Freezing my eggs seemed like the rational—nay, the responsible—thing to do. After all, I was getting divorced at 35, the very year the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reports your chances of natural conception drop to 52%. My mother, a dedicated disciple of Western medicine and a staunch believer that a woman’s baby-making faculties turn to dust at this ripe old age, kindly said to me shortly after learning of my divorce: "If you want, I'll pay for you to preserve your eggs." I spent a few weeks thinking it over and arrived at a yes with some obvious logic: Not only will I have the time to be far more selective in choosing my next partner, but I won't turn into one of those baby-crazed women in her late 30s who scare guys off at "hello."
This Image: Getty, Marquee Image: Adam Katz Sinding, Lead Image: Vanessa Jackman
Getting Started (AKA The Drugs)
Upon a friend's referral, I head to a clinic in Los Angeles where the doctors put me through a series of tests. After confirming I'm a good candidate, we map a plan based on my ovulation schedule, and I leave loaded down with a box full of hormones I'm to give myself for the 10 days leading up to the harvest. I prepare myself for the worst, as I've heard stories of hormone-riddled friends turning into emotional puddles and spontaneously gaining 20 pounds in a week.
"I felt oddly empowered by my decision."
My first injection falls on an unseasonably warm day in April. At my new (and very supportive) boyfriend's place in Venice, we measure out the quantity together. I take a deep breath, draw the needle and puncture the fleshy part of my thigh. Well, that wasn't so hard, I think. We then get on bikes and ride to a wine bar for a sunset charcuterie plate and a glass of red wine. It's a lovely afternoon, and I feel oddly empowered by my decision.
The next night, we stop by our friend's birthday party and his wife says, "Damn, you're happy! What are you on?" I throw my head back carelessly and laugh, "Fertility drugs!" In this moment, I realize fertility drugs don't actually make you feel terrible. They just make you feel more of whatever it is you're feeling. Yes, I'm going through a divorce, but I've waited a good year from the time my husband walked out the door before beginning the process, and I'm brimming with hope about my new life.
I go in for the retrieval eight days later. They put me under, and a mere 20 minutes later I open my eyes to my doctor standing proudly above me.
"We got 30 eggs!" he exclaims.
"That's a good thing?" I guess.
"Indeed. Normally we're happy with seven."
Dazed from the anesthesia and high on the new freedom (and time) my mom has so graciously bought me, I breeze out of the office thinking this just might be the biggest game changer in the history of being a woman.
The Unexpected Aftermath
Oh, it's a game changer all right. A few days later, I begin to itch. Then, the jabs start. It's as if I'm being stabbed by a molten fireplace poker 24 hours a day, seven days a week. My discomfort bears resemblance to a yeast infection, if a yeast infection means scalding hot shards of glass permanently lodged in my nether regions. The fertility doctor's office says this is very unusual and not-so-subtly remind me I signed a waiver excusing them of any responsibility.
"The fertility doctor's office says this is very unusual and not-so-subtly remind me I signed a waiver excusing them of any responsibility."
I fear my cheating husband gave me an STI that's only now presenting itself. After testing me for everything that makes you squirm, my OB-GYN tells me it's in fact a yeast infection. My energy healer, on the other hand, tells me the procedure has opened up a trauma from a past life and that I'm now vulnerable to accepting a lower energy frequency into my space from my new man.
Nothing helps. In my darkest moments, I blame my mom for pressuring me to do it. I blame my psychic for telling me I'd be okay. I blame the American medical community for inciting fear in 35-year-old women everywhere and making us feel a procedure like this is necessary.
For the next two years, I continue to experience a bevy of awful symptoms. I spend tens of thousands of dollars seeing internists, specialists, acupuncturists, integrative medicine docs, nutritionists, hydra colon therapists, osteopaths, energy healers, clairvoyants and mystics looking for the key to my healing. With the precision of an investigative reporter, I piece together all these expert insights, and eventually arrive at a conclusion: The hormones I took for the procedure threw my body way out of balance and created a breeding ground for systemic candida to flourish.
"Finally, I decide to no longer pay the $750 annual fee to store my eggs."
With the desperation of someone who, well, might not be able to have sex or wear skinny jeans ever again, I quit sugar. Quitting sugar sounds like forgoing a sweet treat after dinner or opting to take your coffee black—no. Quitting sugar means no bread, no pasta, no alcohol, no rice, no salad dressing. Not even a cherry tomato.
I grow increasingly weak and gaunt, barely tipping the scale at 91 pounds. I become isolated, unable to join my friends for dinner and drinks. Believing my healer's theory that my new guy's energy might not jibe with mine, I break up with quite possibly the greatest man I've ever been with.
Finally, I decide to no longer pay the $750 annual fee to store my eggs. After all, to access them I'll have to undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF), and IVF means injecting myself with the same hormones all over again—something I have absolutely no interest in doing.
Do I regret my decision freeze my eggs? Very much so. Do I recommend other women try it? It's a very personal decision—one I have no business sticking my nose in. But from my ordeal, I gained one positive: a genuine compassion for anyone struggling with health issues. For women facing chemo or other treatments that may compromise their ability to conceive, I certainly understand the appeal. For women who can't conceive naturally, IVF is clearly an incredible advancement. Ultimately, I'm a woman who supports other women, and I simply want to tell a story that would've been helpful for me to hear while I was in the process of making my decision on this sensitive matter.
The good news is that the body wants to heal. In time, I return to the foundation by which I live: I and I alone am responsible for everything in my life, and this experience is for my evolution and benefit. I figure there's gotta be a gift in here somewhere, and I'm determined to find it.
Once I take a closer look, the gifts are everywhere. I discover the healing power of well-sourced, organic food. I come to understand that the energies we don't see are even more powerful than those we do. I learn that the coffee enema might just be the secret to happiness (and taking years off your face). It cleans out the liver, y'all—look it up!
The biggest gift has been recognizing that when faced with a big life decision, the most important thing I can do is ask myself, "Am I making this decision from a place of love or fear?" If the answer is fear, it's a no-go.
By leading with love, I've built a peaceful life in a Costa Rican jungle paradise I share with my beloved French boyfriend and our two dogs. Leading with love is what I believe has allowed me to call forth the baby girl growing in my belly; she was conceived on the very first try just three months shy of my 39th birthday. (Take that, ACOG!) Leading with love is a gift, an insight and a superpower I'll carry with me always—one I might not have discovered had I not taken the steps I did. So maybe I don't completely regret my decision after all.