The Baby Dilemma: Hope in a Tank
By Sarah Elizabeth Richards
Anxious about her fertility, 30-something Sarah Elizabeth Richards took
$13,000 out of her savings account to freeze her eggs.
“So what brought you here? A birthday? A breakup?” I was in a session with
psychologist Georgia Witkin; counseling is one of my fertility clinic’s
requirements before they’d agree to freeze my eggs. I thought for a moment,
took a deep breath, and gushed: “Well, I know I want kids. But my boyfriend
isn’t sure, and in any case, I don’t want them for a couple of years. I’m
turning 37 soon — ”
“How does he feel about egg freezing?” she interrupted. I looked at her,
dumbfounded, wondering why the answer wasn’t obvious. “He’s thrilled,” I
responded. “It takes the pressure off both of us.”
I was lucky, she said. Some men feel threatened or, worse, expendable. The
women, on the other hand, talk of being empowered. They no longer have to rush
to find a partner. Egg freezing allows them to separate procreation from
romance, she said. “There’s something about having those eggs in the
I needed that something. I hoped it would silence my noisy biological clock.
After sorting through the ramifications in an article for Marie Claire
last May, I decided to get my eggs harvested and frozen. Since my egg quality
supposedly had started to decline at 35 — and the eggs might self-destruct by
my early 40s — I wanted to get them into the freezer as soon as possible.
While I couldn’t rush my relationship or reason away fears about having a
baby, I could do this: inject my rapidly aging self with hormones, then have my
eggs sucked out, frozen, and stored in liquid nitrogen in a facility outside
Boston until I was ready to be pregnant.
After weeks of research, I found my way to Reproductive Medicine Associates
(RMA), a posh Manhattan fertility clinic. Although more than 220 American
clinics now offer egg freezing, most haven’t yet thawed those eggs to get their
clients pregnant. The procedure is still so new that only about 500 babies have
been born through thawed eggs. I liked the fact that RMA had produced at least
some babies; according to a recent study, they had gotten three of four clients
pregnant. And part of me liked that the clinic was located on Madison Avenue,
near excellent shopping and gelato.
Although the technology is rapidly improving, egg freezing is still
experimental and not widely recommended as a tool to put off having children.
But I was in a deadline crunch. I hoped to have kids the regular way, but in
case I couldn’t, I wanted an extension.