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The Baby Dilemma: Hope in a Tank

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Egg freezing, I soon learned, is no quick fix. I couldn’t get an appointment at the clinic for three weeks. Then, I would have to wait until the third day of my next period so they could measure my follicle-stimulating hormone and estradiol levels. If they were too high, the whole deal was off. After a “prep” month of hormone pills and blood tests, I could finally start the hormone shots. That was more than three months away! My eggs would need a walker at that rate — if I had any money left to buy one.

The Madison Avenue clinic I chose charges $13,000 (excluding storage or IVF to implant the thawed eggs). At first, I thought no price was too high for a chance to cheat biology. But when I had to leech my life savings, it began to sink in that I was buying just that: a chance — not a fix at all.

During my consultation, Dr. Tanmoy Mukherjee, my reproductive endocrinologist at RMA, spouted the best statistics he had: Some eggs would not survive freezing or thawing or be successfully fertilized, but the remaining embryos had a 30 percent chance of implanting.

I rationalized that I simply needed lots of eggs, and I wrote the check. I was thrilled to finally be on the freezing fast track. But the hope was tinged with a big dose of doubt.

Of course, there was the unsettling chance that I was infertile at this very moment. At the clinic, however, I learned that my hormone levels were normal, and I saw my ovaries on an ultrasound: They looked like cookies made with mini chocolate chips — each dark bit representing an egg. “They look good,” Mukherjee declared. With that, I left in search of folic acid. It all seemed so easy.

That was until I attended the mandatory class that taught two other freezers and me how to administer the twice-daily hormone shots we’d need for more than a week. When the nurse saw me eye a needle big enough to spear a lamb kebab, she giggled and explained it was simply to mix some of the meds that came in powder form with water. We would inject with a thinner, shorter one that barely hurt. Right.

Even though these were serious drugs, I didn’t want to think about concerns I’d heard that they might raise my risk of getting cancer. I was more concerned about the effects on my mood. I’m so sensitive to hormonal shifts that when I switched birth-control pills last year, I collapsed in tears on my boyfriend’s floor because I had forgotten my face cream. I had no idea how I would react to this hormonal typhoon or to the side effects of breast tenderness, bloating, and irritability. I was told I probably wouldn’t feel like having sex, and I couldn’t drink to take the edge off — or go for a run, lest I jiggle my ballooning ovaries too much.

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