There has been a lot of speculation around egg freezing lately. Why women are doing it, why they’re not, why they should and why they shouldn’t.
It has been assumed that the choice to freeze our eggs points to our desire to feed career ambitions and to continue to climb the corporate ladder. In fact, the CEO of EggBanxx says ‘lean in, but freeze first.’ It’s a pithy slogan, one I don’t entirely disagree with, but it severely over simplifies how we got here, and why we’re really freezing our eggs.
It has been said that Facebook and Apple are tricking women into a false sense of security so that they can slave away in their most productive years. Really? That’s how naive these Facebook and Apple critics think women are?
Many also say that the benefit that Facebook and Apple offer skirts the real issue we should be tackling: implementing policies that do a better job of promoting and supporting having a family. While I agree that parental leave in the US is shameful when compared to our EU counterparts, I don’t think that offering egg freezing as a benefit necessarily distracts from that issue. Providing proactive fertility options either as a corporate perk, or ideally, as part of healthcare coverage, and having better parental leave policies aren’t mutually exclusive. Let’s get ambitious people. Why not both?
And it continues to be said that egg freezing is an elective procedure. In fact, while I applaud what Facebook and Apple have done in offering it as a benefit to employees, it underscores the sad fact that insurance companies and doctors systematically refer to this as elective, and therefore, cover virtually none of the costs.
I’ve given this quite a bit of thought. In fact, if you haven’t noticed, I’m sort of passionate about all this fertility stuff, and I have a few thoughts on this whole egg freezing and fertility business.
Let me start with why I think women are really freezing their eggs (and undergoing other forms of reproductive aid).
The reality of our choices
The egg freezing phenomenon isn’t a direct result of our choice to get higher educations, work in demanding, white collar, well paying jobs, and break glass ceilings. There is definitely a correlation, but it’s not a cause and effect relationship. There are other complexities at play, and in fact, these things aren’t choices. To imply that they are suggests that women should simply stay at home and procreate.
Most families can’t survive on single incomes. I would venture to guess that most women in my generation grew up with working moms. I would also venture to guess that most of us had moms in ‘less important’ jobs than our dads. They were working to supplement incomes and to make ends meet, and I applaud them for it. But it wasn’t a choice. They had to work.
And these wonderful moms, aside from being providers, were also great teachers. They taught us to be independent. Never to rely on a man. To go out there and make a living and do something we’re proud of. To pursue passions that make us happy, and financially and intellectually equal (or superior) to men.
All that said, something happened somewhere along the way, and most of my friends are successful and respected in their fields because it’s who they are – not because they’re women, or men. It’s just what we do. We didn’t think about it. We didn’t consciously set out to rule the world to show everyone that women could do it too. We just did it because we knew nobody was going to hand it us (and we wouldn’t have wanted it even if they had). To suggest that achievement is a choice we make over having children is a bigger set back to feminism than beauty pageants, because it implies that only one of the sexes should reach for the stars.
And, I always bring it back to this: the longer we go on about this as though it’s some kind of a life style choice for the ambitious, white collar woman, the longer we keep it an ‘elective’ treatment rather than what it really is.
This isn’t about careers. It’s about major, societal shifts that demand more of us – all of us. We didn’t forget to have children in between meetings and business trips. We were simply living life and realizing our dreams. More likely, we simply haven’t met the right person, or have and lost them, or have met lot’s of right people, but nobody right enough to have a baby with. Whatever the reason, please, let’s not chalk it up to climbing that antiquated, rickety corporate ladder. It’s a daft and shallow theory.
The reality of Facebook and Apple’s choices
I’m not one to over analyze a situation, especially if it benefits fellow woman, but I’m pretty certain that Facebook and Apple didn’t offer up egg freezing simply as an altruistic gesture. They did it for the same reason they offer better maternity leave policies and better benefits in general. Because they want to attract the best talent in a competitive industry, and with more and more women in Silicon Valley, this was just another perk.
They’re simply acknowledging that a woman’s most productive years happen to coincide with her most re-productive years, so why not offer a little incentive? To those who think this is some kind of trick to lure young women into Silicon Valley slavery, what do you think the alternative is? Just putting our heads in the sand while we continue to work (because we ARE going to continue to work, frozen eggs or not)?
While I would prefer that health insurance bear most of the burden, I applaud Facebook and Apple for catapulting egg freezing into the national dialogue, and most importantly, for recognizing it as an important benefit to their employees.
And now, on to my hot button: fertility as elective
This is probably the topic that most sets me off. First, to call egg freezing or any other fertility treatment elective is to reduce it to the likes of Botox and boob jobs.
Second, fertility treatments, no matter what kind, are a woman’s issue. They just are. When I was married and my husband and I went to see my amazing fertility doctor, Dr. Noyes, for the first time, she looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘we’re going to run all kinds of tests on both of you, but regardless of the outcome, this is your issue.’ Meaning: even if his swimmers were the problem, I’m the one that has to have the invasive procedures. This is relevant because I wonder, why is it that when a woman’s reproductive health needs help, it’s elective, yet, if a man can’t get an erection, seeing a doctor for that and getting a prescription for Viagra is covered by insurance? And, if that same man’s spunk doesn’t work, and his partner therefore has to be poked and prodded to make life out of his useless sperm, her treatments aren’t covered by the same insurance policy? When did fertility become more elective than having an erection?
Last, reproduction is not elective. It simply isn’t. It’s convenient for health insurance companies and doctors to place it in the elective category because some people choose not to have kids, but the need to procreate is the most natural and primal aspect of humanity. It’s why we develop the way we do. It’s why we have periods, why we ovulate, why women have vaginas and breasts, and why men have penises. It’s why we have sex. I know we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking that God created these things simply for our pleasure, but they actually serve a greater purpose than to produce orgasms. These parts of our anatomy weren’t created simply for us to ogle and play with, they were created so that we can keep the human race alive (while having a little fun, of course).
So, how can we think of anything that promotes reproduction as elective? If everyone stopped having babies right now, the world would end in about 100 years. Now, I’m not suggesting that without fertility treatments, the human race will cease to exist, but I am suggesting that first world societies are going to start running into some serious economic troubles if our birth rates continue to decline the way they have.
To sum it all up, I don’t believe women are freezing their eggs and delaying child birth simply to get one more promotion. And I also don’t believe that egg freezing somehow fools women into thinking they have plenty of time to slave away at the office – give us more credit than that. Last, I have this crazy theory that the way we now procreate, and the timetable on which we procreate has evolved because of major, irreversible societal shifts, and therefore fertility treatments are not elective, lifestyle choices, rather, medical conditions that should be covered by health insurance (no exceptions).
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