I was neither. However, after some serious searching, I found the perfect clinic for me. It was professional, clean, contemporary, and reasonably priced. When I contacted them, everyone was helpful and friendly, not to mention patient with my myriad of questions.
So I went to the Czech Republic to freeze my eggs.
It wasn't a decision I broadcasted, but of the few I discussed it with, there were mixed responses. Some were instantly excited and supportive, some were concerned about me traveling so far alone, and some saw it as a biologically unnatural and emotionally fear-based move (or at least that is my interpretation of what was expressed).
As a poet/vocalist, I've traveled internationally extensively, and usually solo, so I wasn't intimidated by the travel factor. And with the exception of the hormones to stimulate multiple egg production, it's a relatively painless and risk-free procedure. It wasn't the injections I minded so much as the headaches, nausea and sore breasts, but a few days of slight discomfort is well worth looking into my baby's eyes one day.
To be clear, I am one who believes in divine order and fully recognizes the beauty in surrendering to faith over fear. I also believe the universe responds to energy. In other words, passivity about something deeply important sends a mixed message, which often results in either stagnation or compromised results. Many women who don’t want children, or who already have children (especially if they had them young) don't truly comprehend the heart-wrenching ache and almost debilitating sense of urgency we feel on this side of the fence, just as we don't truly understand the exhaustion of functioning on two hours of sleep with a baby who won't stop crying. I'm a private person as it is, but after I was unpleasantly surprised by one or two underwhelming responses, I decided to limit discussing such a sacred and personal life decision until after the deed was done.
I have been praying for a family my entire adult life (and my adolescence for that matter, as the only child of a single mother), but I didn't feel a sense of peace about it until I decided to stop waiting (and waiting, and waiting, and waiting) for the "one" and started being proactive. Ultimately, we are responsible for our own lives, and I realized it's not a sign of failure, but a brave and self-empowered choice. It is a leveling of the playing field, so to speak. I always found it highly unfair that men have the luxury of procreating at any age, and many feel little-to-no pressure to start a family until they're in their forties. While we're still light years away from gender equality, at least modern medicine has created a way to balance the scales biologically, and I, for one, am infinitely grateful.
My experience in the Czech Republic couldn’t have been better. From the clinic, to the hotel, to strangers on the bus, everyone was friendly and helpful. The doctors and nursing staff at the clinic were professional and kind, and made me feel well taken care of. The procedure had a quick recovery time, and I even had an extra day to do a little sightseeing around the beautiful city of Prague before flying home.
Taking this step has given me the invaluable gift of options. When I find myself in a committed relationship with someone I want to have children with, my first choice would be a natural conception. But if that doesn't happen easily on it's own, it would just be a matter of traveling to the clinic together. The eggs can also be sent here, but with prices as they are, traveling overseas and back would actually cost less than staying here, even including a stop in Italy or Paris for a romantic vacay along the way. The process of implanting one of my eggs as an embryo (after his sperm does its part, of course) is relatively simple, painless, and again, much more affordable in the Czech Republic. In the event that my partner is a woman, it would be as simple as finding a willing male friend to father the child (or children) and undergoing the same process. And while my intention is to raise a family within the context of a healthy relationship, if I find myself on my own, I can explore the possibility of a donor. Either way, no part of the story looks like me, postmenopausal, crying over a glass of Chardonnay wishing I had made different choices when I still had them.
This experience has been a transformative rites of passage in that I feel self empowered and liberated from the victim narrative so many in my position feel. It has lightened the load of resentment and/or remorse about past relationships I had hoped would work out, and relieved some of the societal and self inflicted pressure for my life to look a specific way by a certain age. It takes the sting out of the baby pictures on my social media feeds (especially posted by exes) or attending yet another wedding or baby shower, which used to trigger self judgement and possibly a few tears on the ride home.
Deciding to take the wheel and freeze my eggs bought me some time, and moreover, peace of mind. It is something I knew I would not regret doing, but conversely, could absolutely regret not doing. It was an action of solidarity from my present self to my future self, and a clear and loving invitation to my unborn babies: I'm ready when you are. It also made me honor and appreciate the capabilities of my body in a way I never have before. While I would like to become a mother sooner rather than later, for the present moment, I can take a deep breath and relax, knowing if and when I need it, part of my future is safely stored in a lovely clinic just a flight away.
Originally published in ForHarriet.com: http://www.forharriet.com/2017/07/passport-to-peace-of-mind-my.html
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