In this two-part series, five women share their journeys with egg freezing. Here, we hear the final three courageous stories.
Amber J, 39, Public Servant, Canberra and Adelaide.
In 2019, when I was 35, I found myself in a doctor’s office, where my physician awkwardly handed me a pamphlet and suggested that it might be time to consider egg freezing. This suggestion hit me hard, especially considering I’ve always felt and looked younger than my age. Nevertheless, I agreed to undergo the customary tests to assess my AMH levels. Surprisingly, the results came back higher than average, offering a glimmer of hope. I was told I could delay a year if I wished, so I did.
Then, the unexpected curveball of the pandemic struck. During that time, I had two short-term relationships, so I guess amidst dating and the distraction of the pandemic, egg freezing was the last thing on my mind. At the end of the second lockdown in Canberra, I was once again single, and beginning to realise that at the age of 38, time was no longer on my side. So, I made the difficult decision to pack up my life and relocate closer to my family in Adelaide.
I had another visit to a fertility specialist, and another AMH test to check my options (freezing or using a donor straight away ). Surprisingly, my levels still exceeded the norm for my age. I didn’t feel ready to commit to the donor path immediately and realised the need to grant myself a small extension. So, I did just that, and now, I possess a dozen carefully preserved eggs.
However, my journey took an unforeseen toll on my mental well-being, a kind of hormone-induced crash akin to post-natal depression. Reflecting on it now, I realise that I was juggling an excessive load, simultaneously planning for the future, relocating to a different state, buying a property, working remotely in a high-demand job, establishing a support system in a new place, and recovering the complexities of life following the pandemic.
Had I known then what I know now, I would have started this process earlier. Not only to improve the quality and quantity of my eggs collected but to allow myself the grace of time to recuperate between hormone treatments, retrievals, and the emotional and physiological challenges of the procedure.
What often goes unspoken, and what I believe deserves more attention, are the reasons why women choose to freeze their eggs. Yes, it’s an insurance policy, but one without guaranteed results. The survival rate of eggs after thawing and the toll the procedure takes on one’s mental and physical health are often understated. Clinics and medical professionals need to be more transparent about these aspects. Therefore, my advice would be to arm yourself with as much information as possible and stay informed about Medicare rebates, as laws in this area are constantly evolving, and you need to understand what’s available to you in your state.
In today’s world, we grapple with the increasing cost of living, and some might argue that the expense of having a child is prohibitive. Yet, on the other hand, the cost of egg retrieval is also substantial. So, weigh all your options, carefully.
Jenn H, 35, Lawyer, Lismore.
I was married at a very young age; I met my ex-husband when I was 20, we were engaged by 21, married by 27, and divorced five years later. Dating in rural New South Wales presents unique challenges. I’ve noticed that the men I date often don’t share the same interests as me and tend to lead simpler lives, whereas my own lifestyle is more complex. While I appreciate their values, their views can be quite old-fashioned, and I struggle with the idea of conforming to those roles.
In my professional sphere, I collaborate with powerful and benevolent men. It’s hard not to draw comparisons between these men and the men in my dating pool.
Regarding the topic of having children, I’ve always shied away from the idea. The thought of pregnancy and childbirth terrifies me. My work in family law has exposed me to the adverse effects of parental conflict on children when couples separate. I’ve also witnessed women trapped in abusive relationships, sometimes criticised for leaving such environments. It deeply troubles me that women can be compelled to base their lives on the whims of poorly treating men. Personally, I am constantly haunted by the fear of choosing the wrong partner and potentially ending up as the sole provider and caregiver. Ideally, I desire a partner who actively participates in raising a family.
I have considered the option of egg freezing, though I haven’t delved into in-depth research. Occasionally, when an article on the topic surfaces, I take the time to read it. However, I haven’t actively sought out information.
Honestly, I prefer not to dwell on this matter. At this moment, I don’t feel capable or willing to have a child on my own through a sperm donor. Even with a partner, I fear making the wrong choice and regretting having a child together. My feelings are deeply influenced by my own parents’ relationship, which ended when I was 10. He still communicates with my mother and asks about me, but I don’t want a similar situation for myself.
I become frustrated when people inquire about my ovaries, even men on dating apps who ask about my childbearing plans. My ovaries are a personal matter, and no one else should have an opinion on them. My primary goal is to find happiness. Whether single, in a relationship, or in a relationship with children, what truly matters to me is contentment.
Min J, 45, Public Relations, Canberra and Sydney.
I was always a late bloomer; I didn’t really notice boys until well into my late teens. I got married a bit later in life, and then, after seven years, I went through a divorce. I never had a strong desire to have children; it simply wasn’t a calling for me. Even when I was married, we made attempts, but my mind was consumed by thoughts of our financial stability. Childcare costs were soaring at $120 per day! Private schools were exorbitant, and I had rather exquisite (read: expensive) taste. I envisioned that any child of mine would have EVERYTHING and the BEST money could buy.
So, when I found myself single again, I was okay with it. And then, five years ago, I had to undergo a hysterectomy for health reasons. Two doctors gave me the same advice: have the procedure, worry less, and enjoy a satisfying sex life. I grappled with feeling like I was playing God, but ultimately, I went through with it. There were no eggs cryogenically frozen. Today, I have no regrets. I have a fabulous life – a career I’m proud of, and friends who are loyal, caring, and always there for me. I also have a loving family that supports all my decisions.
And then I met a man – kind, generous, patient, nine years younger, and he has always dreamt of having kids. With hardly any warning, I found myself falling in love with him and with the possibility of a family with him. The lack of awareness is why I didn’t freeze my eggs earlier. I’ve engaged in daunting conversations with fertility specialists, explored egg donor lists, and navigated the intricacies of NSW legislation on surrogacy. I know that having children is a personal choice and comes with its own unique set of challenges and rewards. I have faced what my therapist calls ‘very heavy stuff’ and at times it gets the better of me. However, I love living, doing, exploring, and making memories I can fall back on and feel proud of myself. I have tapped into my courage, removed fears, taken risks, and am stepping into the wild. My advice to anyone considering alternative means of reproduction is to do the research, don’t let your ego obstruct your path, and most importantly, have open conversations with your GP or alternative medical practitioner – no question is too trivial to ask.
If you find yourself on the brink of making a decision regarding egg freezing, I implore you to be compassionate with yourself and approach the matter with gentleness. Ultimately, it’s a deeply personal decision, one that should be guided by your heart’s whispers. And always know that if you reach out to a friend or a family member, she will have her own story to share with you.