The Pressure of Egg Freezing
A recent article on the New York Times blog finally released me to put into words something that has always gotten under my skin about egg freezing, and it’s this: if this option had been around when I was younger, and if I had been nearing the end of my twenties unmarried, I would have gone into debt for this because I would have known that if I hadn’t gone into debt for this and there had been a fertility problem down the road, I would have hated myself. I would have paid for egg freezing rather than fall down the rabbit hole of “what if” regardless of the fact that egg freezing is an invasive, painful, not-always-successful procedure.
Which would have led to me entering my thirties heavily in debt on my teacher’s salary. I wouldn’t have been able to save for a house, but I also wouldn’t have been able to save for fertility treatments if I actually needed to use my frozen eggs. Because it’s not just freezing your eggs. It’s using your eggs, and that cost is astronomical if it’s not covered by insurance. And it rarely is. But here’s the thing: if I married a man, that man would not have gone into debt to shelter his fertility. He would be entering our marriage without a $15,000 debt to his reproductive chances.
Image: Steve Johnson via Flickr
People argue that it’s just a choice: take it or leave it. And certainly, there are many pressures women face on a daily basis that women shrug off without a second thought.
But that choice — the egg freezing choice — presses buttons. It gets to our deepest insecurities: will I find someone to love me in time? Will they want the same things I want? Will we be able to create the family that exists in my brain? Egg freezing is about our mortality. It whispers you’re aging, you’re aging, you’re aging.
You’ll never be this young again.
Choices are wonderful things when making them actually frees or lessens you from problems in the future. But egg freezing isn’t just a choice; it’s a pressure. Because now, if you don’t take that option, the message girls are receiving is that they have no one to blame but themselves if they end up infertile in their thirties without any eggs tucked away. And THAT is a dangerous choice to have because the consequences of that choice are enormous; especially if the choice doesn’t pay off but even if it does. A $15,000 price tag is a huge weight around the neck of someone trying to start their adult life.
But moreover, what gives me pause with this choice is that idea of egg freezing parties, which sounds like a Tupperware party which always comes with such a huge pressure to buy. Because what is a Tupperware party except a woman entering someone’s house to remind a bunch of people that they don’t have it together, they don’t have neat kitchens, they don’t have proper storage that will keep the food they feed their family safe, but if they buy buy buy the product, they too can let out a sigh of relief that life is once again orderly?
Replace Tupperware with makeup parties or sex toy parties or jewelry parties. The point of all of those parties is to sell people a product, and the only way to sell the product is to convince the attendees that they need it. That they can’t live without it.
I’ve always been someone who could live without Tupperware or makeup or sex toys or jewelry. But my fertility? Having the marriage I want, the family I want? Those wants trace all the way back to when I would rock my dolls and play house. Those are deep wants that predate knowledge of cooking or beauty tips or accessories. I wouldn’t have been able to step back and look at the facts realistically. If someone gave me a convincing pitch, I would have signed on the dotted line.
If egg freezing was a guarantee, it probably wouldn’t give me pause. But it’s not. It’s just a chance. And something that has gone from being a wonderful invention out there for women who need a little hope during a health crisis has become a weight hanging around the necks of women. Women are asked to go into debt, women are asked to shoulder the cost of protecting the possibility of the next generation, women are asked to do something invasive — all for a gamble since every pregnancy attempt is a gamble, even when you’re young and using fresh eggs.
Sometimes you get lucky.
Sometimes you don’t.
This isn’t to say that women who are drawn to egg freezing shouldn’t freeze their eggs, but more, that women shouldn’t be pressured to make this choice. That the air of blame that surrounds it needs to dissipate. That egg freezing needs to go back into the doctor’s offices, offered out as a possibility by a doctor who is invested in a particular woman’s health history rather than a hard-sale performed at parties by strangers.
Reading that piece made me finally able to pull those thoughts out of the back of my brain and put them on the screen.