The Baby Dilemma: Hope in a Tank
On retrieval day, my boyfriend sat with me until I was led to a table and an
IV was inserted. I asked when it was going to start, but the 10-minute
procedure was already over. I was slightly groggy and felt a dull soreness that
would last a few days.
The clinic later sent me a picture of eight glistening blobs — those were
the eggs that were good enough to freeze.
Eight was enough to make a handful of embryos, but my doctor estimated it
would take 12 to 14 (fewer if you’re younger) to have a “good chance of
Now, I wanted an insurance policy on my insurance policy, and I was hopeful
when I heard that many women produce more eggs on different drug protocols. I
resolved to find a way to pay for another cycle.
As I listed my options, I listened to my friends try to be encouraging, but
I could hear a tone in their voices. It seemed to say, “How far are you going
with this, Sarah?” I wanted to dismiss them as self-righteous or envious, but
they all had a point. I could freeze myself right into bankruptcy, and there
were still no guarantees I would take home a baby.
I got that. The surprising part was that it was starting not to matter. I’d
already gotten my money’s worth. Egg freezing may not lead to babies, but it
has let me put panic on the shelf and be excited about my future again. It has
helped me get closer to my boyfriend and have tear-free Sunday summits about
the pros and cons of parenting. It has restored my confidence that I will
continue to make good, not rushed, choices.
With any luck, when I’m ready to be a parent, my eggs will work like they
should. Or I’ll find another way to be a mom. But the point is, I’ll be
I think I got a good deal.
Egg Freezing 101
What it takes to put your fertility on ice.
- Blood test to measure follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estradiol
levels on the third day of your period.
- Ovary check with ultrasound to count follicles and confirm they’re
- One month of birth-control pills to regulate cycle and synchronize
follicles for stimulation.
- Blood test to make sure hormone levels haven’t changed
- Ten- to 14-day regimen of injections to activate your follicles to produce
eggs and to keep your body from prematurely letting go of them. Insurance often
doesn’t cover this. (Mine didn’t, so I was on the hook for an extra
- Blood tests to check whether medication levels need to be adjusted, and
frequent ultrasounds to measure how big the follicles are growing.
- Thirty-six hours before the retrieval, shot of hCG hormone forces follicles
to mature and triggers release of the eggs.
- Retrieval day! Ten minutes of IV sedation. Ultrasonic probe needle pierces
the vaginal wall and goes through each ovary to suck out the eggs.
- Eggs are immersed in a solution that dehydrates and refills them to prevent
ice crystals. Then they are slowly frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen.