Sarah Bennett: A Little ‘Insurance’ Goes a Long Way

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Throughout college, post-college moves to the west coast and back, and business school, kids were not even breaking into the top 10 on my list of life priorities. I’m not someone who ever felt like kids would provide my purpose in life. For as long as I can remember, I’ve imagined two versions of my future – one with kids and one without – and approached the two options with more curiosity than anxiety.  The version without kids included a loving partner, lots of world travel, and many boozy dinners with close friends. The version with kids also included a loving partner, with a couple of healthy, happy kids running around, and a stable home life with family dinners most nights. Both versions represented happiness to me.

By my late 20’s, my career was on track and I was in the most serious relationship of my life. It was the first time I had a life that I could picture kids fitting into. But logistics and life got in the way, the relationship ended, and I joined the ranks of single 30-somethings in NYC.  Life was busy and full, and my birthdays seemed to arrive faster each year.

I remember the day, a few weeks before my 34th birthday, that it dawned on me that 35 was one year away. All of those studies and reports about women’s fertility and its decline after 35 started flashing before my brain. I felt like I was approaching an expiration date that I wasn’t ready for.  I wasn’t 100% sure that I wanted to have kids, but I also didn’t want to lose the option. I felt like doors were closing, and I wanted to find a way to prop them open for a little longer.

I had heard of egg freezing, but in my mind it was a 6-month process that wreaked havoc on your body, your life and your emotions. It was only in speaking to a friend who had gone through the process that I realized that it might not be as scary as I imagined. So I made a consultation appointment. I immediately felt at ease during my consultation. My doctor explained the whole process, answered all my questions with candor and patience, and assured me that since I was a good candidate, this procedure would make it possible to have a child on my timeline, if I wanted to.

I left my consultation feeling a weight lift from my shoulders that I didn’t even realize I’d been carrying. The thought that I could take my time to find the right partner, keep charging at my career and still maintain the option to have a family felt revelatory. It felt like a game changer, and I was in.

When people ask me what the egg freezing process is like, I always say, “The things I thought were going to be hard were easy, and the things I thought would be easy were hard.” Ultimately, I think that which parts of the process are most challenging is a very individual experience. For me, I went in afraid of having to give myself injections, and having to get blood drawn every morning. In practice, I found that I got over that fear very quickly and had no trouble with the needles. I also felt very minimal side effects from the hormone injections. Other than a little bloating, I felt like myself. On the other hand, I was not at all fearful of the egg collection procedure, but in practice I overstimulated and was laid up in bed for nearly a week following.  All of it felt very worth it to me, though. During the process, I had to make some adjustments to my social calendar and workout calendar, but it was 2 weeks that I was happy to sacrifice in order to keep the option of having kids on the table.

Three years post egg freezing, I can say that I have never regretted doing it. It feels like I’ve bought myself an insurance policy, and even if its success is not guaranteed, I can at least know I’ve done all I can to give myself options. Now 4 years into another serious relationship, it is nice to feel like when we decide to have kids, if natural conception is unsuccessful, we will have another option.

I am very open with people about my decision to freeze my eggs, and I am often surprised with how uncomfortable people are with the subject.  It’s not uncommon that if I mention that I froze my eggs, someone will pull me aside later and whisper, “I’ve done it too, but I never tell anyone.” It does make me wonder what drives the feeling of secrecy. I’ve noticed that very single few women in my social circles will openly admit to wanting to have children, and I think there’s a fear of seeming desperate. That somehow admitting you want kids, or admitting that you have undertaken a procedure to boost fertility options will send interested men running from the desperate single woman.  I wish there was more open conversation around this subject, since I found that having options, and having some control over my choices was incredibly empowering.

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